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    • Heart Health

      The stats tell it all: The number one cause of death in the United States is heart disease. That’s right, more than any other disease – even cancer (a close second) – heart disease is the most likely to kill you. The United States is currently facing a “diabesity” epidemic, or a substantial increase in the prevalence of metabolic syndrome leading to diabetes and obesity, all serious risk factors for heart disease.

      According to the American Heart Association, every 34 seconds someone in the US dies of a heart attack. By the time you finish reading this paragraph, another person will have lost their life. Sadly, many people do not even know they have heart disease until they experience a heart attack. These facts alone make Heart Health a critical topic to understand.

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    • Skin Health

      The gut-skin connection is very significant. Inflammatory processes present in the gut may manifest on the skin. Toxins are expelled with sweat, and can cause the skin to react. Like the inside of the digestive tract, the skin is covered in microbes which can be neutral, protective or pathogenic. Skin reaction may reflect what is going on inside the body. Therefore treating skin conditions only from the outside will often be ineffective and lead to other chronic issues.

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    • 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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    • 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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      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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Get Ready for The Skinny Gut Diet in Fall 2014!

Filed in The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/30/2014

Are you still counting calories when it comes to weight loss? What if I told you it’s not necessary—and that the secret to permanent weight loss might just be in the last place you’d ever expect?

I’m excited to announce that in just a few months my new book will be available, and what an amazing journey it has been. I can’t wait to share with you everything I learned along the way, especially since this book brings together many of the things I’m so passionate about, like the importance of a balanced gut and its connection to not only healthy digestion, but also the health of the entire body—and it can also help you finally lose weight and keep it off for good.

The Skinny Gut Diet: Balance Your Digestive System for Permanent Weight Loss is the culmination of years of research, dedication, and discovery. Not only does it reveal how successful weight loss has everything to do with the balance of bacteria in your gut, but it provides a simple and easy-to-follow guide to help you finally achieve your ideal weight. Here’s the scoop: all those billions of bacteria that live in your digestive tract? They are the real reason you gain or lose weight. When those microbes are out of balance, you absorb more extra calories from food, store more fat, and have more cravings—but by balancing the good and bad bacteria, you can finally achieve your ideal weight for good.

The Skinny Gut Diet lays out a simple 14-day eating plan to help you get started, and it all begins with eating less sugar (including the sugar that comes from starchy carbohydrates) and more healthy fats, protein, and living foods to balance your gut bacteria. And the best part? Dozens of delicious recipes! Plus you’ll be able to read real-life stories of ten everyday people who transformed their health by bringing balance back to the gut.

I hope you’re as excited as I am for the release of The Skinny Gut Diet this fall. Be sure to stay tuned to www.BrendaWatson.com for updates—or go to SkinnyGutDiet.com for a sneak peak at what the book is all about—and get ready to forever transform the way you think about weight loss! Plus, if you pre-order now, you’ll get access to 7 exclusive gifts.

What’s Wrong with Current Dietary Guidelines?

Filed in Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/28/2014

Every five years the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) holds a series of public meetings to incorporate feedback from stakeholders on the next version of the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which are released the following year. The next Dietary Guidelines are slated to be released in 2015, so these meetings have recently been underway.

Conflict of Interest within USDA

The USDA takes the lead in creating the guidelines, but questions have arisen about conflicts of interest within the USDA. After all, they are responsible for promoting American agricultural products at the same as making dietary recommendations. That becomes difficult when many agricultural products—sugar, grains, meat, and dairy to name the most prominent—are not all aligned with a healthy diet. To get around this paradox, the Dietary Guidelines have become increasingly more vague over the years.

The USDA has made one clear recommendation—eat more fruits and vegetables. From there, recommendations become clouded. This was not always the case, however. Michael Gregor, MD, a founding member of the American College of Lifestyle Medicine and internationally recognized speaker on nutrition, food safety, and public health issues, was recently interviewed on the topic in the Integrative Medicine Clinician’s Journal. He discusses the degradation of the Guidelines’ recommendations over time.

Original recommendations for sugar began with “Avoid too much sugar” and soon changed to “Use sugar, but only in moderation,” then “Choose a diet moderate in sugar,” to “Choose beverages and foods to moderate your intake of sugars” (what does that even mean?), and finally, a recommendation on sugar was completely removed from the Guidelines in 2005. Similarly, the original recommendation for grains began as “Choose whole grains” and eventually eroded to “Choose carbohydrates wisely for good health.” Can you find the recommendation in that recommendation? I can’t.

