Coffee Date: Books, Brains, and Butter

It’s Friday, and it’s been a long week, so does anything sound better than grabbing a cup of coffee (or tea, if that’s how you roll) and reading a list with an alliterative title? I think not! (Disclaimer: I always think this sounds like the best possible thing to do, no matter the day of the week.)

Books

  • Mindy Kaling’s Why Not Me? probably doesn’t need my two cents to convince you that it’s worth checking out, but I’m going to throw my pennies at you anyways. I adored this book even more than her first–Is Everyone Hanging out Without Me–in part because she talks about her current show, The Mindy Project in it. (Also something you should check out, stat.) Arguably the best thing about Mindy’s books is that you feel like it’s your best friend telling you stories the entire time, if you are lucky enough to have a hilarious, warm, down-to-earth, slightly kooky best friend. But in addition to being a fun read, Mindy also gives some great pieces of wisdom. My personal favorite was her parting advice:

Work hard, know your shit, show your shit, and then feel entitled. Listen to no one except the two smartest and kindest adults you know, and that doesn’t always mean your parents.”

  • Speaking of knowing your shit, I’ve also been reading a couple of interesting books about the microbiome.
    • First of all, if you aren’t familiar with the microbiome, all this schmancy science word refers to are the microbes (i.e., bacteria) who call your body home, both in time of sickness and in health. Much of the scientific and popular literature on the topic focuses on gut microbes It’s a subject I’ve been really interested in, partially because of my neuroscience background and partially because of my own gut issues. (I know, I know–ewwww.)
    • Follow Your Gut by Rob Knight (director of the Microbiome Initiative at the University of California, San Diego) is a great overview of the gut-mind axis by someone so dedicated to the microbiome that when his daughter was born via C-section, he and his wife swabbed her with vaginal samples, in order to expose her to the bacteria that a baby born naturally would receive upon exiting the birth canal.
    • The Good Gut by Justin and Erica Sonnenburg, PhD.s who work at Stanford, offers a comprehensive review of the current science on the microbiome, as well as anecdotal advice about how to care for your own microbiome. There are even recipes included!

Brains

The microbiome relates to our brains in that there is increasing evidence that what happens in the gut doesn’t stay in the gut.

No, no, I’m not talking about what happens in the bathroom! That’s for a whole different post! (Kidding! (Or am I?)) I’m talking about the gut-brain axis, in which the the gut and the brain participate in bidirectional communication through the pathways of the autonomic nervous system, the enteric nervous system, the neuroendocrine system, and the immune system.

Certain digestive issues, such as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) have long been associated with anxiety and mood disorders. But there’s lots of developing science suggesting that the brain can be affected by many different types of changes in our gut bacteria. And in a world dominated by antibiotics and hand-sanitizer, our microbiomes are rapidly changing from those of our ancestors.

In addition the microbiome, endocrine disruptors (BPA, phthalates, and more!) saturate our foods, our homes, and our lives. Chemicals like these interfere with the naturally occurring hormonal communication in our bodies.

Butter

All of this leads me to butter. Okay, okay, not literally butter. I just needed an alliterative synecdoche for food. So really, all of this leads me to food. (Maybe not the Mindy Kaling book so much, but I couldn’t NOT recommend that to you. It would’ve been criminal.)

I used to be someone who thought that people who bought anything organic, free-range, or grass-fed was either a hippie or an easily swindled rich person. But as I’ve started to learn about all of the shit that’s in our food (not literally this time!) I’ve realized the benefits of eating food that hasn’t been exposed to pesticides, unnecessary antibiotics, or growth hormones.

Additionally, I’ve started to shed the low-fat-equals-healthy mentality that I think many people alive in the nineties and early 2000s had drilled into their head alongside the food pyramid in middle school health classes. I’m not saying I’m going to start chowing down on a stick of butter every morning (or adding butter to my coffee), but I am thinking differently about how I eat.

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Thanks for stopping by and happy Friday!

What are you reading, thinking, and eating this weekend?

 

 

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