• 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).

  • About Brenda
  • Pet Health
    • Pet Health

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

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Health Care Could Save Billions with Use of Supplements

Filed in General, Supplements | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/28/2013


There comes a point when even mainstream medicine—and the government—has to accept the fact that dietary supplements are helping many people prevent disease (even though they cannot be marketed for doing so). While health care costs in this country are skyrocketing and the rate of chronic disease is ever rising, the steady pace of the natural health movement is gaining momentum. And none too soon, given the health crisis we are up against.

Frost & Sullivan recently produced a report, commissioned by the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN), in which they reviewed hundreds of scientific studies on eight dietary supplement regimens across four diseases to determine the disease risk reduction. They determined that dietary supplements may reduce the number of disease-associated medical events, which could save billions of dollars in health care costs for Americans.

“Chronic disease takes a huge toll on people’s quality of life, and the health care system spends a tremendous amount of money treating chronic disease, but has failed to focus on ways to reduce those costs through prevention,” stated Steve Mister, president of CRN. “We already knew that the dietary supplements identified in the report can play a role in reducing the risk of certain chronic diseases; we felt compelled to find out if they could also contribute to health care cost savings by reducing the medical events associated with those conditions.”

Even more good news, consumer confidence in supplements is high—85 percent of people surveyed (a national sample of 2,013 adults) are confident in supplements. Judy Blatman, senior vice president of CRN stated that these results may demonstrate “consumers’ understanding that the overwhelming majority of companies in this industry are dedicated to looking out for their customers, and manufacturing and marketing safe dietary supplement products that provide health benefits.”

What I know is that I was healed by supplements and a healthy diet, which is why I founded ReNew Life in the first place—I wanted to help others heal themselves as I had. Since then, I have received hundreds, if not thousands, of testimonials and personal accounts from people who also have healed themselves in a similar way.

While there are a few negligent companies in the industry that tend to give dietary supplements a bad name, the real story is that the majority of companies are helping many people live healthier lives. More reports such as these will certain surface as this story gets louder and mainstream medicine can no longer ignore it.

Antibiotics Overprescribed for Sore Throats and Bronchitis

Filed in Antibiotics, Cold and Flu, General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/25/2013


As we gear up for the winter season we are reminded of the usual increase in cold and flu that runs through our communities, work places, and schools. Along with more sniffles and coughs come more visits to the doctor and, unfortunately, more prescriptions for antibiotics—often at the urging of the patient. But cold and flu are viruses, which are not affected by antibiotics. Antibiotics only kill bacteria.

Two major national surveys recently presented by Harvard scientists focused on this topic. They found that doctors prescribed antibiotics in 60 percent of visits for sore throats and 73 percent of visits for acute bronchitis, but the rate should actually be 10 percent for sore throats and almost zero for acute bronchitis.

“People need to understand that by taking antibiotics for viral infections, they’re putting something in their bodies that they don’t need,” said Jeffrey Linder, MD, senior author of the study. Only 10 percent of sore throats are caused by streptococcus (“strep”) bacteria. Acute bronchitis is nearly always viral, and even if it’s not, antibiotics are not needed unless pneumonia develops, said Linder. “Taking antibiotics unnecessarily exposes people to adverse drug reactions, allergies, yeast infections, and nausea, with no benefit.”

Linder said that most sore throats and cases of acute bronchitis should be treated with rest, fluids, and use of a humidifier—not a visit to a doctor. I often blog about the topic of antibiotic overuse because it’s important. Unnecessary antibiotic use is one major contributor to the development of antibiotic resistance, a condition much more threatening than the common cold. Next time you come down with a seasonal illness, know that it most likely does not require antibiotics. Wait it out first.

High Blood Sugar May Increase Risk for Dementia

Filed in Alzheimer's, Brain, Diabetes, General, Heart Disease | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/23/2013


The link between high blood sugar and poor health go far beyond diabetes, a condition of epidemic proportions on its own. Not only does high blood sugar also put you at risk for heart disease, but also Alzheimer’s, a condition also known as type 3 diabetes. A recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine further solidifies the evidence that high blood sugar, even in people who do not have diabetes, is associated with an increased risk of dementia.