“It’s like saying, ‘Eat healthy.’ The whole point of guidelines is to explain what that means,” stated Gregor.

With past Dietary Guidelines committees made up of the likes of McDonald’s, Coca-Cola, and Duncan Hines advisory council members, the conflicts of interest have run deep. This year there are fewer conflicts of interest, states Gregor, so the next Dietary Guidelines may improve. Certainly the last version, which introduced My Plate, is an improvement over the traditional, grain-heavy food pyramid. But more could be done to clarify recommendations.

Guidelines Gone Wrong

In the meantime, I’d like to run through the current Dietary Guideline recommendations and give you my opinion. The current MyPlate recommendations break down the food groups according to how much of each should be represented on a food plate. This is actually a big improvement over the food pyramid.

Make half your plate fruits and vegetables. I absolutely agree. Half of your food intake should be fruit and vegetables. Not all fruits and vegetables are equal, however. I recommend non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits. Non-starchy vegetables include anything other than potatoes, corn (corn is actually a grain), yucca, parsnip, plantain, and even green peas and sweet potato (although the last two can sometimes be eaten in moderation). Low-sugar fruits include berries and Granny Smith apples. Fill your plate with plenty of non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits and your health will begin to improve.

Make at least half of your grains whole grains. I have to differ with this recommendation in a few ways. First, I suggest eliminating grains from your diet—whole grains or not. MyPlate guidelines want you to fill one-quarter of your plate with grains. I say forget that advice. Grains are high in starch, which breaks down into sugar in your digestive tract and has a number of metabolic ramifications, including increased inflammation, raised blood sugar and insulin resistance, and increased fat storage. In people who are the absolute picture of health—not a symptom, abnormality, or sign of poor health to be found—whole grains in small amounts can be eaten (avoid wheat and gluten). But for the most part, ditch the grains. And definitely ditch any refined or processed grains.

Select a variety of protein foods. MyPlate recommends a variety of lean meats and poultry, eggs, legumes, nuts and seeds, soy products, and seafood to fill another quarter of your plate. I think this recommendation is sound. They also recommend checking the sodium content of processed meats such as ham, sausage, hot dogs, or deli meats. My recommendation for processed meats is that they do not contain artificial nitrates, which have been linked to colon cancer. Natural versions of these meats are now widely available. As for reducing salt intake, that recommendation is coming under question. It may not be as important as we thought.

Switch to fat-free or low-fat (1%) milk. MyPlate recommends a serving of fat-free or low-fat dairy with each meal. We see the perpetuation of the low-fat diet myth in this recommendation. I, too, once bought into it. But recent studies are disproving this inaccuracy, revealing that fat is not the villain it has been made out to be. Even saturated fat may not be so bad, as some studies have found. Gary Taubes has done some remarkable work on this subject. You won’t need to compromise on taste by choosing fat-free or low-fat dairy products, but you don’t want to go overboard either—eat dairy in moderation because the fats you really want to focus on increasing are the healthy fats (more on that next). For some people, dairy will need to be avoided due to a food sensitivity, intolerance, or allergy.

Cut back on foods containing saturated and trans fat. The Dietary Guidelines focus on two different kinds of fat—solid fats and oils. Solid fats are those that are, for the most part, solid at room temperature. They include butter, milk fat, beef fat, chicken fat, cream, lard, margarine, shortening, hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils, coconut oil, and palm and palm kernel oil. These fats tend to be high in saturated or trans fats. I do agree that trans fats should be completely avoided—fortunately they are being eliminated from most foods. I am not as strict about the saturated fats, as I have already mentioned. I want to discuss one particular source of saturated fat—coconut oil. I am a huge fan of coconut oil, which contains medium chain triglycerides, a form of saturated fat that is more readily burned as energy rather than stored like most saturated fats. I recommend coconut oil as one of your go-to cooking oils.

As for oils, I have a strong opinion. Oils are usually either monounsaturated fat (like olive oil) or polyunsaturated fat (most other vegetable oils). Of the polyunsaturated fats, there are two types: omega-6 and omega-3. The majority of oils used in foods and cooking are omega-6 oils. While the body needs a certain amount of omega-6, the Standard American Diet (SAD) is extremely high in these fats, while the omega-3 fats are usually deficient. I recommend avoiding many common cooking oils, such as corn, cottonseed, vegetable, safflower, sunflower, soybean, and peanut oil. Coconut and olive oil are best for cooking, as well as butter (again, in moderation). Due to the great omega-3 deficiency of the SAD diet, eating plenty of fish high in omega-3 (and low in mercury) such as salmon, sardines, herring, and anchovies is recommended. Even better, an omega-3 fish oil supplement is one of the best ways to be sure you are getting enough of this critical fat.

