You are just 10% human. For every one of the cells that make up the vessel that you call your body, there are nine impostor cells hitching a ride. You are not just flesh and blood, muscle and bone, brain and skin, but also bacteria and fungi. Over your lifetime, you will carry the equivalent weight of five African elephants in microbes. You are not an individual but a colony.
Until recently, we had thought our microbes hardly mattered, but science is revealing a different story, one in which microbes run our bodies; remaining a healthy human is impossible without them.
In this riveting, shocking, and beautifully written book, biologist Alanna Collen draws on the latest scientific research to show how our personal colony of microbes influences our weight, immune system, mental health, and even our choice of partner. She argues that so many of our modern diseases—obesity, autism, mental illness, digestive disorders, allergies, autoimmune afflictions, and even cancer—have their root in our failure to cherish our most fundamental and enduring relationship: that with our individual colony of microbes.The good news is that unlike our human cells, we can change our microbes for the better. Life—and your body—will never seem the same again.
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About the Author
Alanna Collen is a science writer with a master's degree in biology from Imperial College London and a PhD in evolutionary biology from University College London and the Zoological Society of London. She is a well-travelled zoologist, an expert in bat echolocation, and an accidental collector of tropical diseases. During her scientific career, Collen has written for the Sunday Times Magazine, as well as about wildlife for ARKive.org. She has appeared on both radio and television, including BBC Radio 4's The Tribes of Science and Saturday Live, and BBC One's adventure-wildlife show Lost Land of the Volcano. She lives in Bedfordshire, England, with her husband.
Table of Contents
Prologue: Being Cured 1
Introduction: The Other 90% 7
1 Twenty-First-Century Sickness 25
2 All Diseases Begin in the Gut 54
3 Mind Control 83
4 The Selfish Microbe 114
5 Germ Warfare 147
6 You Are What They Eat 179
7 From the Very First Breath 204
8 Microbial Restoration 233
Coda: Twenty-First-Century Health 265
Epilogue: 100% Human 281
List of Illustrations 303