The study “may have influence on the way we think about blood sugar and the brain,” said Paul Crane, MD, lead author. The study analyzed data from over 2,000 patients of average age 76, and tracked blood sugar levels for almost seven years. “We found a steadily increasing risk associated with ever-higher blood glucose levels, even in people who didn’t have diabetes,” said Crane.

Researchers are still trying to figure out just how increased blood sugar leads to dementia. In the meantime, achieving and maintaining a healthy blood sugar level is always a good goal. While standard blood tests label normal blood glucose (sugar) levels at below 99 mg/dL, studies have found that blood glucose levels between 75 and 85, along with an insulin level of 5 IU/mL or less, as most protective of cardiovascular health.

Checking insulin levels along with blood sugar is important because the insulin goes up before the blood sugar levels, since insulin is the hormone that regulates blood sugar. High insulin is a sign that you may be headed toward insulin resistance, which leads to high blood sugar and inflammation.

Eating a diet high in non-starchy vegetables and fruits, healthy fats, lean proteins, nuts, and seeds will help you reach healthy blood sugar levels, among many other health benefits.

Exercise As Effective as Drugs for Common Health Conditions

Filed in Diabetes, General, Heart Disease | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/21/2013


Regular physical activity is an indispensable part of a healthy lifestyle. The Global Burden of Disease study has ranked physical inactivity as one of the leading causes of disease in developed countries, and as one of the top modifiable risk factors along with smoking. Although widespread recommendations have been made to increase physical activity levels, the population as a whole is not heeding the advice. Contrast this lack of exercise with the rising use of prescription medications, and you might be left scratching your head.

A recent study published in the British Medical Journal reviewed 305 clinical studies with well over 300,000 participants and found that there were no differences between exercise and drug interventions in the prevention of heart disease and diabetes. They found that exercise was more effective than drug treatment in patients with stroke, and they did find that diuretics were more effective than exercise in people with heart failure.

A major finding of this study wasn’t even that exercise may be as effective, or even better, than drug treatment. What the researchers found was that the number of studies on the effects of exercise for disease prevention, especially when compared to pharmaceutical drugs, was much smaller than similar studies looking at drug treatments.

“Our findings reflect the bias against testing exercise interventions and highlight the changing landscape of medical research, which seems to increasingly favor drug interventions over strategies to modify lifestyle,” they stated. “The lopsided nature of modern medical research may fail to detect the most effective treatment for a given conditions if that treatment is not a prescription drug.” They recommend that exercise interventions should be considered as a viable alternative to, or alongside, drug therapy.

Exercise and proper diet are the first recommendations that should be made when you discover that your blood sugar is too high or that your blood lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides, etc.) are abnormal. Through these measures it is possible to prevent diabetes and heart disease. Be sure to talk to your doctor about your options. You may have more control over your health than you realize.

Air Pollution and Bowel Disease—Is There a Link?

Filed in Adults, Crohn's, Digestive Health, General, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Ulcerative Colitis | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/18/2013


The rate of bowel disease—most notably ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease—is increasing in different areas around the world, emerging as a global disease. Researchers are looking for clues about what causes these diseases so that one day they might be prevented. Researchers from the University of Alberta in Canada (the country with the highest rate of bowel disease in the world) are investigating the link between air pollution and bowel disease.

“We tend to think about air pollution in terms of lung health, but the GI tract is also being bathed in it continuously. Fine pollution particles are cleared from the respiratory tract by mucous that makes its way to the gut,” stated Karen Madsen, a gastroenterological scientist.

Evidence suggests that inhaling fine particles may disrupt immune function and trigger inflammation in the gut, making it more permeable and altering the gut bacterial balance. “Those changes can lead to inflammation and may set up someone who is genetically predisposed to inflammatory bowel diseases (IBD),” noted Madsen. “In the gut, you have a barrier between the immune system and the bacteria that live there. It’s important that barrier gets maintained.”

