The Microbiome Solution: Live Dirty, Eat Clean

A Desert Health Review by Pam Salvadore

The Microbiome Solution is not your ordinary diet book. It’s more of an education in how our bodies work and how we can impact them to produce better health. Health expert and author Dr. Robynne Chutkan honed the information she shares in the book through observation, trial and error in her practice as an integrative gastroenterologist and founder of the Digestive Center for Wellness in Maryland.

Chutkan has made it her mission to help us understand how our body’s microbes influence the state of our health and the power we have to change them for the better. She is a member of the medical advisory board for The Dr. Oz Show and a regular guest covering digestive health. She was the host of the National Institutes of Health Clinical Roundtable Series and a medical consultant and on-air talent for Discovery Health Channel. Chutkan has also been featured on The Today Show, CBS This Morning,and The Doctors and is frequently interviewed as a medical expert for the Washington Post.

In her book, Chutkan defines microbiome as “all the organisms that live in or on your body.” She’s talking about bacteria, viruses, fungus, and, yes, even worms. That’s a whopping one hundred trillion microbes which can be found in or on your body at any given time. Referring to it as “the zoo inside you,” Chutkan explains how this multitude of microbes work together to support bodily functions and the importance of keeping them healthy, happy, and properly balanced.

She begins with how we attain our microbes and emphasizes getting back to nature. The most natural arrival is believed to be that which is imparted to us from our mothers, through the processes of natural childbirth and breast feeding. From there, we pick up microbes from the foods we eat and the environments we come into contact with throughout our lives. Our environment, in particular, plays a key role. It used to be that we picked up these health cohorts when we went out to play in the woods or garden in the yard. Now, children sit in front of monitors and a majority of us sit at desks all day. Chutkan stresses the importance of this contact with nature in keeping your microbiome healthy and diverse. While you can take a probiotic pill she says, it will not come close to providing the complete range of microbes that your body has worked to collect over the course of your lifetime.

Chutkan goes on to explain how illness and obesity are quite possibly the result of an imbalance of good and bad bacteria in our microbiomes, known as dysbiosis. This imbalance allows the bad bacteria to take over, forcing good microbes and bacteria out and resulting in disease. Dysbiosis is the most common disorder Chutkan sees in her practice and she believes that it very well may be the underlying explanation for inflammatory bowel diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis. She is also convinced that dysbiosis could provide an explanation as to why so many people have trouble losing weight. Adamant about her theory, Chutkan even went so far as to conduct a nutritional study among twelve of her patients as a means of addressing their Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis symptoms, and it worked! Her study found that dietary changes restored balance to her patients’ microbiomes and significantly relieved their symptoms. Addressing dysbiosis could well be the most simple and profound treatment for a variety of medical conditions. 

So how do we regain this delicate microbiome balance? Chutkan’s “Live Dirty, Eat Clean” plan recommends two basic tenets: first we need to “re-wild,” meaning that we need to restock the good bacteria lost to years of neglect and sanitation. Re-wilding is easily attained by stopping the bad behavior that’s killing off your bacteria and throwing your microbiome out of whack. Stop medicating your bacteria, stop scrubbing your skin every time you come in contact with an unfamiliar environment, and get outside more often. By stopping the behaviors that kill microbes, your body will be better able to regain what was lost and foster the growth and strength of the good microbes you need for optimal health.

Second, we need to feed our bacterial friends the foods that will keep them in balance, so they are able to support our health. Start eating prebiotics, foods that feed your good bacteria and encourage them to do their jobs, and stop eating junk. These two simple steps can restore harmony to your microbiome, therefore restoring overall health.

Chutkan’s “Live Dirty, Eat Clean” plan is a realistic and well thought out lifestyle program that’s full of information, recipes, and steps that allow you to take back control and influence your health for the better. Her mantra is “live a little dirtier and eat a little cleaner.”

The Microbiome Solution is an insightful, well-written and easily absorbed book that provides the education and tools to influence your health for the entirety of your life. I strongly encourage anyone interested in better health and living well to indulge in this educational insight in lieu of trendy diets that vilify, restrict, and berate food and lifestyle choices.

