• Gut Health
  • Heart Health
    • 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.

  • Skin Health
    • 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 .

  • 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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Pesticides in Farmed Fish

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/30/2012


Renew You Challenge

Let’s start this week off right!

 

Weekly challenge (I mean opportunity!) to help set you off on the right foot and in the right direction for bringing health to your week. You could even add it to your calendar.  Join us! 

Half of the fish eaten today comes from fish farms. Aquaculture is the fastest growing sector of the food industry because people are eating more fish than ever. The supply of fishmeal to feed the fish is not sufficient to keep up with the demand, however, so other sources of fish food have been introduced, including soy, corn, and rapeseed. The problem is, these crops are grown with pesticides, and the pesticides can accumulate in the fish.

Until now, there was not a test that detected pesticides in fish, but researchers at the Fraunhofer Institute for Molecular Biology in Germany have developed a test that will be used to set the standards for the requirements of pesticide level maximums regulated by the European Commission.

My question is, will these same standards be adopted in the United States? Europe tends to be ahead of us when it comes to regulations like these, so in the meantime, it’s best to eat wild fish when possible. There is no telling how much pesticides are in farmed fish.

This week, take stock of your fish sources. If you eat fish, be sure to find out if it’s wild or farmed, and make the switch if you can.

Omega-3s and Heart Health

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/27/2012


 

A recent study published in the journal Diabetes Care has found that low doses of the omega-3 fatty acids eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), docosaheaxaenoic acid (DHA), and alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) reduced the risk of heart arrhythmia-related events in diabetic patients who had previously suffered a heart attack.

1,014 diabetic patients, aged 60 to 80 years old, were randomized into four groups and consumed margarine that contained either 223 mg EPA and 149 mg DHA, 1.9 g ALA, both EPA/DHA and ALA, or no omega-3 fatty acids every day for 40 months. The group that consumed the margarine with EPA/DHA and ALA experienced an 84 percent lower risk of arrhythmia-related events and a 72 percent lower risk of arrhythmia-related events and fatal coronary events when compared to the group consuming the plain margarine. Heart arrhythmia is an irregular heartbeat, and can lead to cardiac arrest.

The authors of the study suggest a few possible reasons why these omega-3s might be helpful in diabetics with heart disease. One, they might play a role in regulating insulin sensitivity, an important factor in diabetes. Two, they may help to lower blood sugar levels. And three, their anti-inflammatory properties may help to reverse insulin resistance. All these factors can lead to heart disease if unaddressed.

More studies will be done to determine the precise role each omega-3 plays in heart arrhythmia and heart disease, but this study adds to the thousands of studies illustrating the heart-healthy benefits of omega-3 oils.

Increase Fiber for Teens and Don’t Worry So Much About the Fat

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/25/2012


 

A recent study published in the Journal of the American Dietetic Association found a three-fold increase in the metabolic syndrome in children eating the least amount of dietary fiber when compared to the group eating the most. There were no differences when consumption of saturated fat or cholesterol was analyzed however.

The researchers recommend focusing on increasing fiber in the diet, and not worrying so much about finding low-fat foods. That does not mean teens should fill their diets with fat-filled foods, but it does mean seeking out nutrient-dense foods high in fiber.

This makes sense to me. Most low-fat foods today are those processed foods that have been filled with sugar to make up for lack of taste that comes with low-fat options. Replacing fat with sugar in foods is what has contributed to the current obesity and diabetes epidemic this country now faces. Up to 30 percent of teen’s dietary intake comes from beverages and sugary snacks. This has to change.

But change can be tough. Joseph Carlson, the lead researcher, stated, “The trick is getting people into the groove finding the foods that they enjoy and that are convenient.”

The statistics are screaming at us from many different sources. Our diets and lifestyle have to change in order for us to see significant health improvements. This begins in childhood. I recommend that adults consume at least 35 grams of fiber daily. For children and teens, I recommend adding 5 grams to their age. So a 13 year old should eat 18 grams of fiber daily. How can you add fiber back into your diet, and the diet of your family?

