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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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      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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Bacteria and the Elderly – Better Days Ahead

Filed in Adults, Antibiotic resistance, Antibiotics, C. difficile, Conditions, Dementia, Diet, Digestive Health, Environmental Toxins, General, Human Microbiome, Immune System, Mental Health, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Road to Perfect Health, Urinary Tract Infections | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/23/2015


Recently I was pleased to come across an article in the Wall Street Journal that discussed the very positive shift away from overuse of antibiotics in nursing homes.

Being the defender of the microbiome that I am, when I read that up to 70% of nursing home residents receive one or more courses of antibiotics every year and up to 75% of those prescriptions are given incorrectly – well that information had the hair all over my body on end! It was reported that the prescriptions were written for the wrong drug, dose, or duration – and this information is from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Oh my!

Apparently, one of the biggest antibiotic misdiagnoses is for treatment of suspected urinary tract infections. Believe it or not, antibiotics to treat supposed UTIs are being given to the elderly for vague symptoms like confusion, the discovery of bacteria in just one urine sample, or even in the case of a random misstep resulting in a fall.

Sadly, since women are much more likely to develop UTIs then men, many of us ladies have experienced the misery of a UTI. Although it’s possible to have a UTI and not experience obvious symptoms, that is much more the exception than the rule. In the companion book to the public television special The Road to Perfect Health, I list symptoms for UTIs. A few are a persistent urge to urinate, painful or burning urination, frequent urination, and the list continues with other very clear indicators. Finding bacteria in the urine is just one piece of a diagnosis. “Confusion” wasn’t even on my list. So does this mean that confusion is only a symptom of UTIs in elderly people? How can this be?

Dr. Christopher Crnich, an infectious disease specialist and researcher at the University of Wisconsin School of Medicine and Public Health states that generally 50% of women and 25% of men in nursing homes have bacteria in their urine. He then emphasized that didn’t automatically indicate a UTI. Bacteria can develop for many other reasons – immune system and hormonal issues for example. I’ll include an imbalanced gut here, resulting from a diet containing too many sugars. By the way, this is true for people of all ages.

This article really got me thinking as I approached the end. According to Dr. Diane Kane, chief medical officer for St. Ann’s Community, a not-for-profit health-care system in Rochester, NY, who is a passionate critic of UTI over-diagnosis, “When you have dementia, you’re going to have good days and you’re going to have bad days. When you have dementia and you have a bad day, please don’t send a urine, because it’s going to be positive.”

As I interpret Dr. Kane’s statement, “bad days” of dementia (more confusion) will physically manifest as an increase of pathogenic bacteria in a person’s urinary system. Following that line of thought, a decrease in the overgrowth of bad bacteria in the body could potentially alleviate some symptoms of dementia or confusion. That could certainly explain why a patient’s confused mental state may seem to improve while on a round of antibiotics.

Unfortunately, if no effort is made to repopulate the gut with good bacteria after antibiotics, research has shown that bad bacteria and yeast readily re-establish. Upon the return of a confused mental state, further urine testing would reveal more bacteria, perpetuating another misdiagnosis of UTI and laying the groundwork for additional antibiotic treatment. Round and round we go.

In my mind, a much better and more logical step toward improved daily function and cognition for the elderly in nursing homes might be to dramatically increase the amount of good bacteria provided to the gut on a daily basis. The good bacteria will displace the bad, supporting and maintaining the integrity of all the organs of elimination, bladder included. And perhaps positively impact confusion and dementia. I’d love to see more research studies created that look at these parameters. Are you with me?

I’ve blogged often on how declining gut health, toxicity and dementia seem to go hand in hand. I’ve also shared research highlighting how probiotics can be effective treatment for that dreaded C. difficile infection that occurs most often in hospitals and long term care facilities, haunting the weak and elderly.

Let’s all envision a day when antibiotics are the last resort should a person be confused, perhaps has fallen, or mild amounts of bacteria are found in their urine. Instead let’s picture a standard of care designed to increase the good bacteria in the body through daily probiotics, kefir, fermented veggies and/or kombucha. Now that’s HEALTH care!

Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Filed in Conditions, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Inflammation, Stress | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/02/2015


Since the age of 17 I have studied a large number of the spiritual philosophies from around the world. Ultimately, the unifying piece of all for me has been meditation, or commonly these days, it seems to be termed ‘mindfulness’. I have blogged many times about the healthful effects of mindfulness – a state of active, open attention to the present moment. The myriad chronic conditions that benefit from decreasing stress and allowing the moment to just “be” are notable – diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, depression – and the list continues.

