No Guts, No Glory: New Book Says Key to Health Is Your Intestines

Categories: Beet Reporter
Searching for the source of your fatigue, chronic illness, indigestion, obesity, or even attention deficit disorder? Go with your gut, proposes Dr. Steven Lamm, MD, the "house doctor" on ABC's The View and author of the new book No Guts, No Glory.

No Guts is a relatively short guide that packs a ton of complicated information about the gastrointestinal system and how modern-day humans abuse it -- maybe too much info for people who fell asleep in biology class and want a quick fix for acid reflux. But Dr. Lamm's book really isn't about a quick fix. If you're not up for a lifestyle change, this book is probably not for you. But if you're sick of feeling sick and need a fact-driven push to motivate you to overhaul your lifestyle, No Guts is a great resource.

Dr. Lamm's book could not come at a better time. Supposedly gut-healing probiotic foods and supplements have been drawing a lot of attention over the past few years. As proof of this, one need only note the resurrection and mainstreaming of kombucha -- fermented teas populated by gut-healthy yeast and bacteria, a drink once known only to crunchy vegans and hippies who brewed batches of the funky stuff in their garages. Now the drink is widely commercially available in a rainbow of flavors and constitutes a $200-million-a-year industry that's projected to more than double by 2015. And as a whole, the global probiotic products market was valued at $24.23 billion in 2011.

Why are people suddenly slurping down barrels of salubrious bacteria swills and pills? Probably because they grasp, at least in part, the message Dr. Lamm's new book strives to convey: that our bowels are totally screwed up, that we're paying a dear price for that fact, and that we have the power to do something about it (something more than washing down a probiotic pill with a can of Coke).

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No Guts, No Glory, by Dr. Steven Lamm, MD, and Sidney Stevens
Despite his book's modest size (it's 147 pages), Dr. Lamm explains in relative depth the multifaceted issue of gut health. From the day we're born, he writes, our intestines are already populating themselves with colonies of microorganisms. Even our earliest life experiences --- such as whether we're born through the birth canal or by cesarian section, or whether our moms oversterilized our toys --- shape the balance of microbes that will become, in essence, another organ of our digestive system.

"There's a living ecosystem that actually contains more genetic information than we have in our whole bodies, and that's the bacteria that live in our colon," Dr. Lamm said in a phone interview. "And we're starting to appreciate that those bacteria are involved in a lot of bodily functions, from metabolism to immunity to the production of certain vitamins. A lot of stuff."

Of course, not all strains of gut bacteria are health-promoting, and this is where many of the health problems connected to gastrointestinal microbes arise. Lamm says that of the 100 trillion microorganisms inhabiting your gut (a number ten times that of the cells that make up the human body), ideally 85 percent are beneficial, while 15 percent are harmful. This ratio easily allows the "good" bacteria to overwhelm the "bad." Unfortunately, for many Americans, travel, antibiotics (which eradicate disease-causing bacteria but also kill helpful ones), a poor diet, and stress are all factors that contribute to turning that ratio on its head.

When the healthy balance of the intestinal environment is disrupted, it results in a condition called dysbiosis, which the doctor says is the root of many ailments, including asthma and allergies, bloating and gas, small intestinal bacteria overgrowth (SIBO), leaky gut syndrome (which can cause autoimmune diseases such as arthritis, chronic fatigue, type 1 diabetes, and even multiple sclerosis), heart disease, cancer, and obesity.

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