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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 .

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    • 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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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.

Sleep Your Way to Happy and Thin

Filed in Adults, Chronic Disease, Metabolic Syndrome, Obesity, Sleep, Stress, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/11/2015


At this extremely busy time of year, it may seem like even more of a challenge to maintain your weight along with your good attitude. Could it be because you are not getting enough sleep?

Through the years I’ve blogged often on how important sleep is to your health. And it’s simply so important that I wanted to have a chat about it again.

I read an interesting article describing how metabolic syndrome, described as insulin resistance, a pro-inflammatory state, hypertension-elevated sympathetic tone, dyslipidemia, dysglycemia and obesity – is actually a survival advantage for animals in the wild during seasons of stress, like in the winter. Their physiological processes are tied to their biological clocks, which regulate all the major activities of the body like behavior, metabolism, reproduction and immunity. As days shorten and animals behave differently, they sleep more or less. As a response, their bodies create “metabolic syndrome” which helps them to survive. Here’s the news. Animals don’t suffer any pathology from the metabolic changes since they are not chronic, ongoing adaptations.

The biological clock pacemaker system for our own bodies is located primarily in the hypothalamus. Sleep disruptions whether too little sleep, even too much sleep or medical conditions like sleep apnea over time have been found to lead consistently to metabolic syndrome in humans. Sadly for us, due to chronic stress and sleep disruptions, our bodies respond as though winter survival is necessary all year long, every day! This may explain why, although we may try to lose weight through excellent dietary shifts, the pounds may stubbornly stay glued to our hips.

Sleep deprivation can also change your genes! In one study conducted in the UK, blood samples taken after just one week of getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night showed changes to more than 700 genes due to sleep deprivation alone. Eek! The genes affected seemed to be in the area of immune, stress and inflammatory responses. I don’t know about you, but I really want those particular types of genes to be in top form in my body!

An entertaining episode of Secret Eaters, a UK based TV show that examines weight issues in England, conducted a research project with two groups of people. One group was allowed to sleep soundly through the night. The other group was awakened a number of times to focus and complete a survey. The groups weren’t told the true reason for this study. The next day, the two groups were offered the same foods. The group whose sleep was disrupted actually consumed 35% more carbs and fats than the well-rested group. Wow!

If you’re confounded by weight that just won’t budge, please carefully review your sleeping habits. Turn off the television, drink hot tea, journal, pray, meditate, breathe. Here are some other great tips to help you get to sleep.

Allowing your body and mind to recognize that it can rest and restore itself will pay off in so many ways, and certainly give you a happier holiday season. Although it may be winter outside at this time of year, our bodies in our warm, safe houses don’t need to behave as though it’s “metabolic winter” in the wild. That good night sleep may keep those pounds at bay and put big smiles on your face too!

Diet & Sleep Habits Linked to Inflammation – 4 Important Diet Tips

Filed in Diabetes, Diet, Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health, Enzymes, General, Immune System, Inflammation, Obesity, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 05/28/2014


Clinical studies continue to link chronic, low-grade inflammation—also known as silent inflammation—with a growing number of health conditions and diseases. Because it can be present without being felt, this type of inflammation is particularly dangerous and can be harmful to the body over time.

Recently, a team of scientists from Texas A&M University found a link between our internal “body clocks” and the inflammatory response tied to metabolic disorders such as obesity and diabetes. It has to do with immune cells called macrophages, which control inflammatory response. Study results involving mice showed that a high-fat diet and irregular sleep disrupts the natural rhythms of our cells and tissues, which in turn triggers inflammation, fat accumulation, and ultimately insulin resistance—creating a vicious cycle.

