• Gut Health
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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.

  • 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).

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    • 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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Research That Matters

Filed in Diabetes, Immune System, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/29/2016


Research thumbs-up - brendawatson.com

Research is near and dear to my heart. Both when I design supplement formulations as well as when I educate through books and talks, I pride myself on making sure that the information I share is as grounded in scientific study as it can be.

I was delighted to read a recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Carrying the Torch for Basic Research” that quotes Elizabeth Blackburn, winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2009 and president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Check it out right here. The post shared that Dr. Blackburn is helping to identify which research questions are on the horizon for scientific review.

In my mind, what she’s doing is in the “most critical decisions for the future” category. Many years ago, medical research was done to learn how the world and our bodies functioned, and researchers looked for any way to improve wellbeing. Funding was scarce, and research was expensive. Colleges would receive endowments from philanthropic individuals and organizations. Competition for the money was fierce. Seeming failures, which always precede success, were expensive and depressing.

Then came the era of the pharmaceutical companies. Research monies began to flow. Although on the surface, clinical studies were funded to learn about healing one condition or another, far too soon the financial endowments became directed toward very specific outcomes, engineered to develop yet one more drug that could produce a financial fortune, and perhaps a modicum of relief to a percentage of patients. Rarely were future health repercussions considered seriously.

In the natural products industry, it’s been much more difficult to find research dollars. We have always been interested in looking at the core biological processes that become imbalanced, creating a condition of un-wellness. We are then committed to identifying natural ways to redirect those systems toward health.

Here’s the bummer. There is no money to be made from researching natural ginger, or maybe milk thistle or licorice. Not unless the substance is molecularly changed in some way so a patent can be given to a company for a “new” product. Those slight changes offer yet more foreign substances to our bodies – yet another unique “can of worms”!

Yet modern medicine demands that we in the supplement industry offer proof of the efficacy of our offerings. They are smacking their lips to get their hands on every natural substance to find a way to make it “better”. Fortunately, the National Institutes of Science have funded the Human Microbiome Project and we are now understanding so much more about those amazing probiotics that live within. Additionally, the positive effects of omega-3s have proven health benefits that are irrefutable.

Dr. Blackburn thankfully states “If you want to make a big impact, you have to go all the way through to understanding disease processes, though the impulse is to treat.” She continues to offer an example of looking at a form of diabetes to observe how the immune cells interact with the body in that condition. Her focus throughout the article seemed to be immune system directed, which I believe is where the answers are nestled. And that brings us, as always, back to the gut.

I look forward to Dr. Blackburn’s new projects highlighting neuroscience, genomics, and immunity. Her questions are process oriented, not focused on creating a new drug. This may not be the answer to our country’s twisted medical research, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

It’s heartening to know that such a brilliant thinker like Dr. Blackburn is at the prow of at least one major research facility.

For the time being let’s all continue to enjoy natural, unprocessed foods along with supportive natural supplements like probiotics and omegas. Let’s exercise our bodies with movements that bring us joy along with good circulation. We can live our research, exhibiting the health benefits that humans have enjoyed throughout the ages and around the world – and we’ll enjoy watching the clinical studies catch up with what we already know!

Is Dog-kissing for You? 

Filed in Adults, Digestive Health, Dogs - Pets | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/22/2016


Dog-kissing - brendawatson.com

I really enjoyed sharing information about pet supplementation in a recent episode of Pet Talk on National Geographic Wild. I was featured in a segment on Episode 3 that originally aired March 4th. I believe it’s still available for viewing, and I think you’d really enjoy it, especially if you’re an animal lover like me. It offers a lot of interesting information about many different animal species. One of the segments centered on dog-kissing.

Doris and her boyfriend Mark were the guests in the dog-kissing segment along with Doris’ two dogs, Buddy and Miss B. According to Doris, Miss B “is the best kisser in the whole wide world”. I must say I had never considered kissing a dog with the open mouthed intensity that Doris demonstrated. Mark had reached a point where he was no longer interested in kissing Doris (imagine that!). However Doris states that the unconditional love she receives from her canine friends “makes her day worth living”. It was certainly a thought provoking stalemate, and it was also interesting to see the reactions that Doris’ exuberant kissing created on the faces of the hosts of the show and also the audience. It’s probably the same face you have right now.

Bacterial swabs were taken from the throats of both Doris and Mark to determine if there was any harmful bacteria growing there that might have originated from the dogs. Although no disease-causing pathogenic bacteria were detected, Doris’ swab did reveal a type of bacteria that is not normally found in the mouth. Instead that particular bacteria is generally found only in the intestine. Although there was no way to prove it, the general consensus seemed to be that the bacteria was transferred to Doris from one of the dog’s mouths after they licked their own feces (dogs do like to clean all areas!) and then found it’s way into Doris’ mouth from a very affectionate kiss. Eeek!