The Dietary Guidelines could use a major overhaul. And I’m not the only one to think so. I remain hopeful, yet skeptical, that the next version will help Americans gain a better understanding of what healthy diet really means.


Men—Take that Cell Phone Out of Your Pocket

Filed in Environmental Toxins | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/25/2014

Ninety percent of American adults have a cell phone, 29 percent of which describe their cell phone as “something they can’t imagine living without.” If you are one of these 90 percent, you likely know the convenience your phone offers you. This convenience may come at a price, however. In a recent study published in the journal Environment International, researchers investigated the potential effects of cell phone radiation on fertility using almost 1,500 sperm samples.

Those sperm samples exposed to cell phone radiation experienced an 8 percent decrease in normal movement and viability when compared to samples that had not been exposed.

“Given the enormous scale of mobile phone use around the world, the potential role of this environmental exposure needs to be clarified. This study strongly suggests that being exposed to radio-frequency electromagnetic radiation from carrying mobiles in trouser pockets negatively affects sperm quality. This could be particularly important for men already on the borderline of fertility,” noted Fiona Matthews, PhD, lead researcher.

Men, you will want to take that cell phone out of your pocket and reconsider wearing it on your belt or in close proximity to your reproductive organs. Instead, carry a back pack or briefcase and keep the phone inside. For more tips on how to avoid cell phone radiation (which affects more than fertility), read this.

Gut Balance the Missing Solution for Overweight Children and Teens?

Filed in Children, Human Microbiome, Inflammation, Obesity, Prebiotics, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/23/2014

Childhood obesity has more than doubled in children and quadrupled in adolescents over the past 30 years. According to the CDC, in 2012 more than one third of children and adolescents were overweight or obese. The long-term health effects of obesity in children include an array of chronic diseases. More needs to be done to prevent childhood obesity so that the children of today do not grow up to be the chronically ill of tomorrow.

Probiotic Prebiotic Lower Inflammation

In a recent study published in the monthly publication of the Brazilian Society of Pediatrics, Jornal de Pediatra, researchers studied overweight and obese children and teens taking the prebiotic fructooligosaccharide (FOS) in addition to vitamins A, C, and E plus a multi-strain probiotic formula containing the following strains:

Lactobacillus casei
Lactobacillus rhamnosus
Lactobacillus acidophilus
Lactobacillus bulgaricus
Streptococcus thermophilus
Bifidobacterium breve
Bifidobacterium longum

They found that, when compared to children taking a placebo, those children taking the synbiotic (probiotic + prebiotic) formula experienced a decrease in weight associated with a decrease in two inflammatory markers in the blood, TNF-alpha and IL-6, as well as an increase in adiponectin, a hormone released from fat cells that plays a role in regulation of insulin sensitivity (blood sugar control) and energy.

They found that, when compared to children taking a placebo, those children taking the synbiotic (probiotic + prebiotic) formula experienced a decrease in weight associated with a decrease in two inflammatory markers in the blood, TNF-alpha and IL-6, as well as an increase in adiponectin, a hormone released from fat cells that plays a role in regulation of insulin sensitivity (blood sugar control) and energy.

“It appears that, because of the association between obesity and inflammation, it can be proposed that the favorable effects of probiotics in controlling inflammation may play a role in obesity prevention and control,” stated the researchers.

This study is more evidence of a strong link between gut bacteria and metabolic health. Truly, our gut bacteria are in control of our health and affect all areas of the body—especially when it comes to maintaining a healthy weight. We can no longer consider that food and exercise are the only factors in achieving an ideal weight. As it turns out, the bacteria in our guts have a bigger say than even the foods we eat.

Many people do not yet realize that probiotics and prebiotics can have excellent benefits outside of the digestive tract, as found in this study. While it is true that a healthy diet plays a main role in helping children and teens get healthy—and stay healthy, balancing gut bacteria may be the missing piece that prevents these children from getting well. Share this article with parents you know who might not be aware of the wide-ranging positive effects of gut balance.

Estrogen from Toxins Making Us Fat?

