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      The stats tell it all: The number one cause of death in the United States is heart disease. That’s right, more than any other disease – even cancer (a close second) – heart disease is the most likely to kill you. The United States is currently facing a “diabesity” epidemic, or a substantial increase in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome leading to diabetes and obesity, all serious risk factors for heart disease.

      According to the American Heart Association, every 34 seconds someone in the US dies of a heart attack. By the time you finish reading this paragraph, another person will have lost their life. Sadly, many people do not even know they have heart disease until they experience a heart attack. These facts alone make Heart Health a critical topic to understand.

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      The gut-skin connection is very significant. Inflammatory processes present in the gut may manifest on the skin. Toxins are expelled with sweat, and can cause the skin to react. Like the inside of the digestive tract, the skin is covered in microbes which can be neutral, protective or pathogenic. Skin reaction may reflect what is going on inside the body. Therefore treating skin conditions only from the outside will often be ineffective and lead to other chronic issues.

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    • Brain Health

      The gut-brain connection occurs in two directions—from the brain to the gut, and from the gut to the brain. When a person has a “gut feeling,” or an emotional upset causes a stomachache or loss of appetite, they experience examples of the first, most familiar direction. When the gut is out of balance, inflammation results leading to a condition commonly known as leaky gut. A leaky gut will allow undigested food particles and toxins to enter into the bloodstream. Some may cross into the brain, setting the stage for diseases like Alzheimers and dementia. Recognizing the underlying contributing factors that created the gut imbalance in the first place is the first step to achieving optimal brain function .

  • Diet & Health
    • Diet & Health

      Healthy pH levels, whether in the colon or systemic, are found when you eat a high-fiber diet, high in vegetables and fruits, healthy proteins, and healthy fats. Complement this with foods and supplements high in beneficial bacteria, omega-3 fatty acids, and digestive enzymes, and you will be supporting optimal health (which begins in the digestive system).

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      Our dog’s health is precious! They provide us with unconditional love and companionship. A daily probiotic formula is a great way to ensure good health. Make sure you choose one that delivers the recommended potency level and strain count. There is nothing quite like a healthy and happy dog. Happy Dog. Happy Life!

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Enzymes: The Brawn Behind Better Digestion

Filed in Digestive Health, Enzymes | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/11/2008

Nearly 75 percent of the body’s immune defenses are located in the digestive tract, making optimum digestive function the key to overall health. In order to ensure proper digestion, however, your body requires a dependable supply of digestive enzymes—the chemicals released into the digestive tract that can break down food by breaking apart the bonds that hold nutrients together. Without enzymes, digestion grinds to a halt, often resulting in uncomfortable gas and bloating as unprocessed foods begin to ferment in the intestines.

The long-term consequences of a lack of enzymes can produce even more serious problems, leaving you vulnerable to malnutrition as valuable nutrients are excreted without being absorbed by the body. What’s more, undigested food can feed disease-causing microorganisms lurking in the digestive tract. That process produces toxins that the body struggles to eliminate and which may inhibit healthy immune function.

Changing Times are a Challenge

In the past, daily helpings of fresh fruits and vegetables contributed plenty of enzymes to the diet, but times have changed. Nowadays the natural enzymes contained in raw, whole foods have been all but depleted through intense processing techniques and cooking, as well as long periods of storage and transportation. What’s more, the enzyme content of fruits and vegetables sold in supermarkets is often compromised by heavy pesticide treatment and exposure to environmental pollutants.

The lack of enzymes in the American diet puts extra stress on the pancreas and other organs, which are forced to work overtime to make up the deficit. However, natural digestive enzyme supplements may be the solution.

Says digestive care expert Brenda Watson, “Taking an enzyme supplement with each meal is one of the most important things you can do to improve your overall digestive health.” That’s because supplementation allows more of the body’s own enzymes to perform other important tasks, including sending enzymes into the circulatory system where they can help break down larger, undigested food fragments that have breached the membrane of the digestive tract. If allowed to reach the blood vessels, these fragments can cause allergies, inflammation and other health complications.

Liberation from Lactose Intolerance

Digestive enzymes can be particularly helpful for people who have problems digesting milk and milk products. The digestion of dairy foods requires the enzyme lactase, which helps break down milk sugar. For those who lack this enzyme and are considered lactose intolerant, eating dairy foods can cause gas and bloating, abdominal cramps, diarrhea and other digestive difficulties. Fortunately, a natural digestive enzyme supplement that contains lactase may provide significant relief for the estimated 70 percent of Americans who suffer some degree of lactose intolerance.

Choosing the Right Digestive Enzyme Supplement

When shopping for a digestive supplement, be sure to choose a formula that contains multiple enzymes. The benefit of a multi-enzyme formula is that it will help break down the wide variety of foods included in your daily diet. For example, protease and papain may be included to help break down proteins; lipase to assist with fat digestion; cellulase and xylanase to help break down the fibrous cellulose in plant cell walls; invertase to assist with sugar digestion; and amylase to help digest starches.

