I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong

I’ve mentioned a few times that one of my favorite topics is mind-controlling microbes. (previous discussions)

I’ve been reading a book on the subject called I Contain Multitudes by Ed Yong, and it’s great. You can read more about it on the site. Highly recommended if you’re interested in things like biology/evolution, psychology, or health.



Looks interesting. Did it have any practical day to day tips? I already do quite a few things to promote a healthy microbiome in myself, but am always looking for novel things to try. Currently use polyphenols/supplements like astaxanthin, curcumin, allicin, and try to avoid TMAO producing carnitine and red meat when possible while seeking out fiber rich and prebiotic rich foods. I read a memorable quote somewhere from a microbiologist in a supermarket, “that leek right there does more for your gut than a wheelbarrow full of yogurt.”

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I’m not quite finished yet but it hasn’t had any practical tips yet, except for explanations about why it isn’t a good idea to give formula to babies. It offers an alternate interpretation of how the immune system works.

You might be interested in this: Plant species diversity and gut microbes


I finished the book and definitely recommend it, especially for people who think that “germs are bad”.

Here’s an excerpt from the end of the book.

Two other ideas mentioned in the book that might have some practical use are:

  • It sounded like skin microbes on toilet seats can prevent the colonization of more dangerous fecal microbes. So toilets that are cleaned too well, it might actually lead to more harmful bacteria.
  • Leaving windows open at hospitals lets in neutral microbes which colonize spaces and may be able to prevent dangerous ones from taking hold.

I haven’t watched them yet, but there are two related TED Talks here, one by Ed Yong.

If anyone hasn’t heard about it, there is a related “no soap”, “no [sham]poo” movement. I did try eliminating shampoo and most soap for a while as an experiment, years ago, though more along the lines of targeted hygiene. (Read about the exact details before judging it. :grin:)