Filed in Environmental Toxins, Obesity, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/21/2014

You are likely already well aware that the obesity rate is sky high—two-thirds of Americans are overweight or obese. That’s over 65 percent. It is becoming clear that there is to more to the equation than simply calories in/calories out. There are a number of factors that are contributing to the expanding waistline of this country, one of which is our exposure to toxins known as obesogens.

Obesogens—a term coined by Bruce Blumberg, a biology professor at the University of California, Irvine in 2006—are dietary, pharmaceutical, or industrial compounds that alter metabolic processes and predispose some people to gain weight.

Many scientists are concerned about the estrogenic effects of these toxins. Certain obesogens are known as xenoestrogens—they exhibit estrogen function in the body, which interferes with normal hormone function. In a recent study published in the Public Library of Sciences One journal, researchers proposed the estrogen hypothesis of obesity, in which they suggest that obesity, particularly among men, is linked to the increase of xenoestrogen exposure from two main sources—soy food products and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) piping.

Maciej Henneberg, PhD, DSc, one of the authors, states, “Exposure to estrogen is known to cause weight gain, primarily through thyroid inhibition and modulation of the hypothalamus. Soy products contain xenoestrogens, and we are concerned that in societies with a high dietary saturation of soy, such as the United States, this could be working to ‘feminize’ the males.”

Usually, women gain weight more readily than men, but in Western countries men gain weight at an almost equal rate as women. The researchers believe this excess estrogen exposure is to blame.

“Another well-established source of xenoestrogen is polyvinyl chloride, known as PVC. This product is in prominent use in most wealthy countries, from plastic medical devices to piping for our water supplies.”

Did you ever think the soybean or vegetable oil you cook with, the plastic containers you eat from, or the PVC pipe carrying your tap water could be making you fat? Probably not. You won’t need to eliminate soy foods completely, but if you eat a lot of soy, you might want to limit your intake. In addition, avoid plastic containers with the number 3 inside the recycle symbol and use high-quality water filters on your tap water. (Reverse osmosis water filters remove the most toxins.)

Brain Fog Improves on Gluten-Free Diet in People with Celiac Disease

Filed in Brain, Celiac Disease, Gluten, Mental Health | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/18/2014

Celiac disease is a condition that involves damage to the small intestines as a result of an inflammatory response to gluten from the diet.

People with celiac disease commonly report that they experience brain fog, which can include difficulty concentrating, trouble paying attention, lapses in short-term memory, difficulty finding words, temporary loss in mental sharpness or creativity, and confusion or disorientation. These same patients usually report that the brain fog dissipates after following a gluten-free diet for a period of time.

Until recently, these reports of improved symptoms after following a gluten-free diet were confined to doctors’ offices and patients’ homes. It was all anecdotal. No studies had been done to confirm or deny the phenomenon. A recent study published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, is confirming what these patients and doctors have known for so long. They found that recently-diagnosed celiac patients with brain fog improved their cognitive function after following a gluten-free diet for a year.

“The study outcomes highlight the importance for individuals with celiac disease of maintaining a gluten-free diet not just for physical well-being but also for mental well-being,” stated Greg Yelland, PhD, lead researcher.

Improvements in short-term memory, movement, and processing speed in these patients occurred along with a healing and recovery of their intestinal lining. Before the diet, the patients were functioning at the level of someone with severe jet lag, and by the end of the study their cognitive function was the equivalent of someone who had recovered from jet leg over a 24-hour period.

This study is important because brain fog may be a sign of underlying celiac disease in people who are undiagnosed. An astonishing 83 percent of people with celiac disease have not been diagnosed with the disease.

I know that brain fog is a common symptom in so many people. It’s not just celiac disease, but also gluten sensitivity that underlies symptoms of brain fog. So many people find that they feel better—mentally and physically—after following a gluten-free diet. If you experience brain fog, you may want to consider this option as well.

Getting Fat—The Result or the Cause of Overeating?

Filed in Diet, Obesity | Posted by lsmith on 07/16/2014

We have been told that all it takes to lose weight is a reduction in calories and/or an increase in energy expenditure (exercise). So if we eat less calories or exercise more or both, we will lose weight. Supposedly, that’s how it works.

And yet, we continue to struggle with losing weight and keeping it off for good. Only a small percentage of overweight and obese people are able to maintain a weight loss of ten percent of body weight for one year.1 The reason for this goes beyond the simple calories in/calories out calculation. What researchers are discovering is that a calorie is not just a calorie. Rather, it’s the quality of the diet as a whole that determines whether a person will be able to lose weight and keep it off or not.

