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

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

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      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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      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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      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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Gut Issues. Gluten or Glyphosate?

Filed in Celiac Disease, Diet, Digestive Health, Environmental Toxins, Gluten, Gluten Sensitivity, Immune System, Organic | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/29/2016


Glyphosate in our wheat? - brendawatson.com

If you’ve been following me for any time at all, you’ll know that I’m an advocate of gluten free eating. Dr. William Davis of Wheat Belly fame has certainly given us ample evidence why the modified wheat of today may be regarded by our bodies as an invader that often causes our immune systems to over-react. Unpleasant symptoms of all types can be the result ranging from low energy to digestive upset to autistic symptoms to chronic health conditions.

Years ago I found out through DNA testing that I had a genetic pre-disposition to celiac disease. That information ended my gluten consumption immediately. However, this is not the case for everyone who believes they may have a gluten issue. Testing can be very helpful to understand your own body.

If you’ve been to Europe or another country and eaten wheat without experiencing symptoms as some of my friends have reported, and then you returned home and found wheat once again your enemy, this blog may be for you. In general, the wheat in Europe seems different from that consumed here in the US. Not always, with our trade avenues these days, but many times. No matter your personal gluten situation, I hope you find some interest in this food for thought.

Mike Adams, well known as the Health Ranger, made some noteworthy points in his post and audio report. I’d like to share some highlights here.

Gluten-free has become a buzzword across our society, similar to fat-free or sugar-free. These terms are used by food manufacturers to imply that the product inside a package is a healthy one, and is often more expensive as well. In too many cases, “healthy” may not be as true an association as we might hope.

Mr. Adams points out that most (not all) gluten-free products that are sold in the grocery store are potentially peppered with GMOs and MSG. If you’re curious, check out the ingredients on the package. Remember, unless specifically labeled “organic” – and I mean each ingredient, there are significant chances that you may be buying GMOs. It’s a darn slippery slope.

The majority of the time, ingredients like corn, maltodextrin (which is derived from corn), soybean oil and soy lecithin may be GMO in nature. And did you realize that “yeast extract” is a favorite way that manufacturers hide MSG on a label? There are many other terms that mask MSG as well.

Here’s the kicker, at least according to Mr. Adams. In many cases it may not be the gluten that you’re sensitive to in the first place – it may be the glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. He believes that the residual toxicity left in wheat from spraying that chemical could create symptoms similar to gluten sensitivity.

So it follows if you’re eating non-organic wheat products like bread, cakes, pasta, cereals – you may be getting a rather unwanted dose of that toxin on a regular basis. If you’ve not read about the potential risks of glyphosate, check out what Dr. Mercola has to say here.

Ultimately, whether products contain gluten or are gluten-free, the conversation comes down to eating REAL food – not processed. If you’re seeking out organic fruits and veggies (which haven’t been sprayed with glyphosate, by the way), if you can access quality protein, and you read your labels carefully, you and your loved ones’ exposure to toxins in our food supply is lessened considerably. And never forget – the healthier your gut is, the better your body can deal with whatever digestive or immune challenges you may encounter.

Time and again we circle back to the importance of making organic choices whenever possible. Understanding the source of our foods is becoming more important daily. Knowing your farmer is indispensable if at all possible.

Many people in our society are legitimately gluten sensitive. If you’re like me, you’re choosing gluten-free foods because you’re striving to achieve more health. Please use this bit of information as support in truly reaching that goal. And for those of you who find you can enjoy organic wheat – good for you!

Here’s to selecting “organic” and “unprocessed” foods for a healthy future!

Egg-ceptionally delicious!

Filed in Diet, Recipes, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/22/2016


I do editorial reviews monthly for Alive Magazine, a Canadian publication I really appreciate. Today I’d like to share a very creative slow cooker recipe right from this month’s offering  – Issue 399.

Slow cookers are one of my favorite kitchen implements and in the winter, the soups, stews and roasts that can be made are only limited by your imagination. In Skinny Gut Diet we’ve even dubbed the slow cooker as one of our “power tools”. Today I’m offering you a particularly interesting breakfast idea, hopefully one you and yours will enjoy throughout the day.

Egg-Ceptional Slow-Cooked Frittata

Eggs and vegetables – in my mind, that’s a perfect combination for a meal or snack. Add in – “totally easy to prepare” – well, this could be the perfect breakfast, and a great way to keep your blood sugar balanced and your family healthy. Once prepared, this frittata can be made into meal or snack portions and can be safely refrigerated in an airtight container for up to three days (if it lasts that long…) Grab and go – easy and nutritious.