Another true story was shared with the audience about a roundworm found in a different dog-kissing person. It seems the larvae of the worm traveled up into the lung of the dog, was coughed up into the dog’s mouth and then transferred to the human through a smooch.

I’m thinking perhaps open mouth kissing might be best avoided with our four legged friends! What do you think?

Imagine my surprise when shortly after the filming I came across an article in the Wall Street Journal named “Burning Question: Can Kissing Your Dog Make You Sick?” .

A good awareness point that was made in the WSJ article is to be sure and wash your hands after throwing a ball for your dog, as the saliva could be transferred from your hands onto your face and perhaps contain bacteria best avoided.

Additionally, it’s possible that sleeping with your dog could transfer fleas or other infection. However if you have a healthy dog that is currently maintained on flea and tick meds regularly, your risk is very low.

There is no one who loves dogs more than I do on this planet, so I totally understand the the appeal of dog-kissing and close contact. Ultimately, simple washing with soap and water after you may have received that affectionate lick will generally eliminate contamination. However, please don’t allow your pet to lick an open wound. The potential there is for a parasite or germ to sneak directly into your bloodstream.

I’m looking forward to filming more segments of Pet Talk in the upcoming year. Please keep an eye out and let me know how you like them!

Red Wine for Heart Health?

Filed in Adults, Digestive Health, Heart Disease, Human Microbiome, Obesity, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/15/2016


Red Wine for your Heart - brendawatson.com

Reducing your risk of heart disease may have just become a bit more fun. A new study done by researchers from China explores the actual mechanism of how a compound found in red wine, resveratrol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Resveratrol, found in peanuts, grapes, red wine and some berries has been touted as a health promoting substance, which supports cardiovascular health and infers anti-atherosclerotic benefits. However understanding exactly how that takes place has been murky and debated.

This study has uncovered evidence that the protective effect of resveratrol actually closely involves the gut microbiome – the extensive community of microbes that inhabit the digestive system of each of us.

Specifically, it seems resveratrol is able to inhibit gut bacteria from creating a compound called TMA. TMA is required to produce TMAO – an inflammatory compound well known to contribute to the development of atherosclerosis. The concept is that the less TMA produced = less atherosclerosis in your blood vessels = better cardiovascular health! Great news for red wine drinkers!

In my book Skinny Gut Diet we actually conducted our own small research project on gut bacteria right here in sunny Florida. We observed that when people in our group increased their ratio of Bacteroidetes (we called these the “Be Skinny” bacteria) to Firmicutes (our nickname was “Fat” bacteria) by shifting their eating habits and using digestive supplementation, weight reduction was the happy result. We used comparative Comprehensive Stool Analysis testing to measure the shifting bacterial ratios over time.

In the recent study I mentioned above, the principal investigator Dr. Man-tian Mi said, and I quote “we found that resveratrol can remodel the gut microbiota including increasing the Bacteroidetes-to-Firmicutes ratios, significantly inhibiting the growth of Prevotella, and increasing the abundance of Bacterioides, Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Akkermansia in mice.”

Stay with me here, please. Essentially Dr. Mi is telling us that resveratrol helps to rebalance the ‘good guy-to-bad guy ratio’ of different bacterial species in the gut. The Chinese study was focused on the ratio of different species of bacteria as they related to cardiovascular disease specifically.

In Skinny Gut Diet, we were looking more at bacterial ratios and their impact on obesity and weight loss. Certainly obesity and heart disease sadly go hand in hand. Any food or substance that will lessen obesity is sure to improve cardiovascular health. Bottom line – substances like resveratrol, healthful diet and probiotics that positively impact your microbiome have the greatest potential to protect your health.

I never tire of reading innovative studies from around the world that deepen my understanding of how those helpful probiotics we have in our bellies function. From China to Florida, our research agrees. Heal your gut, heal your body – and in this case, your heart.

Produce Easy Produce Anywhere

Filed in Gardening, General, Organic vegetables | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/08/2016


Produce kale! - brendawatson.com

Today is a day for inspiration! I’m happy to share some really uplifting and heart-opening information with you about great things happening in the world of gardening and fresh produce.

In the resort town of Jackson, Wyoming two visionary women are creating not only a wonderful opportunity for the town but also a very large amount of organic produce. Veggies are a personal favorite of mine, as you know!

This exciting project began eight years ago when Penny McBride and Nona Yehia met at a party. Over time, the business Vertical Harvest was co-created.

Vertical Harvest uses hydroponic farming methods to grow various veggies in the harsh Wyoming winters, and all year round. The greenhouse itself is a three-story structure that has been constructed on a 4,500 square-foot downtown lot. Central to this greenhouse’s ability to produce a bounty of veggies is their use of the relatively new practice called vertical farming.

