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The Coffee Table's Turned

Filed in Diabetes, Heart Disease, Inflammation, Sugar | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/30/2015


Coffee in America. To many of us a very desirable liquid that invokes strong emotions of enjoyment, representing a sense of well-being and providing focus. Coffee seems to sharpen us up, help us to get things done. In these stressful times, coffee can offer an important enhancement to the day, or the night.

With my habits I like to find reasons why my chosen patterns might offer me some health benefit in addition to an emotional lift. At the very least I’d like to think that my daily choice isn’t overly harmful.

I recently had to smile as I browsed this information about coffee. I happen to enjoy a morning cup as much as the next person, after all. So when I read that Eric Rimm, a professor of epidemiology and nutrition at Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health feels coffee is an excellent beverage choice, I wanted to share his positive findings with my fellow coffee lovers.

To sum up the interesting article, Prof. Rimm differs with the generally held opinion that water is the best beverage to consume under all circumstances. He feels other beverages, and in fact food, provide much of the hydration our bodies need. He states there really isn’t a set amount of water that a person requires daily (those 8 glasses are not true for all!). He asserts that the amount of hydration needed is relative to the individual, their energy output, their environment, and their liquid intake. He goes on to say that coffee is definitely healthier than sugary soda (boy, I’m with him there!) and that coffee’s ability to enhance memory for up to 24 hours after consumption is a huge plus.

Prof. Rimm states throughout the article that unsweetened beverages are the way to go (I wonder if he’s seen my Sugar Equation), and he says that since coffee really is almost completely water, a person is actually hydrating when enjoying their cup of Joe.

He also sites a study that shows that coffee isn’t as strong a diuretic as we have been told, and even heavy coffee drinkers build up tolerance to any diuretic effects. Coffee is also high in natural polyphenols, those micronutrients that research is showing more and more to have a positive impact on chronic degenerative illnesses like cancer, high blood pressure, and cardiovascular disease.

Prof. Rimm even mentioned that people who drink two to three cups of coffee daily show lower rates of diabetes than those who don’t drink any coffee. What an interesting observation.

So if you happen to enjoy your morning Java, you too can smile as you remember the benefits it may offer to you. Just one catch here – if your favorite coffee drink is a mocha with whipped cream – literally overflowing with sugar and perhaps even topped with chocolate shavings, the healthful benefits of the coffee itself may well be lost in the poisonous effects of the added sugar (sorry, I just had to add that!) One tip – erythritol, perhaps monk fruit sweetener, maybe even stevia – all may be great to sweeten your coffee so it’s “just right”~

Bacteria and the Elderly – Better Days Ahead

Filed in Adults, Antibiotic resistance, Antibiotics, C. difficile, Conditions, Dementia, Diet, Digestive Health, Environmental Toxins, General, Human Microbiome, Immune System, Mental Health, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Road to Perfect Health, Urinary Tract Infections | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/23/2015


Recently I was pleased to come across an article in the Wall Street Journal that discussed the very positive shift away from overuse of antibiotics in nursing homes.

Being the defender of the microbiome that I am, when I read that up to 70% of nursing home residents receive one or more courses of antibiotics every year and up to 75% of those prescriptions are given incorrectly – well that information had the hair all over my body on end! It was reported that the prescriptions were written for the wrong drug, dose, or duration – and this information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oh my!

Apparently, one of the biggest antibiotic misdiagnoses is for treatment of suspected urinary tract infections. Believe it or not, antibiotics to treat supposed UTIs are being given to the elderly for vague symptoms like confusion, the discovery of bacteria in just one urine sample, or even in the case of a random misstep resulting in a fall.

Sadly, since women are much more likely to develop UTIs then men, many of us ladies have experienced the misery of a UTI. Although it’s possible to have a UTI and not experience obvious symptoms, that is much more the exception than the rule. In the companion book to the public television special The Road to Perfect Health, I list symptoms for UTIs. A few are a persistent urge to urinate, painful or burning urination, frequent urination, and the list continues with other very clear indicators. Finding bacteria in the urine is just one piece of a diagnosis. “Confusion” wasn’t even on my list. So does this mean that confusion is only a symptom of UTIs in elderly people? How can this be?

