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    • Heart Health

      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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    • Skin Health

      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.

  • Brain Health
    • 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 .

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Paraben Toxins Detected in 92% of People Tested

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/31/2010


Toxins, toxins, everywhere…or so it seems, right? Especially when I read a story like the one I read the other day about how parabens were found in 92% of people who participated in a recent study. And in case you didn’t know, parabens are in just about everything. So just what are they?

Parabens are antimicrobial preservatives used widely in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and even food and beverages. Referred to as “weak xenoestrogens” (which means they have mild estrogenic properties) parabens may be able to interfere with natural hormone activity in the body. They’ve even been associated with breast cancer development, and scientists have found high concentrations of parabens in breast tumors.

Parabens don’t stick around once they enter the body though, and they’re typically excreted in urine within hours after exposure. So that means that a high concentration of parabens in the urine indicates very recent—and usually ongoing—exposure. Not surprising, since parabens are found in so many everyday products.

Paraben exposure can occur through inhalation, skin contact, and ingestion, and research shows that women have higher concentrations of parabens in their bodies than men. (Think about all those beauty, hair and skin care products we use, girls!)  

So how do we lessen our exposure to harmful parabens? Reading the ingredient labels on the products you buy is the best way to avoid them. Some health-conscious companies will even include a “Does not contain parabens” statement on the label because they are aware of the concerns about these chemicals. So when in doubt, check your labels!

Detox Your Steak (No, that’s not an Oxymoron)

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/30/2010


My Weekly ‘Renew You’ Challenge

Disclaimer: If you’re a vegetarian, you might want to skip this post!

Okay, so we all know that red meat is not especially healthy for us. The saturated fat content alone is enough to clog our arteries, and experts having been telling us for a while now that a diet high in red meat is linked to a higher risk of developing colon cancer…not to mention that raising cattle is highly energy intensive.

Then again, I believe that if you deprive yourself of something that you absolutely love, it can have a tendency to backfire on you. So first, let me say that if you don’t eat red meat, good for you!

But, if you haven’t quite reached that point, don’t be so hard on yourself. From now on, just do your best to opt for organic, grass-fed beef, since it’s the safest, healthiest choice if you’re going to eat red meat. However, if you like to grill your steaks and burgers—as a lot of folks do—keep in mind that grilled meat is often contaminated with cancer-causing chemicals as the result of the high heat.

The good news? Looking through a natural health magazine the other day, I found the following two recommendations for reducing carcinogenic compounds in red meat and realized that both were pretty smart!

  •  Marinate beef in red wine before grilling
  • Rub fresh rosemary on the meat before grilling

Both red wine and rosemary are high in health-promoting antioxidants, which help prevent damage to healthy cells in the body. So with summer right around the corner, I wanted to pass on these helpful (and easy!) tips.

Happy grilling!

Think All Drugs are Safe? Think Again.

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/27/2010


Did you ever stop to think that all those bottles in your medicine cabinet might not be as safe as you thought? Well, I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but it’s true. Just because your doctor prescribed it or you found it on the shelf at the pharmacy doesn’t mean it comes with a “100% safe” guarantee. But you don’t have to take my word for it—look at the facts and see for yourself!

Just last year the FDA reported over 1,700 drug recalls. That’s more than four times the recalls reported in 2008. Not only that, but the number of recalls and warnings just keeps growing. This year there were nearly 300 recalls in January alone, and it’s not just those odd drugs we don’t hear about too much or don’t know what they do. It’s big-name drugs that a lot of people use every day—like Tylenol®, Motrin®, Celebrex® and Avandia®. So what’s going on here??

Experts say it has to do with several things, but a big reason seems to be bad manufacturing practices. Generic drugs in particular are in high demand (accounting for almost 75% of prescription drug sales), so a lot of companies are competing to be the first to bring a generic version of a drug to the market, and when they do they don’t always think about the best way to make that drug, or they’re cutting corners trying to save money and time, and that leads to problems later on. In other words, big drug companies are taking a gamble with your health just to make money. I don’t know about you, but that scares the heck out of me.

Even worse, the FDA says it hasn’t seen any “alarming patterns” in the recent recalls. What?? Isn’t it alarming enough that we have all these recalls in the first place?! Thankfully, I’m not the only who thinks so. Lawmakers introduced two new bills this year demanding stricter FDA regulations for drug manufacturers, so hopefully this means that change is on the horizon.

In the meantime, when it comes to your health, always remember to stay informed. Do your research. Know exactly what you’re putting into your body before you take something. And remember to take good care of your body from the get go with healthy diet and lifestyle choices—that way you can avoid taking unnecessary drugs that might be more damaging to your health than you might think!

Too Much Fat, Sugar Linked to ADHD in Kids

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/25/2010


You know the old saying, “You are what you eat”? Well, take it from me, it’s true! Just giving your body the right nutrients every day can make a big difference when it comes to staying healthy, and that’s what scientists in Australia are saying after studying more than 1,500 school-age children to see if a diagnosis of ADHD might just be related to what they put on their plates.

