Healthy Gut Healthy You is the long-awaited book by Dr Michael Ruscio, an American functional medicine practitioner, researcher and podcaster. Dr Ruscio started off as a chiropractor and discovered functional medicine during his own healing journey. He focuses on treating the gut as the first step for improving a wide range health conditions, many of which don’t manifest as gastrointestinal discomfort.
In both his book and his podcast, Dr Ruscio offers a very sensible clinical approach. I think this is a product of working with real patients and noting what actually works. He avoids dogma and excessive testing, restrictions and treatment.
Healthy Gut Healthy You
The book has 5 parts: The Importance of Your Gut, Diet for Optimum Gut Health, Lifestyle and Environments for Optimum Gut Health, Tools for Healing Your Gut and The Great-in-8 Action Plan. It is written in a simple language for the non-scientific reader to understand. Each chapter of the book is followed by several pages of scientific references for those interested in cross-checking the sources. I think it’s a valuable resource for clinicians and people facing health issues. Having said that, there are parts of the protocol that are best implemented with the help of a clinician.
Part 1 sets up the stage for the rest of the book. It briefly describes the anatomy and function of the small and large intestine. Then it explains how derangement in the gut, such as bacterial overgrowth, can cause a wide array of health issues.
Another important topic covered in this section of the book is how to determine which scientific papers are worth considering. With the amount of scientific papers being published these days and the bad job that journalists do at communicating science, it is important to sharpen critical skills.
This part also covers the impact of early life bacterial exposure on health.
The importance of diet
The second section of the book deals with diet and its effects on our health and the health of our gut bacteria. Dr Ruscio emphasises the importance of focusing on reducing inflammation and balancing blood sugar first in order to create a healthy environment. Only then we can worry about feeding our gut bacteria (i.e. prebiotics).
This part of the book also covers Coeliac Disease and non-Coeliac gluten sensitivity. Other topics include appropriate amounts of carbohydrate for each individual and the issue with processed foods.
Fibre is another interesting topic in this section, as more is not always better. This is particularly the case for gut-related conditions such as irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
Part 3 of the book highlights the importance of the environment and lifestyle on gut health. This includes topics such as vitamin D, sun exposure, time in nature, sleep and stress management.
The next section of the book explores other treatments that can help with particular health conditions, including probiotics, digestive enzymes, etc.
Dr Ruscio has a very practical way of looking at probiotics. Rather than focusing on brands he divides probiotics into 3 categories depending on which types of microorganisms are present in them. This is based on the observation that a particular category might work better than others for a particular condition and/or for particular people. Using this approach, one can save time and money by trying different categories of probiotics rather than a many different brands within the same category.
This section also covers antibacterial treatments that can be used to remove parasites, for example, and the use of liquid supplements designed to provide complete nutrition while allowing the gut to heal.
Other topics in this section are prokinetics (which stimulate intestinal motility), fibre supplements, prebiotics and fecal transplants.
The final part of the book details Dr Ruscio’s protocol named The Great-in-8 Action Plan. As its name implies, it contains 8 steps but not everyone needs to follow all of them. Some people might experience significant improvement with just changing their diet, for example.
The protocol includes, as most sensible protocols, the elimination of suspect foods with later reintroduction of non-problematic foods. A note for the anti-paleo crowd: Dr Ruscio does recommend a paleo diet (either standard or the autoimmune version) or a low-FODMAP diet for the elimination step. I agree that eliminating grains, legumes and dairy can be an effective way of pressing the reset button. I like the fact that Dr Ruscio puts particular emphasis on the reintroduction step with the aim of eating the wider variety of foods possible.
Head to Dr Ruscio’s website for more information about his book and his work. Also check out his podcast Dr Ruscio Radio.