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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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Sleep More in Class, Teens Learn More. Surprise!

Filed in Adults, Heart Disease, Preventable Issues, Sleep, Teens, Uncategorized, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/24/2017


Sleep Deprived Teen - brendawatson.com

Sleep. How great it is when we’ve rested well the night before. How distressing it can be when that just wasn’t the case. Over the years I’ve offered many tips and hints on how to grab those extra winks.

Recently I enjoyed reading a report in the Wall Street Journal about organized napping in high school. According to study after study, lack of sleep in adults reduces workplace efficiency, can lead to overeating, and recently was even associated with stress on the heart.

            Short-term sleep deprivation has now been shown to affect heart function. Read more here.

Babies and school age children tend to get the healthful sleep they need, largely because we adults are able to make sure that happens. Stress increases and circumstances shift as our youth enter high school. Studies show that our teenagers are the age group most seriously impacted by lack of sleep. It’s generally agree that 8.5 to 9.5 hours nightly are needed to optimize teen growth. Many of these youth fall very short of that goal and school start times have been associated.

How much sleep is enough? Find out.

Did you realize that in 2014 the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement for high school to begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m., allowing teens to get more sleep nightly? A study of over 9,000 students was conducted that compared early and late school start times. Marked improvements in class performance as well as bettered national test scores were recorded with later arrival to school. Daily attendance improved. And here’s an unexpected stat. Car crashes by drivers 16 to 18 years old were reduced by 70% when school began later, at 8:55 as opposed to 7:35.

Inside of heightened pressure to perform for college and other activities, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believe that insufficient sleep as a teenager may be associated with weight gain, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, drug use – and subsequently, poor academic performance. I’m sure you’ll agree – falling asleep in class just doesn’t bode well for a student’s future.

            Check out the CDC report.

If you parent a teen, you may be thinking “my child’s school never read that report!” Your son or daughter’s required arrival time to class is probably around 7:30. Since institutions tend to be slow to change the way things are structured, it may be by adding napping to the high school curriculum, students may find some additional winks.

Due to increased awareness of sleep teen needs, here are some great napping programs that are cropping up in schools across the country:

  • Students with good grades get a weekly first period free so they can sleep in.
  • Quiet time for students – 20 minutes at the beginning and end of each day with closed eyes, no talking. One group is actually practicing transcendental mediation!
  • The Path Program in Boston has high-schoolers spend one period each day in a special area designed with comfy chairs and yoga balls to rest and de-stress. Counselors are available to offer guidance on good sleep habits.
  • A New Mexico pilot program purchased Restworks EnergyPods through a government grant. These pods, originally designed to afford stress relief in the workplace, seem perfect for students as well. After a 20-minute session, participants report emerging rested and refreshed.

Although most sleep professionals still feel an earlier bedtime is preferred over napping, I feel hopeful when I hear about these innovative rest programs. After all, these are the young people who will be shaping our futures. I for one would like to imagine they will be clear-minded and well-rested.

Feeling Sexy? It Could Be Microbes!

Filed in Adults, Human Microbiome, Inflammation, Mental Health, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/14/2017


Love microbes - brendawatson.com

Here’s a different twist on Valentine’s Day! Your attraction to your sexy mate may have less to do with the clothes he/she wears, the sweet nothings he/she whispers and the chocolates he/she buys for you – and much more to do with his/her particular microbes!

While flourishing science is replete with the fabulous abilities of microbes – everything from supporting our immune systems, balancing our digestion, and even affecting our moods, I have to say that I hadn’t considered adding “how sexy a person is” to the good bacteria’s list of accomplishments.

This information was reported last weekend in the New York Times and was offered by Susan Erdman, a microbiologist at M.I.T. She calls this microbial phenomenon the “glow of health”.

Years ago while working with mice in a study of probiotics isolated from human breast milk, she noticed that the male mice began growing very shiny and beautiful fur! Upon further testing, it was noted that their testosterone levels were elevated. They were preening and posturing noticeably. The house mouse transformed into Mick Jagger!