Phytase may also be added to help digest wheat and other grains, allowing important minerals such as calcium to be absorbed more efficiently by the body. Because the digestive tract is a complex environment that varies in levels of acidity and alkalinity, the most versatile enzymatic supplements are made from plant enzymes, which are effective over a broad range of pH levels in the intestinal tract.

Perhaps most importantly, plant-based enzymes continue to be fully functional when exposed to the hydrochloric acid of the stomach on their way to the intestines. The stronger, the better!

Probiotics: A Lifelong Partnership with Your Health

Filed in Digestive Health, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/03/2008

It’s no wonder probiotics make up one of the fastest-growing categories in the natural health industry today. Though microscopic in size, these valuable bacteria provide a veritable grocery list of health benefits for the whole body—from birth to adulthood and well into our senior years. So when physicians and other professionals from The American College of Nutrition met recently for their annual meeting, it stands to reason that the topic was none other than those nifty little microflorae whose name literally means “for life”.

The symposium focused specifically on the benefits of probiotics in children and seniors, illustrating how certain strains can help boost immunity during those periods of life when immune function may be weakened. Doctors also discussed the mounting evidence that consuming probiotics on a regular basis can promote healthy digestive function and help prevent conditions such as Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD).

Bacteria to Grow On

Nearly 75 percent of our immune defenses are located in the digestive tract, so maintaining a favorable bacterial balance in the intestines (ideally 80% good or neutral bacteria to 20% harmful bacteria) is crucial to achieving and maintaining optimum health.

Harvard Medical School Professor of Nutrition and Pediatrics Dr. Allan Walker pointed out that this was particularly important for children, who—although first exposed to beneficial bacteria in the birth canal—do not develop a complete supply until they reach approximately two years of age.

One study, said probiotic specialist Dr. Mary Ellen Sanders, showed that regular supplementation with probiotic bacteria “decreased incidence of common infectious diseases among kids in day care”. This will no doubt come as welcome news to parents with school-age children, whose little ones are routinely exposed to the latest round of colds, flu and other ailments throughout the year. Sanders also stressed that different strains of bacteria perform different functions in the intestinal tract, which supports research that advocates using a multi-strain supplement for maximum benefit.

Because of their unique ability to crowd out harmful pathogens in the intestines, probiotics also assist with healthy digestion and bowel elimination. In fact, research shows that daily probiotic use helps relieve occasional diarrhea and constipation. One strain in particular, called Streptococcus thermophilus, has been clinically proven to help alleviate the symptoms of lactose intolerance and promote overall gastrointestinal health in infants and children.

Big Benefits for Seniors

Science has proven that as we age, the number of healthy bacteria in our digestive tract begins to decline. As a result, older adults have a greater risk of suffering from digestive conditions such as constipation, diarrhea and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS), as well as a decrease in overall immune function. But experts from The American College of Nutrition believe that regular probiotic use can help. Bifidobacteria in particular begin to decline considerably around age 50, so choosing a daily maintenance probiotic with a high Bifidobacteria count is recommended for older adults. The most prevalent good bacteria in a healthy large intestine, Bifidobacteria play a vital role in maintaining overall digestive and immune health.

The Right Choice at Any Age

Nowadays a wide range of probiotic supplements is available to provide daily and critical care support for all ages, and leading health experts recommend between 6 billion and 200 billion active cultures daily, depending upon your individual needs. There are a few important things to consider, however, when choosing the ideal formula. For seniors, look for an effective multi-strain formula with high levels of Bifidobacteria for maximum support. Enteric-coated capsules are also important, as they help protect the beneficial bacteria from the acidic environment of the stomach and deliver them directly to the intestines where they’re needed most.

Infants and children may benefit from either a powdered supplement (which is easy to mix with baby formula, juice or other liquids) or one that comes in the form of a chewable tablet for kids who are not yet old enough to swallow a capsule or caplet. Make sure it contains adequate numbers of good bacteria chosen for their prevalence in the digestive tract of healthy infants, toddlers or adolescents. Finally, added fructooligosaccharide (FOS) is important because it helps provide nourishment for and stimulate the growth of the active probiotic cultures. FOS is a natural prebiotic (a food source for beneficial bacteria) that has been shown to exponentially increase the numbers of healthy intestinal bacteria in the gut.

High Fiber: Keeping Your Insides Fit

Filed in Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/01/2008

Fiber has been getting a lot of attention lately because of its countless health benefits, and no wonder. Studies have shown that fiber not only helps lower cholesterol and support healthy blood sugar, but that it can even help us lose weight safely and effectively while still enjoying the foods we love. One of the most important reasons our bodies need fiber, however, is still the one we all think of first: bowel regularity.

While many of us may overlook an occasional bout of constipation, if not addressed properly this symptom of impaired digestion may lead to a breakdown in overall health.

Defined by infrequent bowel movements and hard, dry stools that are difficult to eliminate, constipation slows down the movement of food through the intestines and allows putrefied food to remain in the colon longer. This in turn leads to a buildup of toxic material in the digestive tract, which allows harmful toxins to be reabsorbed back into the bloodstream. There they can cause everything from gas and bloating to more serious—even chronic—health conditions.

