Americans are very mobile — that is, they move from one state to another to pursue opportunity or leave poor conditions. Because the U.S. has 50 states, each of which has its own partially autonomous government, different states offer alternatives to taxation, crime and safety, public services, and political leanings over other states. Climate, land availability, and property costs are also reasons for mobility. Some of these factors are so important to some people that they will leave their homes and restart their lives elsewhere.

While climate causes some to decide to move, it is fairly constant. Political and tax policy differences are not, and have become so stark across different states that they are causing some states to lose residents faster than they take them in. People “vote with their feet” when they find the financial, political, and safety conditions inhospitable in their current locations. It’s the overall climate, not just the weather, that causes the massive relocation we are seeing in America.

In your digestive tract, bacteria are taking up residence. They are not part of your body, but they consider it as home nevertheless. However, they will move out if they don’t like the conditions of the “neighborhood” your gut provides. Others will be attracted by your gut conditions and raise families there. Just like voters and the politicians they elect can change the attractiveness of a state to residents, so you can govern your gut environment to change which bacteria wish to reside there. You can make your intestinal tract welcoming or threatening to the types of bacteria that affect your digestion and affect leaky gut.

Gut Check
The quantity and variety of the gut flora, or microbiota, is impressive: over a thousand different species of around 3 trillion bacteria, viruses, and fungi. This is a very complex, diverse community which is constantly changing. Usually the microbiota composition is “steered” incrementally by the food and toxins the microbiota experiences, but strong toxins such as antibiotics can decimate the microbiota colony quickly. Bad gut flora give off toxins which inflame the sensitive lining of your digestive tract, causing “leaky gut”, where undigested food particles, toxins, and the bacteria themselves can leak through to the bloodstream, then the immune system reacts forcefully to eliminate the foreign invaders.

While humans are genetically 99.9% identical, our gut microbiome, which refers to the genetic makeup of the microbiota, can be 80-90% different. Your own gut flora differs more with even your own family than your genetics differ from a stranger. Given the massive number of varieties making up microbiota, all being influenced by the environment they find, this is no surprise. Even tiny changes in your gut environment can shift your gut flora makeup.

Since microbiota has such a major influence on your digestion, immune system, and overall health, you may want to improve your gut flora. How?

Your personal flora arrangement
Probiotics are becoming more popular as public awareness of the value of good gut flora is increasing. Adding probiotics is like putting new people into a neighborhood: you can put them there, but will they stay? If they don’t like the neighborhood, why would they? The best approach is to improve the neighborhood. Research studies suggest how…

Good bacteria are most welcome in a neighborhood where they are well fed and they aren’t surrounded by bad neighbors. One way to welcome the good bacteria is to provide raw food that has not been denatured. Published in Nature Microbiology, researchers at the University of California and Harvard University teamed together to study the impact of cooking food on microbiota. First, they found stark differences between the flora caused by a cooked vegetable diet and the raw veggie diet. Second, they noted that those fed on the raw diet (same calorie level) tended to lose weight. Third, when they attempted to transplant microbiota from those eating the raw diet to those eating the cooked diet, the participants gained weight, suggesting that the transplanted microbiota didn’t transplant well or were overwhelmed by other microbiota. The raw diet encouraged certain microbiota which didn’t thrive when introduced to the cooked diet.

Another way to welcome the good flora is through your choice of food. Many studies have shown the value of a plant-based diet, and one reason that diet is so effective is the impact it has upon the microbiota. Published in Nutrients, researchers conducted a dietary intervention for 2 weeks with 248 participants, using stool samples analyzed with 16S rRNA sequencing. The intervention changed the diet of the participants to mostly fruits and vegetables. After two weeks, “profound” changes in the microbiota communities were observed: certain bacteria strains were greatly reduced while others were greatly increased. The overall diversity of the communities increased significantly. The changes were relative: the initial levels of these strains impacted the final levels. This study showed that two weeks can make a big difference, and the inverse — eating badly — can obviously have a rapid negative impact.

Toxins can kill good bacteria — this is certainly not good for the microbiota neighborhood! Published in Nature, researchers at the European Molecular Biology Laboratory and the University of Tübingen, both in Germany, studied the impact of 144 antibiotics on 38 microbiome species. They found that two classes of antibiotics in particular, tetracyclines and macrolides, wiped out the majority of good microbiota and also left the patient open to various gastrointestinal ailments and recurring Clostridioides difficile (C. diff) infections. Killing off the good bacteria left the neighborhood wide open for bad bacteria to take over.