Pesticides Linked to Irregular Menstruation

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/23/2012


Renew You Challenge

Let’s start this week off right!

 

Weekly challenge (I mean opportunity!) to help set you off on the right foot and in the right direction for bringing health to your week. You could even add it to your calendar.  Join us! 

Atrazine is the most widely used herbicide in the United States. Over 75 million pounds of it are applied to corn and other crops, many in the Midwest. Atrazine is the most common pesticide contaminant found in groundwater, surface water, and rain in the United States. A recent study has found that women living in areas where atrazine water contamination is found are more likely to experience menstrual irregularities than women living in regions where there is no contamination.

I have blogged on the adverse hormonal effects of atrazine before. It has been found to turn male frogs into females, even at low concentrations. In 2009 atrazine was also linked to low birth weight in Indiana newborns, and menstrual irregularities have been found in women exposed to atrazine through agricultural work.

In this new study, women from two different cities in Illinois were compared with women from two different cities in Vermont. Illinois has the highest rates of atrazine water contamination, though the levels found in the study were still under limits set by the Environmental Protection Agency. The women in the Illinois cities were almost five times more likely to report irregular periods than the Vermont women, and more than six times more likely to go more time between periods.

Emily Barrett, a reproductive health scientist at the University of Rochester in New York stated, “These types of changes to hormone concentration and ovarian function could potentially lead to problems with fertility.” The study did not look at fertility, but hopefully more studies will address this.

Atrazine is sprayed on 75 percent of corn, as well as other crops. Corn is used in so many foods, and is used to make so many different ingredients in foods. This week, start reading your food labels to discover how widespread corn is. Then, take measures to replace the largest sources of non-organic corn with organic corn in your diet. It’s worth it. We’ve got to reduce our chemical exposure. Eating organic when possible is a big way to do that.

Along with MLK, I too “Have a Dream”! Perhaps it’s coming true…. Please read the good news!

Filed in Digestive Health, Digestive Health Care Books by Brenda Watson, The Road to Perfect Health | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/19/2012


Did someone at Stanford U. see “The Road to Perfect Health” PBS special? Now THIS is exciting! http://on.wsj.com/x0n5Yk

I know that way too often the articles that stimulate my comments border on the absurd – in my mind anyhow. FINALLY, in the WSJ (thank you Shirly S. Wang, author) – “A Gut Check for Many Ailments”.

Back in the late 90s, Dr. Michael Gershon (considered the ‘father of neurogastroenterology’) wrote about “The Second Brain”, where he credits two British scientists, Bayliss and Starling, with identifying the “law of the intestine” – peristalsis. This is a muscular movement which happens without direction from the brain. So the word about the important independence of the gut has been out, even if not well appreciated in modern times!

“The gut is important in medical research, not just for problems pertaining to the digestive system, but also problems pertaining to the rest of the body.” says Pankaj J. Pasricha, chief of the division of gastroenterology and hepatology at Stanford University School of Medicine. So encouraging to think a well-known training center for future physicians is expanding their awareness! How many more of you, in a few short years, will be able to finally find a doctor who doesn’t shake his/her head at your symptoms, or inform you it’s just “all in your head”!?

Dr. Gershon, a professor at Columbia University, was quoted to say “The brain is a CEO that doesn’t like to micromanage”. He would undoubtedly enjoy my reference to probiotics as your own body’s “GPS” – Gut Protection System”. Friends, we all know, don’t we, that the balance of bacteria in your gut determines the health of your your digestive system, and, in turn, the health of your entire body!

I’m so happy that Dr. Gershon recognizes that 95% of the serotonin in the body is made in the gut! Besides increasing peaceful and tranquil feelings, it was reported that serotonin is necessary for repair of cells in the liver and lungs, and plays a role in normal heart development and bone-mass accumulation. Definitely important functions beyond elimination, I would say.