1 tbsp (15 mL) grapeseed or coconut oil

10 large organic eggs

1 ½ tsp (7ml) finely chopped fresh dill or ¾ tsp (4mL) dried dill

2 tbsp (30 mL) Dijon mustard

5 oz (140 g) baby spinach

2 green onions, trimmed and finely chopped

1 cup (250 mL) grated sweet potato

½ cup (125 mL) diced roasted red peppers

½ cup (125 mL) corn kernels, fresh or thawed if frozen

2 oz (56 g) crumbled feta cheese

(truthfully, any veggies you have on hand will be delicious in this – kale, mushrooms, peas, green beans, asparagus – be creative and empty your frig into the slow cooker!)

Grease a 5 quart (4.7L) or 6 quart (5.7L) oval slow cooker with oil.

In large bowl, whisk together eggs, dill, and mustard. Stir in spinach, green onions, sweet potato, roasted red pepper, and corn (or whatever) until well combined. Pour into oiled slow cooker and sprinkle with cheese. Cover with lid and cook on low until frittata is set and cheese is melted, about 2 ½ to 3 hours.

Cut into portions and serve either warm or at room temperature.

Serves 8.

Note – Each serving contains: 178 calories; 10 g protein, 12 g total fat (3 g sat. fat, 0 g trans fat); 8 g total carbohydrates (3 g sugars, 2 g fiber); 280 mg sodium

Here’s to slow and steady cooking on your way to vibrant health!

Surprise! You’re Addicted!

Filed in Adults, Diet, Digestive Health, Enzymes, GERD, Heart Disease, Heartburn, Indigestion, PPIs, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Reflux | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/14/2016


Last Monday it was reported by NPR that the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) will soon be publishing yet one more reason to leave those PPIs alone! Protect your kidneys! You can now add kidneys to previous evidence of increased risk of bone fracture, infections and possibly even cardiac issues. This is another warning to all of you who regularly choose Nexium, Prilosec or Prevacid to quiet your heartburn, indigestion or GERD.

I have been blogging on the potential issues associated with regularly blocking the normal production of stomach acid for many years. These serious medications, not viewed as potentially dangerous by the medical community until recently, have caused unbelievable heartache and misery for countless Americans. I’ve seen and heard about the damage they produce firsthand as I’ve spoken on digestive health and have been privileged to personally meet with so many of you over the years.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been thought to be so safe that they are now available over the counter. The only difference between a person’s prescription PPI and the ones at the drugstore is the dosage. So we can do math, can’t we? More heartburn? Just take more Nexium, omeprazole, or similar. NO!

Don’t get me wrong. These drugs can be life saving – short term. That’s the key – short term. While a person is healing from an ulcer or surgery it can be absolutely essential to decrease the amount of acid that’s created in the stomach so the tissues can heal properly. After the healing is complete, those drugs need to go – fast!

Even after a short period of time it can be challenging to wean off PPIs. The longer you depend on them, the harder it becomes. We think of addictions and what comes to mind is pain pills or heroin. Sadly, proton pump inhibitors are every bit as physically addicting, just in a different way.

Morgan Grams, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health led the research resulting in the upcoming JAMA Internal Medicine article. The study focused on evaluating the potential for PPIs to increase the chances you’ll develop chronic kidney disease. While the report wasn’t conclusive in itself, the findings were disturbing enough to cause Grams to warn all of us to only use these drugs when they are absolutely necessary.

Here’s the core issue. If you experience heartburn or indigestion of any type, there’s a reason. Your body is trying to tell you that something needs to be changed. Often it’s your diet (sorry, but that’s the truth). Actually, dietary shift can make a huge positive impact on digestive issues over 80% of the time.

It also might be that it’s time to purchase some digestive enzymes. As we age, our enzyme and acid production decreases so we can use a little help in that regard.

Commonly, after years of unhealthy eating habits, our internal bacterial balance is way out of wack. Probiotics can be your lifesaver in this case.

I implore you – before you start popping PPIs to quell that burning feeling, get a tiny bit creative. Try other digestive aids. Even bust way out of your box and consider a different eating plan! It’s not fun to suffer. I know that. However ignoring the real issue that is screaming for your attention by covering up the symptom will come back to bite you – possibly in your kidneys.

I wish only good digestion for you always!

Let’s Talk Shower Health

Filed in Adults, Personal Care, Skin | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/08/2016


When you hopped into the shower this morning, chances are you didn’t give a lot of thought to the water temperature. You prepared your shower like you have time and again, perhaps precisely the same for years.

Showers for me range from gloriously relaxing after a particularly intense workout to very rudimentary – in and out as quickly as possible. Now I can add that I’ve learned something about one doctor’s idea of optimum conditions for a maximally healthful experience. So for fun, I thought I’d share this info.

