• 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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Banned Antibiotics Found In Chicken

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/31/2012


In 2005 the FDA banned the use of a particular broad-spectrum (meaning effective against a broad range of microbes) antibiotic class—the fluoroquinolones—due to an alarming increase in the rate of resistance to Campylobacter bacteria. Yet, “In recent years, we’ve seen the rate of fluoroquinolone resistance slow, but not drop. With such a ban you would expect a decline in resistance to these drugs,” stated David Love, PhD, lead author of a recent study published in Environmental Science & Technology.

In the study, researchers tested 12 samples of feather meal (yes, they make certain animal feeds from chicken feathers—disgusting, I know), obtained from the United States and China, for antibiotic residues, and pharmaceuticals. They found that all 12 samples had antibiotic residues and 8 of the 12 samples tested positive for the banned fluoroquinolones. They also detected the pain reliever acetaminophen (the active ingredient in Tylenol), the antihistamine diphenhydramine (the active ingredient in Benadryl), and the antidepressant fluoxetine (the active ingredient in Prozac).

“The discovery of certain antibiotics in feather meal strongly suggests the continued use of these drugs, despite the ban put in place in 2005 by the FDA. The continued use of fluoroquinolones and unintended antibiotic contamination of poultry feed may help explain why high rates of fluoroquinolone-resistant Campylobacter continue to be found on commercial poultry meat products over half a decade after the ban,” stated Love.

Did you need another reason to eat antibiotic-free (or better yet—organic) poultry? If so, I think this is it. Here is another reason. And another.

Environmental Estrogens Affect Women’s Health

Filed in General | Posted by lsmith on 08/29/2012


Environmental estrogens are those chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body when ingested from outside sources. Chemicals that mimic estrogen—and there are many—are known as endocrine disrupting chemicals because they interfere with hormone (endocrine) function. Examples of estrogen mimicking chemicals include many pesticides, herbicides, and fungicides, plasticizers like bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, certain pharmaceuticals, and industrial chemicals.1 Heavy metals, although not considered estrogen mimickers, interfere with estrogen function by binding with estrogen receptors on cells.2

Concern about the harmful effects of such chemicals on women’s health actually began about 20 years ago when a connection between endometriosis and dioxin chemicals was discovered.3 Endometriosis is occurs in up to 20 percent of reproductive-age females and involves the growth of uterine lining outside the uterus, causing pelvic pain and infertility. Since that first study almost 20 years ago, endometriosis has been linked to more dioxins, dioxin-like compounds, PCBs (polychlorinated biphenyls), fungicides,4 and benzophenone, a chemical commonly found in sunscreen.5

In a recent study, researchers discovered that women were more likely to be diagnosed with endometriosis if they had high blood levels of the estrogenic pesticide hexachlorocyclohexane (HCH) when compared to women with low levels.4 Although the production and sale of HCH pesticides stopped in 2007, these pesticides persist in the environment for many years because they break down very slowly.

The researchers stated, “The exact mechanisms by which POPs [persistent organochlorine pollutants] may influence the development of endometriosis remain unknown, although several pathways have been suggested, such as potent modulation of immune and endocrine function. Human endometrium is a known site for estrogen, and many POPs or their metabolites have been detected there. POPs may exert effects on estrogen or other hormonal production, or induce inflammation and the chronic stimulation of pro-inflammatory cytokines.”

The damage caused by estrogen-mimicking toxins can have far-reaching effects. Fortunately, tests are available to help determine your exposure to these chemicals. Metametrix (metametrix.com) measures phthalates, parabens, PCBs, volatile solvents, and chlorinated pesticides in the blood and urine. Genova Diagnostics (gdx.net) measures toxic metals in packed red blood cells, as well as toxic metal levels in the urine after a heavy metal challenge with EDTA, DMSA, and DMPS. These tests are also available without a prescription from LabTestingDirect.com.

The HOPE Formula (High fiber, Omega-3 oils, Probiotics, and digestive Enzymes) along with infrared sauna, good hydration, and regular exercise is an excellent way to address the onslaught of toxins we are exposed to daily.

References

  1. http://www.envtox.ucdavis.edu/cehs/TOXINS/estrogens.htm
  2. A.Z. Pollack, et al., “Cadmium, lead, and mercury in relation to reproductive hormones and anovulation in premenopausal women.” Environ Health Perspect. 2011 Aug;119(8):1156-61.
  3. S.E. Rier, et al., “Endometriosis in rhesus monkeys (Macaca mulatta) following chronic exposure to 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin.” Fundam Appl Toxicol. 1993 Nov;21(4):433-41.
  4. G.M. Buck Louisk, et al., “Persistent lipophilic environmental chemicals and endometriosis: the ENDO Study.” Environ Health Perspect. 2012 Jun;120(6):811-6.
  5. T. Kunisue, et al., “Urinary concentrations of benzophenone-type UV filters in U.S. women and their association with endometriosis.” Environ Sci Technol. 2012 Apr 17;46(8):4624-32.