So what is it in our lives that keeps us from taking that small amount of time for ourselves to relax into our breath and go within? Many times the simple practices of mindfulness get lost, and often in the best of times, leaving us feeling empty when we thought we might be overflowing with happiness. The regular practice of going within offers far-reaching joyful benefits – and there’s a reason it’s called a practice.

I’ve noticed that through the years, my own personal “rules” for how things must be to contact that peace within have shifted spaces and formats.

These days there are free resources all over the internet to help us let go of anxiety and find peace within our seemingly chaotic days.

Recently I suffered an intense loss in my life and like many others in times of grief, my meditation practice has grown even more dear to me. What has shifted strongly through my own letting-go process is not only do I have a certain place where go to practice, I have recently placed objects there that have deep significance to me.

I am a vibrational person, as I believe we all are, and I use my toning bowl to create sounds I love. I may play some music. I may read for a while, perhaps light a candle, sometimes chant. There may be alligator tears, or giggles that surprise me. I’ve seen my willingness increase dramatically to confront the inevitable painful mental blocks and searing emotions that arise around those times of loss in our lives. I’m allowing the love and light that is present in all to heal me. And no matter when I arrive, I always walk away closer to the heart of beloved peace.

In the past, even 5 minutes would do. However now as I recognize my own need for healing, I’ve made a serious commitment to my daily practice. Without fail I spend a minimum of 20 minutes which may turn to an hour. Some days I have to get up at 5 a.m. to keep this commitment. And believe me, it’s worth it.

For you, it may be a place in the woods, a tiny spot in a garden, or even a chair in a library where you find yourself willing to breathe and be still. Others are able to meditate through physical movement like tai-chi. I’ve watched artists in meditation as they create their own form of beauty. It’s all good.

For now, I’d like to offer you 7 points that may be helpful if you’re considering a regular mindfulness practice.

  1. Whether you’re sitting on the floor, a chair, or wherever – be comfortable.
  2. I believe it’s most effective for you to make a sacred place where you return each day, at least in the beginning. There is something soothing about repetition.
  3. Be sure your legs are at ease. If you’re sitting in a chair, have your feet flat and spaced a few inches apart.
  4. From your head to your seat, it’s best to have your spine upright, not slouching.
  5. Allow your hands to be open with your palms resting on your thighs.
  6. My suggestion is to keep your eyes open and relaxed, gazing downward and directed 4-6 feet in front of you. This is not nap-time.
  7. Leave your mouth slightly open so your jaw is relaxed. That way air can move easily through your mouth and nose.

Remember, breath is your spirit. If you find your mind wandering and you’re thinking about situations, emotions or sensations, you can let them go by saying (even out loud) “I’m thinking” – and then focus your attention on an out-breath. Repeat as necessary. There is no wrong way. You are loved.

Ultimately it comes down to the question of how willing are we to commit our time, to loosen our grip on daily life, and be honest with ourselves.

My request for you today is that you take some breaths and moments just for you – and yes, do that each day. It will be my pleasure to meet you across time and space in the present moment of peace.

Happy mindful meditation to you.

Increase Your Magnesium – A Message Worth Repeating!

Filed in Adults, Conditions, Constipation, Diabetes, Digestive Health, Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome | Posted by Brenda Watson on 05/15/2015


I’ve been addressing constipation issues a lot recently, due to the fact that they seem epidemic in our country! And constipated people are very commonly magnesium deficient.

It’s been really great to interact with the people on the Skinny Gut Facebook group – and whenever someone seems stuck in terms of weight loss, my first question is always – are you eliminating? If the answer is no, then shortly thereafter comes the inevitable magnesium discussion.

Simply, magnesium is critical for an amazing number of processes in your body – heart function probably topping the list. According to the World Health Organization, low levels have been implicated in hypertension, coronary heart disease, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. Besides those serious conditions, Dr. Dean who wrote the excellent book The Magnesium Miracle cites heart palpitations, leg and muscle cramps, migraines, insomnia and fatigue are associated symptoms. Do I have your attention?

Since magnesium is so important to simply living, it’s easy to see why our bodies will use whatever is available as soon as it can be absorbed into our circulation, and many times, magnesium doesn’t make its way to the colon to assist in elimination if needed.