A recent paper published in the Journal of the American Medical Association proposes a new model of obesity that better explains why and how we get fat.2 The current model states that the Standard American Diet (SAD), full of convenient, highly palatable, energy-dense foods, causes people to overeat, which increases energy intake (calories in), while a sedentary lifestyle decrease energy expenditure (calories out). As a result, circulating fuels in the bloodstream (glucose from sugar and carbs, fatty acids from fats, and ketones from proteins) are more available, which increases fat storage and leads to obesity.

The new model proposes that diet quality—especially carbohydrate amount and type—as well as genetics and lifestyle factors such as inadequate sleep and stress, all contribute to an increase of fat storage, which decreases the circulating fuels in the bloodstream (sugar, fat, and ketones), triggering hunger (calories in) and lowering metabolism (which lowers the burning of calories). The result—obesity.

This new model helps explain why a calorie is not just a calorie and supports the fact that a low-carbohydrate diet versus a low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet of equal calories results in better weight loss, blood sugar control, and cholesterol levels.3 It also explains why a low- vs high-glycemic index diet (glycemic index measures the ability of a food to raise blood sugar) of equal calories decreases hunger.4

Other dietary factors that decrease fat storage (thus increasing the available fuel in circulation which quells hunger and improves metabolism) are a low refined sugar intake, high omega-3 and low trans fat intake, adequate protein, high micronutrient and phytochemical content (in other words, plenty of fruits and vegetables), and probiotics and prebiotics.1 We see a high quality of foods in these recommendations, coming back to the advice that the quality of diet is what is most important when it comes to weight loss.

So if you think that overeating causes you to be fat, it’s actually a poor quality of diet that causes overeating, which causes you to be fat. How can you improve your diet quality? Here are some tips:

  • Eat plenty of non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits.
  • Eliminate sugar and grains.
  • Eat healthy fats such as omega-3 (fish oil), omega-9 (olive oil), and medium-chain triglyceride saturated fat (coconut oil), and reduce your intake of unhealthy omega-6 fats (most vegetable oils).
  • Eat protein throughout the day.
  • Eat fermented foods, which contain beneficial bacteria.

In conclusion, following the above dietary suggestions along with moderate caloric restriction with optimum nutrition (CRON) and exercise and stress reduction not only leads to permanent weight management, it is also the recipe for adding years to your life as well as life to your years.


  1. Kraschnewski JL, Boan J, Esposito J, et al., “Long-term weight loss maintenance in the United States.” Int J Obes (Lond). 2010 Nov;34(11):1644-54.
  2. Ludwig DS, Friedman MI, “Increasing adiposity: consequence or cause of overeating?” JAMA. 2014 Jun 4;311(21):2167-8.
  3. Shai I, Schwartzfuchs D, Henkin Y, et al., “Weight loss with a low-carbohydrate, Mediterranean, or low-fat diet.” N Engl J Med. 2008 Jul 17;359(3):229-41.
  4. Chang KT, Lampe JW, Schwartz Y, “Low glycemic load experimental diet more satiating than high glycemic load diet.” Nutr Cancer. 2012;64(5):666-73.

Toxins in Plastic Linked to Behavioral Problems in Children

Filed in Brain, Environmental Toxins, Mental Health | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/14/2014

I blog about environmental toxins a lot because their harmful effects continue to be reported in scientific studies, yet little is done to curtail their use or educate the public about their harms. One class of toxins—the phthalates—is particularly troublesome because they are ubiquitous. They’re everywhere.

Phthalates are found in:

  • personal care products
  • cosmetics
  • perfumed products
  • adhesives
  • car care products
  • plastics used for food packaging, processing, and storage

Because phthalates are not chemically bonded to the plastics, they are easily leached and can enter the body via ingestion of food or beverage, inhalation, or contact with skin. Studies have found that almost everyone has urinary metabolites of phthalates. That is, almost everyone is exposed to phthalates, which is evidenced by their breakdown products found in urine.

In a recent study published in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives, researchers found a link between higher concentrations of urinary phthalate metabolites during pregnancy and neurobehavioral problems in their children at ages 6 to 10. Higher prenatal concentrations of phthalate metabolites were associated with physical symptoms such as headaches, stomach aches, feeling jittery, and muscular tension, as well as behavioral issues such as attention problems, rule-breaking behavior, aggressive behavior, and oppositional/defiant behavior. These problems occurred more often in boys than in girls.

