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Book Review: The Symbiont Factor: How the Gut Microbiome Redefines Health, Disease, and Humanity

8 October 2015 - Posted by Kathryn Kos

There is nothing more valuable than health, and yet choosing health appears to one of the more difficult decisions for people these days.

Do you only see bacteria as harmful? Did you know that you are more microbiome than human?

In The Symbiont Factor, Dr. Richard Matthews teaches us a completely different perspective when it comes to understanding the human microbiome. He provides a wealth of very detailed information, written so that both health professionals and health enthusiasts alike can understand it.

The Symbiont Factor by Richard MatthewsIf you are looking for a comprehensive review of scientific literature, this book is not for you. This book is an introduction to the life-changing concept of symbiont bacteria and how it can help prevent disease processes from occurring. Although it is not written as a review of literature, the information Matthews presents is backed by thousands of research studies regarding symbiont bacteria.

Matthews begins the book by discussing the marketing of pharmaceuticals and how the cultural focus is on prescription drugs (all of which have severe side effects) rather than focusing on making healthy choices. He discusses the impact of this paradigm on our health as a society, as well as the impact on our gut microbiome.

Bacterial colonies live at all of the normal openings of the human body and are responsible for maintaining the environment at that location and protecting us from invading microbes.

Matthews details the role of good bacteria for our health, and how our choices as a society affect these complex colonies that are trying to survive and protect us from pathogens. He goes on to describe the “Gut-Brain Axis,” how the gut and brain communicate with each other through trillions of bacteria. There is an influence on the health of the brain, and that is the health of the gut. There have been scientific associations between diseases of the brain like autism and depression, and the health of the individual’s digestion. What is the key component? The key to our health is a balanced microbiome.

There is also a chapter of this book dedicated to bacteria and skin health. Often times the skin is overlooked. However, he teaches us how the gut-brain axis extends to the skin, including the deep layers of the skin. He details how stress affects the skin, and how changes in the skin can reveal the health of the person’s joints, mental health, digestive issues, diabetes, and more.

There are several chapters in this book dedicated to specific disease processes, and how imbalanced gut bacteria plays a role within each of these conditions. Some of the disease processes Matthews discusses include: irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s, obesity, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, osteoporosis, immune dysfunction, COPD, multiple sclerosis, AIDS, mental illnesses, and Autism.

Matthews reviews how beneficial bacteria help us to function properly and optimize the function of our brain and digestion, whereas an imbalance in bacteria increases our vulnerability to disease, infections and cancer.

The third part (and in my opinion the most intriguing) section of this book explores how symbiotic bacterial colonies influence our brain function, emotional balance, behavioral tendencies, and even our basic personality! This section of the book was quite in depth, and covered some fascinating information regarding implications for emotional and behavioral issues within the context of symbiont bacteria. As a practitioner, I found this section to be extremely helpful in really understanding how life-changing an impact our microbiome has on our perception of the world, and how we interact with it.

It is time to shift gears and look to learning what can be done to improve the situation for the individual and the body’s symbiont organisms.

In the fourth section of the book, Matthews describes changes we can make that help to support a healthy colony of beneficial bacteria. He discusses dietary changes, lifestyle and behavioral changes, and how to put the pieces all together so that the body may begin to restore adequate bacteria and function normally.

Understanding the importance and functioning of the other 99 percent of what we are may be the key to being as healthy and high functioning as we were meant to be. It is only by applying this knowledge to our healthcare as well as our everyday lives that we will be able to live up to our true potential.

In conclusion, this book was a great find and an amazing read! I found it educational and pleasurable. I highly recommend this book for practitioners, as well as anyone looking to really understand a very important foundational piece of health, the human microbiome. Get your copy here.

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