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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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Hygge this Thanksgiving with Friends and Family

Filed in Adults, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/23/2016


Hygge and Relax by the Fire - brendawatson.com

This year has flown by – and shortly we will be celebrating my favorite holiday – Thanksgiving! I attempt to celebrate every opportunity for simple gratitude, and how lovely to have an entire holiday focused in that way. With great appreciation in mind, I’d like to share with you a lovely Danish word that fits in perfectly with the essence of the season – hygge. Pronounced “hoo-gah”, it can roughly be translated as “coziness”, although that one word falls very short of the happiness it embodies in the Danish culture.

A lovely book was written by Londoner Helen Russell called The Year of Living Danishly: Uncovering the Secrets of the World’s Happiest Country. She shares her best explanation of hygge as “a complete absence of anything annoying or emotionally overwhelming; taking pleasure from the presence of gentle, soothing things.”

Interestingly, the origin of the word hygge is from the Norwegian word for wellness. The word is transformed from noun to verb to adjective as often as possible in Danish dialogue, reminding each other (and now us) how often pausing to enjoy and be grateful can help us to maintain health and happiness.

Beautiful examples of ways to enjoy hygge might be savoring a warm cup of soup, snuggling up by a fire, or enjoying an intimate night with friends or family.

As winter approaches across our country, many people will find themselves feeling trapped inside by inclement weather. Rather than seeing this time as an inconvenience, perhaps you’ll remember to hygge and view your time inside as an opportunity for coziness and choosing enjoyable moments.

I offer you a few examples of hygge that may thaw those potential winter blues.

Take time to make a special comfortable space inside your home where you can feel warm and cozy, perchance read a book, maybe cuddle under a favorite comforter, while you may enjoy your four-legged companion snuggled there too.

Lighting a candle can create an ambiance in a room like nothing else. In fact, the Danish are never without candles in their homes. One note – try to avoid candles made with paraffin which contain toxic chemicals. 100% vegetable based or beeswax candles with cotton wicks are easily available these days and will insure a healthful environment.

Using essential oils in a diffuser is certain to lighten your mood. Katherine Thomas, a Canadian aromatherapist and perfumer, offers this simple blend for well-being:
• 3 drops sweet orange
• 3 drops cedarwood
• 1 drop vetiver
• 1 drop ginger

I’ve been told that Danish people don’t struggle with yo-yo dieting. It’s all about their lifestyle. There is no doubt that foods create stress within our bodies that have as serious effects as the stress we encounter from intense situations in our lives. Making intelligent food choices on a daily basis is the key. I believe that as you embrace the concepts in Skinny Gut Diet, internal hygge will be yours.

A behavior I struggle with daily is my tendency to rush around. Hygge is all about lingering. I love that word – lingering. The very thought conjures up feelings of ease and luxurious relaxation. Join me this season in remembering to linger – over a mug of tea, cup of soup, even a glass of water. Perhaps linger in a garden, taking a moment to smell a flower. Hygge is most wonderfully experienced in nature.

And of course, central to Thanksgiving and hygge is gratitude. I know you’ve heard this before, and it bears repeating. Choose to wake up and think of 3 things you’re grateful for and then at night, as you lay your head on your pillow, take a moment to do the same. This simple practice will go a long way towards creating your happiest life. We can practice hygge right here, right now. I wish you endless blessings at this beautiful season.

Fall for Ugly Veggies!

Filed in Gardening, General, The Skinny Gut Diet, Uncategorized, Vegetables | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/15/2016


Ugly Veggies - brendawatson.com

I’d like to think that farmers are smiling across America (and hopefully receiving a bit more profit from their labor intensive work!) A new craze I read about in the Wall Street Journal takes a second and third look at previously discarded ugly veggies!

As you walk down the produce aisle of your favorite grocer, have you ever wondered what happens to all the fruits and vegetables that are misshapen, had a blemish, or were otherwise not picture perfect? If you’ve ever had even a small garden you must realize that not all of the offerings look as though they are “ready for their close-ups”! True life just doesn’t look perfect, although produce in most grocery aisles might lead you to believe otherwise.

Steve Lutz from CMI Orchards in Washington was thrilled to get a call from Walmart! They were piloting an “ugly-apple” project and wondered if he had any contenders. His unattractive apples, blemished by hail, might previously have been sold for a loss on the juice market. Although he’ll not receive top dollar for his misfits, the produce would be purchased at a reasonable price. I’d say that call was a blessing!