In times past, we were able to get most of our magnesium from our foods, but farming and food production practices have disturbed the mineral content of the soil. Couple that with increased toxins that our bodies need added magnesium to process daily, we find ourselves at a magnesium deficit. So you are aware, high magnesium foods include dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, whole grains, avocados, yogurt, bananas, dried fruit, dark chocolate, and more. Bone broths are also a great source of magnesium (make sure they come from a clean animal source though – free range, hormone free or organic). Keep in mind, to get the magnesium (and other nutrients) from foods you eat, you need a relatively balanced digestive system that’s able to properly breakdown and then absorb the nutrients.

Since magnesium is responsible for so many basic health processes, it would be logical to assume that it might be a go-to product to suggest to anyone in a doctor’s office presenting with the symptoms I mentioned. It’s cheap too. Maybe that’s the reason that medical doctors don’t know about it! No profit for pharmaceutical companies there!

Magnesium citrate and magnesium oxide are the two forms that are most commonly used to increase bowel movements. Magnesium oxide is the least absorbable form – meaning that it doesn’t get into your body easily. That’s why it can make its way to the colon to help with stubborn constipation issues. It won’t be absorbed in the upper intestine.

Keep in mind that if you’re taking magnesium oxide, you really aren’t improving your magnesium level overall. It’s not unusual to take different forms in various products to effectively help your body repair and resume normal function.

The worst side effect you will have with magnesium supplementation will possibly be a watery stool. Many of us who have dealt with stubborn constipation issues don’t see that as a bad temporary issue. Magnesium will not harm you, and you can increase your dosage, and then taper off when your bowel begins to eliminate regularly and normally. Don’t be frightened of a bit of experimentation with increasing dosages.

Wouldn’t it be a wonderful thing if inexpensive and easy magnesium supplementation could truly make a difference in our daily health and vitality? I honestly think it can.

What have been your experiences with magnesium? I’d love to hear.

Guess What? Gut Microbes Don’t Thrive on Yo-Yo Dieting Either!

Filed in Adults, Conditions, Diabetes, Diet, Dietary Fiber, General, Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Ulcerative Colitis | Posted by Brenda Watson on 05/01/2015


We have a war going on inside of our guts! It is a constant battle between all kinds of bacteria, fungi, and viruses. Do you know what they are all fighting about? FOOD! So to support our health it logically follows we should find out what feeds the good guys and stick to those foods. Right?

The specific foods of choice vary for the different bacteria – good and bad (tip – the bad guys love sugar and carbs). I wrote a lot about that recently in The Skinny Gut Diet. The book is based on how the ratio of different bacteria in the gut reflects whether we are lean or overweight. One of the main nutrients necessary to support good bacteria is fiber.

An interesting recent study shows that when microbes are starved of fiber they actually feed on your gut lining!!! This certainly explains why people very commonly end up with leaky gut (intestinal permeability). The average American only gets about 12-15 grams of fiber a day in their diet. This amount is well below the amount documented as necessary for a healthy digestive system. I’ve been suggesting 35-40 grams daily for years.

Apparently, in the absence of fiber, the microbes are gobbling up the delicate mucosal lining. A thick healthy mucosal lining creates a natural barrier between our gut and our bloodstream, keeping undesirable toxins and undigested proteins where they belong – in the bowel. A thin mucosal lining begins to allow those irritating substances to pass into general circulation – the lining begins to “leak”. Various inflammatory conditions throughout our bodies are the eventual outcome – diseases like cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, metabolic syndrome and diabetes are some examples.

The study shows that dietary fiber and the diversity of the gut microbes are the crucial elements with regard to keeping your gut lining healthy.

How does this work? A group of researchers at the University of Michigan Medical School found when they fed a group of mice a high-fiber diet the result was a healthy gut lining. When they switched the mice to a more fiber-free diet the mucosal lining layer dramatically diminished.

They then took a different group of mice and fed them a high fiber diet and a fiber-free diet on alternating days. It would be like us having a healthy day of eating with plenty of fiber in our diet and the next day eating all low fiber foods like those found at McDonald’s. I call this Yo-Yo eating. On examination, they then found that the Yo-Yo diet created a thinner mucosal lining – ½ the thickness of mice consistently fed fiber. Obviously the mucosal lining was seriously affected by dietary input.

In another study, adults with diminished gut linings were given a high fiber bar daily. Their mucosal lining thickened. As soon as the daily fiber was discontinued, their lining returned to its original compromised state.