Pregnancy is a vulnerable period, developmentally. Whatever a mother is exposed to during this time reaches the placenta and can affect the growing baby. The Environmental Working Group gives some great tips for avoiding phthalate exposure. Be sure to pass these on to anyone you know who is pregnant or who will be in the near future. As a matter of fact, it would be a good idea for anyone to follow these tips, pregnant or not.

3 Foods to Fight Chronic Stress and Obesity

Filed in Inflammation, Obesity, Stress | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/11/2014

When you encounter a perceived threat, your body reacts by activating the fight-or-flight response—your adrenals pump out stress hormones that put the body and mind into a hyperaware, ready-for-anything mode. Digestion shuts down and the cardiovascular system pumps up in anticipation of, well, a fight or flight.

This bodily process is elegantly designed to help save our lives when we are in danger. It works quite well when utilized on occasion. The problem is that in today’s world, we are presented with constant mini-threats in the form of work stress, family issues, financial problems, and relationship troubles. Many people are in a state of chronic stress, putting out small fires all day long, all week long, month after month. Under chronic stress, our fight-or-flight response is constantly activated, which takes a big toll on our health. Inflammation increases, hormone levels alter, and energy runs low.

Chronic stress is a major contributor to disease. Not only are we more likely to experience mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, but our digestive health suffers (remember that the fight-or-flight response shuts down digestion), our heart health diminishes, and we experience weight gain, sleep problems, and trouble with memory and concentration.

In a recent study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, researchers found that women who were chronically stressed and eating foods high in fat and sugar gained inches around the waist, increased fat, had higher oxidative damage, and more insulin resistance when compared to women who were not under stress and eating the same foods. In short, the chronically stressed women were on the road to metabolic syndrome, the precursor to diabetes and heart disease.

“Diet appears to be a critical variable that can either amplify or protect against the metabolic effects of stress, but we still don’t know the details of how much it takes,” noted Elissa Epel, PhD, senior author.

Stress is a regular part of most people’s lives in the world we currently live in. We must remember that adding unhealthy foods to our already stressed-out existence will have consequences. Instead, why not choose foods that help to quell the inflammation that comes with stress? By eating more of the following three foods—while avoiding grains, sugar, and grain-fed meats—you can help deter the effects of chronic stress.

Non-starchy vegetables. Vegetables are some of the healthiest foods you can eat. As long as you avoid the starchy vegetables (corn and potatoes in particular) and fill your plate with plenty of colors, you will help to nourish your body and lower inflammation.

Low-sugar fruit. Many fruits are very high in sugar. It’s best to stick with nutrient-rich berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.) because they are naturally low in sugar, which fuels inflammation.

Healthy fats. Not all fats are bad. Healthy fats are an important part of the diet. By eating plenty of omega-3 fats found in oily fish, walnuts, and flax and chia seeds, you will help to balance the inflammation response triggered by stress and a poor diet.

Prebiotics May Help Reduce Infection in Young Children

Filed in Children, Cold and Flu, Common Cold, Immune System, Prebiotics, Respiratory issues | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/09/2014

On average, children in the United States develop six respiratory tract infections each year. Another infection—gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach flu—accounts for over 1.5 million outpatients visits, 200,000 hospital visits, and about 300 deaths each year. Together, these infections account for a considerable degree of illness in children. If you are a parent, you are familiar with the frequency of these conditions during childhood.

The search continues for therapies that will reduce these childhood infections. A recent review published in the journal Nutrition Reviews highlights a potential answer for children under two.

The authors conclude that the evidence “suggests that preventive use of prebiotics decreases the rate of infections requiring antibiotic therapy in infants and children aged 0–24 months.”

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.

The researchers also state that prebiotics may be an effective preventive treatment for decreasing the rate of overall infections in these children. The prebiotics used in the studies include oligosaccharides, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), fructans, inulin, and oligofrutose.

Interestingly, the researchers were unable to find studies using prebiotics to prevent infections in children over the age of two. They suggest such studies be undertaken, since older children are commonly introduced to new environments in which they are exposed to acute infections.

I recently blogged about a meta-analysis that found beneficial effects of probiotics for the treatment and prevention of cold and flu in children. Together, these two papers give us strong evidence that gut microbes have a major effect on our children’s immune health both in and out of the digestive system.

When taken together, probiotics and prebiotics pack a powerful punch. There is a synergistic effect between the two. Fortunately, you can eat foods high in the prebiotic inulin. Chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, leeks, onions, garlic, and bananas all contain high amounts. A probiotic supplement plus prebiotic foods is a great combination to help maintain a healthy balance bacteria in your gut.