ADHD (attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder) is one of the most common childhood disorders diagnosed today, and experts at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention tell us that it affects more than 4 million children every year. That means there’s a good chance that you or someone you know has a child with ADHD, so listen up—this is important!

Kids with ADHD tend to be overly active, have behavioral problems, and have a hard time concentrating and paying attention. Unfortunately, the first reaction of a lot of parents and doctors is to put the child on medication, but what if a few simple diet changes could eliminate the need for potentially dangerous prescription drugs?

The Australian study found that kids who consumed a typical ‘Western’ diet—predominantly processed foods with high amounts refined sugar and sodium, as well as high-fat meats and dairy products—had more than double the risk of having ADHD than those who ate a healthier, high-fiber diet rich in fruits and veggies, whole grains and fish.

This is really interesting, since at one time experts thought ADHD was largely genetic. But they’re now looking at the whole picture, and what they’re finding is that things like nutrition might just play a bigger role than they thought when it comes to ADHD. And while more research is needed to better understand the relationship between diet and ADHD, scientists believe the standard Western diet is lacking in essential nutrients—including beneficial Omega-3s from fish—that are needed for healthy brain function.

Food for thought? I think so!

What Do IBS and Brain Health Have in Common?

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/24/2010


A lot, actually! Just recently scientists at the University of California discovered a difference in brain structure between people with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) and those who showed no IBS symptoms.

What they found was that those with IBS actually had less gray matter in the areas of the brain that controlled things like thinking, reasoning and evaluating. Pretty interesting stuff, I thought, and it just goes to prove that the gut and the brain are more connected than we might think.

Experts call this relationship between our digestive system and the brain our gut-brain connection, and it’s been linked to everything from migraine headaches to autism. It’s not surprising though, when you consider that more than 70 percent of your body’s natural defenses are found in your gut. To put this in perspective, it helps to remember that there are only about 10 trillion cells in your entire body, but roughly 100 trillion bacteria cells in your gut. Talk about running the show!

Results of the UCLA study are also helping scientists to better understand IBS, a debilitating disorder with symptoms that include abdominal pain and cramping, along with severe diarrhea or constipation. At one time doctors thought IBS was a psychological disorder, but thanks to studies like this one they’re starting to change their tune—and it’s about time. I see and talk to people every day with IBS, and let me tell you, it’s real!

Eat a Rainbow Every Day

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/23/2010


My Weekly ‘Renew You’ Challenge – Eat a rainbow everyday! Sounds pretty goofy, doesn’t it? But be honest, it’s not the first time you’ve heard this piece of advice, so why not give it a try? In fact, it’s such a good tip even I’m going to jump on the bandwagon!

Eating a diet that includes of a rainbow of colors (and we’re talking natural colors folks, not those scary chemical additives they use to make neon-bright candy and other foods) helps to ensure that you’re getting a wide variety of phytonutrients—important nutrients found in fruits and vegetables that we need to stay healthy.

Phytonutrients include carotenoids, flavonoids, lignans and polyphenols, all of which include their own nutrients (for example, anthocyanins found in purple and deep red plant foods are a type of flavonoid) that work in a multitude of ways to keep our bodies in great shape. Mostly known for their antioxidant properties (which helps protect healthy cells), phytonutrients also promote a strong immune system and help with detoxification.

So your challenge (and mine!) this week? Let’s try to eat a rainbow every day—and remember, that doesn’t mean a bag of Skittles®! I mean fresh, colorful, natural plant foods. You might think you’re doing a good job by eating a salad every day, but if it only has lettuce, cucumbers and carrots, you’re missing out on the red, yellow, blue and purple ingredients. Toss some raisins into your salad, have some red and yellow bell peppers with dinner, and snack on some blueberries for dessert. Oh, and don’t forget white—cauliflower, white beans, white eggplant, and even jicama can make your rainbow complete, so let’s get started!

Antibiotic Resistance: Which Came First, the Chicken or the Egg?

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/20/2010


A couple months ago there was a report in the Lancet medical journal that looked at how conventional chicken farming is linked to antibiotic resistance in humans, and I have to say—it was pretty eye-opening.

Some of the details were really awful, like when I read about their living conditions. In case you don’t know, most conventionally-farmed chickens have an average life span of 40 days, their litter is never changed, and they literally live in their own poop.

As if that’s not bad enough, those conditions provide the perfect breeding ground for bacteria and parasites, so what’s the farmers’ answer? The chickens are given antibiotics throughout their life to avoid infection, which means when people like you and me eat their meat after it’s been packaged and sent to the grocery store, we’re actually ingesting those antibiotics.  Like I said—pretty eye-opening, right?

Antibiotic resistance happens when our bodies actually become resistant to the effects of a certain antibiotic (or antibiotics) over time because of misuse or overuse of those particular drugs. Sure, we have some amount of control over the antibiotics we take when it involves getting them from our doctor, but when it’s something like this, what happens then?

