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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.

  • 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 .

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Home-Cooked Meals Make Healthy Families

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/30/2012


Renew You Challenge

Let’s start this week off right! 

Here is your newest 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! 

Over 40 percent of a typical American’s budget is spent on eating out. And it’s not good for us. Generally, eating out is associated with bad food choices and poor health. A recent review of scientific literature, published in the FASEB Journal, has revealed numerous benefits of eating frequent family meals at home, especially when it comes to children’s health. And the more the better: The more a family eats together, the less likely children are to consume foods thought to be harmful to their health—and the lower their body mass index (BMI).

What’s more, when you eat at home you are in control of your food. You know exactly what goes into it. This can be particularly helpful if you have any food sensitivities and are trying to avoid certain foods, like gluten or dairy. Cooking your own meals can be easier than sifting through the many (often hidden) ingredients found in menu items at your local restaurant.

This week, if you don’t already, plan to cook more meals at home. If you have older children, set aside a few nights a week for Family Dinner Night. Make it a time to reconnect with your family—and your food. In our increasingly disconnected world, this seems an important goal.

 

 

Hypnotherapy for IBS

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/27/2012


 

Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) is a functional bowel disorder that involves abdominal pain and discomfort along with abnormal bowel habits of constipation, diarrhea, or an alternation between the two. Symptoms outside the digestive tract are also common in IBS. An estimated 15 to 20 percent of people are affected by IBS, though only a small proportion of them see a gastroenterologist for the condition. That said, half of all gastroenterologist outpatient visits are for IBS, and it is also one of the most common gastrointestinal conditions diagnosed by general practitioners. IBS is more common among women, with a female/male ratio of about 2:1.

IBS treatment is based on addressing individual symptoms, but because of the range of symptoms involved in IBS, pharmacological treatment is not always effective. Dietary changes and supplements can be very helpful for people with IBS. Certain psychological treatments have also been found to benefit IBS patients, including cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation therapy, stress management, and gut-directed hypnotherapy.

In a recent study published in the American Journal of Gastroenterology, gut-directed hypnotherapy was evaluated by utilizing hypnotherapy in the hospital and psychology private practice settings as opposed to specialized hypnotherapy centers in order to more closely reflect a widely available treatment option. The study found that gut-directed hypnotherapy, which is based on muscular and mental relaxation, and general hypnotic suggestions used to either focus on symptoms or distract from them, resulted in a significant reduction in IBS symptoms, especially sensory symptoms like pain and bloating.

When comparing the response rate to hypnotherapy against the response rate of other new IBS drugs on the market, the researchers stated, “hypnotherapy seems to be at least as effective and without any known side effects.” If you or someone you know has difficult-to-control IBS, consider adding gut-directed hypnotherapy, which can be taught to you and used at home, in addition to your normal IBS regimen. This may be a good way to address the gut-brain connection found to play a major role in IBS.

Gut Bacteria and Allergies

Filed in General | Posted by lsmith on 04/25/2012


Gut health is the foundation upon which total-body health is built. That is the message Brenda and I have been promoting since the beginning. Over the years, scientific support of this message has grown substantially, especially with regard to the effect of gut bacteria on many aspects of health.

A new study published in the journal Nature Medicine has further elucidated the mechanism of allergy development in antibiotic treated individuals. Previous studies have found links between the development of allergic disease and alteration in gut bacterial composition. In fact, I recently blogged about one such study.

In the new study, mice were given antibiotics to deliberately alter their gut microbiota composition. This resulted in a decrease in beneficial bacteria with an associated increase in blood and lymph node levels of allergen-activating white blood cells known as basophils, and immunoglobulin E, or IgE.  IgE binds to basophil surface receptors.  This event liberates histamine and inflammatory cytokines from the basophil cells which are capable of triggering powerful allergic responses. The combination of basophils and IgE, or IgE alone, recognizes allergens, such as dust mites, pollen, or certain foods, and signals the immune system to produce inflammatory cells. The result:  allergic reactions.

The study found that these increased levels of IgE were found along with increases in basophils (immune cells involved in allergic response) and allergic inflammation. Mice that retained their gut bacteria were protected against these allergic alterations, highlighting the crucial role gut bacteria play in immune regulation.

Studies like these further our understanding of the gut link to health conditions, and they serve to identify possible pathways by which we may one day be able to prevent or treat these conditions. Lead researcher David Artis, PhD stated, “It may be beneficial to identify the specific commensals [or gut bacteria] and commensal-derived signals that regulate circulating basophil populations as this could lead to the development of new probiotic or other commensal-derived therapies.”