The female mice given this particular probiotic had an extremely fascinating response as well. Two important female substances increased. One was Interleukin 10, which decreases inflammation and helps sustain pregnancy. And the other substance, oxytocin, is chemically the hormonal place where love and cuddles combine.

Oxytocin has been called the love hormone due to the warm and close feelings that it stimulates – for both men and women. Not surprisingly, women produce it abundantly when breast feeding. It’s been observed to increase on occasion of a meaningful kiss. It even rises when close time is spent with dear friends. Important in both sexes in sexual relations, oxytocin infuses the warmth and closeness in the night! Incredible thought – microbes may be furnishing the stimulus that literally creates loving and nurturing behaviors.

Learn more interesting facts about oxytocin here~

Dr. Erdman submits that the possible role microbes play in love and procreation has a twofold effect. It not only results in our own species evolving, but also microbial communities are assured their continued existence too. Humans and microbes working together for the common good of all!

I like this synergistic vision of our future. Much research has been done on the negative parasites and disease causing microbes. However we now recognize that at least 80%, if not more of the residents of our microbiome, from our bellies to our skin, fall into the benevolent and helpful category. Dr. Erdman happened on some Valentine microbes!

So as you look tenderly at your love partner, sharing microbes in the glow of candles in a romantic embrace, it’s a nice thought that your bacterial communities are in your corner, approving and supporting your loving relationship. I wish you a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

Shed Pounds Slowly? Gut Bugs May Be Missing Link

Filed in Adults, Diet, Digestive Health, Human Microbiome, Obesity, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Skinny Gut Diet, Uncategorized, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/08/2017


Shed Pounds - brendawatson.com

Attempting to shed pounds but feeling a bit discouraged? I read some fascinating research that I hope will motivate you. Please give the healthy choices you’re making a bit more time!

The study itself was published last week in the journal Cell Host & Microbe and was conducted by a team led by Jeffrey Gordon, Director of the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University. I’ve been following Gordon’s lab for some time. In fact, I shared their previous research in my book, Skinny Gut Diet. If you have a copy you know that Gordon suggested that a person’s potential for obesity can partially be predicted. He measures the ratio of Bacteriodetes (I called those the Be Skinny bacteria) to Firmicutes (Fat bacteria) in their gut. Gordon’s initial research was done with mice. We decided to run our own lay research study with our human Skinny Gut group (you can meet them all in the book) and we found Gordon’s observations to hold true. Fascinating.

Understand what microbes are in your gut!

Gordon’s more recent lab results suggest that despite your best efforts, your gut may not be on your side with regards to losing those extra pounds quickly! If you’re hosting an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria in your gut, your microbiome (the community of microbes in your gut) may actually require extra time to reset back to health if you are making a switch from a Standard American Diet (SAD), high in refined carbohydrates and saturated fats to more healthy, calorie restricted, plant-based fare.

Initially in the study, fecal samples from humans following the SAD diet were compared to those following a healthy diet. I’ve blogged often on bacterial diversity, and how increased diversity of bacteria in the gut is often an indicator of vibrant health. Once again this has been found to be the case. The people on the SAD diet demonstrated a much less diverse microbiome than those on the healthy diet, suggesting generally that the SAD group would also be more prone to immune issues, digestive issues and silent inflammation.

Read more about bacterial diversity

Next the researchers implanted germ-free mice with the two sets of human donor’s gut microbes. Once implanted, both groups of mice were then fed the same healthy plant based diet.

Listen up here – this is the very interesting part. Although all of the mice responded overall to the diets, the group implanted with the SAD diet microbes responded more slowly than the mice that had only received more healthy microbes. Apparently there seems to be a transitional time needed for the mice with the SAD guts to shed pounds and regain health as efficiently as the more healthy ones.

A fascinating additional quirk in this study was when the SAD mice were placed into the same cages with the healthy mice, their gut health improved more quickly than the SAD mice who were living only with other SAD mice. How wild is that? Communal living anyone?

The practical goal of this research was to gather information that would pinpoint specific bacterial strains. Gordon’s team was seeking microbes that might be used to diversify and balance the gut. Normalized weight and increased health are most certainly the desired outcomes. No doubt, this research will continue well into the future. Hopefully one day research like this will result in a specific probiotic formula designed to combat obesity. But that’s still in the future.