When the gut lining thins it can manifest in severe health consequences in humans as well. A Swedish research team published a study last year that showed a link between bacteria penetrating a diminished mucus lining and the condition called ulcerative colitis, a form of severe bowel inflammation.

I hope you find these studies as interesting as I do. They show how extremely reactive the gut microbiota is to dietary input, specifically lack of fiber. Rapid diet changes likely served us in our evolutionary history in times of feast or famine, but they don’t do us any favors today.

In our culture, with so much junk food at our fingertips, we commonly shift back and forth between healthy and unhealthy food choices, often from one day to the next. We make poor food choices, and then feel guilty the next day and choose better foods = Yo-Yo dieting. Admit it, we always knew that way of eating couldn’t be healthful, and now here’s even more evidence. Science is showing us how choosing chronic low fiber diets over our lifetime, and worse yet, over generations, might very well permanently alter our guts and our health.

Studies like these make it even clearer how our gut bacteria are our key to vibrant health or debilitating disease. So keep eating that fiber! Lets feed the good guys and maintain our gut lining!

Increase in Fiber Intake Post Heart Attack Lengthens Life

Filed in Adults, Conditions, Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health, Digestive Health Care Books by Brenda Watson, Fiber 35 Diet, Heart Disease, Heartburn, Longevity | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/20/2014


Eat your fiber, you have likely been told by well-meaning friends, health magazines, or possibly even your doctor (and definitely by me). While it may seem like obvious advice given the plethora of health benefits associated with increased fiber intake, only five percent of Americans are actually eating the recommended amount. That’s a terrible shame in my opinion. Fiber is one of the most important nutrients that you are not getting enough of.

In a recent study published in the British Medical Journal, people who ate the highest amount of fiber after surviving a heart attack had a 25 percent greater chance of living longer than those who ate the least amount of fiber. Every 10 gram increase of fiber intake resulted in a 15 percent decreased risk of dying during the follow-up period of about nine years.

The researchers looked at data from two US studies—one with over 121,000 female nurses and the other with over 51,000 male professionals. Of these individuals, almost 4,100 experienced and survived a heart attack. “Future research on lifestyle changes post-[heart attack] should focus on a combination of lifestyle changes and how they may further reduce mortality rates beyond what is achievable by medical management alone,” noted the researchers. Increasing fiber intake should play a big part in heart-healthy lifestyle changes.

This is not the first study on fiber’s longevity benefits that I have blogged on. Three years ago I wrote about the many life-lengthening benefits of fiber. That’s not all. Fiber also helps relieve heartburn, reduces appetite, and when taken in conjunction with exercise, reduces belly fat. That’s just the tip of the iceberg. I wrote about many of fiber’s benefits in my book Fiber35 Diet. I recommend that you eat at least 35 grams of fiber daily. If you can’t eat that much from diet alone (it can be difficult), then take a fiber supplement to help you reach your goal.

 

Human Placenta Contains a Community of Microbes

Filed in Conditions, Human Microbiome, Infancy, Prebiotics, Pregnant women, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Urinary Tract Infections | Posted by lsmith on 06/11/2014


The human microbiome is vast, accounting for 90 percent of our cells. Microbial composition varies from site to site across a range of niches in and on the body. Some niches—such as the colon—are colonized by a very high number of microbes. Other niches—such as the stomach—are colonized by lower amount of microbes. There are yet other areas of the body that are thought to be sterile. One such site—until recently—is the placenta that develops in the uterus during pregnancy.

Previously, it was thought that a healthy placenta is free of microbes. A recent study published in the journal Science Translational Medicine found that placenta does, however, contain an array of microbes. They analyzed the placenta of 320 women who had given birth and found that 10 percent of the placenta is made up of nonpathogenic microbes from the Firmicutes, Tenericutes, Proteobacteria, Bacteroidetes, and Fusobacteria phyla, or groups of bacteria. Most interestingly, they found that the bacteria in placenta is made up of a unique community that most resembles bacteria from the mouth, which may help explain the connection between periodontal disease and preterm birth. Only one participant of the study had periodontal disease, however, so further studies will be needed to determine whether periodontal pathogens are transmitted to placenta.

The study also found that women who had urinary tract infections during early pregnancy were at higher risk of premature birth, and the infectious bacteria turned up in the placenta even when the infection was cured. The researchers are not sure whether it was the infection or if it was the antibiotic treatment of the infection that had an effect on preterm birth.