Dr. Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist with the Cleveland Clinic was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. You can read the entire article here.

Bottom line:

Optimum temperature – 112 degrees Fahrenheit. (No, I don’t expect you to carry a thermometer in the shower. Pleasantly warm and not uncomfortably hot seems to be the suggested “just right” heat intensity.)

Yet again this is one of those ‘age dependent’ situations. It seems as we mature, our protective lipid layer replenishes itself at a slower pace. It’s important to do our best to maintain that precious layer as it provides our skin its youthful appearance. So taking two showers a day at 40 may reveal dry patches that simply weren’t there at 20.

I enjoyed Dr. Piliang’s analogy comparing the action of the hot water to washing butter off a knife. In our skin’s case, we want the butter to remain even as we release environmental toxins and bacteria. Sadly, according to the doctor, applied emollient products don’t effectively replace the oils we lose.

As for that quick 15-second blast of cold water at the end of the shower – seems it may be great for aligning the keratin on the hair, giving it a smooth appearance that better reflects light. And cold water splashed on the face after the facial pores are nice and clean may close them up tight for a more vibrant look.

On a bit more serious note, while you may have a world class filter on your tap water in the kitchen where you and your family drink, unfortunately showering in water that contains chlorine or chloramines may present a substantial health risk – one you may not have considered. Please give some thought to the purchase of a shower filter. It will greatly improve those precious benefits of shower-time even more!

Here’s to your clean and radiant health!

4 Tips to Light Up 2016!

Filed in Adults, Cold and Flu, Constipation, Diet, Digestive Health, Enzymes, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Sleep, Sugar | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/02/2016


So now the decadent celebrations are behind us and it’s time to recommit to our healthy selves. However, there may be some leftovers in the frig, and also those delicious gifts you may have received may still be close by! If the gifts were well-sealed, re-gifting may be an option. Donation is a good idea too. Okay, I’m smiling.

I was devilishly curious, and decided to search “Favorite New Year’s Foods” on the internet. Whew! I felt bloated just reading the ideas! Between the Lobster Mac and Cheese and the Peanut Butter Parfait (peanut butter, banana and bacon with waffle cookies – aptly labeled ‘Year-End Splurge’) not to mention the various New Year’s liquid libations – all I can say is WOW!

If your holiday season included any of these type of foods or drink, your digestion and overall health may be on a downslide about now. Not only that, but with so many people out and around, you’re more likely to be exposed to winter-time bugs that could land you on the couch with a cold or the flu. And it may have been, and might continue to be, difficult to pull off eight hours of sleep each night. After all, it’s time to get back to “real” life. The holidays many times take a toll, even as we love them so much.

I’d like to suggest some crucial supplements to light up your health in 2016. If you’re not already including these in your daily routine, visit your local health food or vitamin store to get the following today. Your body will thank you.

Digestive Enzymes
Let’s start by giving your digestive system some help breaking down those higher quality foods I’m sure you’ll be choosing now. Even good foods need the help of enzymes to release and absorb the nutrients within! Why end up with a stomachache when you can plan ahead by taking digestive enzymes with every meal and snack? Look for an enzyme formula that has:  Protease for protein digestion, Lipase for fat digestion and Amylase for carbohydrate digestion.  Take with or immediately after your meals to help you digest better during your days ahead.

Probiotics
Up to 80 percent of your immune system is in your gut. That one fact still fascinates me to this day—and I’ve been saying it for years! The 100 trillion bacteria in your digestive system play a vital role on your immune health. Eating a diet high in starchy carbohydrates and sugar—the epitome of what might have been your holiday fare—throws off the balance of bacteria in your gut. Taking a high-potency multistrain probiotic every day will help to keep your gut in balance and your immune system in check.

Constipation Control
If you tend toward constipation, especially when your diet is less than stellar, arm yourself with an effective constipation formula. Look for a product that contains magnesium hydroxide, which acts as a stool softener that will gently, yet effectively, help to improve your bowel movements. If you are not experiencing at least one healthy bowel movement per day (and by healthy I mean well-formed and at least one and a half feet long), then you need to do something about it. A good constipation formula without harsh stimulant herbs is your best bet to get your digestion moving regularly in the first place.

Sleep Help
If you find it difficult to fall asleep at night, your body and mind could be suffering. Adequate sleep is essential for you to perform at your best and make those new year’s resolutions your reality. If you can’t seem to settle in without tossing and turning each night, a sleep formula may help you. Look for a formula that contains L-theanine, 5-HTP, and melatonin, three ingredients that will help you rest easy as you make ready for this New Year.

I wish you good health and happiness as we say “Hello” and “Welcome” to 2016 together!