Pam Salvadore of La Quinta is a nutrition journalist. For more information from Pam visit her blog The Microbiome Solution is available at national book retailers and online. For more information visit Chutkan’s website,


Click here to read this article in Desert Health.

Smart Fat


By Pam Salvadore

What do you get when you bring together a medical doctor and a Ph.D. in nutrition? You get a breakthrough diet based on the consumption of smart fats. That’s right, a diet based on eating fats that are actually good for you.

Originally, Steven Masley, M.D., and Jonny Bowden, Ph.D. disagreed on the most beneficial diet for the human body. However, after years of research and practice, often times using themselves as the guinea pigs, doctors Masley and Bowden have come to the same conclusion that eating a clean diet, based on the consistent inclusion of smart fats, is the most beneficial nutritional approach to overall health and longevity.

Let’s put this in perspective. Since the 1970s the standard American diet has recommended that we eliminate fat and rely primarily on protein and carbohydrates for the bulk of our nutritional intake. Unfortunately, this prescription is riddled with misinformation. Masley and Bowden propose that it is this government recommended “SAD” diet that has led Americans to forego clean, natural meats, fruits, and vegetables for the highly processed foods many of us grew up on. The doctors further posit that this is how the American public became increasingly subject to a myriad of health problems, such as heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. These problems all have one thing in common: they begin with high levels of inflammation in the body. Masley and Bowden propose that to eliminate this detrimental inflammation, we return to the clean, smart eating of earlier generations…a plan that includes a good portion of “smart fats.”

Mixed nuts are a perfect smart fat snack

Smart fats are the good fats that occur naturally in foods like avocados, nuts, and fatty fish. The authors believe that increasing these fats in the diet results in an increase in the intake of Omega 3 fatty acids. Research shows that Omega 3 fatty acids alter our hormonal balance (the key players in our metabolism) and lower inflammation, thus making our bodies better able to draw nutrients from our food and handle – or avoid – disease. Smart Fat explains this topic in depth with both scientific research and common sense analogies.

Determining the difference between smart and “dumb” fats is a key factor, and the authors go to great lengths to discern the differences and identify smart and dumb foods. Of particular importance, dumb fats are the trans fats found in processed foods, the fats from factory-farmed animal meat, poultry and fish, and the fats found in highly processed cooking oils, such as vegetable oil. Subsequently, while Masley and Bowden’s Smart Fat diet requires including an impressive amount of smart fat in your diet, they strictly prohibit any form of dumb fat and/or dumb food.

So what should you eat? Smart Fat recommends that you include four components in your daily intake: smart fat, clean protein, fiber, and flavor. Since this “diet” is actually a new approach to eating in general, they want to be sure that it is nutritious, enjoyable, and maintainable. After all, there’s no joy if there’s no flavor. The doctors set the goal of 5 servings of smart fat, 5 servings of clean protein, and 10 servings of fiber per day. It sounds like a lot, but they give you the tools to convert to this way of eating via meal plans and quite a few recipes.

Other smart fat foods include avocados, salmon, and olive oil

Smart Fat also includes a section discussing supplementation. The doctors do not outright say that you should be taking any one specific supplement, rather they outline the supplements that they take and the reasons why. Most importantly, they urge the reader to pursue only the highest quality supplements and point us to resources and screening tools to be sure we are getting the best. While the doctors do sell their own products, they do not push them on the reader in any way.

Finally, Masley and Bowden further agree that no diet or way of eating stands alone as the picture of perfect health. In order to attain optimal health, the pair recommends completing the picture by including reasonable amounts of exercise, sleep, stress reduction, and close relationships with key people in your life. Addressing the big picture, not just short-term weight loss, is their key to success and maintaining a healthy body, mind and soul for life.

In the end, we are what we eat. Like any performance automobile we need to put the best fuel in the tank in order to get the best performance on the track. Masley and Bowden have written an informed, approachable, and sustainable plan that will benefit most people. Smart Fat is a good resource for anyone looking to clean up, get healthy, and live their best life.

Click here to read this article in Desert Health News.

Bacteria That’s Good For You

Brain Maker

A Desert Health review of Perlmutter’s Brain Maker

By Pam Salvadore

It’s a fact that the brain controls the body, but what controls the brain? In his new book, Brain Maker, David Perlmutter, M.D., describes an emerging field of science that contends that the gut controls the health of the body, including the health of the brain.