The Fiber Connection

A healthy colon requires bulk in order to eliminate regularly. That’s because your colon is a muscle, and just like any other muscle in the body it needs to be toned and strengthened in order to function properly. What’s more, healthy colon cells thrive in the absence of harmful toxins, so removing those toxins is essential to good bowel function. The good news is that fiber helps with both of these things. Because fiber adds bulk to the diet, it gives the colon muscles something to push against. This in turn helps to move food through the intestines to encourage regular, healthy bowel movements.

Fiber-rich foods also work to absorb the harmful toxins that can build up in the digestive tract and lead to poor health. Not only that, but they help eliminate those toxins with each bowel movement. This prevents waste and contaminants from reentering the bloodstream and settling in the body’s cells and tissues.

How Much Fiber Do You Need?

The majority of health and nutrition experts recommend consuming at least 35 grams of fiber every day for optimum health. Unfortunately, the average American consumes less than half of that number. Why? Because for many people, getting enough fiber through diet alone is a challenge, especially when hectic schedules leave little time for preparing healthy meals and snacks.

The good news is that natural fiber supplements offer a simple solution for increasing your daily intake without all the fuss. A far cry from the gritty, hard-to-swallow supplements of yesterday, today’s fiber formulas are a convenient—and often great-tasting—way to get your fiber on the go. Flavor-free “table fibers” dissolve instantly in beverages and foods, while some powdered formulas are fruit flavored for a delicious addition to yogurt, shakes and smoothies.

Chewable fiber wafers are perfect for a quick fiber fix any time of day, and even fiber-rich shakes and bars can provide an added boost when time is of the essence. Ideally, your fiber supplement should include a healthy balance of soluble and insoluble fiber. This balanced fiber blend ensures optimum bowel function by stimulating peristalsis (the wave-like muscle contractions that move food through the intestines) and helping to strengthen and tone the muscles of the colon to support regular elimination.

In addition, soluble and insoluble fiber both provide significant health benefits for the whole body, including long-term weight management, improved cardiovascular function, and healthy detoxification. Keep in mind that organically grown flax-based or acacia fiber supplements are gentler on the stomach than many psyllium-based products—which can often cause uncomfortable gas and bloating.

Omega Oils: Good Fats for Healthy Digestive Function

Filed in Digestive Health, Omega-3 & Fish Oil | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/01/2008

Taking care of your digestive tract is a lot like taking care of your car. In other words, it requires regular maintenance to keep it running in tip-top shape, and part of that maintenance includes making sure it gets the nutritional support it needs to function at its best every day.

In addition to their role in healthy brain development and cardiovascular function, natural Omega oils derived from cold-water fish and other sources (such as certain nuts, seeds and leafy-green vegetables) play a vital role in helping to ensure optimum digestion and healthy bowel function.

Putting the “E” in EFAs

Essential fatty acids—EFAs, for short—belong to a group of unsaturated fats or “good fats” (Omega-3 & Omega-6 fatty acids) that provide a multitude of health benefits for the whole body. EFAs are considered essential because the body cannot produce them on its own. Therefore, they must be acquired through our daily diet.

Among the most important EFAs are the Omega-3 fats EPA and DHA, both of which are vital to optimum digestive function and overall health. Every time we eat a meal, the food we consume must eventually take a lengthy journey down the esophagus, into the stomach, and ultimately making its way through both the small and large intestines before being eliminated through the colon. However, several factors can impede this process and slow down the movement of food through the digestive tract—including too little fiber in the diet, a lack of exercise, and even the use of certain medications.As a result, undigested food can build up in the intestines, where it may then ferment and release harmful toxins that can lead to poor health.

That’s where Omega oils come in.

Daily supplementation with Omega oils provides the lubrication necessary to keep food moving smoothly and efficiently through the intestines, thereby encouraging regular, healthy bowel movements. What’s more, the beneficial oils provide needed nourishment for the cells in the intestinal lining. This in turn helps to strengthen the intestinal lining and prevent the passage of harmful toxins into the bloodstream.

Beyond Healthy Bowel Function

As scientists continue to explore the many ways in which Omega oils promote overall health, exciting new data has emerged about these good-for-you fats. For example, recent studies have shown that Omega oils can produce a small but significant decline in blood pressure, particularly among adults with hypertension. They may also help boost fat metabolism, relieve joint pain and inflammation, and even help with mood disorders such as depression and bipolar disorder.

As a result, leading health experts advocate getting between 1,000mg and 3,000mg of Omega oils daily through nutritional supplementation, with higher amounts recommended for specific conditions. When choosing a daily oil supplement, there are certain things to look for in order to achieve the maximum benefit. First, be sure to select a highly concentrated formula with high amounts of both EPA and DHA. Enteric-coated capsules are also a must, as they help deliver the beneficial oils directly to the intestines and reduce the fishy aftertaste and unpleasant ‘repeat’ often experienced when taking fish oil.

Finally, added lipase (a powerful fat-digesting enzyme) is crucial, as it helps break down the beneficial oils and make them easier for the body to absorb. Lipase also helps prevent the fishy burps that many people say are the number-one reason they avoid taking a daily fish oil supplement.