Nov 14, 2019

Book Review: Gut by Giulia Enders

Nutrition-related books have become quite popular these days, as people are more curious to find out healthy options to eat and diets to follow for weight loss and preventive wellness. The saying - "It is not what you eat, it is what you absorb that makes a difference" has certainly a lot of merit to it. 

Earlier this year, I had made a list of topics I wanted to learn more about. Specifically, on nutrition, I wanted to learn more about the role of our gut. As I was looking for books related to this topic, a friend recommended me this particular book written by Giulia Enders.

What a fascinating and insightful read it is! The author has taken the complex process of our digestive system and explained it with so much wit and humor. If you had taken up Biology in your high school, the chapters related to different parts of the gut and their role in digestion would be a good revision. They took me back to my 12th grade and I surprisingly remembered every single detail. 

The role of saliva, tonsils, how food is absorbed in the small intestine from the perspective of carbohydrates and fats all form such a good foundation to unraveling how our complex digestive system works. The author also explains various digestion-related issues such as food allergies, food intolerances (lactose/fructose intolerance, gluten sensitivity etc). Though I really enjoyed reading these chapters, the one on the linkage between gut and brain was really the turning point for me. I was so engrossed and fascinated to read about how our gut influences our behavior.

"A gut that does not feel good might subtly affect our mood, and a healthy, well-nourished gut can discreetly improve our sense of wellbeing."

"Stress is thought to be among the most important stimuli discussed by the brain and the gut."

"Stress of any kind activates nerves that inhibit the digestive process, which means we not only extract less energy from our food, but we also take longer to digest it, putting the gut under unnecessary extra strain."

The following chapters on the importance of our gut's microbiome and their role in our immunity, synthesizing vitamins and minerals and much to my surprise, the way they can trigger weight gain were truly eye-opening. It has given me new areas to read up on.

For example, this particular passage gave me an "aha" moment

"Our satiety signal transmitters increase considerably when we eat the food that our bacteria prefer. And what our bacteria prefer is food that reaches the large intestine undigested, where they can then gobble it up."

What I could infer from this chapter is the importance of a balanced meal with a good amount of fiber, prebiotics and complex carbohydrates, from varied sources.

The author also talks about how various bad bacteria affect our health - salmonellae, helicobacter, toxoplasmata etc. 

Last but not the least, the author talks about how our obsession with hyper cleanliness is impacting our health in the form of allergies and autoimmune disorders. And increased use of antibiotics leading to resistant bacteria, a threat looming large.

The role of prebiotics and probiotics is briefly touched upon. I would have loved to see more in-depth coverage as there's quite a bit of hoopla around these two as external supplements.

If you are interested in food, nutrition and human physiology, I highly recommend this book. Unputdownable, if there's such a word!

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