Stand Up!

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/27/2012


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! 

The average adult spends 90 percent of his leisure time sitting down, a vastly different lifestyle than that of people living just 100 years ago. This relatively recent change to a more sedentary lifestyle is taking its toll: A recent study published in the journal Archives of Internal Medicine found that adults who sat for 11 or more hours daily had a 40 percent greater risk of dying in the next three years compared to those who sat for less than four hours daily. Even people who exercised regularly were at increased risk if they sat for long periods of time.

“That morning walk or trip to the gym is still necessary, but it’s also important to avoid prolonged sitting. Our results suggest the time people spend sitting at home, work, and in traffic should be reduced by standing or walking more,” stated lead author Hidde van der Ploeg. The researchers found that sitting for less than 8 hours per day and meeting the physical activity recommendation of the World Health Organization was most protective against death.

This week, keep track of how much time you sit. If it is more than 8 hours daily, as is probably the case for most of us, think about how you can cut back on this time. An interesting option for those who sit at a desk all day is the standing desk—a desk that is set higher so that you can stand while you work.

Stand up when you can, even if for just a minute or two, to get the circulation flowing and the muscles activated. Get creative with your work environment and your leisure environment. Change it up by standing up!

Up With Your Vitamin D Level

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/24/2012


In 2010 the Institute of Medicine updated the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of vitamin D from 400 IU to 600 IU per day for adults up to age 70, and 800 IU per day for adults 71 years and older. While this update was a (tiny) step in the right direction, many experts think it comes up far too short. The recommendations are based on the ability of 600 IU vitamin D daily to raise blood levels of vitamin D to 20 ng/mL, which the IOM thinks of as “sufficient.”

To the contrary, many health experts consider at least 50 ng/mL to be an optimal level of vitamin D, and it takes more than 600 IU daily to reach that level. A recent study published in the American Journal of Cardiology brings this issue to light. “Many previous studies on vitamin D supplementation have used doses of 400 to 800 IU, which might not be adequate to ensure optimal serum [blood] levels, with more appropriate daily supplement doses suggested as 1,000 to 2,000 IU,” stated the authors of the study.

They tested vitamin D levels in the blood of over 10,000 participants, average age 58. Participants were classified as deficient if their levels were 30 ng/mL or lower. (You can already see the discrepancy between experts—IOM states levels over 20 ng/mL as sufficient.) The average vitamin D level of participants was 24 ng/mL. In other words, 70 percent were considered deficient.

The most important finding of their study, however, was that the risk of all-cause mortality (that is, the risk of death by any cause) was 164 percent higher in those people with vitamin D deficiency. Remember, that’s 70 percent of them. Vitamin D supplementation was associated with better survival, especially in patients with precious deficiency. “Our study suggests a significant association of vitamin D supplement use and improved survival in deficient subjects, supporting the potential benefit of this intervention.” Vitamin D deficiency was also associated with increased risk of cardiovascular-related conditions such as high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes.

If you haven’t had your vitamin D level tested, ask your doctor about it. Vitamin D deficiency, or insufficiency, is associated with a wide range of chronic health conditions.

Chemical Sensitivity Often Overlooked

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/22/2012


Chemical sensitivity or chemical intolerance is the hallmark of multiple chemical sensitivity, a condition which elicits a range of symptoms that affect many different body systems (including cognitive, musculoskeletal, gastrointestinal, genitourinary, and cardiovascular systems). Chemical sensitivity has recently been the subject of a study published in the journal Annals of Family Medicine. “Between 13 and 33 percent of people in various populations report considering themselves to be “unusually” sensitive to certain common environmental chemicals, such as cleaning products, tobacco smoke, perfumes, pesticides, new carpet, and car exhaust,” according to previous studies.

Patients who are chemically sensitive have been found to use health care services more than those without chemical sensitivity (with an average of 23.3 visits to a medical professional each year), and 54 percent of chemically sensitive people have at least one other medical condition. Yet only 24 percent of those who meet criteria for chemical sensitivity receive a diagnosis, likely due to the non-acceptance by many medical providers of multiple chemical sensitivity as a valid condition.

The authors of the study call for increased awareness of this condition in the primary care setting. The study helps to validate a chemical sensitivity, a condition often misdiagnosed as somatoform spectrum disorder (when the doctor essentially says, “It’s all in your head,” and writes a prescription for Prozac, recommends a psychiatrist or psychologist, and sends you on your way—there are a number of conditions for which doctors do this. I find it maddening). Not that there isn’t a psychological component to multiple chemical sensitivity, but doctors miss the whole picture when they write off biologically-based conditions as simply, “all in your head.”