Did you think your gut could hold so much power over your health? Now, what are you going to do to support you gut health?

I would suggest prebiotics and probiotics, some cultured foods, and an 80 percent plant-based diet (high in soluble and insoluble fiber), which is the main support for a healthy microbiome (new name for our 100 trillion gut bacteria).

It will be wonderful to see the horrific problems associated with allergy and inflammation diminish as humanity learns to care for their microbiome with probiotics and wise food choices.

 

References

  1. D.A. Hill, et al., “Commensal bacteria-derived signals regulate basophil hematopoiesis and allergic inflammation.” Nature Med. 2012 Mar 25; EPub ahead of print.

Eat Fast Food, Increase Your Risk of Depression

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/23/2012


Renew You Challenge

Let’s start this week off right!

Here is your newest 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! 

As if we didn’t have enough reasons to avoid fast food as it is, a recent study published in the Public Nutrition Journal found a link between eating fast food or commercial baked goods (like doughnuts and cakes) and depression. Researchers found “the more fast food you consume, the greater the risk of depression.” They also found that people who ate more fast food were also more likely to have poor dietary habits and be less active. “Even eating small quantities is linked to a significantly higher chance of developing depression,” stated the lead researcher.

Little is known about the effect of diet on symptoms of depression, but certain nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acids, B vitamins, and olive oil have been suggested to play a preventive role. This week, if fast food enters your diet even occasionally, think of alternative options for your fast-food fix. Bring healthy snacks with you when you leave the house so you are not later tempted with hunger while on the go. Find quick, healthy eating locations that would work when you need a fast meal sans fast food.

 

Obesity and Diabetes in Mothers Linked to Autism and Developmental Disorders

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/20/2012


On the heels of the recently announced CDC estimate that 1 in 88 children born today will be diagnosed with an autism spectrum disorder comes a new study, published in the journal Pediatrics, that found a link between metabolic conditions during pregnancy and risk for autism and other developmental disorders. Children born to mothers who had type 2 diabetes, obesity, or high blood pressure during pregnancy were 67 percent more likely to develop autism spectrum disorder (ASD), developmental delays, or other developmental impairments compared to children born to normal-weight mothers without diabetes or high blood pressure.

In addition, children born to mothers with ASD, in addition to metabolic disorders, were more disabled than children with ASD born to healthy mothers. Even children without ASD born to diabetic mothers showed impairments in socialization, and language comprehension and production when compared to non-ASD children of healthy mothers.

Researcher Paula Krakowiak stated, “Over a third of U.S. women in their childbearing years are obese, and nearly one-tenth have gestational or type 2 diabetes during pregnancy. Our finding that these maternal conditions may be linked with neurodevelopmental problems in children raises concerns and therefore may have serious public-health implications. And while the study does not conclude that diabetes and obesity cause ASD and developmental delays, it suggests that fetal exposure to elevated glucose and maternal inflammation levels adversely affect fetal development.”

The devastating effects of obesity and high blood sugar underlie the current chronic disease epidemic that we currently face. That autism spectrum disorder is linked to this phenomenon is not surprising. There are many factors that can contribute to the development of autism, this being just one. Luckily, these metabolic conditions can be reversed. The reversal does not come in a pill, however. It comes when people take back control of their own health by educating themselves, and making permanent diet and lifestyle changes. You must become your own health advocate.

 

Sugar Is Toxic

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/18/2012


A recent 60 Minutes segment with Sanjay Gupta will hopefully open the eyes of many people who might not otherwise be exposed to such important information on the toxic effects of sugar. They emphasized that sugar—in the way people consume it today—is a toxin and could be a driving force behind such diseases and heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and even cancer.

I have been talking about the consequences of sugar for a long time now, including the link between sugar and cancer (in my last book The Road to Perfect Health), and of course the link to diabetes and heart disease. I have also been recommending the removal of sugar, including refined carbohydrates, in the diets of people with gut imbalances because sugar only serves to worsen or maintain this imbalance.

