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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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    • 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 .

  • Diet & Health
    • Diet & Health

      Healthy pH levels, whether in the colon or systemic, are found when you eat a high-fiber diet, high in vegetables and fruits, healthy proteins, and healthy fats. Complement this with foods and supplements high in beneficial bacteria, omega-3 fatty acids, and digestive enzymes, and you will be supporting optimal health (which begins in the digestive system).

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Thinking With Your Gut

Filed in Adults, Brain, Digestive Health, Fermentation, Human Microbiome, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 03/25/2016


If you’ve been feeling emotionally taxed (pun intended – yes, this is the season) and/or mentally foggy, I have a suggestion for you. Increase your intake of fermented foods containing those good bacteria, probiotics.

Recently I interviewed Dr. Emeran Mayer for my upcoming television special, Natural Breakthroughs with Brenda Watson. Dr. Mayer is professor of medicine at UCLA, a specialist in gastroenterology and is the director of the UCLA Centre for the Neurobiology of Stress. He has written several books that explore the brain-gut connection and in fact has a new book coming out in July that combines cutting-edge neuroscience with the latest discoveries on the human microbiome.

I wanted to share the results of a study that Dr. Mayer and his team conducted with 36 healthy women that may take the edge off your day. He divided the women into 3 groups that committed to drinking a specific beverage twice a day for four weeks. One group drank milk fermented with probiotics, the second drank milk without probiotics, and the third drank a non-milk product.

The women agreed to undergo functional magnetic resonance imaging of their brains before and after the four-week period. The test results of the group drinking the fermented milk positively affected the activity of brain regions that control the central processing of emotion, sensation and even task completion, compared to the other two groups. That’s certainly a direct gut-brain connection. And a calming and productive one at that!

Eating fermented foods on a daily basis is a core concept in the Skinny Gut Diet. Fermentation educator Donna Schwenk joined us during the filming of that public television special, and shared many simple recipes. Milk can easily be fermented to create kefir, a food that naturally offers a rich diversity of probiotic species. Kefir can be enjoyed as a beverage, or included as an ingredient of a wide array of other delicious treats, from ice cream to salad dressing to smoothies.

Fermented vegetables are my personal favorite. Although cabbage is certainly a versatile crowd favorite, I really enjoy culturing different veggies like asparagus, broccoli and carrots. Through the ages, fermenting has been used around the globe to extend the life of foods, and without direct awareness at the time, people’s lives were improved too. There are even some great tools that make fermenting easier than you can imagine, and great fun too!

Although some people in our germ-phobic society may be worried about the safety of fermenting, when we ferment produce whether we use salt or a starter culture, the probiotic lactobacilli predominate, crowding out potential bad guys in the process. It’s interesting to note that improperly washed raw veggies out of our gardens or from the store can actually contain harmful microbes and can potentially create more issues than their fermented counterparts.

Adding more probiotics in any form into your daily routine is a sure winner – for a healthier gut and a sharper brain!

BFF – Your Liver!

Filed in Cleansing, Environmental Toxins, Gut Solutions, Liver, Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease - NAFLD | Posted by Brenda Watson on 03/18/2016


In terms of your health, one of your very best friends is your liver. It works tirelessly for you, performing myriad critical functions, keeping your body pure of toxins and harmful substances. It supports nearly every other organ in the body in some way.

We are all besieged daily by various substances that are foreign to normal body function. Pesticides, petrochemicals, plastics – and I’ve just mentioned a few that begin with “p”. Sadly, there are certainly toxins that begin with all of the other letters of the alphabet as well.

I was reading an article discussing a paper published in the European Journal of Medicinal Chemistry. It stated that more than 10 percent of the world’s population suffers from some form of liver disease. It also mentioned that many of these people choose natural remedies instead of pharmaceuticals as their therapy. Glad to hear that.