As you may recall from Dr. Perlmutter’s first book on the subject, Grain Brain, the impact of grains in the diet was shown to influence the gut’s microbiota and, subsequently, the body’s health. While Grain Brain focused exclusively on the impact of grains, Brain Maker goes one step further by directly connecting all outside influences to the state of the gut’s microbiota, and showing the profound impact an unhealthy microbiome has – especially on the brain.

The gut, comprised of both the large and small intestines, is responsible for the metabolism of food and subsequent distribution of nutrients to the organs and cells of the human body. The gut is also home to our unique microbiome: a microbiome that consists of millions of flora (aka bacteria), each one with a specific job or function. According to Dr. Perlmutter, these bacteria perform vital functions: they provide the first line of defense in helping filter out toxins from our system; they control our immune response, especially that of inflammation; they create and influence hormones, telling our endocrine system how to react to stress; and they create neurotransmitters, such as GABA and glutamate, that are vital to brain function. Dr. Perlmutter believes that “what’s taking place in your intestines today is determining your risk for any number of neurological conditions.”

Given this information, it is important to know what a healthy microbiome is. A healthy microbiome contains a balance of both good and bad bacteria. Neither exists exclusive of the other, however, maintaining balance is the key. For example, one of the most important bacteria present are Firmicutes, whose job it is to extract energy from food and regulate fat absorption. If Firmicutes dominate the microbiome, they hoard calories and the weight packs on. An overwhelming population of Firmicutes can also hijack your body’s immune responses by keeping other vital bacteria from doing their jobs. Hence, keeping Firmicutes in balance is key.

Bacteria in the microbiome is also responsible for maintaining the permeability of the intestinal lining. In a healthy microbiome, the lining of the intestine is made up of tightly fitting cells that allow nutrients to pass, but are too tightly packed to allow disease or infection to get through. With the nutrients absorbed and infection passedalong, this normal balance tells the body that no immune response or hormonal adjustment is needed. Your health remains intact. Should the bacteria become unbalanced, infection and irritating particles leak through intestinal walls and into the bloodstream, causing your body to mount an immune response most notably marked by inflammation. Inflammation is a proven contributor to, not only brain disease, but many other diseases of the human body as well.

Perlmutter explains that we attained our initial microbiome at birth, as we passed through the birth canal. After this initial setting, Perlmutter believes that outside influences such as whether or not we are breast fed, the influence of antibiotics, the ingestion of hormone regulating medications, and even the food we are eating contribute to whether our microbiota thrive or shift to an unhealthy balance. He sites numerous studies that connect an unhealthy microbiome to diseases such as Alzheimer’s, depression, anxiety, obesity, autism, and diabetes, and also introduces studies that show a positive correlation between the restoration of healthy balance to the microbiome and the reduction and elimination of disease . Brain Maker is full of success stories from both Perlmutter’s patients and colleagues’ patients around the world.

Given all of these findings which establish a scientific link between gut health and the state of disease in our bodies, Perlmutter uses the remainder of the book to discuss resetting an unhealthy microbiome, and the tools it takes to maintain its health and reverse any damage already done. He gives concrete steps, such as repopulating the microbiome with the correct balance of good and bad bacteria, and includes instruction on how to feed these new found friends keeping the correct percentages flourishing while ushering out any negative intruders. Perlmutter details what supplementation to consider, which tests to take, significant signsfor which to look, and the type of exercise that works to help microbiota flourish.

The book concludes with a complete list of recipes, resources, and links to the studies quoted. Brain Maker provides a good resource for anyone looking to restore health to their own body. There are no radical ideas here, just proven scientific links and logical nutritional solutions.

David Perlmutter, MD, is a board-certified neurologist and Fellow of the American College of Nutrition. Brain Maker is available at national book retailers, online and in e-book. For more information visit

Tools for Training a Positive Brain

Brain Boosters

By Pam Salvadore

You’ve heard the term “knee jerk reaction.” Well, our brains do the same type of thing. Through the course of our lives, our brains create neurological pathways which connect thoughts to reactions. These reactions manifest as emotions and physical experiences.

Until recently, it was generally accepted by medical professionals that once the brain has formed these neurological pathways, they could not be changed or influenced later in life.