My stance on sugar has continued as I’ve watched not only my own health, but the health of family members, friends, and many people with which I’ve worked over the years, improve after removing sugar from the diet. In fact, my next book and PBS show tie it all together by recommending a healthy eating plan that limits sugar (including the sugar that comes from certain carbohydrates like bread and pasta) and increases fat—you heard me, the healthy fats including omega-3s. In addition, I talk about the importance of a balanced gut, which can be the underlying source of silent inflammation, the main component of most, if not all, chronic disease. The 60 Minutes segment talks about some of the same topics I cover in my book. It was refreshing to see mainstream media finally coming around.

As the Diva of Digestion, I have always recognized the importance of a healthy diet as a main contributor to digestive health, and to total-body health. One of the best ways to improve your diet is to remove sugar. As the 60 Minutes segment illustrates, sugar has the same addictive qualities as cocaine. In fact, they mentioned that people build a tolerance to sugar, always wanting more and more. The result has only been more and more heart disease, diabetes, and cancer. Please, pass this on. Everyone needs to know the harms of sugar.

 

Ladies—Get Moving to Reduce Depression and Metabolic Syndrome

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/16/2012


Renew You Challenge

Let’s start this week off right

Here is your newest 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! 

You’ve heard it many times before: exercise is good for you. In fact, we hear about the benefits of exercise so often it starts to sound like a broken record. And it turns into a should: “I should exercise more.” “I should find time for exercise.” Or a shouldn’t: “I shouldn’t be so lazy.” These “should” statements don’t really help us overcome obstacles. Instead, try to restate it, “I am going to exercise for at least 30 minutes a day because it will make me happier and healthier.” That’s better.

A recent study published in the journal Preventive Medicine found that women are less likely than men to get 30 minutes of exercise daily, and this puts them at greater risk of developing metabolic syndrome. Lead researcher Paul Loprinzi stated, “Those who get 30 minutes a day are less likely to be depressed, less likely to have high cholesterol, and less likely to have metabolic syndrome.”

Metabolic syndrome is a condition that includes a group of risk factors—abnormal blood lipid levels, high blood pressure, abdominal obesity (belly fat), and high blood sugar—and increases the risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease, and stroke. Almost 35 percent of American adults have metabolic syndrome. Luckily, addressing lifestyle factors like physical activity and diet can reverse this condition.

This week, start by tracking your physical activity. If you aren’t getting at least 30 minutes a day, figure out how you can add more time each day. It doesn’t have to be all at once. Take the stairs instead of the elevator, park further from your destination to add a few minutes of walking when you can, and find a physical activity that you enjoy so that you are more inclined to do it. Finally, remember why you want to be healthy. Maybe it’s because you want to be around to enjoy your grandchildren, or even your children, more. Maybe it’s because you want to feel good. Keep reminding yourself of this reason and find ways to get moving.

 

 

 

 

Omega-3 and Exercise For Healthy Bones In Women

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/13/2012


 

After menopause, the hormone estrogen decreases, leading to bone loss. This results in a large number of post-menopausal women who end up with osteoporosis, a condition that involves a deterioration of bone. Maintaining bone mineral density (the denser the bone, the healthier they are) into old age therefore becomes an important part of healthy aging.

In a recent study published in the journal Nutrition & Metabolism, researchers analyzed the effects of omega-3 fish oil with or without exercise on bone mineral density in 79 post-menopausal women. The women were assigned to one of four groups: omega-3 supplement only (fish oil containing 180 mg of EPA and 120 mg of DHA), exercise only (walking or jogging on a treadmill for 30 minutes daily, 3–4 days weekly, at 45–55 percent maximum heart rate), omega-3 supplement plus exercise, or a control group that took no supplement and did not exercise.

After 24 weeks, the omega-3 plus exercise group showed an increase in bone mineral density of the lower back and the femur bone, as well as a decrease in inflammatory compounds in the blood when compared to all the other groups. The researchers stated, “These findings clearly show that the combination of [omega-3] supplementation with aerobic exercise provides numerous benefits on bone density and inflammation over exercise alone or supplementation alone.”

Obtaining optimal amounts of omega-3 seems to inhibit bone resorption (breakdown) and promote bone formation, both critical to the development and maintenance of strong bones. Omega-3 fish oil and exercise make a great team as they promote bone health in this way. If you’re not getting one or the other (or both), consider adding them to your bone health support regimen.

 

 

Mineral Toxins and Autoimmunity—What Can We Do?

