Have you ever owned a fish tank / aquarium? If you did, or do, have one, you know how much work is involved to keep it looking the way it does when you first set it up. You start with the right mix of fish so they won’t eat each other or spawn out of control, you get an aerator so the fish don’t die from lack of oxygen mixed into the water, you get the right fish food for your mix of fish, maybe add a bottom feeder fish to clean up the tank floor, and it all looks great for a little while. Then it starts degenerating, and if you don’t maintain it, your showcase fish tank is a stinky, slimy mess — and the fish don’t look too healthy either.
An aquarium is an encapsulated micro-environment which is foreign to the environment in which it is displayed. So you have to make all the aspects of the world inside the aquarium work together just right if you want to keep the fish inside it alive and well. If something is a little off, it leads to a chain reaction of undesirable results. A successful fish tank impresses your family and friends, because they also know how hard it is to keep the tank looking good.
Your body is a micro-environment, which is tied to yet apart from the environment around it. You take in air, food, and water from that environment into your body, and in doing so, you take in whatever comes along with those elements as well. Now they are a part of your micro-environment. This is very evident in your digestive tract, where microorganisms that came originally from the outside environment are now in you. And there they create a world of their own, interacting with each other and you in the special environments within your gut.
If you could see that world of microorganisms, it would be much more active, varied, and rapidly changing than the relatively calm world of the fish tank. If you have a great mix of gut flora that produce a good digestive environment in your body this is a cornerstone of health. The typical American diet, or the diet in most of the world, is encouraging less desirable flora specimens in most peoples’ digestive tracts. And that leads to a mess which causes a lot of health issues. Science is learning just how much this microorganism tank we carry around with us affects every aspect of our health, as more studies link gut flora, or microbiota, to disease.
Something is fishy here…
Your microbiota is unique, as no one else in the world has exactly the same mix of microorganisms as you do. But days, or even hours from now, your own microbiota mix will change, because of different foods that you eat. Those microorganisms are alive, requiring nutrients to survive and multiply, and your food nourishes them as well as you. You may not like the idea of sharing your food with a bunch of fungi and bacteria, but you are doing just that. Your food choices steer the composition of your microbiota, even as fish food steers which fish survive in your aquarium.
But you aren’t simply being charitable by feeding a hundred trillion hungry bacteria. They are giving something back to you. Hopefully, they are breaking down your food into simpler forms so your body doesn’t have to, thus taking some of the load from your digestion. They also may release vitamins and locked-up nutrients for your benefit. Or they may act more like leeches, gobbling up good nutrients and leaving behind toxic byproducts which inflame your gut lining and force your immune system to clean up the garbage. Most likely, in your body, you have some of both of these reactions happening, hopefully more of the former and little of the latter.
Sadly, abhorrent gut microorganisms don’t just cause mal-digestion, because your gut is only a very thin layer away from your bloodstream. It’s not easy to filter nutrients so the good ones get into your blood to nourish the rest of your body, and that filter has to be thin or nothing would get through. But that filter can easily get damaged by bad bacteria, with the tiny gaps in the filter becoming enlarged — when that happens, toxins and non-digested food may get through, calling out your immune system to catch those harmful invaders before they completely poison your body.
Don’t mess with the immune system!
You may think that poor gut flora is not so bad: your immune system cleaned up the mess, so you’re OK now. Sure, your body had to work harder to deal with the toxins, but it did its job and disposed of them. On to the next meal. You can’t expect a perfect microbiota, and you are willing to sacrifice some immune system effort for the pleasure of that luscious piece of cake. Well, it’s not that simple. When the immune system is called out, it can’t do its job without causing some collateral damage, which shows up as inflammation. This means stress on the body, which throws your system out of whack, and if too much and too often, produces disease. Anything resulting in chronic inflammation means you are risking disease.
What disease? Diverting your immune system means it can’t fight infections or pathogens like cancer well, so you are more susceptible to whatever is going around and to cancer growth. But it’s the degenerative diseases that are the real epidemic, claiming the health and very lives of many in our society. At the top of the list is cancer, which is a cellular response to a stressed, toxic, inflamed microenvironment. And the worst aspect of cancer is usually the spread, or metastasis, that eventually destroys the body.
