If you have a lawn, you probably have dandelions. The common dandelion is well suited to compete with grass, and can easily take over your lawn. Its seed-spreading technique is very efficient and far-reaching, its tap-roots make it a hardy perennial, and it is quite drought resistant. Dandelions like to grow low, which means that lawn mowers miss most of the plant when cutting, and they tolerate foot traffic as well as does grass.
Of course you have to deal with other weeds besides dandelions in your lawn: typical lawns are a mix of many plants besides grass. Some scientist long ago learned that certain chemicals inhibit nutrient uptake in broadleaf plants such as dandelions, so you probably use some chemical weed control to curb the population of weeds in your lawn. While you discourage the dandelion population, usually some hang on and you won’t be completely free of them even with the chemicals.
By using the chemicals, you change the lawn environment for the plants in your lawn so the grass is barely affected while the weeds are poisoned. Every plant has ideal growing conditions, and when their environment changes, so does the mix of plants that grow best in that environment. The mix that grows then has an aesthetic effect, causing a feedback loop with you, the owner, to further change the environment or decide that you like the lawn as it is. And that mix affects things like how well your lawn retains water and avoids soil erosion further affecting the lawn’s environment.
In your gut, the mixture of bacteria, which is called the microbiota, is more complex than your lawn, but it changes in response to its local environment as does your lawn. If you change your eating habits, your microbiota changes. If you consume toxic drugs, especially antibiotics, it changes drastically. Any change favors a different mix of bacteria that thrive best in the new environment. Different bacteria prefer different nutrients, and if those nutrients are available, those bacteria tend to multiply. And these bacteria feed back into their environment as they break down nutrients and excrete either helpful or toxic byproducts. Since their environment is your body, having a good microbiota is important to your health!
More them than us
The gut flora in your body has more DNA in it than your body itself: together your total gut flora has about 500 times the genes your body contains. To classify all of the types of gut bacteria takes six levels of categorization: phylum, class, order, family, genus, and species. One familiar bacteria strain, promoted in commercial probiotic supplements, is the species Lactobacillus reuteri, of the Genus Lactobacillus, from the Family Lactobacillaceae, of the Order Lactobacillales, in the Class Bacilli, of the Phylum Firmicutes. The two phyla Firmicutes and Bacteroidetes represent 90% of gut bacteria.
Simply put, the bacteria making up gut flora are vast and very diverse. WIth all the different species living off of the nutrients that pass through the gut, there is a lot of competition for dominance of the gut colonies. Also, the environment within the gut is different in various portions of the intestinal tract, so some species thrive in specific portions of the gut and not in others. With such variety, your gut flora is somewhat different that that of anyone else, and your microbiota often shifts, largely due to dietary changes. And the most reactive food that can shift the gut flora the fastest is sugar.
Weight a moment
Sugar is obviously the main villain in diabetes. When we take in more sugar than we can use right away, our bodies, being rather frugal, attempt to store the excess for when it might be needed later. Insulin drives this, and more sugar means more insulin. Chronically high insulin wears out our cells, and they start ignoring the insulin. After all, they can only keep responding to the insulin alarm bell for so long without tiring. That means insulin insensitivity, and if that is a chronic condition that is not reversed, insulin insensitivity goes to the next step of diabetes. The path from a high sugar diet to diabetes is easy to follow.
With the standard American diet, or SAD, most people in American should already have diabetes. Some resist it better than others. We are learning that there is more to the sugar story than the simple straight line connection to insulin insensitivity and diabetes. It is true that diabetes is on the rise in America and much of the developed world, plus it is hitting younger people than ever before, but that is true of a number of chronic diseases. It is becoming increasingly clear that a major factor in chronic diseases is gut flora.
Diversity is good, but don’t be inclusive
Some gut bacteria support health, and some are harmful or even toxic. In the gut, these species are definitely not welcome. While waste products of good bacteria are broken down, further digested as food, thereby helping our digestion process, bad bacteria give off inflammatory products that can cause an immune system response. But the good bacteria live synergistically with the gut and we couldn’t maintain good health without them.
Studies are showing just how vital good gut flora is to health. Published in Cell, researchers from the Keio University School of Medicine, Tokyo, Japan, and the Columbia University Vagelos College of Physicians and Surgeons conducted an animal study to see if diabetes and related diseases (metabolic syndrome and obesity) were impacted by gut flora. They found that those with good gut levels of T-helper 17 (Th17) immune cells, which are a subset of CD4+ T-cells that product interleukin-17 (IL-17), were protected from developing diabetes while the TH17 cells remained in the gut. However, high dietary sugar caused a drop in certain gut bacteria which then caused a drop in the gut Th17 cell levels. High dietary fat, however, did not cause this Th17 reduction. For those animals with low Th17 cell levels, no diet would protect them from diabetes until the Th17 levels were restored.