It appeared as though vaginal gut bacterial colonization, maternal obesity, or mode of delivery were not linked to the composition of placental bacteria. More studies will be needed to determine just what role these bacteria play, how they are acquired, and whether they contribute to the development of gut bacteria in the infants.

It is not a surprise to me that placenta contains bacteria. Studies have previously found that commensal bacteria exist in umbilical cord blood of healthy neonates,2 and I have long suspected that infants receive the benefit of their mother’s bacteria even before birth.  Another recent study found DNA from Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium in the placenta of newborn infants. These studies will continue to elaborate our understanding of how microbes are an integral component to each and every phase of our lives. I would bet that women who eat a diet high in plant-based foods with pre- and probiotics as well as some fermented foods will have healthier babies with highly educated gut and immune systems trained in utero by mom’s beneficial bacteria.

References

  1. Aagaard K, Ma J, Antony K, et al., “The placenta harbors a unique microbiome.” Sci Transl Med. 2014 May 21;237(6):ra65.
  2. Jimenez E, Fernandez S, and Marin ML, et al. “Isolation of commensal bacteria from umbilical cord blood of healthy neonates born by cesarean section.” Curr Microbiol. 2005 Oct;51(4):270-4.

Antibacterial Soap Ingredients Increase Breast Cancer Cell Growth

Filed in Allergies, Antibiotic resistance, Conditions | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/09/2014


Antibacterial soaps are found in millions of homes across the country. In an effort to “scrub away the germs,” people are taking what they think is an extra measure of safety by purchasing these soaps. Unfortunately not only are antibacterial soaps no more effective than washing with good old soap and water, but they also come with major health ramifications—a topic I have blogged on in the past.

Antibacterial soaps:

Researchers recently found another reason to avoid these soaps. The main active ingredient in antibacterial soaps is triclosan, an endocrine-disrupting (hormone-disrupting) chemical (EDC) that acts like a hormone in the body and disrupts normal hormone function. A recent study published in the journal Chemical Research and Toxicology found that triclosan, as well as another antibacterial compound called octylphenol, interfered with genes involved in breast cancer cell growth, resulting in an increased growth of cancer cells in laboratory and animal studies.

“Although the doses of EDCs were somewhat high, we did this to stimulate their effects of daily exposure, as well as body accumulation due to long-term exposure,” noted Kyung-Chul Choi, PhD, lead researcher. “Exposure to EDCs may significantly increase the risk of breast cancer development and adversely affect human health.”

Triclosan is estimated to be found in urine samples of 75 percent of Americans. In May, the state of Minnesota banned antibacterial soaps, the first step toward phasing out these harmful, yet widespread, products. I hope other states follow suit.

If you were not aware of the dangers of antibacterial soaps before, it’s time to change soaps. Washing your hands with warm, soapy water for 20 seconds is a highly effective way to remove germs from your hands. No toxic antibacterial compounds needed.

Quick Facts and 9 Simple Tips for IBS Awareness Month

Filed in Adults, Allergies, Conditions, Constipation, Diarrhea, Digestive Health, Inflammation, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/04/2014


April is IBS Awareness Month—a time for individuals and communities across the country to spread awareness about irritable bowel syndrome and the millions of Americans it affects every day. Coast to coast, activities and events are in the works to help people understand this debilitating disorder, its signs and symptoms, and how it is diagnosed and treated.

Quick Facts about IBS

Irritable bowel syndrome affects between 25 and 45 million Americans every day. Although its cause is still unknown, many experts believe the symptoms of IBS—which include abdominal pain and bloating along with diarrhea, constipation or both—are closely linked to the interaction between the gut, brain, and central nervous system. (It’s possible the nerves along the gut alter normal pain perception so that the bowel becomes oversensitive to normal stimuli.)

If you or someone you know is living with IBS, here are 9 natural solutions to help you take the first steps toward better bowel health:

1.     Add More Fiber. In addition to its role in heart health and weight management, fiber supports healthy digestive function by helping to absorb and eliminate toxins in the colon that may contribute to IBS symptoms.

2.     Limit Fatty Foods. Eating foods that are high in fat such as fried foods and certain meats may contribute to IBS. Be sure to consume these types of foods in moderation.

3.     Cut Back on Caffeine. Highly caffeinated foods and beverages (such as coffee, tea, soda and chocolate) have been shown to worsen IBS symptoms.