An interesting cell in the immune system is the mast cell. Unlike other white blood cells, they are released into the blood not fully differentiated, not fully mature, until they reach the tissue where they are needed. This gives mast cells multiple uses. They can be called into service under any stress, and when not activated they are in a resting state. When activated, they may release histamines, the cytokines IL-4, IL-13, or TNF-a, or leukotrienes, prostaglandins and growth factors. These have different effects on tissues, but when you see “cytokines”, you know that the result is inflammatory. Because of the multiple uses of mast cells, research is showing that sometimes they kill cancer while other times they aid cancer metastasis.
Mast cells are promoters of anti-tumor immunity and tumor control. Mast cells directly impact tumor cells as well as immune components of the tumor microenvironment through chemokine production and release of other mediators, leading to varied cancer-suppressive properties or cancer-promoting stimulation.
Tumor-associated mast cells have been observed in the tumor microenvironment of numerous cancers and have intriguingly been found to be a favorable prognostic factor in some cancers, while they are associated with a poor or mixed prognosis in other cancers.
How does the mast cell decide?
That is the big question: how does the body know if it should kill cancer or grow cancer? Well it’s dictated by the environment you make. If you make a very inflammatory environment with high stress, poor diet and lifestyle habits — this will promote mast cells to be in a chronic emergency response which causes continual inflammation and growth factors production, and this leads to a pro-cancer environment. On the other hand if you reverse these, decrease your stress, improve your diet, improve your lifestyle, then the mast cell does what it was created to do: it kills pathogens and does a very good job with cancer cells.
Published in Cancer Immunology Research, researchers from the University of Virginia Medical Center found a link between gut flora and breast cancer metastasis through mast cells. First, poor microbiota call mast cells to deal with the unhealthy, inflammatory gut flora. Then these mast cells accumulate in breast tissue even without breast cancer being yet present. If a tumor forms, these accumulated mast cells then react with the cancer cells, promoting metastasis. And the mast cell accumulation process continues after a tumor forms.
In contrast, healthy gut flora promotes healthy immune system response. Somewhere between 70% to 80% of your immune system is active in your gut. Immune T-cells are constantly “learning” from the microbiome and then circulate through the rest of the body multiple times per day. Published in Nature( human fecal research was done to identify 11 bacterial strains which strongly induce interferon-?-producing CD8 T cells in the intestine, without causing inflammation. While the article does not list them, these 11 require good nutrition from a good diet. You are either promoting the good strains by your good lifestyle, or promoting other bacteria with a poor lifestyle.
As with most aspects of health, good produces more good and bad produces more bad. Your body is trying its best to deal with the environment you provide to it, and you may not notice that your gut flora is poor — you just live your life and hope that no disease will show up. Poor gut flora can lead to indigestion but many times has no symptoms at all until you develop disease. Or you may not have experienced life away from the typical American diet, and aren’t aware of how a healthy gut affects your complete health. Basically a well-functioning gut will be a foundation of a healthy internal environment.
Hopefully this encourages you to pay more attention to your diet. Also include exercise, rest, hydration and stress, all of which have an impact on gut flora. Whether you realize it or not, you need healthy gut flora. This translates into a well-functioning, helpful immune system, less disease, and spiraling upward health.
Dr. Nemec’s Review
Your intestinal tract is a very unique microenvironment. As we mentioned it’s like a fish tank, and just like a fish tank you control the health of this environment with your diet, lifestyle, and stressors. This is the take-home message: you control this environment, it does not control you. Only if you do not control it then chaos occurs, and this is the root of disease. Your body was designed to heal from everything. It is always trying to do that, so as we learned in this newsletter, the mast cell which is a powerful immune cell designed to keep you ultra healthy is turned on or off by you — by what you think on, by what you eat, by how much you exercise, by how much you sleep get. You are the controller of your immune system. If you grow a tumor, your body did not do this independently of your choices and your actions. The body is trying to help you stay at the highest level of health, but just like the fish tank, if you ignore it the fish will die and pathogens will fill the tank. Most Americans are ignoring their fish tank: they’re taking it for granted that it will clean itself, feed itself, oxygenate itself and do everything without any added effort. This is the lie that promotes disease. So remember the immune system and your mast cells are on your side — they have your back covered but you need to take care of your army: you need to treat it well, but if you run it into the ground and overwork it then it will become over-reactive and cause great collateral damage. It does this because of you, never independent of you. People that have come to us over the last 40 years, they come to heal the root causes of their health challenges, not to get Band-Aid approaches or quick fixes. This is the only way to balance the immune system. This is the only way to balance the intestinal microflora environment, and most importantly this is the only way to balance the entire environment inside your body.
Here are the ways we can help you in your health journey:
- 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.