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Let food be thy medicine, thy medicine will be food. --Hippocrates

Tapping into the Wisdom of the Gut

--by Emeran Mayer, May 12, 2021

Even though I’ve long held a holistic view of life, my scientific career has ultimately taken me full circle, from a reductionistic focus on the biology of brain-gut interactions required for succeeding in my career as a neuroscientist, back to the concept of the interconnectedness of the health of humans and of the environment, and the microbiome, with diet and the mind playing the key role in these connections. To understand its complexity and to identify a way out of our current crisis, this concept comes with a requirement for an ecological and systems view of food, health, and the environment. A “conversation” is constantly unfolding within us, influenced by our thoughts and emotions, our lifestyle, and the food we eat; the exchange between these factors occurs as a circular process in which the brain influences the gut microbial signals which then feeds back to the brain and body.

Since the publication of my first book The Mind Gut Connection in 2016,  the world of research (and the world at large) has changed dramatically: while microbiome science has continued to grow exponentially, and many human studies have confirmed earlier preclinical findings, our unfolding, multifaceted public health crisis has engulfed a large proportion of the US population and many countries around the globe in an epidemic of obesity and compromised metabolic health involving not only the brain, but many other organs.  This epidemic includes seemingly unrelated diseases such as type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disorders, chronic liver disease, colon cancer, Alzheimer’s disease, autoimmune diseases and allergies, all of which can be traced back to changes in the way we interact with our environment, lifestyle and diet affecting the microbial ecosystem in our gut and the gut based immune system. At the same time, as I wrote The Gut Immune Connection, the world was plunged into a pandemic in which an invisible microorganism took center stage and brought many segments of society to a sudden halt, painfully demonstrating the ingenuity and almost unlimited power of microbial organisms.

The most important initial step to stemming the tide of our public health crises is to curb chronic and infectious diseases not through an increasing battery of medications, but through better control of our gut-based immune and microbial systems, using the natural healing power contained in our food. This is best achieved through reconsidering the foods we consume and their relationship to our internal microbiome as well as their connection to the soil-based microbiome in which they grow. We must understand the complete microbial interconnectedness that exists not only between humans and their food, but also between farm animals and their environment and between plants and the soil. We’ve dramatically altered this planetary network over the past seventy-five years, and are now paying the astronomical price tag, in particular in the form of our current disease care system.

Science is increasingly demonstrating the close connectedness between our health, what we eat, how we produce our food, and the impact of these behaviors on the planet and one another. As pointed out by prominent scientists and organizations, it is possible to slow and even reverse the steady upward rise of illness in the United States and the world at large, even before we fully understand the universe of our gut microbes, the molecular underpinnings of each disease and the multitude of interacting factors underlying climate change. We have to prevent the detrimental consequences that our food system has on the health of the planet, with a new approach based on improving the health of the gut and its microbiome and, in turn, returning the immune system to its normal, health-preserving  function. While there is no question that we will conquer the current viral epidemic in the world, there will never be a vaccine to prevent and treat the worldwide epidemic of chronic non-communicable diseases, or the unfolding damage to our environment. We’re in an urgent moment; consider this the ringing of our global alarm, as well as an unequivocal plan for turning things around.

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For more inspiration, join this Saturday's Awakin Call with Emeran Mayer. More details and RSVP info here.




Emeran Anton Mayer is a gastroenterologist, lecturer, author, editor, neuroscientist, documentary filmmaker and a professor in the Departments of Medicine, Physiology and Psychiatry at the David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA He is a pioneer of medical research into brain gut interactions.


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