4.     Avoid Foods High in Sulfur. Some foods that are healthy—including vegetables such as brussels sprouts, cabbage, garlic, onions and broccoli—are high in sulfur and may actually trigger IBS symptoms. Opt for low-sulfur veggies such as carrots or green beans.

5.     You May Have a Food Sensitivity. Some people have IBS because they are dealing with an underlying food sensitivity. Gluten and dairy are the two most common foods to which a sensitivity may develop. A gluten-free diet, dairy-free diet, or both can help to improve IBS symptoms in these people.

6.     Show Your Digestive Tract a Little TLC. Many herbs and nutraceuticals such as marshmallow root, slippery elm, and the amino acid L-glutamine can help nourish and soothe the intestinal tract and bowel.

7.     Balance with Probiotics. Probiotics are the beneficial bacteria in the gut that work to maintain a balanced internal environment and promote optimal digestion and immune health.

8.     Drink Plenty of Water. Drinking plenty of water (at least half your body weight in ounces every day) will help flush out toxins and other harmful microbes that may be causing IBS symptoms.

9.     Try Colon Hydrotherapy. IBS sufferers—especially those with severe symptoms—may find that natural colon hydrotherapy can help cleanse the system and improve digestive health and elimination.

Learn More about IBS with the New Mobile App!

The International Foundation for Functional Gastrointestinal Disorders (IFFGD), which first designated April as IBS Awareness Month back in 1997, just launched a new mobile app (for iOS and Android platforms) to help people learn more about IBS, its symptoms and treatment options. The free app is called IBS Info and offers real-time information from experts in the gastrointestinal field to promote awareness and education about irritable bowel syndrome. Be sure to check it out!

The more we study and understand, the closer we come to helping millions of IBS sufferers live healthier, happier lives—so help me spread the word this month and all year long!

Gut Microbe Imbalance Linked to Colon Cancer

Filed in Adults, Cancer, Conditions, Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by lsmith on 01/08/2014


The gut bacteria composition of people at risk for colorectal cancer differs from that of healthy people, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute.1 Researchers from the New York University School of Medicine analyzed stool samples from 141 patients—47 of which had colorectal cancer—and found lower bacterial diversity in patients with colon cancer.

Bacterial diversity is the hallmark of a healthy gut. The more diverse the gut bacteria, the less likely potential pathogens can gain the upper hand and lead to infection. This study suggests that lower gut diversity may also lead to increases in certain bacteria and decreases in others; colon cancer patients had higher levels of Fusobacterium and Porphyromonas bacteria than did healthy subjects. Fusobacterium has been found to contribute to colitis,2 which involves inflammation of the colon, and both Fusobacterium and Porphyromonas have been linked to periodontal disease,3 which itself has been linked to colon cancer.4 Perhaps based on the latest research, gingival and oral cultures may soon be a preventative biomarker of inflammatory bowel disease and colon cancer.

Patients with colon cancer were also found to have decreased levels of the Clostridia class of bacteria. You may recognize the name Clostridia because one bacterium from this class—Clostridium difficile—is a major pathogen that can be deadly. Not all Clostridia are harmful, however. One particular Clostridia family (Lachnosporaceae) and one bacterium within this family (Corpococcus) are both known to efficiently ferment dietary fiber and complex carbohydrates, producing butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid well known to be protective of colon cancer due to its nourishing effects on the lining of the colon. In addition to helping feed the cells that line the colon, butyrate enters the cells and prevents damaged cells from becoming cancerous. Also telling, Clostridia have been found to be less abundant in colon tumors when compared to normal adjacent tissue.3

“In conclusion, this survey of the gut microbiota found that colorectal cancer risk was associated with decreased bacterial diversity in feces; depletion of Gram-positive, fiber-fermenting Clostridia; and increased presence of Gram-negative, pro-inflammatory genera Fusobacterium and Porphyromonas,” stated the researchers. “Because of the potentially modifiable nature of the gut bacteria, our findings may have implications for colorectal cancer prevention.”

Maintaining gut balance is crucial for protection against many conditions, digestive or otherwise. Administration of probiotics (beneficial bacteria) and prebiotics (fibers that feed beneficial bacteria in the gut) has been found to have a protective effect against colon cancer.6 One main reason probiotics and prebiotics are so beneficial is because they promote increased production of butyrate in the colon, just as the beneficial Clostridia do. Achieving gut balance is one of the most important things you can do for your health.