How great it was to read that perhaps one day, Parkinson’s disease may be diagnosed and tracked through a routine colonoscopy, rather than an invasive brain biopsy! Apparently gut neurons may mirror the damage experienced by brain neurons, according to Pascal Derkinderen, a professor of neurology at Inserm, Frances national institute of health.

Sometimes, through the years of sharing my understanding of the gut – as a colonhydrotherapist, as a nutritionist/herbologist, as an author in book after book, and more recently on PBS through all the specials, I still feel as though I’m holding up a little candle in the dark. As I hear your stories of suffering, sometimes for months and years with gut issues, and your deep frustration when you can’t find a knowledgeable, compassionate doctor, my heart breaks….  And we move forward, changing diets together, cleansing, supporting, sharing — and we wait.

Today, after reading this WSJ article, I feel a surge of hope and joy!  Working together, you and I, we are educating with love and expanding an awareness of true health that will serve and heal for generations to come.

Diet Affects Changes in the Gut Microbiota

Filed in General | Posted by lsmith on 01/18/2012


 

A new study, published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition, demonstrated a connection between diet, and stool pH and bacterial levels in adults.1 The researchers studied stool samples from vegetarians, vegans, and omnivores. They found lower levels of potentially pathogenic bacteria, like E. coli, in people consuming the vegan or vegetarian diets. What they also found, in conjunction, was a decrease in stool pH level with decreases in consumption of animal proteins. Those on the omnivore diet had a stool pH of 6.9; those on the vegetarian diet (which included dairy and eggs) had a stool pH of 6.6; and those on a vegan diet (no animal proteins) had a stool pH of 6.3.

The higher pH in the omnivore diet is explained in part by an increase in the production of alkaline metabolites by enhanced growth of the protein-digesting putrefactive bacteria in the gut. That’s right—a diet high in animal protein promotes increased putrefying activity of gut bacteria, raising the pH of stool and making products like putracene, cadaverine, and nitrosamine, which could lead to colon cancer. Diets lower in animal protein and—this is key—higher in fiber promote gut bacterial activity that produces more acid via production of the beneficial short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) butyrate, propionate, and acetate, promoting a more acidic environment in the gut.

The change in pH levels explains why potentially pathogenic bacteria were increased in the higher pH (more alkaline) stools of people consuming an omnivorous diet. Lower pH ranges do not support the growth of potential pathogens, which thrive in the higher pH range over 6.5.2,3 So I say, stay alive under 6.5!

Here is a major point. The lower pH may be mainly a biomarker indicating the production of the SCFAs, particularly butyrate. Butyrate is a major fuel for the colonocytes, and is critical for optimum colon health. Butyrate also affects nuclear transcription in a positive way. In other words, when colonic cells are under attack from absorption of free radicals from fecal material (more likely to happen with chronic constipation), the nucleus, under stress, sends a message to the cell: either commit suicide (apoptosis) or produce more damaged cells (cancer).  Butyrate is more likely to promote apoptosis, preventing cancerous cells and allowing new cells to come in and maintain a healthy colon lining.

However, we must always remember everything is a question of balance.  All of the SCFAs including butyrate come from the fermentation of soluble fiber from plants by commensal bacteria. Too much fermentation with too low of a pH (or too much acid) can damage the colonic lining creating increased permeability problems leading to numerous problems including immune imbalances which can have total body effects.

The researchers also found a decrease in levels of Bifidobacteria and Bacteroides in the people on a vegan diet. This is in contrast to other studies that have found increases in Bifidobacteria, and seems an anomalous finding, since high-fiber diets support the growth of Bifidobacteria, while suppressing the growth of potential pathogens. Perhaps a closer look at the diets would be in order. Many vegetarians and vegans eat high amounts of refined carbohydrates, and too much fats and oils which do not promote healthy Bifidobacteria levels.