“The interplay between the gut microbiome and the immune system is really on the forefront of IBD research. The air pollution research looks promising, but right now it’s still too soon to know for sure whether the link is real,” said Melissa Rosen, MD, a gastroenterologist at New York University’s Langone Medical Center.

I believe the link between air pollution—and other toxins, for that matter—and bowel disease will become clear as research extends into this field. Toxins trigger an inflammatory response in the body that can lead to a host of chronic diseases. Toxins are just one trigger of inflammation. Reducing our toxin exposure and increasing our body’s ability to remove toxins is an important part of achieving vibrant health.

Taking the “Yuck” Out of Fecal Microbial Therapy

Filed in C. difficile, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by lsmith on 10/16/2013


Fecal microbial therapy (FMT), or fecal transplant, involves the transfer of stool from a healthy donor (usually a family member) to the intestines of an individual suffering from an illness—usually Clostridium difficile infection, although other conditions have been treated with FMT, including ulcerative colitis, autism, and even obesity.

One of the hurdles the medical establishment faces when deciding on the use of FMT is the “yuck” factor. The idea of transplanting poop from one person to another is not exactly charming. That may be, in part, why the therapy is being resisted in some circles. But when you consider that over 90% of the people with recurrent C. difficile infection who are treated with FMT completely recover—some within 24 hours—even the yuck factor starts to fade.

FMT involves the delivery of fecal bacteria either via an enema, during a colonoscopy, or via a naso-gastric tube. None of these methods is comfortable, however. Thomas Louie, MD, of the University of Calgary, has developed a work around for the delivery of fecal bacteria without use of these invasive methods.1 He has been treating patients with FMT for a number of years, and when he encountered a patient who did not respond to enemas and for medical reasons could not receive a nasogastric tube, “a bright light went on,” he said. He decided to figure out how to put the fecal bacteria into pill form that the patient could take orally with no problem.

He designed a process that isolates the bacteria from feces, separating bacteria from fecal matter. The bacterial concentrate is then placed inside three layers of gelatin capsule so that the capsules do not open until they are in the small intestine. Dr. Louie began doing this therapy in 2010, and has since treated 31 other patients. He says the therapy has been effective in eliminating the C. difficile infection in all but one patient, who experienced a slight recurrence. “It seems to be a convenient way for the patient,” he noted.

Talk about a super probiotic. The rich diversity of bacteria found in the stool of healthy people is likely what makes this therapy so effective. We will certainly hear more about the progression of this therapy in the near future. C. difficile infection claims 14,000 lives each year, and that number continues to rise. If FMT has a cure rate of over 90 percent, think of how many lives could be saved.

I think we will soon see “designer super probiotics” derived directly from healthy donors’ stool and that contain strains that are not currently available as probiotics. The type and amounts of bacteria will be studied to see which are the best individual bacteria strains, and what specialized combinations are most effective to help treat many disease conditions. The combinations can then be saved and stored to create products that do not come directly from the stool, but have been grown in special microbiology labs.

 

References

  1. O’Connell PM, “Fecal transplantation pills show promise for treatment of C. difficile.” The American Academy of Pediatrics. 4 Oct 2013.

A Glimpse of How Gut Infections Develop after Antibiotics

Filed in General, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/14/2013


Antibiotics work by killing not only the harmful bacteria, but also the beneficial bacteria. It is relatively common for antibiotics to lead to gut infections that arise because potentially pathogenic bacteria are no longer kept in check by the beneficial microbes that inhabit the gut. “Antibiotics open the door for these pathogens to take hold. But how, exactly, that occurs hasn’t been well understood,” noted Justin Sonnenburg, PhD, lead author of a recent study published in the journal Nature  that examined more closely just how antibiotics put us at risk for intestinal infections.

The cells that line the inside of the intestine are covered in a mucous layer that is made up of a variety of sugars that can be used by gut microbes as food. “Our gut microbes have become very adept at eating mucus,” Sonnenburg said.