“To promote human health, we need not only to eat healthy foods, but also more importantly to keep a healthy lifestyle, which includes avoiding sleeping late and eating at night,” said Dr. David Earnest, Texas A&M professor and one of the study’s lead authors. Here are four simple ways you can change your diet to help reduce the risk of inflammation and metabolic disorders:

  • Partner with Probiotics: In clinical studies, daily supplementation with a high-potency probiotic has been shown to support the healthy function of white blood cells and help reduce the risk of inflammation-associated metabolic disorders.‡
  • Add More Omega-3s: The Omega-3s that come from fish oil—specifically EPA and DHA—are particularly good at helping to prevent silent inflammation, in part by helping to balance out the inflammatory effects of the Omega-6 fats found in high amounts in the Standard American Diet (SAD).‡
  • Don’t Forget the Fiber: If you aren’t eating enough fiber, the good bacteria in your gut may not be able to produce enough protective short-chain fatty acids.‡ This can lead to inflammation as the immune system responds inappropriately to healthy gut microbes and treats them as harmful bacteria. Aim for at least 35 grams of fiber daily.
  • Load up on Antioxidants: Antioxidant-rich fruits and vegetables target free radicals in the body, which can damage cells and tissues and trigger inflammation. Opt for low-sugar fruits such as blueberries, raspberries, pomegranates, plums and cherries, along with non-starchy veggies such as kale, spinach, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Olive oil, raw nuts and nut butters are also a good source of antioxidants.

Omega-3 Linked to Sleep Quality in Children

Filed in Children, General, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Sleep | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/29/2013


In a new study by the researchers from Oxford University, data from the DOLAB research project showed that low blood omega-3 levels—particularly DHA (docosahexaenoic acid)—were associated with decreased sleep quality and an increased risk of sleep disorders in children. Upon further study, the researchers found that supplementation with DHA increased sleep quality.

“We have got far less waking during the night. We’ve got more sleeping, and more efficient sleeping as the ratio of time in bed to time asleep is significantly improved,” stated Paul Montgomery, PhD, lead researcher. “These are not small changes. These are substantial changes. I think clinically they are very significant changes too.”

In addition to linking omega-3 levels to sleep quality, they also noted that, “As sleep problems increased, so did behavioral problems,” not surprisingly. “We know that sleep is very important for behavior. It’s been demonstrated in a large number of trials. But what has not been shown [until now] is what fatty acids might have to do with it,” noted Montgomery.

I recently blogged about another of Paul Montgomery’s omega-3 studies in children, and also about how children are not getting enough omega-3 from the diet. Fortunately, it’s easy for children to take an omega-3 supplement to increase their omega-3 levels.

Sleep Deprived? Watch your Snacking

Filed in Brain, General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 09/27/2013


Have you ever found yourself reaching for unhealthy foods after a sleepless night? A recent study published in the journal Nature Communications scanned the brains of 23 healthy young adults using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) and found impaired activity in the brain’s frontal lobe, which functions in decision making. They also found increased activity in brain regions that respond to rewards. Sleep-deprived participants were also more likely to choose unhealthy snacks and junk food compared to those who had a normal night’s sleep.

“What we have discovered is that high-level brain regions required for complex judgments and decisions become blunted by a lack of sleep, while more primal brain structures that control motivation and desire are amplified,” stated Matthew Walker, lead author and professor of psychology and neuroscience at UC Berkley. “High-calorie foods also became significantly more desirable when participants were sleep deprived. This combination of altered brain activity and decision making may help explain why people who sleep less also tend to be overweight or obese.”

Sleep deprivation affects more than our cravings. Chronic lack of sleep worsens almost any health condition. The body restores itself as we sleep. Forgoing this vital restoration means your health will suffer. Sleep well and you will crave less. That sounds like a good reason to get your zzz’s to me.

Make-Up Sleep Improves Insulin Sensitivity—Possible Type 2 Diabetes Prevention

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/14/2013


The destructive effects of sleep deprivation include weight gain, insulin resistance, increased risk of stroke, among a long list of conditions and symptoms. Yet many of us do not get the recommended 7 to 8 hours of sleep each night, especially during the week. A study presented at The Endocrine Society’s recent Annual Meeting offers some good news for those of us who sleep less on weeknights while making up for it on weekends.

