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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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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.

Back to School Health Tips

Filed in Children, Cold and Flu, Common Cold, Diet, Digestive Health, General, Immune System, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Sugar, Teens | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/28/2015


Goodbye to summer! I hope yours was enjoyable and relaxing.

Here in Florida, we’re hoping that the heat will lift soon. The kids are headed back to their classes and with the new school year comes the inevitable increase in colds and flu. Lots of excited little human beings in an enclosed space together, laughing, touching and generally sharing their bacteria with anyone in coughing or sneezing range.

How can we parents help to support our children’s immune systems and overall health while minimizing the chances of bringing home the newest variety of bacteria or virus?

Although these simple habits can be taken for granted as obvious, verbal suggestions and leading by example seem to make all the difference. We all remind each other to:

  • Wash hands after using the bathroom.
  • Sneeze or cough into our inner elbow, rather than into our hands
  • Try not to put fingers into noses or mouths – generally avoid touching the face
  • Avoid the drinking fountain at school – bring bottled water if possible – there are some great eco friendly options available

And my favorite – it’s never too soon to teach our children about the dangers of sugar, and that sugar actually increases their chances of getting sick by feeding bad bacteria that make for unhappy sneezes and coughs. So minimizing sugar, both at school and at home, is one of the healthiest things we can all do together.

Which brings me to something I’d really like to say. Over the last decade, I’ve watched our awareness slowly shift from simply treating symptoms of disease to the sound concept that maintaining our natural health is the most intelligent choice we can make – on a daily basis. Sadly, American marketing techniques are often ahead of our best intentions.

Natural health isn’t always “natural” or “healthy”. We can be tricked by products that might contain a few positive nutrients lost in other ingredients that are downright unhealthy, like sugars. Gummy vitamins are the perfect example.

Sure, our kids love them because they taste like candy. Guess what – they ARE candy! And candy isn’t the way to maintain health – period.

Moms and Dads, please read the labels on those supposed healthy vitamins. If you go to your local health food store and ask, they will show you products that are sweetened with stevia or erythritol or other healthy sweeteners. Spend wisely and really preserve your children’s wellness.

Two other valuable tips:

  1. After breakfast, be sure to give your children a quality multi-vitamin that contains extra vitamin D and,
  2. Before bed, give your kids a probiotic. Their immune systems will love you for it!

Misery and suffering can be optional. Let’s all maintain our health together.

Probiotics and Vitamin C Reduce Colds and School Absences

Filed in Children, Cold and Flu, Common Cold, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/10/2014


Research continues to show that probiotics promote immune health. In particular, they have been found to have a beneficial effect on upper respiratory tract infections, which include cold and flu. Up to 80 percent of your immune system resides in the gut, so it’s not surprising that gut bacteria play a major role in immune health. A recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition is adding to the rapidly growing body of research on this topic.

In the study, 57 children aged three to five were given a probiotic formula containing Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium strains (two L. acidophilus strains, B. bifidum, and B. lactis at a total dose of 12.5 billion colony forming units) along with 50 mg of vitamin C or placebo daily for six months. Those children taking the probiotic plus vitamin C experienced a 33 percent reduction in the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections as well as a 30 percent decrease in the number of school absences. They also had fewer unscheduled visits to the doctor, less antibiotic treatment, and reduced number of days that cough medicine was used.

Vitamin C has well-known effects on immune health, and so likely complemented the effects of the probiotics. Young children experience up to 12 colds per year, a number parents would love to see go down. In addition to proper hand washing, and a healthy diet, children may benefit from probiotic supplementation to protect them from cold and flu.

Prebiotics May Help Reduce Infection in Young Children

Filed in Children, Cold and Flu, Common Cold, Immune System, Prebiotics, Respiratory issues | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/09/2014


On average, children in the United States develop six respiratory tract infections each year. Another infection—gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach flu—accounts for over 1.5 million outpatients visits, 200,000 hospital visits, and about 300 deaths each year. Together, these infections account for a considerable degree of illness in children. If you are a parent, you are familiar with the frequency of these conditions during childhood.

The search continues for therapies that will reduce these childhood infections. A recent review published in the journal Nutrition Reviews highlights a potential answer for children under two.

The authors conclude that the evidence “suggests that preventive use of prebiotics decreases the rate of infections requiring antibiotic therapy in infants and children aged 0–24 months.”

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.

The researchers also state that prebiotics may be an effective preventive treatment for decreasing the rate of overall infections in these children. The prebiotics used in the studies include oligosaccharides, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), fructans, inulin, and oligofrutose.

Interestingly, the researchers were unable to find studies using prebiotics to prevent infections in children over the age of two. They suggest such studies be undertaken, since older children are commonly introduced to new environments in which they are exposed to acute infections.

I recently blogged about a meta-analysis that found beneficial effects of probiotics for the treatment and prevention of cold and flu in children. Together, these two papers give us strong evidence that gut microbes have a major effect on our children’s immune health both in and out of the digestive system.

When taken together, probiotics and prebiotics pack a powerful punch. There is a synergistic effect between the two. Fortunately, you can eat foods high in the prebiotic inulin. Chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, leeks, onions, garlic, and bananas all contain high amounts. A probiotic supplement plus prebiotic foods is a great combination to help maintain a healthy balance bacteria in your gut.

Probiotics for the Common Cold

Filed in Common Cold, General, Immune System, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Respiratory issues | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/16/2014


Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, have been studied for a number of health conditions, but one of the most exciting benefits of probiotics is their effect on the common cold. A number of studies have looked at probiotic treatment and prevention of upper respiratory tract infections (cold and flu, most notably). A recent systematic review evaluated data from twelve randomized, controlled trials in children and adults and found that those people who had taken Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics experienced fewer days of illness, shorter illness episodes, and fewer days absent from daycare, school, or work when compared to those participants who took a placebo.

“This paper shows that with the addition of live lactobacilli and bifidobacteria to your diet, the duration of upper respiratory tract infections (e.g. colds) could be shortened,” stated Sarah King, PhD. “Combined with results from a 2011 meta-analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, which demonstrated that probiotics can reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections, the implications of these findings are significant and could translate into cost savings and quality of life improvements.” The economic impact of colds is estimated to cost the United States $40 billion each year, so any reduction in the common cold is welcome.

Probiotics impact the immune system in a number of ways. Up to 80 percent of the immune system resides in the gut. The gut bacteria help to educate the immune system so that it responds appropriately. So it’s no wonder that probiotics have a beneficial effect on the respiratory tract.