Why this book?
Long before everyone and their mother knew about the gut microbiome and its impact on overall health and immunity, Velasquez-Manoff blew my mind with this impeccably researched book about the connections between specific “old friends”—microorganisms that had long been part of the human species’ inner ecosystems—and risk of developing autoimmune disease. Forget the fearmongering explanations you’ve seen on social media blaming GMOs, gluten, lectins, or the dietary demon du jour; this book has actual evidence-based answers to the question of why allergies and autoimmune diseases are on the rise.
The author is a journalist with a knack for storytelling and making complex science accessible—and he is also affected by multiple autoimmune diseases himself. His storytelling takes readers all over the world to different societies at different periods and introduces us to specific bacteria, worms, and viruses—“old friends”—whose erasure from our collective inner ecosystems seems to foretell a rise in the prevalence of specific autoimmune diseases. While this book was published in 2012 and so much new research about the human microbiome has emerged since then, Epidemic of Absence still offers a fantastic foundation for understanding why germaphobia, excessive medication use, and super-sterile lives may have reduced the risk of infectious diseases, but fueled the scourge of autoimmune diseases in so doing.
Why should I read it?
What is this book about?
A brilliant, groundbreaking report on the dramatic rise of allergic and autoimmune disease, and the controversial therapies scientists are developing to correct these disorders.
From asthma to Crohn’s disease, everyone knows someone who suffers from an allergic or autoimmune disorder. And if it appears that the prevalence of these maladies has increased recently, that’s because it has—to levels never before seen in human history. These days no fewer than one in five—and likely more—Americans suffers from one of these ailments. We seem newly, and bafflingly, vulnerable to immune system malfunction. Why? One possibility is that we have systematically cleaned ourselves…