I didn’t realize that farmers in Minnesota report that roughly 20% of their produce is deemed cosmetically imperfect by industry standards! That’s a huge amount of waste and loss.

Good news for the consumer – the “homely” crops will generally cost us less. And even better news is that their taste will be as good, sometimes even an improvement over their gorgeous counterparts. Once truly ripe, we’ve all experienced that although seemingly “ugly veggies” may be less visually appealing, their flavors can often be rich and wonderful.

Meet “spuglies” which are potatoes considered too big, too small or blemished, a mangled heirloom tomato with the tagline “a scarred heart can still be a beautiful one”, or perhaps a three legged carrot or plums with proboscises. Grocers are getting creative with names, hoping that the “Hip-Hip Carrot” that has extra arms wrapped around its trunk might inspire customers to give an ugly vegetable a try. You may be seeing relatives of these and other offerings at a Walmart or Whole Foods near you~

It was reported in an August Nielsen/Harris Poll of more than 2,000 adults that most customers still aren’t particularly excited about buying ugly produce, even thought they said the produce “looked cool”. Eight percent said they might buy a twisted cucumber out of pity.

Pity! Some of the most delicious cucumbers I’ve ever eaten were twisted like they had macaroni in their genes. I guess I’m just blessed to have experienced gardens where I’ve learned to love the myriad differences that Nature provides.

I’m with Kathy Means of the Produce Marketing Association when she says “We don’t care if it’s a mutt or a purebred or small. It can be ugly or conventional or whole. We just need people to eat more produce.” I’m sure she’s speaking from a financial perspective, however I’m thinking of the health of Americans! Rule #2 from Skinny Gut Diet – “Eat living foods every day to balance your gut!”

I can see it now. Someone is going to come up with “Fermented Uglies” and make a fortune!

Chris Tantau, a California peach grower, says it best – “All my children are beautiful”. I couldn’t agree more~

High Blood Pressure – in Kids?

Filed in Adults, Children, Chronic Disease, Diet, High blood pressure, Obesity, Teens, The Skinny Gut Diet, Uncategorized, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/07/2016


Blood Pressure and the Heart - brendawatson.com

Recently I’ve been noticing different articles that focus our attention on childhood ailments that previously were only adult conditions. One article I read was citing that high blood pressure in children is on the rise. What?

High blood pressure in adults is recognized as the silent killer since many times there are no obvious symptoms. I have blogged many times on this subject, and ways to recognize and control it. I have even shared a study where probiotics reduced high blood pressure in people who supplemented regularly over 8 weeks.

In adults it’s estimated that one out of three people has hypertension but only about half of them have the situation under control. The pre-hypertension group of adults is also one out of three.

It’s tough to realize that today I’m talking about a study conducted with middle school and high school athletes. Twenty percent were found to be overweight and 24 percent were considered obese, with 15 percent actually diagnosed with high blood pressure – and these are teenagers. Too much sugar, whether from sodas, candy, bread or cakes, fast foods, poor fats, huge amounts of salt. Worse yet, I often meet kids who literally have an aversion to vegetables.

And here we are right back to dietary choices at the crux of this situation. On one hand this is fantastic news since theoretically diet can be controlled much more easily than say, genetics.

However in my recent fascinating interview with Kenneth Fine, M.D., brilliant researcher, gastroenterologist and founder of EnteroLabs.com and the non-profit Intestinal Health Institute, something that really rang true to me was said. And I quote “Change strikes fear in every human being, but dietary change strikes terror!”

You’re probably laughing at this point, but this is why these chronic health issues exist at all – for both teens AND adults! Sometimes it seems the most difficult thing in the world to do is to change your eating habits! This is the point where education and parent-child-community interaction becomes so critical.

Since this condition is widely overlooked in children for a number of reasons expressed in the article, I’m pleading with you as parents to insist that your child’s blood pressure is monitored regularly and here’s why.

Apparently a condition called left ventricular hypertrophy can develop in just a few years in young people with hypertension. That’s where the heart’s main pumping chamber enlarges. The good news is if the blood pressure irregularity is noticed and brought under control, the heart can heal completely. Unrecognized, the condition will progress and can eventually lead to heart failure.

I wanted to share a resource I found recently – Teachabletaste.com. This website was created by Mott’s Applesauce, and many of the recipes are easy, delicious and even align with many of the Skinny Gut Diet principles. Enrolling your kids in creating healthful meals will have long-range effects as they grow through their teens and beyond.