 

References

  1. Ahn J, Sinha R, Pei Z, et al., “Human gut microbiome and risk of colorectal cancer.” J Natl Cancer Inst. 2013 Dec; online ahead of print.
  2. Ohkusa T, Okayasu I, Ogihara T, et al., “Induction of experimental ulcerative colitis by Fusobacterium varium isolated from colonic mucosa of patients with ulcerative colitis.” Gut. 2003 Jan;52(1):79-83.
  3. Signat, Rogues C, Poulet P, et al., “Fusobacterium nucleatum in periodontal health and disease.” Curr Issues Mol Biol. 2011;13(2):25-36.
  4. Ahn J, Segers S, Hayes RB, “Periodontal disease, Porphyromonas gingivalis serum antibody levels and orodigestive cancer mortality.” Carcinogenesis. 2012 May;33(5):1055-8.
  5. Kostic AD, Gevers D, Pedamallu CS, et al., “Genomic analysis identifies association of Fusobacterium with colorectal carcinoma.” Genome Res. 2012 Feb;22(2):292-8.
  6. Wollowski I, Rechkemmer G, Pool-Zobel BL, “Protective role of probiotics and prebiotics in colon cancer.” Am J Clin Nutr. 2001 Feb;73(2 Suppl):451S-455S.

What’s Going on in Your Gut? Two Essential Tests Can Help You Find Out

Filed in Conditions | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/29/2010


Doing what I do, I have a lot of folks come to me with problems like heartburn, constipation, gas and bloating—things that make you think right off the bat, “That’s a digestive issue.” But what about problems like fatigue or weight gain? Even allergies, joint pain or skin problems? What a lot of people don’t realize is that all of these things are connected, and they all come back to your gut.

I have a new book coming out called The Road to Perfect Health, and in it I talk about the vast numbers of bacteria in your body, especially in your digestive tract (which is where roughly 80 percent of your natural defenses are found). And when a healthy digestive balance is upset because of things like poor diet, stress or other factors, the result can be not only poor digestion, but a total breakdown in health.

If you’ve been having persistent health problems that you and your doctor just can’t seem to figure out no matter what you try, it may be time to look at what’s going on in your gut. And to do that, there are two absolutely essential tests that I recommend starting with. One is called a comprehensive stool analysis (CDSA or CSAP) and it’s really pretty remarkable. It evaluates your poop (now don’t cringe, this is important!) and looks at things like how you are digesting your food, as well as your levels of good and bad bacteria, whether pathogenic organisms such as C. difficile are present, what your yeast levels are, and if there are parasites in the gut.

The CDSA will also show you whether you have Leaky Gut Syndrome or inflammation in your digestive system, and it will show you how well your gut immunity is working, along with important gut health markers such as pH, blood, short-chain fatty acids and even how well your pancreas is functioning. These are all extremely important aspects of gut health that together can help you get to the bottom of what is going on in the rest of your body. Again, I can’t stress enough how connected your overall health is to what’s going on in your gut!

The other test is a gluten sensitivity test. Why gluten sensitivity? Because wheat gluten is a major (if not the worst) food irritant to the digestive system, and it is in a huge number of products on the market today—not just bread. Seriously folks, more than 40 percent of Americans are gluten sensitive and most don’t even know it, and 2 million of those have a serious autoimmune disorder called celiac disease, which causes the body to try to attack gluten in the system. And because even a lot of GI doctors don’t understand the difference between gluten sensitivity and celiac disease, most will either label you as having celiac or nothing, which can be extremely frustrating when you don’t feel well and are trying to figure out what’s wrong (read more about this here).The bottom line is that people are having all these problems which could lead to bigger problems later on, and the reality is those problems can be helped.

Both of these tests are non-invasive and can be done right at home (visit www.labtestingdirect.com and www.enterolab.com for more information). Then, all you have to do is send the tests to the lab for analysis (prepaid envelopes are provided) and hopefully take the first step toward getting your health back on track. If they seem expensive, think about it this way: how much money do you spend each week or each month on frivolous things you really don’t need? Isn’t your health a hundred times more important than a $4 latte every morning? And even if your insurance doesn’t cover the cost right away, you may be eligible for reimbursement, so I beg you—make this investment in your health. It’s worth it to get to the root of your problems and start enjoying the vibrant health and energy you deserve!!