This study shows the delicate and complex interaction between diet and gut flora, and then the impact of gut flora on health. Sugar was damaging the gut’s normal disease protection according to their research. Dietary fat that was uncooked and from plant sources was quite friendly to the Th17 cells. That’s another nail in the coffin of the myth that all fat is bad fat. “These immune cells produce molecules that slow down the absorption of ‘bad’ lipids from the intestines and they decrease intestinal inflammation,” according to the lead researcher.
Not just diabetes
For many reasons, bad gut bacteria contributes to all diseases. First, the gut is a major entry point for many invaders, and an intact intestinal barrier is needed to keep them from the body. Leaky gut, caused by toxins of bad gut flora, means that the invaders, as well as incompletely digested food particles and toxic chemicals, are allowed to enter the blood stream. This leads to bodily inflammation which also distracts the immune system and may spark autoimmune disease and cancer.
Besides that, certain good bacteria produce valuable byproducts. The cruciferous family of vegetables (cabbage, kale, broccoli, brussels sprouts) contain glucosinolates which must be broken down to simpler isothiocyanates (ITC) during digestion which the human digestion can’t do itself, but some bacteria species can. ITC’s have significant anti-carcinogenic properties. Having these bacteria in your gut flora and eating plenty of cruciferous vegetables helps protect against cancer development. Alternatively, meat, especially red meat, encourages colonization of some bacteria species which break the meat’s nitrate components into N-nitroso compounds (NOC) which promotes cancer development. Lipopolysaccharide (LPS, or endotoxin) is a component in the cell walls of several bacterial species which happen to also be resistant to antibiotics — LPS is inflammatory and gets released when the bacteria are eaten by the immune system. So the composition of your microbiota is crucial to determining which direction your health is going!
Yes, cancer is another risk with bad gut flora, not just diabetes. A review article published in Cancer Treatment and Research summarizes the results of numerous studies this way: “These (microbial mediated) pathways alter inflammations modify DNA leading to mutations, or influence epigenetics and gene silencing.” They acknowledge that the research is linking diet, gut flora and cancer and that there is growing evidence that gut flora impacts cancer in both positive and negative ways.
As your diet changes, so does your gut flora. It has to: the various species need different foods to digest, and the presence of those foods causes those species to feed and multiply, favoring those bacteria. So as you eat better, your gut flora adjusts to accommodate those food choices, which in turn makes your digestion better prepared to handle more of those foods. If the byproducts of those bacteria are also beneficial, you get a health boost. Thus dietary changes tend to be self-perpetuating, either in a good way or a bad cycle.
Nothing is more destructive to good gut flora than sugar. OK, antibiotics can do more damage, but you expect those to mess up your gut flora. It’s time to get the weeds out of your gut lawn, not so much by trying to kill them off, but by avoiding killing off the good bacteria with sugar, then by eating good bacteria promoting vegetables. You know that eating the right foods is important — now you know why it makes such a difference. It’s all in the gut.
Dr. Nemec’s Review
So what these studies showed: first, the inflammatory cytokines IL17 are necessary in the intestinal tract to keep a balance, to help keep the bad bacteria and fungi under control. Second, cancer in the body begins in the gut environment with the imbalances started there.
All health starts in the mind — that is the most important factor. Conscious and subconscious stress programs stored on the hard drive of the brain causes inflammatory molecules to damage the gut, shut down the immune system and damage brain cells. This is why this is the first thing we address on every patient. Number two is the intestinal tract, because of the physical areas that we work with it is the most important after the brain. This is why we do nutritional genetic testing, food immune testing and customize each diet for the intestinal microbiome in that particular unique genetic and immune pattern.
As the studies have shown, the intestinal tract opens the door to cancer, autoimmune disease, and diabetes, but in actuality it opens the door to every disease which has its roots in inflammation. Also it is a given that sugar is inflammatory and destructive to the cells of the body. It will grow the bad bacteria and pathogens extremely rapidly and as we have shown, when the bad bacteria grow fast it crowds out the good bacteria and we get tremendous microbiome imbalances which immediately opens the door to leaky gut, inflammatory disorders systemically, and an inflammatory brain.
What’s the answer? Go back to the beginning. What were you designed to eat originally? Green plants for food, that is the original design. Not packaged, not processed, not cooked — but living as they grew. The closer we get back to the beginning, the healthier our gut will be and the healthier our body and brain will be. Keep it simple.
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.