The researchers state, “In addition to age, gender and diet, factors such as microbial interaction, food transit through different intestinal compartments with different bacterial colonization density, availability of nutrients, colonic supply, sulphate and bile acids, and bacterial adaptation may all be involved in the composition and activity of colonic microflora. This may help in understanding the lower abundance of Bifidobacteria and Bacteroides species in vegans and vegetarians, which was not linked to stool pH.”

At any rate, all diets—vegan, vegetarian, and omnivore—will benefit by adding probiotic-rich foods along with supplements to help replenish levels of the beneficial Bifidobacteria and Lactobacilli. These bacteria, along with a high-fiber diet high in vegetables and fruits, help to lower the pH in the intestines by producing the nourishing SCFAs.

Incidentally, this topic can confuse the message of the benefits of a high-alkaline diet. You may have heard that a diet high in animal protein, sugar, and refined carbohydrates creates acidity in the body. Yes, these foods do lower urine and salivary pH levels, which are thought to be associated with bone mineralization, a process that helps neutralize acidity by pulling alkaline minerals from bone.  Chronic low grade acidity (metabolic acidosis) also causes excess loss of calcium, magnesium and potassium in the urine. Diets high in vegetables and fruits, on the other hand, produce more alkaline urine and saliva levels, which is associated with reduced bone loss and reduced loss of minerals in the urine.4 These variabilities in optimum pH in different areas show the body’s ability to change based on local environment and physiologic and biochemical requirements.

The bottom line is, 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).

References

  1.  J. Zimmer, et al., “A vegan or vegetarian diet substantially alters the human colonic faecal microbiota.” Eur J Clin Nutr. 2012 Jan;66(1):53-60.
  2. J. Adler, “A method for measuring chemotaxis and use of the method to determine optimum conditions for chemotaxis by Escherichia coli.” J Gen Microbiol. 1973 Jan;74(1):77-91.
  3. G.R. Gibson, et al., “Prebiotics and resistance to gastrointestinal infections.” Br J Nutr. 2005 Apr;93 Suppl 1:S31-4.
  4. B. Dawson-Hughes, et al., “Treatment with potassium bicarbonate lowers calcium excretion and bone resorption in older men and women.” J Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2009 Jan;94(1):96-102.

“Wheat Belly” author comments on yet another weight loss study yielding ‘limited insight’

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/17/2012


 

Last week the WSJ reported the latest in a string of studies to challenge claims that the secret to healthy weight loss lies in adjusting the amount of nutritional components of a diet – protein, fat, and carbohydrates. http://on.wsj.com/xM9s5d Of course, these are unveiled “en masse” in January, when weight is an issue that we are seemingly ready and willing to tackle.

The conclusions reported of the study appeared skewed to me, so I decided to ask Dr. William Davis, author of New York Times Bestseller “Wheat Belly”, for his input. I am very grateful for his time and attention. His response is below:

As always, the media tries to squeeze more out of a study than was demonstrated. There are several comments I’d make:

1) This study says nothing about the effects of carbohydrates, since carbohydrates were kept constant. It only provides indirect evidence of the weight effects of varying protein/fat, with some interesting developments with regards to the muscle loss of a very low-protein diet. 

2) This study, as are most, is guilty of also suggesting that a calorie is a calorie. What if the calories from one food coexist with an appetite-stimulant? This was not examined in this study, of course, but develops in the real world where calorie intake is not restricted or controlled. This is the effect of the gliadin protein of wheat: increase consumption by 400 calories per day. This is, in effect, one calorie leading to the consumption of more calories, and not a thermodynamically clean-calories-in, calories-out phenomenon. 

This study can only be used to help understand the effects of forced overeating of protein/fat calories, but yields limited insight into the real-world setting of mostly carbohydrate overconsumption. 