Filed in General | Posted by lsmith on 04/11/2012


A recent article from the Journal of Environment International showed a significant connection between elevated blood mercury levels and autoimmune antibodies to parts of the thyroid gland, specifically thyroglobulin.1 Thyroglobulin is a protein made in the thyroid gland that is essential for the production of thyroid hormones. With mercury in the thyroid gland, antibodies develop and attach to thyroglobulin, producing complexed thyroglobulin-antibodies (TgAb), which prevent normal function—hypothyroidism is the result.

However, the story goes way beyond just the thyroid gland. Thyroglobulin autoantibody (TgAb) elevations in the blood have been associated with not only autoimmune thyroiditis, but also rheumatoid arthritis, pernicious anemia, fibromyalgia, and diabetes. Furthermore, one of the papers referenced in the article showed that removal of mercury-containing dental amalgams (silver fillings) resulted in a lowering of the thyroid autoantibody blood levels, and improvement of thyroid function. Other diseases implicated in elevated levels of toxic minerals (including mercury, lead, arsenic, cadmium, aluminum, and more) include neurologic inflammatory conditions such as autism, multiple sclerosis, and most neurodegenerative conditions.  So what can we do about the problem of exposure to toxic minerals like mercury?

First, it is important to determine your exposure to these toxins. If you live near coal-burning power plants or industries that use mercury, if you eat large fish (especially tuna and swordfish) regularly, and if you have mercury-containing dental amalgams, most likely you will have elevated hair, blood, and tissue levels of mercury and other toxic minerals. Measurement of these toxins in hair and in packed red blood cells represents chronic exposure (3–4 months), and is more meaningful than serum and urine levels that generally represent exposure over a few days. If you wish to know about total-body storage of toxic minerals, chelating agents (such as DMSA, DMPS, and EDTA) can be used to bind the toxins and deliver them to the urine where they can be easily measured. It can be shocking to find out how much these agents can pull toxic minerals (like a magnet) from your tissues.

Second, it would be wise to find a physician trained in detoxification and chelation to help slowly remove these toxic minerals while monitoring your kidney and liver function, as well as your overall condition. Removing these toxins too fast can trigger many symptoms ranging from fatigue to rashes. Onset of symptoms does not mean you need to abandon the treatments, but to slow down, and do more things to support your liver, kidneys, and natural detoxification mechanisms. So what can you do before even testing or removing toxic minerals with the help of a doctor? It is simple—everything we have been discussing over the years, including:

Eat an 80 to 90 percent plant-based organic diet, with organic, free-range animal products.

  • Avoid most all simple carbs and sugars to give you optimum energy and metabolism needed for detoxification.
  • Keep hydrated: Drink 2 to 3 quarts or more of water daily. (Add lemon and stevia to make lemonade if water is unappealing.)
  • Good bowel elimination daily: If toxicity levels are high, you may need to supplement with magnesium and/or herbs to promote bowel elimination.
  • High quality sleep 7 to 8 hours per night: If needed, take sleeps aids like melatonin, GABA, or 5-HTP
  • Probiotics & cultured food: Our intestinal microbiome and high-fiber diet maybe our best detoxification mechanism.
  • Vitamin D3 and fish oil are needed to manage inflammation which can affect the body’s mineral balance and enzyme pathways needed for detoxification.
  • Take a multiple vitamin, mineral, antioxidant supplement.
  • Other supportive detoxification supplements include selenium, zinc, CoQ10, lipoic acid, N-acetyl cysteine, glutamine, glycine, and milk thistle.
  • Regular use of infrared sauna increases your removal of toxins through the skin which is a major detox organ. Many people who do not sweat easily develop the ability to do so with sauna use. It’s good to exercise your sweat glands!
  • Exercise regularly: Aerobic, resistance training, and stretching are all needed for optimum circulation in and out of tissues, and minimizing fat (which majorly stores toxins).

There is more, but this would be a good start not only for natural removal of toxic minerals, but to optimize the quality of your life in general.

 References

  1. C.M. Gallagher and J.R. Meliker, “Mercury and thyroid autoantibodies in U.S. women, NHANES 2007-2008.” Environ Int. 2012 Apr;40:39-43.

Health Link—Know the Mercury Levels of the Fish You Eat

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/09/2012


 

Have you been wondering how much mercury is in the fish on your dinner plate? The FDA monitors mercury levels in a variety of fish used for food. They calculate average levels based on that testing. The fish highest in mercury? King mackerel, shark, swordfish and tilefish (from the Gulf of Mexico).

For the complete list, click here. You might want to print it out and take it with you to the fish market next time.