Liver cleansing is near and dear to my heart and I’ve been using herbal formulations for decades to support healthy liver function. What’s really remarkable about these herbs is that they are time and tradition tested across our globe, and found to be safe and effective, without the harmful side effects that we regularly encounter with man-made chemical medications.

So now let’s celebrate some natural herbs that can provide you with protection against liver cancer and various other forms of liver damage. Yes, there is a lot you can do to safeguard this essential ally of your health.

  • Turmeric, whose active ingredient is curcumin, has been extensively used in traditional Asian medicine to treat gut issues, arthritis, and low-energy or fatigue. It demonstrates anti-inflammatory, antioxidant, and anti-cancer properties. No wonder it gets such great press as one of the world’s healthiest foods!
  • Skullcap, active ingredient wogonin, has shown positive results in studies relating to Hepatitis B and C, as well as various forms of alcoholic and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. Interestingly, it has also been used in the treatment of a wide variety of nervous conditions, including epilepsy, insomnia, and anxiety.
  • Licorice Root, active ingredient glycyrrhizin, exhibits powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-viral properties. In Chinese medicine licorice root has long been used to protect liver function and also to combat tumors, and is widely recognized as a go-to support in cases of chronic hepatitis.
  • Resveratrol is known widely for it’s anti-aging properties. It’s not surprising that it also protects the liver, helping to guard against the damage caused by free radicals and inflammatory processes. Resveratrol elevates levels of glutathione and promotes antioxidants in the body. It shines as a great liver-supporting herb.
  • Milk Thistle, active compound silymarin, is probably the most well researched supportive herb for the liver. Used medicinally for over 2,000 years and appreciated as a strong “liver tonic” worldwide, it is used extensively in preventing and even reversing liver toxicity caused by toxins and drugs. And if you heard that milk thistle should be avoided due to its possible effect on estrogen, disregard that information. Although some parts of the plant contain phytoestrogens, clinical evidence shows no significant effects on estrogen levels, and in fact is potentially beneficial for estrogen dominant conditions such as breast cancer.

There are many excellent liver cleanse formulas that contain most if not all of these fine herbs. As I discuss in my book, Gut Solutions, a liver cleanse is recommended for everyone. Always remember – Good Liver, Great Life!

Bacteria or Virus? Express Yourself!

Filed in Adults, Antibiotic resistance, Antibiotics, Children, Cold and Flu, Common Cold, Digestive Health, Human Microbiome, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Respiratory issues | Posted by Brenda Watson on 03/11/2016


As this year’s flu and cold season wanes down a bit, I found it heartening to read that science is focusing on a way to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections to help limit over-prescribing of antibiotics. Over the last decades doctors have been far too willing to offer a sad and miserable patient antibiotics, resulting in killing off many of the body’s good bacteria and creating serious bacterial imbalance in their gut!

Antibiotic overuse has also created a global issue termed “antibiotic resistance” where the bad bugs appear to get stronger the more often they are exposed to antibiotics. Research shows these “superbugs” become invulnerable to our current antibiotics creating the potential for more virulent diseases – and that’s another story.

This article from the Wall Street Journal states that nearly 75% of acute respiratory illnesses are viral in nature – and there’s currently no prescribed treatment for a viral infection. Dr Ganiats, a family physician and professor at the University of Miami states “Its often hard to get a person who doesn’t need an antibiotic to accept that.” He believes testing that differentiates bacteria from virus would be very helpful.

The Duke University research is doing just that. It’s designing a blood test to determine whether a respiratory infection is viral or bacterial in nature. At this point, it’s only a research tool, and has an 8-10 hour turn-around time. The hope is to develop a 1-hour blood test that could be used in the doctor’s office. However that test is still 2-3 years away from arriving on the market.

The research focuses on how our body’s genes respond differently to bacteria or viruses. This response called gene expression will turn genes on or off depending on the type of infection present. The study follows how the genes express in the absence of infection as well. Testing genes is believed to offer more dependable results than other types of tests currently available.