These studies make it clear: to have good gut flora, a raw plant-based diet and avoidance of toxic drugs are important steps.

Fine Tuning
As the microbiota is extremely complex and individualized, tuning your diet may be unique to you for optimal results. Adding to the complexity is that the intestinal tract environment changes further down the tract. The stomach has acidity that is not normal for the lower intestines. Oxygen levels change further down the tract. Microbes higher in the tract eat a lot of the good food and make it harder for those lower in the tract to get full nutrition.

There are general trends though. Published in Cell Reports, researchers at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, California, took stool and intestinal microbiota samples of participants age 18 – 80. They made a few interesting conclusions: microbial diversity decreased with age, and with advancing age the microbiome tends to change from high oxygen species to low oxygen species. Microbes known as “coliforms” tend to increase population with age, and a high population of them has a negative influence on the rest of the microbial population.

Your exact gut flora composition is influenced by many factors, which change with age. Testing gives some indication of the makeup of gut flora, and particularly can identify overgrowth of negative species. Stress can shift the composition of the flora through hormones, inflammation, and effectiveness of digestion. Poor digestion leaves food available for undesirable microbes.

The stakes are high — gut flora affects your health in many ways. The immune system is the most directly affected. Leaky gut forces the immune system to spend resources simply eating particles that should never have entered the bloodstream. Published in Nature, scientists at Harvard Medical School, Brigham and Women’s Hospital, Seoul National University, and Monash University in Australia collaborated to study the impact of diet on the immune system through the gut microbiota. Their findings were complex, but basically showed that the diet can have pro or anti-inflammatory effects through the gut flora that then impact the immune system.

You may not know if the best microbes are coming to live in your gut neighborhood, but eating more raw, uncooked plant foods makes an environment to invite the best residents. As the Cedars-Sinai article stated, this is “the era of the gut microbiome” — we are just coming to a full realization of how important it is to health.


Dr. Nemec’s Review

You are what you eat — or stated this way, your intestinal microbiome is made by what you eat. This ecosystem that lives inside of your intestinal tract contains ten times the amount of residents than all the cells in your body. What does that mean? That means you better make your food choices wisely because you are sending invitations to take up residence to ten times the number of residents than the owner of the house. So according to Harvard, cooking food causes a worse environment than not cooking, and according to the Nutrients research, fruits and vegetables give a greater diversity of health promoting residents within weeks if not days. The Nature research says it plainly: that when you take any antibiotics you wipe out the whole microbiome resident colony and what takes up residence after are the bad, pathogenic bacteria. This means do everything in your power to overcome an infection naturally rather than reverting to antibiotics. The Cedars-Sinai research showed that diet is even more important as you age. Do not eat what you did at 20 when you are 40 and beyond. Finally the Harvard research showed that your food choices are either anti-inflammatory (if you eat raw, uncooked plant foods) or proinflammatory (if you eat cooked animal products, carbs and starches along with processed foods). The beauty of all of this is you get to make the choice, you send the invitations out to the neighborhood residents simply by the food you choose. So your health is made by your choices — that is why you always want to choose one that brings health and longevity instead of simple fleeting pleasure. Build a strong foundation for a long vital life.

Here are the ways we can help you in your health journey:

  1. Outpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-has the most benefit of teaching, treatment, live classes and personalized coaching. This program has the most contact with Dr. Nemec with 3- 6 month programs that can be turned into a regular checking and support program for life. This is our core program that has helped so many restore their health and maintain that restoration for years.
  2. Inpatient Comprehensive Teaching and Treatment Program-is our four-week intensive inpatient program for those that are not in driving distance, usually over 4 hour drive. This is the program that is an intensive jumpstart with treatment, teaching, live classes and coaching designed for all our international patients along with those in the US that do not live in Illinois. This program is very effective especially when combined with our new membership program support.
  3. Stay at Home Program-is offered to continental US patients who cannot come to Total Health Institute but still want a more personal, customized plan to restore their health. This program also includes our Learn Membership Program.
  4. Membership Program is our newest program offered for those that want to work on their health at a high level and want access to the teaching at Total Health Institute along with the Forums: both Dr. Nemec’s posts and other members posting. And also, to have the chance to get personalized questions answered on the conference calls which are all archived in case you miss the call. The Membership Program has 3 levels to choose from: Learn, Overcome and Master. The difference is at the Overcome and Master levels you received one on one calls with Dr. Nemec personalizing your program for your areas of focus.