In her book Brain Boosters: Seven Ways to Help Your Brain Help Yourself, Simone Ravicz, PhD, employs the newly proven concept of brain plasticity, the theory that we can reprogram our neurological pathways at any point throughout our lives. By combining brain plasticity with proven psychological treatments, Dr. Ravicz provides tools to accomplish this reprogramming, along with the insight to change thoughts, and our emotional and physical responses to them. If you have experienced phobias, depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, PTSD, trauma, weight related issues, chronic pain, or any symptoms of other serious illness, Dr. Ravicz’s tools can give you the power to take control of the situation and help relieve the burdens that accompany these conditions. In an interview with Desert Health, Dr. Ravicz commented that the uniqueness of the book is that people can choose from a variety of techniques and find the one that works best for them.

Dr. Ravicz’s Tool Box

Tapping. Rooted in the concept of energy medicine, tapping focuses on the dysfunctions in the chakra, or body’s energy system. An orchestrated sequence of tapping on different acupressure points on the body, while focusing of the sensation of calm, corrects this energy disruption and redirects positive energy to where it needs to go.

EMDR. By focusing on a particular target memory, Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing (EMDR) aims to deal with the unconscious processing of unprocessed memories. It is believed that these unresolved issues contribute to our behaviors, thoughts, and feelings today. EMDR works in two ways: through the orienting response, which is the constant refocussing of attention back and forth (similar to REM eye movement), and by focusing attention on memories of the trauma while simultaneously focusing on stimulation that disturbs this “working memory” linkage. According to Dr. Ravicz, EMDR is the most effective treatment overall because it can be used to treat a wide variety of problems.

Neuro-Hypnosis is a tool for embracing emotions and eliminating negative thoughts. Neurological pathways, created by repeated negative thoughts, establish an automatic response to these thoughts in the form of negative emotion; the more frequent the negative thoughts, the more subconscious and automatic the negative reaction becomes. Neuro-Hypnosis can be employed to disrupt the negative neurological pathway and replace it with a positive one.

Mindful Meditation focuses on calming the mind and introducing mindful awareness of your thoughts. Its goal as a tool is to identify how your mind produces negative reactions to thoughts. Once recognized, you can acknowledge the source of that negativity, which leads to an acceptance and tolerance of the thought. Being mindful allows you the freedom to move forward in a positive manner. Dr. Ravicz explains that meditation is the hardest to master because we have to first learn how to be mindful in order to silence that negative chatter.

Proper nutrition and exercise can bolster mental capacity and improve brain function. Your brain is just like every other organ in your body; it has nutritional and metabolic needs. Just as other organs grow old prematurely through neglect or mistreatment, so does your brain. Eating a balanced diet of fruits, vegetables, and lean protein – and getting regular exercise – insures that your brain is getting what it needs to best serve you today and in the future.

Think Positively! By identifying and acknowledging both positive emotions and positive individual traits, you increase the incidence of happy events in your life. According to Ravicz, tools such as journaling and practicing gratitude help you identify negativity and turn it into happiness. Once you’ve made a habit of this conversion, the happy state is wired into your brain and you can naturally enjoy life from this new vantage point.

Acceptance & Commitment Therapy (ACT) is an extension of mindful meditation. Once mindful of all of your thoughts, ACT requires that you take the extra step of distancing yourself from them. For instance, instead of saying “I’m depressed” you would say “I’m having the thought that I’m depressed.” In doing so, you take away the power of that thought so you can deal with it in a rational manner. Once rational, your reaction can either be changed or accepted so it no longer influences your happiness. The guiding principle of ACT is creating a comfortable mental environment so your values can shine through.

Overall, Brain Boosters is much more than a quick stepladder to emotional success. Dr. Ravicz provides solid, proven science, therapies, and exercises that allow you to take control of your emotions and turn them around to work in your favor. All you need is an open mind and the willingness to learn. Brain Boosters provides the tools needed to achieve a well-balanced, meaningful life free of both emotional and physical pain.

Simone Ravicz, PhD. of Palm Springs is a Life and Business Coach.

Brain Boosters: Seven Ways to Help Your Brain Help Yourself is available national book retailers online. For more information visit