Probiotics help you shed pounds.

So lets get back to you! If you recently switched from a SAD diet to more healthy choices and your weight loss isn’t diminishing as quickly as you might hope – hang in there. Good news – prior research shows clearly that your good microbe populations actually shift quickly. It just may take some time until you notice those changes in your skinny jeans.

Check out 4 excellent things you can do to fuel your weight loss

Shed pounds TODAY!

4 Ways to Fuel Weight Loss

Filed in Adults, Constipation, Diet, Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health, Fermentation, Inflammation, Prebiotics, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Stress, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/02/2017


Fuel Weight Loss - brendawatson.com

As we say goodbye to the month of January, and begin to notice Valentine’s Day candy donning the grocery store shelves, I hope that your New Year’s resolutions to shift your dietary choices have not waned! No Peeps for you! With that thought in mind, I wanted to share 4 things that will most definitely fuel your weight loss. Let’s say goodbye to that plateau! Don’t give up! Remember, it takes three weeks to establish a new habit and we are barely beyond that in 2017~

It’s time to give yourself a break, especially if you made a dramatic switch from a so-called “Western diet” last month, one that was high in saturated fats and sugars, to a more healthy, calorie restricted, plant based diet. Am I talking to you? There is a good reason that your weight loss may have stalled. It’s all about your microbiome, the microbes in your gut.

You need to know that in many cases it takes time for your good gut bacteria populations to multiply and restore. Increasing your probiotic (good guy) population is at the core of successful and lasting weight loss. Do not despair – there are excellent things you can do help rebalance your gut TODAY, and continue to melt those pounds away!

 

1. Include a daily probiotic supplement.

That choice will directly encourage positive changes in those communities of good bacteria in your gut. When you’re considering a probiotic, look for one that offers at least 10 different types/strains of bacteria and at least 30 billion live cultures to increase your diversity. Make sure the formula includes bifidobacteria, the main bacteria in your colon.

 

2. Add fermented foods to your diet.

Fermented goodies are an excellent way to invite new and different microbes into your life. The process of fermentation provides lactobacillus strains of bacteria – necessary for proper absorption of nutrients along with intestinal repair and decreased inflammation, just to name a few important jobs those good guys do. Fermented veggies are delicious as condiments or even side dishes daily. Kefir provides you with an extensive variety of bacterial strains. Kombucha is rich in both healthy yeasts and bacteria. Let these foods be your friends!

 

3. Increase fiber in your diet.

Soluble fiber acts as a prebiotic, feeding those good microbes in your gut. Prebiotic foods like raw dandelion greens, garlic, leaks, jicama, and raw or cooked onions are delicious to include in your daily meals. Acacia fiber is an excellent fiber supplement that is tasteless and simple to add to your foods or smoothies for an extra fiber boost. Insoluble fiber found in vegetables, oats, beans and legumes provides bulk for your stool, which leads to me to #4.

 

4. Avoid constipation!

Many people notice initially when they make a dramatic dietary shift, they begin to experience changes in bowel habits. That makes total sense since the bacteria and other microbes also reorganize with dietary change. During the shift, both weight loss and bowel regularity may slow. Bottom line, constipated people simply don’t lose weight easily. Their bodies are too overwhelmed with toxicity and inflammation.

Should you experience constipation, please make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids. All three of my previous suggestions help to normalize your bowel and relieve constipation. However, depending on your circumstance, for a short time it may be wise to consider supplementing with a natural laxative formula. Remember, it’s imperative to avoid constipation, no matter what. Look for natural ingredients in a supplement formulation like magnesium, aloe, rhubarb and triphala.

Many people have great success adding magnesium citrate or other form of magnesium into their daily regimen. Magnesium deficiency is widespread so looking into ways to add magnesium for optimal health is always a great idea for well-being.

Learn more about magnesium here.

AND, hang in there! Be kind to yourself. Please don’t stress about immediate results. We know that stress itself decreases your ability to lose those pounds. Instead focus on your increased energy levels, perhaps a skin condition is resolving or you notice your mood has improved and/or your mind has cleared! It only gets better as your gut balances.