If you think you have chemical sensitivity, you may be right. Talk with your doctor about it. You may have to find a knowledgeable doctor—hopefully this latest study is a sign that conventional docs are starting to wise up. Most importantly, you will need to avoid, as much as possible, the chemicals to which you are sensitive. It will also be important to support your seven channels of elimination—colon, liver, lungs, lymph, kidneys, skin, and blood so that you can eliminate toxins more efficiently.

Start the Day with a Healthy Breakfast

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/20/2012


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! 

The first meal of the day is considered the most important because it gets us going in the morning. Although you may think that your morning coffee is what fuels you, it’s actually the food you eat that keeps your metabolism running smooth (when you eat the right foods, that is). Despite the fact that breakfast is the most important meal, about 30 percent of Americans skip breakfast one to three times per week.

During a recent presentation at the Institute of Food Technologists Annual Meeting & Food Expo, Nancy Auestad, PhD, presented some statistics: Breakfast eaters get about 17 percent of their daily calories from breakfast, as well as a high amount of certain nutrients, like vitamin D (58 percent), vitamin B12 (42 percent), and vitamin A (41 percent). That’s not to say that any breakfast will do, however.

What’s the best breakfast? One high in protein and fiber, and low in refined and processed carbohydrates. In one study presented at the IFT Meeting, those participants who ate a low-glycemic breakfast containing whole almonds stayed full longer and had lower blood sugar levels after breakfast and lunch when compared to those who did not eat a low-glycemic breakfast. Maintaining healthy blood sugar levels is crucial for overall health and to reduce sugar cravings and mid-morning crashes.

While many people reach for doughnuts, pastries, hash browns, or toast for breakfast, these foods set the body up for a morning slump. Instead, a breakfast that contains protein (like eggs!) and vegetables (do I hear a veggie omelet in the making?) is optimal for sustained nutrition and energy. Take notice of your breakfast habits this week, and make the right changes to your first meal—add protein and fiber (in the form of vegetables and low-sugar fruits like berries) to support your wellness all day.

Hidden Chemicals

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/17/2012


A recent report published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives (EHP) has uncovered the truth about hidden chemicals in everyday personal care and cleaning products, even those products claimed to be “natural.” An array of chemicals has been found in our homes and in our bodies yet little is known about the safety of these chemicals or even where they are all coming from.

The ability to detect most of these chemicals in everyday products becomes complicated by the minimal labeling required on personal care and cleaning products. For example, for cosmetics the FDA does not require labeling of chemical constituents of fragrances or “incidental ingredients,” (I’d like to see the definition of that) and for cleaning products only compounds regulated by the Environmental Protection Agency (like antimicrobials) are required to be labeled.

In the EHP study, the researchers selected 213 commercial products representing 50 product types. They detected 55 chemical compounds including complex mixtures of chemicals in some products. The alarming part of their research is that they even detected many chemicals in the “alternative” products they selected. Here is where labeling again comes under scrutiny—“natural,” “nontoxic,” and “green” are unregulated terms that require no standard ingredient information.

Parabens, known endocrine disruptors commonly found in personal care products, were not only found in conventional products but were also found in seven products that did not list parabens as ingredients. Phthalates, endocrine disrupting plasticizers and solvents, were found in conventional products and alternative products, with new substitute phthalates detected in the alternative products. (They are still phthalates and they likely have similar effects as the old phthalates.)

BPA was found in many of the conventional products and was only found in the alternative sunscreen. I suppose that would be the good news. Here is one chemical you can avoid by selecting alternative products—unless you choose that sunscreen. (The report didn’t give any brand names, unfortunately.)

Antimicrobial compounds were the one chemical that were most likely to be found on labels. This is because they are regulated by the FDA. My question is when will the FDA regulate the rest of these chemicals?

They tested more chemicals but these were the most common ones. The bottom line is we still have a way to go before we can completely trust these products. Because the labeling requirements are shady, we really don’t know what we’re getting. Sunscreens, shaving cream, and some cleaning products seemed to have the most undisclosed chemical ingredients. In the meantime, it’s best to be minimalist. Make your own cleaning products from scratch when you can (you can find some recipes in my book The Detox Strategy), and do your research when it comes to personal care products.