Construction presented some unforeseen issues, as always seems to happen when new designs are introduced. Overall, after much discussion with the town council and governmental agencies, it’s so wonderful to know that by early May greens will be growing and soon thereafter, the bountiful harvest will be sold to local grocery stores, restaurants and also in a retail shop. The perfect additional piece to this story is that the customized employment model chosen allows for 15 people with disabilities to work and be truly productive. What a worthwhile endeavor!

Of course, hydroponic growing is nothing new to Walt Disney World in Orlando, Florida. It’s astounding to tour the Land Pavilion there and see firsthand the gardens they’ve created and the food they constantly produce. Besides providing vegetables for the restaurants on site, there is ongoing research into vegetable species and growing practices and also wonderful opportunities available for those passionate about growing to intern in this fascinating place.

I clearly understand the value and joy of hydroponic gardening. I’ve been involved with two different systems myself for a number of years now.

Our biggest producer is this stackable vertical system, which uses coconut coir (instead of dirt) to stabilize the root system. The nutrient solution is provided to the plants a few times daily through a timer system. Next weekend we’re moving it to Vital Planet Company Headquarters so everyone here can enjoy the grow experience, and the yummy veggies. We’ll just walk outside and pick our salad for lunch!

We also have a Tower Garden. It’s a different type of system that allows the roots of the various plants to hang in midair. The roots are misted regularly throughout the day and night. This particular system was invented by a gentleman who had previously managed the hydroponic gardens at Disney. The plants are so vibrant and the root system so interesting that we’ve even used them as centerpieces at big events in the past.

Hydroponic growing insures that the plants are getting the nutrition they need to provide optimal vibrancy, and secondarily, the best nutrition for us. The phrase “Beyond Organic” has been used. That’s really a blessing for us, considering the soil here in Florida is mostly sand. And I must say, our hydroponic veggies are extremely delicious and beautiful!

Recently I came across a different type of tower system, which I’m sure at some point in the future we’ll try too. To me, the most appealing aspect of this grow system is sustainability. It seems to require little maintenance and makes use of worms and your kitchen scraps to create compost and self-fertilize. And no electricity is required!

So if you find any of this information interesting, I encourage you to go for it! It’s a truly wonderful experience for the family to walk outside and gather dinner from your own patio or backyard – even right in the city!

Variety of Veggies = Healthy Microbiome

Filed in Adults, Diabetes, Diet, Digestive Health, Fermentation, Human Microbiome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Obesity, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/01/2016


Variety of Veggies for Your Gut - brendawatson.com

Over the last decade, a tremendous amount of research has been directed toward examining the family of bacteria and microbes we host in our digestive system known as the microbiome. From the multi-pronged Human Microbiome Project funded by the National Institutes of Health to the American Gut Project, the largest crowd sourced citizen science projects to date, valuable information is being gathered daily. You can even join the American Gut Project and learn what’s in your own gut. And a true friends of the microbiome are a variety of veggies.

Recently I came across an article in Science Daily discussing how our farming practices over the last 50 years have impacted our microbiome.

The prevalent research shows that the more diverse the bacteria in your gut are, the healthier you tend to be. And the more variety of veggies you eat, the higher your gut microbiome diversity, also known as microbiotic richness. We’re right back to “eat your vegetables!” aren’t we? Grandma knew what she was talking about!

Sadly, our farming practices have been working against our microbiome by decreasing the numbers of different crops that are regularly produced. And then many of us simply buy for our families what is in the grocery store that looks the nicest up front. We may buy the same vegetables year after year, believing we’re eating very well.

Today I’d ask you to consider the fact that many of our chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity and inflammatory bowel disease are directly associated with reduced microbiotic richness and therefore lack of diversity in the foods we choose to eat. Think about choosing a variety of veggies for your family’s immune system and digestion!

Believe me, I understand how it is. In our fast paced world we tend to grab our food as we go, and often find ourselves set in habitual patterns. We also may be following a particular dietary regimen and attempt to remain within strict guidelines. The good news is most dietary programs enthusiastically encourage eating as many veggies as you choose!

It does takes a plan and a bit of preparation time to gather good foods together in our crazy world. And it’s so worth it in the end. When you care for your microbiome, you’re supporting the very core of your health and happiness.

So today I’d like to encourage you to take a quick review of your vegetable eating habits. Think of something you haven’t eaten in a while like maybe parsley? Arugula? Red cabbage? Watercress? Sprouts? Edible flowers? Check out your local farmer’s market or maybe an oriental market for new ideas.

In Skinny Gut Diet I suggest having at least one fermented food daily. Fermented veggies of all types are extremely delicious, simple to make and come jam-packed with their own communities of gut-loving probiotics. Doesn’t get any better than that! A win for both your microbiome and your palate. Experiment!

What’s the most unusual veggie you’ve eaten lately? I’d like to hear from you!