The researchers used an animal model to introduce a single bacterial strain—Bacteroides thetaiotamicron, known to be an important constituent of a healthy gut—into the digestive tracts of mice that were otherwise germ free, or without microbes, a similar state as when antibiotics are administered. B. theta is known to break off two particular sugars from the mucosal lining—sialic acid and fucose, little-known sugars that are produced in the gut. B. theta does not use the sugars, but other bacteria can use them once they are broken off.

The researchers introduced either Clostridium difficile or Staphylococcus typhimurium, both known pathogens, into the guts of these mice, knowing that both of these bacteria feed on sialic acid. Each of these pathogenic bacteria greatly increased in number. “The bad guys in the gut are scavenging nutrients that were liberated by the good guys, who are casualties of the collateral damage incurred by antibiotics,” said Sonnenburg. “Antibiotics cause our friendly gut bacteria to unwittingly help these pathogens.”

“We believe that bacterial pathogens in the gut cause disease in two steps,” he continued. “Others have shown that once these pathogens attain sufficient numbers, they use inflammation-triggering tricks to wipe out our resident friendly microbes—at no cost to the pathogens themselves, because they’ve evolved ways to deal with it. But first, they have to surmount a critical hurdle: In the absence of the inflammation they’re trying to induce, they have to somehow reach that critical mass. Our work shows how they go about it after a dose of antibiotics. They take advantage of a temporary spike in available sugars liberated from intestinal mucus left behind by slain commensal microbes.”

Sonnenburg thinks that this research may someday lead to drugs or, alternately, probiotics, developed to inhibit the release of these sugars when taken along with an antibiotic. More research is needed, but this is an interesting study that helps us get closer to understanding how our gut balance is affected by antibiotics.

Is Alzheimer’s the Result of Living in a Too-Clean World?

Filed in Alzheimer's, Brain, General, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/11/2013


Modern life in all its cleanliness—clean buildings, sanitizer, antibacterial everything and a “don’t touch that” attitude—is thought to be contributing to the increased prevalence of allergic and autoimmune diseases found in developed countries. (This concept is known as the hygiene hypothesis.) Contrast this with developing countries where children still play in the dirt, antibacterial soap is reserved for medical use, and allergies and autoimmune disease occur much less frequently. Alzheimer’s can now be added to the list of conditions linked with living in industrialized countries, according to a new study published in the journal Evolution, Medicine, and Public Health.

The study looked at data from 192 countries and found that urbanized countries have higher rates of Alzheimer’s, irrespective of life expectancy. “Exposure to microorganisms is critical for the regulation of the immune system,” they stated. Inflammation, which is a function of the immune system, plays a role in Alzheimer’s disease. When the immune system is not presented with microbes early in life, it does not learn how to respond appropriately. The result is an increase in inflammation.

The link between Alzheimer’s and increased hygiene does not surprise me. Inflammation is involved in most, if not all, chronic disease. I think we will start to see more conditions that are linked to a lack of proper immune development during childhood. This is closely tied to gut balance, as the microbes in our guts are directly in contact with up to 80 percent of the immune system. I’ll be interested to see how this research unfolds. I’ll keep you posted.

Children Not Getting Enough Omega-3

Filed in Allergies, Children, Digestive Health, General, Infancy, Obesity, Omega-3 & Fish Oil | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/09/2013


The ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 in the Standard American Diet (SAD) is anywhere from 10:1 to 20:1. That means consumption of omega-6 fats is 10 to 20 times more than omega-3 fats in the SAD diet. This ratio should more like 2:1 to 4:1 in order to maintain healthy omega-3 levels. We’re simply eating far too many omega-6 fats and too few omega-3 fats.

A recent study published in the journal Maternal and Child Nutrition found that children aged 12 to 60 months eat a diet that puts their ratio at 10:1. Not an ideal ratio, to say the least. The researchers looked at data from 2,500 children in the US National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES), a nationally-representative sample of children, so we can conclude that the majority of US children are low in omega-3 fat intake.