The researchers studied 19 non-diabetic men who reported at least six months of insufficient sleep during weeknights. The men reported sleeping an average of 6.2 hours on weeknights, which was verified by a monitor that detects sleep-wake cycles. The men spent three nights in a sleep lab on two separate weekends. Those men who slept 10 hours a night for three nights had greatly improved their insulin sensitivity when compared to those men who only got 6 hours of sleep, or who slept for 10 hours with continual sound-interruption.

“The good news is that by extending the hours of sleep, adult men—who over a long period of time do not get enough sleep during the working week—can still improve their insulin sensitivity,” stated lead researcher Peter Liu, MD, PhD.

Insulin sensitivity is the ability of the body to move sugar (glucose) into cells from the bloodstream. Insulin sensitivity determines blood sugar levels. The more insulin sensitivity there is, the better the blood sugar levels are. Conversely, insulin resistance is the inability of the body to move sugar into cells, thus raising blood sugar levels. Sleep deprivation has been found to increase insulin resistance.

More research is needed to confirm these results in a larger group of people, and also in women. Whether make-up sleep helps reduce the other detrimental effects of lack of sleep remains to be seen, but at least there is some hope for those of us who lack sleep. Getting seven to eight plus hours of sleep per night is still the best way to maximize health benefits, however. So when you can, try to get a full night’s sleep.

Sleep—Just Do It

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/09/2012


Renew You Challenge

Let’s start this week off right!

Here is your newest weekly challenge (I mean opportunity!) to help set you off on the right foot and in the right direction for bringing health to your week. You could even add it to your calendar. Join us! 

The health consequences that arise from a lack of sleep are becoming more and more apparent as studies investigate the importance of sleep on human health. A recent study presented at the annual meeting of the Associated Professional Sleep Societies in Boston found that regularly sleeping less than six hours a night increases the risk of stroke in people of normal weight who have no other risk factors for stroke. This is alarming.

Even if you have normal cholesterol levels, normal blood pressure, are normal weight, and you don’t smoke, if you get six or less hours of sleep per night, you’re at increased risk. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of sleep. The body regenerates during sleep—we need this regeneration!

About 30 percent of people get six hours of sleep or less. Experts recommend seven to nine hours. This week, if you are one of the 30 percent, find a way to increase your sleep. Go to bed a bit earlier than usual. Assess your nighttime routine. If you find that you stay up late to watch a TV show or surf the Internet, perhaps you might consider the consequences. If you have trouble sleeping, try to create a relaxing bedtime ritual that helps induce sleep and try to make your room completely dark to induce the natural circadian rhythm.

Are Your Sleep Habits Making You Fat?

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/30/2010


As if losing weight isn’t hard enough in the first place, now our sleep habits might be making it even harder! A recent study done at Wake Forest University School of Medicine and published in the journal Sleep found that in people under 40 who got five or fewer hours of sleep per night (or, to a lesser extent, more than eight hours of sleep nightly) the accumulation of fat around the organs—also known as visceral fat—was higher. 

What a lot of folks don’t realize is that visceral fat is actually more dangerous than subcutaneous fat, which accounts for those familiar “love handles” and “thunder thighs”, and that fat around the organs is associated with some pretty significant health problems—including metabolic-related diseases like type 2 diabetes. Results further showed that women of minority seemed to be at the greatest risk for visceral fat accumulation, largely because they are the group that gets either too little or too much sleep. 

What this study helps bring to light is that fat accumulation—and the health consequences that come with it—does not occur simply because of poor eating habits, and that other factors such as sleep, stress and lifestyle also play a large part in America’s growing obesity problem. This concept of looking at the ‘whole picture’ is one that natural health practitioners have been practicing for decades, and it’s essential for all of us to remember if we’re going to make important changes in how we look at our health.

As for the study, researchers concluded that getting between six and eight hours of sleep each night is best, which coincides with many other studies linking sleep and overall health. While each person may differ, the best way to test if you are getting enough sleep is to gauge your sleepiness when you wake up. Sure, some people take longer to transition from sleep to waking, but if you’re still really groggy an hour after waking, you’re probably not getting enough sleep.

