If you go to the doctor with digestive issues, you will get plenty of testing — perhaps endoscopy, colonoscopy, maybe a barium x-ray. You might have a stool sample test, but only to look for parasites. The doctor may prescribe acid-blockers, on the assumption that stomach pains means an ulcer, and stomach acid must be bad. So you go through the tests, and if everything is negative, you feel relieved that you don’t have some major disease. Just one problem — you still have digestive issues.
So you turn to the blogs and other Internet wisdom. You see that yogurt or sauerkraut has probiotics, and probiotics are good for the gut. Or you take probiotic supplements. But you still may have some issues. Perhaps you figure this is as good as it gets, and you figure your digestion just isn’t going to work as well as you get older. And you put up with the hemorrhoids, gas, bloating, and pains, figuring that’s as good as it gets.
All this misses the mark. The medical community looks at the digestive system organs and says that you are OK if the tests appear OK. What they are ignoring is something much bigger. Gut microorganisms outnumber the cells in your body, their genetic content is over 100 times the human genome, and they are a valuable part of your digestion, immunity, energy production, vitamin synthesis, and intestinal wall health. There are helpful and harmful organisms in the gut, and the composition changes constantly as their environment changes.
The collection of bacteria, archaea, and viruses in the gut is called “microbiota” (sometimes still called “flora”). Together, they form a highly complex and very individualized colony which has tremendous influence on digestion, overall health, and even mental state. The gut microbiota is a vital part of the digestive system and forms a symbiotic relationship with the body when in balance.
At birth, the baby’s microbiota is a blank slate — the digestive tract starts out sterile, or nearly so. This quickly changes as the baby is fed and microorganisms enter from the environment. Mother’s milk gives the baby an excellent start! That milk is designed to give initial organisms and the food (such as fucosylated oligosaccharides not generally available in formula) to support them. This process can easily be disrupted at a young age by antibiotics. Poor gut microbe composition at a young age sets the stage for allergies and immune system dysfunction early on.
By age 2.5 or so, the gut microbiota stabilizes into a more adult-like composition. As the child interacts with the environment the microbes form a unique combination that will impact the child’s life into adulthood. The microbe composition shifts as different foods are consumed, because different foods can either feed or retard growth of various organisms to varying degrees, as well as be a source for some microbes to be introduced to the body. Emotions and stress also impact the microorganism composition, as there is constant communication going on between the body and microbiota. With such extreme diversity of available microorganisms, with good and bad being introduced and fed to varying degrees, it is not surprising that gut microorganism composition is unique to each person.
A cataloguing analysis published by the National Center for Biotechnology Information actually identified certain country-specific gut microbial signatures in Chinese and Danish tested individuals. This further emphasizes the uniqueness and environmental influences on the composition of the microbiota.
Location within the gut is also important. The small intestine has a higher level of aerobic bacteria, where a rapid transit of food, high acid levels, and oxygen favors fast-growing bacteria. Anaerobic organisms tend to populate the colon, where oxygen is sparse. Also, these organisms are handled well by the gut, but not at all well in the bloodstream, but that is exactly where some can wind up with “leaky gut”, where the gut barrier is weakened so that they can make it through.
Environment is the main driver of microbiota composition. The top driver of that environment is diet. Some microbes are introduced with food, but even when probiotic bacteria are introduced at high concentrations, such as with probiotic supplements, the diet is what maintains them. There is little value in providing lots of good bacteria, only to have well-fed bad bacteria starve them out. That is why probiotics are a great companion to a good diet, but nearly useless with a bad one!
Stress impacts gut flora in various ways. Stress leaves food undigested or poorly digested, which then leaves bacteria food that favors more bad bacteria growth. This can lead to an increase of toxins in the gut, which leads to inflammation and leaky gut. Overeating also provides extra food sources for bacteria because the body can’t assimilate all that food.
A good, strong gut microbiota community acts as an immune boost. Besides strengthening the gut mucosal barrier and providing vitamins that aid the immune system, the microbiota community does not appreciate the invasion of many pathogens. The entry point for many harmful bacteria is through the gut, where they may face significant competition for resources, from enzymes that may break them down, and from chemical byproducts of the microbiota colony that do not favor the invaders. The gut microorganisms communicate within the community and with the body, forming a positive immune cycle in a healthy individual. This has been shown in a study of “germ-free animals” published in Gastroenterology and Hepatology — where the guts of these animals were kept virtually sterile as they developed. Without the gut microbiota, development of the animals’ vascular systems, gut endocrine systems, epitheliums, and overall immune systems were impaired. Proper development of these systems required the presence of a gut microbiota — it is not just a symbiotic relationship, but a necessary one.
The opposite is likely with a poor gut colony that is giving off toxins and creating a good home for more pathogens. This was shown in a study of 422,417 individuals by the European Society of Cardiology, where they traced back 28 health/disease outcomes to high levels of 11 specific gut bacteria. Diseases such as COPD, asthma and eczema, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol generally showed higher levels of these particular gut bacteria. The individuals were unrelated, so the correlation with high levels of these bad bacteria was not due to genetics. Bad gut bacteria, they found, meant that disease followed.
Your gut microbial composition is as unique as you are. It has been influenced by environmental factors you’ve experienced since birth. Drug toxins, antibiotics, stress, poor food, depression, and disease impact your gut microbiota negatively; while good food, exercise, good mental outlook, and overall good health improves your gut microbe composition.
It is easy to see why modern medicine often avoids tackling gut microbiota issues, except for possibly suggesting certain probiotics. The gut flora is very complex, and standard medicine performs poorly with chronic conditions, such as those that poor gut microbiota promotes. So if you want to improve your gut, and thus your overall health, take actions that support the gut microbiota. It’s really up to you!
Dr. Nemec’s Comments:
Environment, environment, environment!!! The most important environment is the mental and emotional one. This is why people come from around the world to Total Health Institute. Our unique Nemec New Medicine® protocol addresses this environment at the highest level. Second most important environment is diet: not just eating good food and staying away from bad food — it is much more complex than that. Foods have to be chosen to match one’s present physiology and mental/emotional environment, and these foods will change — so they have to be tested and retested with highly specialized food sensitivity testing ongoing until the perfect diet for that person is achieved. Third most important environment is the chemicals and toxins affecting the microflora, usually killing the beneficial so the pathogenic can grow stronger. All these factors must be addressed in depth and detail as we do on each patient before your gut health and your total health is optimized.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.