Dr. Christopher Crnich, an infectious disease specialist and researcher at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health states that generally 50% of women and 25% of men in nursing homes have bacteria in their urine. He then emphasized that didn’t automatically indicate a UTI. Bacteria can develop for many other reasons – immune system and hormonal issues for example. I’ll include an imbalanced gut here, resulting from a diet containing too many sugars. By the way, this is true for people of all ages.

This article really got me thinking as I approached the end. According to Dr. Diane Kane, chief medical officer for St. Ann’s Community, a not-for-profit health-care system in Rochester, NY, who is a passionate critic of UTI over-diagnosis, “When you have dementia, you’re going to have good days and you’re going to have bad days. When you have dementia and you have a bad day, please don’t send a urine, because it’s going to be positive.”

As I interpret Dr. Kane’s statement, “bad days” of dementia (more confusion) will physically manifest as an increase of pathogenic bacteria in a person’s urinary system. Following that line of thought, a decrease in the overgrowth of bad bacteria in the body could potentially alleviate some symptoms of dementia or confusion. That could certainly explain why a patient’s confused mental state may seem to improve while on a round of antibiotics.

Unfortunately, if no effort is made to repopulate the gut with good bacteria after antibiotics, research has shown that bad bacteria and yeast readily re-establish. Upon the return of a confused mental state, further urine testing would reveal more bacteria, perpetuating another misdiagnosis of UTI and laying the groundwork for additional antibiotic treatment. Round and round we go.

In my mind, a much better and more logical step toward improved daily function and cognition for the elderly in nursing homes might be to dramatically increase the amount of good bacteria provided to the gut on a daily basis. The good bacteria will displace the bad, supporting and maintaining the integrity of all the organs of elimination, bladder included. And perhaps positively impact confusion and dementia. I’d love to see more research studies created that look at these parameters. Are you with me?

I’ve blogged often on how declining gut health, toxicity and dementia seem to go hand in hand. I’ve also shared research highlighting how probiotics can be effective treatment for that dreaded C. difficile infection that occurs most often in hospitals and long term care facilities, haunting the weak and elderly.

Let’s all envision a day when antibiotics are the last resort should a person be confused, perhaps has fallen, or mild amounts of bacteria are found in their urine. Instead let’s picture a standard of care designed to increase the good bacteria in the body through daily probiotics, kefir, fermented veggies and/or kombucha. Now that’s HEALTH care!

If Not Milk, Maybe Kefir?

Filed in Adults, Children, Digestive Health, General, Human Microbiome, Immune System, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/16/2015


You may have seen my newsletter this week where I discuss the low-fat misinformation that set so many of us on the SAD way of eating! (Standard American Diet). Contrary to the assertions of the Dietary Guidelines created in the 80’s, current research points out that full fat dairy can for many people actually be a very healthful food.

Yet for some, milk may cause allergic reactions due to the lactose (milk sugar) it contains. That group of people may have found in the past that they can tolerate dairy products when they take specific enzymes called lactase.

Another, even better way to reduce the lactose in dairy is to ferment milk, which then produces kefir. Through this process, most of the milk sugars are reduced making the milk more digestible (for everyone) and also giving kefir it’s somewhat sour taste.

The best news is that kefir can provide you an inexpensive and easy way to dramatically increase your daily dose of probiotics – those good bacteria we all know and love!

Do you like yogurt? If so, you’ll most likely enjoy kefir. I’ve been talking about the probiotic benefits of some types of yogurt for many years now. Where yogurt provides only a few different types (strains) of good bacteria, kefir has been found to offer between 30 and 50 different ones! The more strains the better it seems, whether we’re looking at estrogen balance, as protection against childhood allergies, or even regarding weight loss.

Making kefir actually predates refrigeration as a way to preserve milk longer. We now realize all the great probiotic benefits we gain from the process – benefits like healthy bowel movements, a strong immune system and more restful sleep, just to name a few.

