Book review: 10% Human: How Your Body’s Microbes Hold the Key to Health and Happiness

As some of you may have noticed, I’m quite interested in medicine, with my PhD and some recent reads like the French equivalent of this book (Le charme discret des intestins) or Book review: Why We Sleep. So when our book club selected this book, I was thrilled.


Let’s be clear, I was already convinced on the good aspects of good bacterias in our gut. I was reasonably convinced that type-2 diabetes could be cured by a good diet and a good microbiome. I had more troubles with some other hypothesis like curing autism.

The book starts with some coincidences in modern diseases, and the underlying hypotheses is that everything is linked by the gut. There could be a more convincing build-up here, with more science. For instance, even if the fact that calorie counting is shown as being wrong later, there is no proper mention of the fact that calories don’t exist in nutrition, they are an abstract concept despite their physical definition. There is just no way to count the actual number of calories in food and how much we can extract during digestion.

Still, despite that, the first 2 chapters sum up what I remember from the French best seller well. We then start the third chapter on mind control and then also autism and other mental health issues. It is close to my heart due to my PhD in a neuroscience lab as well as my son’s ADHD. I read articles on autism creating differences in people’s brain, so I was quite dubious with the hypothesis that it starts in the gut. But then, I read again. Most of the studies showing differences show functional differences, not anatomical differences. This shows that inflammation can play a big role. Then this inflammation can lead with time to anatomical differences, so the hypothesis actually MAKES sense. This is probably the big thing to take for me form the book. I started as someone thinking that autism is a handicap at birth, but no, it seems likely that it’s a handicap that stems from a gut disorder. Any maybe even MS!

What I do like is that the book doesn’t say that everything is due to the gut, genes play a big role. It’s not just because of bacterias that we grow fat or lean, that we have cancer or a mental disease. No, the genes create the foundation where the disease can be triggered through gut. It makes lots of sense when considering the usual nature/nurture debate.

I won’t dive into all chapters this time, I will just talk about the last one, on child birth and babies. The end of the book says that it’s not a guilt trip, but if you read that chapter, you cannot feel less than shame if you didn’t breast-feed. And from my point of view, it should probably be, because it brings so much that is now clearly proven by studies (because of the baby’s gut biome). We still have the presentation of all the science behind the beginning of a child’s gut’s biome, and it’s a fascinating story, to say the least.


The book was fascinating. If the beginning was a little bit slow to start with lots of coincidences as the basis of the book, the rest of the book was fascinating, with lots of recent scientific studies. This gives hope, and even if a healthy microbiome will not heal all your diseases, at least it gives arguments for a good bowel movement.

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