“In addition, intake of a key fatty acid known as DHA in children 12 to 60 months of age was low—lower than what infants generally consume—and it did not increase with age,” stated Sarah Keim, PhD, lead researcher. “Only about 54 percent of children ate fish at least once in the previous month.”

The Institute of Medicine has set a “reasonable intake” level of two 3-oz servings of fish per week for children. “According to our research, however, children are clearly not consuming this much fish.”

In another recent study published in the Public Library of Sciences ONE journal, Oxford University researchers studied the omega-3 levels of 493 UK schoolchildren aged seven to nine years with below-average reading levels, and they found that the children’s total omega-3 fatty acid levels were 2.54 percent, which is well below healthy levels. “From a sample of nearly 500 schoolchildren, we found that levels of omega-3 fatty acids in the blood significantly predicted a child’s behavior and ability to learn. Higher levels of omega-3 in the blood, and DHA in particular, were associated with better reading and memory, as well as with fewer behavior problems as rated by parents and teachers,” stated co-author Paul Montgomery.

Intake of omega-3 fats should begin during pregnancy and continue through breastfeeding, when the mother provides these important fats for her infant. After weaning, omega-3 intake must come from the diet. Because low omega-3 levels have been linked to such conditions as ADHD, behavior and learning problems, allergies, obesity, and more, it is crucial that our children get enough of this essential fat. “Dietary habits can form very early, so starting with a balanced diet may have long-lasting effects for children’s health.”

A fish oil supplement specially formulated for children is a great way to increase omega-3 levels, especially if the child does not like fish or if you are concerned about the mercury content of certain fish.

Inflammation—The True Marker of Poor Health

Filed in Adults, Digestive Health, General, Obesity | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/07/2013


Inflammation describes a wide array of immune functions that are supposed to act as a way to get rid of harm in the body, and then to cease. When we get a cold, inflammation runs high as the immune system sends out its troops to conquer the “bad guy” and get it out of the body. This lasts for a few days, maybe a week or so, and then it stops. The same thing happens if you cut yourself or stub your toe—the body senses a threat and sends immune chemicals to defend and protect. Then it stops. This is how the immune system should function.

The immune systems of many people in today’s world, however, are not properly developed, and, thus, they do not properly mount inflammatory responses. In essence, many people have an immune imbalance. Either too much of a response, not enough response, or misplaced response. For many people, a chronic, low-grade inflammation exists, also called silent inflammation. You can’t see it and you can’t feel it, but it simmers away, causing damage and leading to disease. More and more health conditions are being linked with silent inflammation, and the medical establishment is taking notice.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism researchers found that reduced levels of inflammation explain why some obese people remain metabolically healthy. That is, some obese people do not get high blood pressure, abnormal cholesterol, and high blood sugar levels. This is known as “metabolically healthy obesity.”

Up to 35 percent of obese people are thought to be metabolically healthy, but my guess is that those estimates are based on traditional cholesterol and blood sugar levels, and so, they are probably higher than actuality. You see, the inflammation starts first, and can lead to abnormalities in cholesterol and blood sugar that are not caught on conventional tests. So an obese person may pass his blood tests, but if he has silent inflammation, he is not actually metabolically healthy. Detecting this inflammation using the high-sensitivity C-reactive protein (hs-CRP) test is recommended (and often covered by insurance—ask your doctor).

While there can be obese people who do not have inflammation, there are also lean people who do have inflammation. They are known as “skinny fat”—thin on the outside, but metabolically unhealthy on the inside. So if you know someone who thinks she can get away with eating terrible because she doesn’t gain weight and her blood levels are great, she’d be wise to consider the fact that her lifestyle is giving her silent inflammation.

It’s not always easy to eat well in today’s world, with treats that tantalize us at every turn, but once you understand the underlying ramifications of your bad habits, you begin to want to change your ways. My hope is that some of the information I share with you will help you to make changes that help you live a vibrant, healthy life.