In a study using a cohort of 273 that was published last month in the journal Science Translational Medicine, this test was found to be 87% accurate. It was able to differentiate whether the patient had a viral or bacterial infection, or actually was ill due to something other than an infection.

Interesting point to note, sinus issues very commonly indicate an underlying yeast/Candida infection.

Honestly, at the first onset of respiratory symptoms, I would be inclined to max out on probiotics, Vitamin C, along with immune stimulating herbs and ride it out as long as possible and appropriate.

And I realize not everyone has the health convictions I do. No matter what direction your personal choice for healing may lead you, it’s always helpful to understand the underlying issues so we can address them effectively. I’m looking forward to more of this type of testing to be available for all of us.

Please do me a favor – think twice, maybe three times before you decide on an antibiotic. Your gut and also the rest of the world will appreciate your consideration.

Food Pyramid Reconsidered

Filed in Adults, Diabetes, Diet, Digestive Health, Heart Disease, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 03/04/2016


A few weeks ago while working on the newsletter about the FDA Guidelines, I came across this article from the Wall Street Journal co-authored by Dr. Stephen Nissen, chairman of the department of cardiovascular medicine at Cleveland Clinic. I’d like to share a quote from the article with you. “Congress, concerned about the continued toll taken by nutrition-related diseases, recently mandated the first-ever outside review of the evidence underlying the dietary guidelines and the process that produces them. The National Academy of Medicine will conduct the review this year. Yet this effort could do more harm than good if the academy endorses the weak science that has shaped the guidelines for decades.”

This excellent article goes on to explain that many of the recommendations which were first issued in 1980 were not based on clinical trials – one of the most reliable ways to show a cause-and-effect relationship. A major issue with clinical trials is human nature itself. We humans don’t like to follow rules.

In a laboratory setting with mice, foods can be administered regularly and changes in weight and various other parameters can be tracked accurately. However, imagine being a part of a study and being required to eat a certain way for weeks, months or even years. I’m sure you’re saying – “no way!” or “they’d have to pay me a fortune to do that!” And there you see the issues. To monitor the subjects as closely as would be required (think cameras in the house and car – and what about work?), or to provide all the food a subject should eat would cost a fortune! We’re not lab mice, after all.

Of course the results would also need to be recorded. Anyone who has ever attempted to maintain a diet diary can attest to how difficult following a specific eating plan can be! I would greatly encourage you to read the WSJ article.

So how were those guidelines assembled in the first place? It’s called prospective epidemiology. That’s a fancy way of describing the process of sending out lots and lots of questionnaires to large groups of people, asking questions about diet and lifestyle, and then following up with more questionnaires over years. If you’ve ever answered questionnaires, you know how variable your answers can be depending on your mood, or even the time of day. At best, the results of this type of study are sketchy.

Its no wonder dietary advice has vacillated so wildly over the last decades. Avoid eggs, eat eggs. Eat a low-fat diet, eat a high-fat diet. Eat more carbs, eat less carbs. The contradictions can make you crazy. And in our country the result has been a population of overweight people with cardiovascular disease and blood sugar issues.

According to this article, way back in 1980 the scientists should have realized that the recommendation to cut fat was unsound, based on already conducted contrary studies. Which of course brings us to the ever-present big money interests in agriculture and marketing. Sadly, money seems to trump health once again

So I have a question for you. Why are we waiting on the government to tell us what to eat anyway? There are certain basic concepts that aren’t rocket science that can guide the food decisions we make. In Skinny Gut Diet, besides offering a sensible healthy eating plan I’ve focused on a very basic concept – don’t eat lots of sugar! It makes you sick and fat! Simple. Doesn’t take Dietary Guidelines for that one!

Bottom line – we are each unique and wonderful individuals. There is no one eating plan that is a perfect fit for everyone. Each person who offers dietary guidance, be it Dr. Nissen or me, organizes their own research and life experience in order to make healthful suggestions. Now it’s time for the American public to do the same. Do your own research and listen to your gut – and I mean that literally.