A specific type of antibiotic, cephalosporin, is of particular concern in chicken farming. Cephalosporin-resistant bacteria have become a common problem in hospital infections, and research shows they’re now becoming an even more widespread problem in the community. Not surprisingly, cephalosporin-resistant bacteria have been linked to… yup, you guessed it… the antibiotics used on chicken farms.   

I can’t even begin to stress how serious antibiotic resistance is, and how we really need to start paying attention to when and where our bodies might be exposed to things they shouldn’t. Antibiotics can save lives when they’re needed, but not if our bodies are left vulnerable to infection because of their improper use. If we keep going at this rate, folks who really need antibiotic treatment may eventually not be treatable at all.

So let’s make a conscious effort to begin by reading food labels and choosing chicken raised without antibiotics. It may be a small start, but it’s a good start, and it’s one that all of us can make.

Another Strike against Caloric Sweeteners

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/18/2010


Okay folks, the strikes against caloric sweeteners (like table sugar and high-fructose corn syrup) are mounting, and by now there are way more than three…so I say, “You’re out!”

It’s long been known that eating too many refined carbs—which includes sugars as well as refined flour, white rice, etc.—is associated with a certain lipid profile (a series of tests that determines whether you’re at risk of developing heart disease), and that a diet high in refined carbs is linked to lower levels of good cholesterol (HDL), higher levels of bad cholesterol (LDL), and increased triglycerides. And what are all these things associated with? Yup, you guessed it—an increased risk of heart disease.

A recent study looked specifically at the effects of added dietary sweeteners on blood lipids (fats) and found, not surprisingly, that the results were very similar to the studies done on refined carbs—lower good cholesterol, higher triglycerides, and higher ratios of triglycerides to HDL. But the great thing about this new study is that it adds more fuel to the recommendation of a reduced-sugar diet. In fact, the American Heart Association recommends fewer than 100 calories of added sugar daily for women, and fewer than 150 calories of added sugar daily for men.

To give you an idea of how much sugar that is, it helps to know that there are 3.8 calories in every gram of sugar. So, for women 100 calories would be 26 grams, and for men 150 calories would be 39 grams—which is roughly the amount of sugar in a typical can of coca cola…see how quickly it can add up?

When trying to reduce your sugar intake, be sure to look at food labels. Is sugar or high-fructose corn syrup on the ingredient label? If it is, how many grams of sugar are in the product? And is it more than you really need? It’s time to start paying attention!

Expectant Moms Get Big Benefits from Probiotics!

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/17/2010


When you’re pregnant it seems like everyone has some important bit of advice to give—do this, eat this, stay away from this—but really the keys to good health during pregnancy are a lot like any other day: follow a healthy diet and lifestyle, and the benefits are sure to follow. So the other day when I came across a story about how probiotic supplements could provide added benefits for pregnant women and their babies, I wasn’t surprised at all.

Scientists in Finland recently followed more than 250 expectant moms to look at how taking probiotics during pregnancy (and afterwards while breastfeeding) may help with healthy blood sugar and preventing gestational diabetes. Gestational diabetes is another name for women who experience high blood sugar levels during pregnancy even though they’ve never had diabetes before, and it affects over 100,000 women in the U.S. every year!

All of the women in the study were considered healthy and had no history of chronic disease, and their daily diet was closely monitored by a nutritionist. But now for the really interesting part: about half of the women received a daily probiotic supplement with a combination of Lactobacilli and Bifidobacteria (those important L’s and B’s!), and those women had improved blood glucose control, which translated into fewer cases of gestational diabetes as well as healthy fetal and infant growth.

Now, I know I talk about probiotics all the time and how all those good bacteria in your gut play a BIG role in keeping your whole body healthy, but this just goes to show that the benefits of probiotics go way beyond just better digestion and a strong immune system. Because there’s been such a drastic rise in obesity and obesity-related disease in this country, researchers are excited about these study results and hope that starting probiotics early on in life will help to ensure a healthy body and weight in later years. More kudos for probiotics!

Get Over It! Let’s Talk Poop

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/16/2010


My weekly “Renew You” Challenge: In case you haven’t noticed, I’m pretty comfortable talking about poop. Most of the people I work with are, too—in fact it’s kind of a running joke! But I think it’s safe to say that for the rest of society, the subject of poop has a MAJOR taboo.  Even the editor’s letter in a recent issue of a popular parents’ magazine had a hard time mentioning constipation, and I thought, “Really?? These are parents! Haven’t they seen pretty much everything when it comes to their kids’ bodily functions?” 

My point is, we need to get more comfortable talking about what’s happening on the inside—in our guts. Why? Because a healthy gut is the foundation for a healthy body, since it’s where the majority of your body’s natural defenses are found.

So where’s the best place to start? With your family, of course! After all, you share just about everything else with them, right? And this is important. Think about it, do you even know how often your spouse poops? How about your kids? And if you do, do you know if they’re healthy poops? Are they too loose? Not frequent enough? All of these things can have a big impact on overall health.

So yes, it can be a touchy subject, but it’s an important one folks. Ignoring our digestive symptoms because they’re hard to talk about can lead to chronic illness down the line. So I say get over it—and let’s talk poop!