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The Human Superorganism: How the Microbiome Is Revolutionizing the Pursuit of a Healthy Life 1st Edition
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“Dietert makes the cogent and eye-opening argument that the microbiome—the collection of microbes that lives in our bodies and on our skin—is the arbiter of immune system homeostasis… A book in which the author's fascinating, well-researched ideas regarding holistic health may presage a paradigm shift in medicine.”
—Kirkus Reviews (starred review)
“Teeming with information and big ideas about our tiny co-partner species, this is an outstanding introduction to the universe of little lives that dwell within us.”
—Booklist (starred review)
“Dietert makes a fascinating case for an exciting, emerging field that offers a new way of thinking about the human body and health.”
"Packed with new insights, The Human Superorganism sets out a fascinating perspective on the trillions of microbes that co-habitate with us, and delivers must-have information for how we can harness their power to prevent disease and flourish alongside them. Truly brilliant!"
—Robynne Chutkan, MD, FASGE, Founder of The Digestive Center for Women, author of The Bloat Cure, The Microbiome Solution, and Gutbliss
“Lucid and beautifully referenced, Rodney Dietert has provided an authoritative new road-map of the human body, complete with its inner workings.”
—Martin J. Blaser, MD, Professor of Microbiology, Director, Human Microbiome Program New York University Langone Medical Center, author of Missing Microbes
“Rodney Dietert, a widely recognized researcher in immunology, developmental biology, and environmental health, writes at this new frontier from the inside, as someone who has made some of the important contributions to this young field. These are exciting times in science: when old ideas and assumptions are overturned, including our very concepts of who we are. As the early findings of microbiome research indicate, all of what we think makes us us is in fact a continuing conversation between our human cells and the billions of microbes on the surfaces of our bodies. This is a highly readable book, but also the work of a scientist who has not compromised rigor for the sake of popularity.”
—Ellen K Silbergeld, PhD, Johns Hopkins University, Bloomberg School of Public Health
“Tremendously enjoyable... The Human Superorganism really lays out the case for why the new research on the microbiome is a complete game-changer for how we view human health, and it offers this information in a comprehensive, readable and thought-provoking manner. It informs how I approach my patients in my own practice.”
—Susan S. Blum, MD, MPH, Founder and Director, Blum Center for Health, author of The Immune System Recovery Plan
"In his startling and thought-provoking book, The Human Superorganism, Rodney Dietert shatters the conventional view of the human body by confronting the reality that most of the cells in our body are not our own. The book explains how an imbalance in the microbiotic ecosystem of our body has caused a sharp increase in allergies and other non-communicable diseases in modern life, and it offers practical advice for fortifying and cohabiting productively with our single-celled partners."
—R. Douglas Fields, author of Why We Snap and The Other Brain
“In The Human Superorganism, Rodney Dietert challenges us to see ourselves anew, as stewards of our own personal ecosystems. Rejecting ‘the new normal’ of diabetes, obesity, cancer and depression, we are empowered to learn how to feed our microbiome and begin healing ourselves from the inside out. The ultimate reward is a healthy internal environment that craves and is satisfied by what is truly good for us. In a world in which babies are born pre-polluted with endocrine disruptors and other harmful chemicals, it may be our best hope of survival.”
—Carol Kwiatkowski, Executive Director, The Endocrine Disruption Exchange, Professor, University of Colorado Boulder, Dept. of Integrative Physiology
"A must read if you are interested in disease, health and medicine. Dr. Dietert has the unique ability to describe a new paradigm that is an easy read and understood at all levels of training or education."
—Gary R. Burleson, PhD, President and CEO of Burleson Research Technologies, Inc.
"Superscientist Dietert wants us to look at humans as superorganisms... How we can radically readjust public health protocols—and our own."
—Library Journal, Prepub Alert
“Noted immunologist, Professor Rodney Dietert, has produced a fascinating and eminently readable book about the 'new biology' that recognizes that we are not just 'us', but we are a chimera that is 90% microbial. He is a master storyteller.”
—Peter J. Davies, International Professor of Plant Biology, Cornell University
"Rodney Dietert provides a clear and accessible introduction to the world of the human microbiome and its influence on human health. His use of anecdotes and examples complete the story, bringing the clinical evidence into the context of every day life."