You can find kefir at your local grocery or health food store in the refrigerated section next to milk. Be sure and choose the unsweetened variety. The process is so easy though, I would recommend making your own. Donna Schwenk, author of Cultured Food for Life, offers great how-to instructions on making kefir and other fermented goodies.

I know you’ll love the many wonderful ways to use this healthy food. I add kefir to my smoothie, I use it as a topping for berries, often as an ingredient in salad dressing, and it makes a wonderful probiotic coleslaw too!

This season invite some fermented foods into your life. You might begin with guilt-free dairy by choosing full fat organic milk (or even goat’s milk) and culture some kefir. It’s always a great day to support the good bacteria in your gut!

Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Filed in Conditions, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Inflammation, Stress | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/02/2015


Since the age of 17 I have studied a large number of the spiritual philosophies from around the world. Ultimately, the unifying piece of all for me has been meditation, or commonly these days, it seems to be termed ‘mindfulness’. I have blogged many times about the healthful effects of mindfulness – a state of active, open attention to the present moment. The myriad chronic conditions that benefit from decreasing stress and allowing the moment to just “be” are notable – diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, depression – and the list continues.

So what is it in our lives that keeps us from taking that small amount of time for ourselves to relax into our breath and go within? Many times the simple practices of mindfulness get lost, and often in the best of times, leaving us feeling empty when we thought we might be overflowing with happiness. The regular practice of going within offers far-reaching joyful benefits – and there’s a reason it’s called a practice.

I’ve noticed that through the years, my own personal “rules” for how things must be to contact that peace within have shifted spaces and formats.

These days there are free resources all over the internet to help us let go of anxiety and find peace within our seemingly chaotic days.

Recently I suffered an intense loss in my life and like many others in times of grief, my meditation practice has grown even more dear to me. What has shifted strongly through my own letting-go process is not only do I have a certain place where go to practice, I have recently placed objects there that have deep significance to me.

I am a vibrational person, as I believe we all are, and I use my toning bowl to create sounds I love. I may play some music. I may read for a while, perhaps light a candle, sometimes chant. There may be alligator tears, or giggles that surprise me. I’ve seen my willingness increase dramatically to confront the inevitable painful mental blocks and searing emotions that arise around those times of loss in our lives. I’m allowing the love and light that is present in all to heal me. And no matter when I arrive, I always walk away closer to the heart of beloved peace.

In the past, even 5 minutes would do. However now as I recognize my own need for healing, I’ve made a serious commitment to my daily practice. Without fail I spend a minimum of 20 minutes which may turn to an hour. Some days I have to get up at 5 a.m. to keep this commitment. And believe me, it’s worth it.

For you, it may be a place in the woods, a tiny spot in a garden, or even a chair in a library where you find yourself willing to breathe and be still. Others are able to meditate through physical movement like tai-chi. I’ve watched artists in meditation as they create their own form of beauty. It’s all good.

For now, I’d like to offer you 7 points that may be helpful if you’re considering a regular mindfulness practice.

  1. Whether you’re sitting on the floor, a chair, or wherever – be comfortable.
  2. I believe it’s most effective for you to make a sacred place where you return each day, at least in the beginning. There is something soothing about repetition.
  3. Be sure your legs are at ease. If you’re sitting in a chair, have your feet flat and spaced a few inches apart.
  4. From your head to your seat, it’s best to have your spine upright, not slouching.
  5. Allow your hands to be open with your palms resting on your thighs.
  6. My suggestion is to keep your eyes open and relaxed, gazing downward and directed 4-6 feet in front of you. This is not nap-time.
  7. Leave your mouth slightly open so your jaw is relaxed. That way air can move easily through your mouth and nose.

Remember, breath is your spirit. If you find your mind wandering and you’re thinking about situations, emotions or sensations, you can let them go by saying (even out loud) “I’m thinking” – and then focus your attention on an out-breath. Repeat as necessary. There is no wrong way. You are loved.

Ultimately it comes down to the question of how willing are we to commit our time, to loosen our grip on daily life, and be honest with ourselves.

My request for you today is that you take some breaths and moments just for you – and yes, do that each day. It will be my pleasure to meet you across time and space in the present moment of peace.

Happy mindful meditation to you.