William Davis, MD
Author of New York Times Bestseller Wheat Belly: Lose the wheat, lose the weight and find your path back to health published by Rodale, Inc.  
Author, Track Your Plaque: The only heart disease prevention program that shows how the new CT heart scans can be used to detect, track, and control coronary plaque
Blogs:
www.wheatbellyblog.com, www.trackyourplaque.com/blog
Founder, www.trackyourplaque.com 

So there you have it – yet another study looking ineffectively at what practically isn’t even the most pressing issue. Dr. Davis’ book draws attention to the fact that processed, genetically modified wheat is, one mouthful at a time, giving us chronic diseases, many of which are killing our population – wouldn’t it be great to see more studies on that?

Arsenic in Rice

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/16/2012


Renew You Challenge

Let’s start this week off right!

 

Weekly challenge (I mean opportunity!) to help set you off on the right foot and in the right direction for bringing health to your week. You could even add it to your calendar.  Join us! 

A recent study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) has found that women who consume rice have higher levels of arsenic detected in urine than those women who do not eat rice. Arsenic is a heavy metal that naturally occurs in the environment, but at higher levels can be detrimental to human health.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has set limits for arsenic in groundwater at 10 mg/L. The rice plant has the ability to extract arsenic and store it in the rice grain. Currently, there are no regulations for arsenic levels in rice, so this presents a potential problem. This new study will hopefully lead to more studies that examine the potential health risks of arsenic exposure in rice. For now, no recommendations are made to avoid rice, as it is thought to be an important nutrient in the diets of many people.

Scientists do recommend having well water tested, as 10 percent of the women in the study were drinking well water that exceeded the current WHO limits for arsenic. The senior author of the paper stated, “Arsenic exposure during pregnancy is a public health concern due to potential health risks to the fetus.” Though they do not recommend pregnant women avoid rice at this time, I would say it’s probably not a good idea to eat rice every day. It’s too early to know much, but it might be prudent to cut back on rice if you are expecting.

This week, if you have well water, get it tested for arsenic to be sure you are well under the 10 mg/L limit.

Antibiotic Overuse in Children

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/13/2012


In pediatric medicine, antibiotics are among the most commonly prescribed medications, with more than 30 million prescriptions written each year. A recent study analyzed antibiotic prescribing patterns in outpatient visits in the United States between 2006 and 2008. Antibiotics were prescribed in 21 percent of visits. Respiratory conditions accounted for most of the prescriptions (72 percent).

Prescriptions for broad-spectrum antibiotics, those that target a broad range of bacteria, were prescribed in 63 percent of those cases, but they were prescribed for infections for which antibiotics were not indicated. That means they were inappropriately prescribed for conditions for which antibiotics don’t work, conditions like bronchitis, viral pneumonia, and influenza.

Though overall rates for antibiotic prescriptions in outpatient pediatric care have declined, it is obvious from this report that antibiotics are still being overprescribed. Certainly, antibiotics play an important role in helping to stop harmful, and even deadly, infections, but when they are prescribed for conditions for which they are not helpful, they only serve to increase antibiotic resistance, a considerable health threat to modern medicine.

Not to mention, inappropriate overuse of antibiotics can contribute to gut imbalance that can have health effects that extend throughout a lifetime. Remember that digestive health is the foundation upon which total-body health is built.

State Health Rankings

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/11/2012


 

Every year, the United Health Foundation publishes its state health rankings, a report of data collected on 23 measures of health compiled by different federal agencies. The rankings take into account behavioral, socioeconomic, and other factors that predict good health of a state, like rates of binge drinking, smoking and obesity, and factors like air pollution, violent crime, childhood poverty, and low rates of health insurance.

Between 1990 and 2000, health measures improved, but over the last decade that improvement slowed. In 2011 there was no improvement. The poor economy has been blamed, a factor that may influence poor health habits. Overall the report finds that 27.5 percent of the population is obese, 17.3 percent smoke cigarettes, and 8.7 percent have diabetes, all preventable contributors to poor health.

The five most unhealthy states:

50. Mississippi

49. Louisiana

48. Oklahoma

47. Arkansas

46. Alabama

The five healthiest states:

1. Vermont

2. New Hampshire

3. Connecticut

4. Hawaii

5. Massachusetts

For the full report, click here.