—Jack A. Gilbert, Professor, Department of Surgery, University of Chicago, Group Leader for Microbial Ecology, Argonne National Laboratory
About the Author
Rodney Dietert is Professor of Immunotoxicology at Cornell University in Ithaca, New York. He received his PhD in immunogenetics from the University of Texas at Austin. Among his authored and edited academic books are Strategies for Protecting Your Child's Immune System and Immunotoxicity, Immune Dysfunction, and Chronic Disease. Rodney previously directed Cornell's Graduate Field of Immunology, the Program on Breast Cancer and Environmental Risk Factors, and the Institute for Comparative and Environmental Toxicology, and he has served as a Senior Fellow in the Cornell Center for the Environment. Recently, he appeared in the 2014 award-winning documentary Microbirth. In 2015 he received the James G. Wilson Publication Award from the Teratology Society for the best paper of the year on the microbiome.
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Dietert says nature versus nurture is irrelevant. It leads nowhere. It retards our understanding of biological processes. The old biology has simply missed the greater part of us. And so it must continuously fail. Medicine is stuck on the mammalian genes paradigm. That is only a fraction of who we are and how we work.
We are hybrids. We cannot stand alone and removed from other species and our environment. We are holobionts – like coral reefs – serving as host and superstructure for entire societies of microbes. We are an ecological system rather than a unit. Only 10% is the mammal we can see and touch. 90% is microbes we attract, host, and share our resources with. If allowed to live, they repay us with good health and disease-fighting tools. Unfortunately, we never look at the microbe side. We examine and treat the symptoms on the mammalian side, and destroy the microbes with our thoughtless medical system.
Dietert lists seven areas where we attack our own highly tuned systems:
-Birth delivery mode
-Misdirected efforts on safety
-Mammalian-only human medicine
Some of the takeaways:
-Human breast milk contains foods exclusively for our microbes.
-Babies born by caesarean section have a necessary body part missing – ie. a birth defect. Same thing if mothers took antibiotics during pregnancy.
-Mothers must take antibiotics before the operation, plus the baby does not get the benefit of the bacteria in the birth canal. These babies are truly defenseless, and it shows in childhood. If we are incomplete and lacking a full set of microbial partners, we set ourselves up for immune-based dysfunction.
-Our mammalian genes alone are insufficient to sustain life, which was why completing the human genome was such a letdown.
-Microbes regulate our genes. They are the epigenetic managers. They switch genes on and off. Without them operating the system, the system screws up. This might be why there are hundreds of variations in the autistic spectrum.
-Germ-free mice behave “eerily similar” to autistic children.
-We don’t absorb vitamins; we produce them. Microbes regulate production of numerous vitamins, which might be why in every single study, taking supplements proves useless. If the regulator is missing, the vitamins go missing, and swallowing pills does not help.
-Some microbes are sophisticated sensors we can employ to predict disease well in advance.
-Emulsifiers are used in everything from food to textiles. They damage the biome and cause inflammation – the basis of most non communicable diseases.
-We need a full microbiome at birth. We must train it by being in contact with as many, not as few, stimuli as possible, and we need to prevent damage to the microbiome as much we would avoid damage to our bodies.
In Dietert’s scenario, losing part of the microbiome is like losing a leg or an organ. It cripples us.
Human Superorganism is an extraordinarily powerful book, written for the general audience. It lays out the facts, if I may, in an easy to digest manner. Dietert, who lives this world, thinks it will shortly become a routine part of medicine. Doctors who do not prescribe probiotics to follow antibiotics will be accused of malpractice. Caesareans will not be a lifestyle choice. Whole new industries will develop around microbes, prebiotics and probiotics. In the meantime, Dietert says we must instruct our doctors to take the microbiome into consideration in everything they prescribe. We must eat more fermented foods. Somehow, we must stop being our own worst enemy.
Even before finishing the book, I started tweaking my choices, & sharing the message with everyone who I think will listen. Wish I could get my book club to read it.
Great read! Highly recommend!
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The thesis of this book: non-communicable diseases are the number one cause...Read more