Trouble Sleeping? Try this Quick Tip!

Filed in General | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/19/2010


‘Renew You Challenge’ – Do you have trouble falling asleep? Do you wake up a lot during the night, or have a hard time waking up in the morning? Insomnia can be a real downer, especially since it affects how you feel during the day, and not just at night—so here’s a quick tip that might help you find relief.

If you’re among the millions of people who suffer from insomnia, try this: Do your best to create a darker sleeping environment, since complete darkness is the best environment for deep sleep. And no, I’m not saying you should go sleep in a cave or lock yourself in the closet, but take a look around your bedroom and ask yourself if it’s really dark enough for healthy sleep. Is there an outside light shining through the window? Are there electronic devices like clocks or computers blinking or lighting up the space? Or worse, do you sleep with the TV on??

This week, try to make your bedroom as dark as possible, then see how it affects your sleep over the next week or so. With any luck, it’ll be just what you needed!

Healthy Colon Action Steps for a Happy Life!

Filed in Adults, Cancer, Colon, Diet, Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health, Enzymes, Exercise, Fermentation, Heart of Perfect Health, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Prebiotics, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Sleep, Stress, The Skinny Gut Diet, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/06/2017


Healthy Colon Awareness Ribbon - brendawatson.com

There are many ways to look directly at the gut connection to cancer. I believe the most important information you can receive is how to support and maintain a healthy colon.

I realize now that in these four posts honoring Colon Cancer Awareness Month I have only scratched the surface of the information I would love to share with you. Over the years, I have learned so very much interacting closely with so many people. In the 1990’s, I also practiced colon hydrotherapy in a holistic cancer clinic in conjunction with a medical doctor who cared primarily for cancer patients. It was an honor to witness the amazing health changes that occurred for people who used natural methods of healing. I was also regularly humbled by the devastating effects that chronic disease and cancer can have on the body.

Today I’m offering you tests and natural solutions that I hope will be informative and helpful to you. Whether you are personally touched by cancer or simply looking to maintain vibrant health (and that most important healthy colon), there are valuable tips for you here.

To begin, I previously mentioned that colon cancer can, in some cases, manifest silently. What I mean is that the patient reports having no symptoms. For this very important reason, please be sure to schedule a colonoscopy screening when your doctor advises.

Do you have a healthy colon? Find out about cancer screening now

Over the years I’ve seen colon hydrotherapy be a profound therapy for people. I never thought I would see the day when traditional gastroenterologists would embrace colon hydrotherapy. But the time has finally come. One of the first digestive care clinics that I founded began receiving patients from a local GI doctor for pre-colonoscopy treatment. He reported positive feedback from his patients. He also noticed beneficial results in their digestive tracts. I’m so happy that acceptance of colonoscopy by mainstream GI doctors is increasing. Today, you may find it acknowledged as an alternative to the toxic and uncomfortable pre-colonoscopy treatment. Additionally, many alternative cancer doctors are embracing colon hydrotherapy in the design of their total programs. This therapy fits perfectly with other integrative therapies that seek to restore total health to cancer patients.

Learn more about colon hydrotherapy here

There are a number of functional tests that I believe provide extremely important baseline health information. They are useful for both understanding your colon and maintaining your overall well being. I explained and listed them in detail in my recent book, Heart of Perfect Health.

In my mind, no discussion of cancer is complete without addressing nutritional choices. Revising a person’s diet and providing supportive natural supplementation in the face of a cancer diagnosis is now widely embraced. Thank goodness! So lets talk specifically about what I believe to be the basic, essential nutritional support for both maintenance and healing.