Omega-3s During Infancy Reduces Allergic Response

Filed in General | Posted by lsmith on 08/15/2012


The modern-day diet, also known as the Standard American Diet (SAD), is full of nutrient-poor processed foods. The recent increase in allergy prevalence in developed countries has been attributed, at least in part, to this decline in diet quality. Consumption of inflammation-promoting foods has gone up while that of anti-inflammatory foods has gone down.1 Particularly, the decrease in anti-inflammatory omega-3 fatty acids (mainly those found in fatty fish—EPA and DHA) and an increase in the pro-inflammatory omega-6 fatty acids has been found to promote the risk of allergies.

Building on evidence from previous observational studies, a recent study evaluated fish oil supplementation in infants born to women with allergies on immune function.2 The infants received 650 mg of fish oil (containing 280 mg DHA and 110 mg EPA) or placebo daily from birth to six months of age. The fish oil was either squeezed into the infants’ mouth or added to milk with the first daily feed.

The children who received fish oil had lower allergic responses to dust mites (a common asthma allergen) and milk protein, which was associated with reduced symptoms of eczema at 6 months and reduced diagnosis of eczema at 12 months. “Collectively our observations support a biologically plausible relationship that needs to be explored further but are in agreement with growing evidence that optimizing omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acid status during early life may have a favorable effect on immune patterns and allergy development,” stated the researchers.

The specific immune responses included a reduced allergen-specific interleukin-13 (IL-13) response along with higher interferon-gamma (IFN-γ) and TNF responses. “This apparently ‘favorable’ change in Th1/Th2 [immune] balance could indicate a reduced risk of subsequent allergies with fish oil supplementation,” stated the paper. “We showed that infants with lower DHA levels were more likely to develop eczema by 12 months and consistently produced more IL-5 and IL-13 to both allergens.”

Although the study used fish oil supplements administered directly to the infants, the authors recommended supplementation by the breastfeeding mother as a “more attractive and efficient mode of supplementation,” due to the relatively modest levels of omega-3 levels measured in the supplemented infants, which suggests difficulty with delivery method or absorption.

This study builds on evidence of the importance of omega-3 status during infancy, and even pregnancy, on the development of proper immune response. Both omega-3s and probiotics have been found helpful in the support of proper immune response, as I have mentioned in previous blogs. Remember that a balanced immune response is the cornerstone of good health in so many respects.

References

  1. C.E. West, et al., “Dietary immunomodulatory factors in the development of immune tolerance.” Curr Allergy Asthma Rep. 2011 Aug;11(4):325-33.
  2. N. D’Vaz, et al., “Fish oil supplementation in early infancy modulates developing infant immune responses.” Clin Exp Allergy. 2012 Aug;42(8):1206-16.

Special Viewing of My New PBS Special

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/13/2012


SPECIAL ANNOUNCEMENT

ONE DAY ONLY!

One day only, exclusively in the Atlanta area, there will be a SNEAK PREVIEW of my new PBS television health special:

Watch LIVE on your Local PBS Affiliate Station (PBA30)

Heart of Perfect Health

The Startling Truths About Heart Disease And The Power You Hold To Stop It

Friday, August 17th

7:00 – 8:30 PM

Atlanta and surrounding areas only

(televised nationally this Nov/Dec)

Heart disease is the number one killer of Americans. Diabetes and obesity (which both lead to heart disease) together are known as the “diabesity” epidemic. Clearly a health crisis is underway.

Join me for my new 90-minute life-changing TV special as I explore the underlying contributor to poor heart health—silent inflammation. Learn how silent inflammation starts in the gut and how to control three simple health markers that could save lives.

Heart of Perfect Health will empower people everywhere to take control of their heart health and get to the bottom of what causes heart disease and related conditions, so that they can prevent or even reverse them. Find out more when you watch Heart of Perfect Health!

Omega-3 Fish Oil Protects Against the Harms of Air Pollution

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/10/2012


Here I am blogging about the benefits of omega-3s again. It seems that every week more research is published on the health protecting effects of omega-3s. This week is no exception. In a study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, twenty-nine healthy adults were given either 3 grams daily of fish oil (containing about 2 grams EPA + DHA) or olive oil for four weeks before being exposed for two hours to concentrated fine and ultrafine particulate matter (that science-ese for air pollution).

Those people who had taken fish oil were protected against the negative heart effects produced by the air pollution, including decreased heart rate variability (a measure of the beneficial effects of the autonomic nervous system on the heart), and increased triglycerides and VLDL (VLDL usually goes up when triglycerides go up).

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that air pollution causes two million deaths per year worldwide. Everyone is exposed to air pollution even if you live in the middle of nowhere. Many studies have linked air pollution to poor heart health. I’ve written about it in my books and I’ve also blogged about it here. That omega-3s protect heart health even in the face of acute damage exerted by air pollution is pretty amazing if you ask me. Did you need another reason to supplement with fish oil? This is certainly it.