It’s important to realize that a chronic microbial imbalance or overgrowth (dysbiosis ) anywhere in the digestive tract can trigger immune imbalance. From mouth to anal canal, this imbalance can negatively impact your body’s immune system. In a healthy, balanced system, the thousands of genetically damaged cells, which can become cancer, are easily destroyed and recycled by your natural defenses. There is evidence to suggest we all have abnormal cells most of the time. It’s how your body’s immune system handles these cells that will determine if and when you develop cancer. In addition, with aging there is often a depletion of beneficial bacteria (especially bifidobacteria) with an associated decrease in natural killer cells (protector cells). This may partly explain the increased incidence of most cancers with aging.

The HOPE program (High fiber – balanced soluble/insoluble, balance of Omega-3 and 6 essential oils, pre & Probiotics, and digestive Enzymes) may do much to help prevent cancer. A supplemental HOPE program would also be wise to follow if you or a loved one are currently dealing with cancer.

The HOPE Program + Skinny Gut Diet eating plan = The Best YOU ever!

High-fiber Prebiotic soluble fibers plus good bacteria (probiotics) create short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Butyrate is the most notable SGFA with regard to colon cancer. Butyrate levels are generally accepted even by traditional medicine as an indicator for colon cancer risk. Butyrate is the fuel for the cells that line the colon. In addition, butyrate triggers the destruction of sick colonic cells (exposed to toxins and harmful microbes).  This happens especially when combined with EPA/DHA omega-3s. Without healthy levels of butyrate, the colon cells may grow uncontrolled, turning into cancerous cells.

Omega oils Both the balance (ratio) and total amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential oils have profound effects on cellular function. This balance of oils can result in either health – or cancer. There is much evidence that too much omega-6, or too high of an omega-6/omega-3 ratio can actually be a factor in promoting cancer. The current ratio in our society is believed to be anywhere from 12/1 to 20/1, but should be about 4 to 6/1! There is much scientific evidence that suggests this very high imbalance, the result of eating too much omega-6 (the oils most used in salad dressings, food additives, and cooking), is responsible for many of our modern illnesses, including cancer.

On the other hand, high normal levels of omega-3s have been shown to prevent and even be helpful in overcoming various cancers. This includes colon cancer. Omega 3s are already recognized as a companion therapy with chemotherapy treatments.

However, we must remember that everything is a question of balance, and that too much omega-3 is not recommended either. There are several labs that can measure both the omega-6, omega-3 ratios and other important fats in red blood cell (RBC) membranes. I think it is important to periodically (2 to 3 times per year) check your levels if using any more than a maintenance dose of fish oil, and especially if using high doses for any serious illness.

Cost effective lab test to measure your Omega 3/6 ratio, and more!

Probiotics Another way to look at the value of probiotics in the prevention of cancer is to look at what happens to the food we eat when it is acted on and transformed by pathogenic bacteria. Normal proteins, fats and carbohydrates in our daily diet can be converted into toxins, known as carcinogens, when acted upon by harmful bacteria as I mentioned in my last post.

The good news is that this toxic build-up can be minimized by regular consumption of prebiotics and probiotics and/or fermented foods along with an 80 to 90 percent plant-based diet. A plant-based diet is supportive of the lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, and beneficial E. coli and S. thermophilus strains as well as other probiotics so necessary for a healthy colon. However diet alone may not be enough. I suggest a high potency, multistrain probiotic daily to insure your continued health.

Enzymes We discussed how enzymes maintain good health in our last post. Well, the lack of different enzymes has been strongly implicated in prevalence of various cancers. In some cases this seems to be related to a chronic shortage of pancreatic enzymes specifically. There is evidence to support that proteolytic enzymes, either from the pancreas or taken orally, are absorbed systemically. These enzymes have been found to decrease tumor production and growth through many mechanisms.

In summary, a predominantly plant-based diet plus the HOPE program, coupled with appropriate detoxification programs, good bowel elimination with colon hydrotherapy, high-quality sleep, moderate exercise and stress reduction with meditation, including psycho-emotional-spiritual reconnection, will all be helpful in both prevention and as alternative therapies for cancer recovery – and will support and maintain your healthy colon for life!