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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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Digestive Dysfunction = Gut Gone Bad!

Filed in Adults, Cancer, Chronic Disease, Constipation, Diarrhea, Digestive Health, Enzymes, Heart Disease, Heartburn, Immune System, Indigestion, Inflammation, Liver, Preventable Issues, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 03/21/2017


digestive dysfunction girl - brenda watson.com

As we move into the third week of Colon Cancer Awareness Month it’s time to discuss what can go wrong in your gut. Last week I presented a very brief overview of how a healthy gut works. This week I’d like to help you recognize signs of digestive dysfunction. The result is multiple disease processes like constipation, diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, inflammatory bowel disease, myriad chronic health conditions and even cancer.

However there is one critical point I must make, and I can’t stress this too strongly. In my 30+ years of working closely with people experiencing all levels of digestive issues, I have seen far too many cases of colon cancer. The unfortunate thing I’ve noticed time and again was this – when a person was diagnosed with colon cancer – they thought they had healthy digestion! Needless to say, they were floored by the diagnosis. When I questioned them further, I might hear “I had a little indigestion here and there” or “sometimes I was constipated”. Often they didn’t notice anything that might have tipped them off to a life-threatening situation brewing inside them.

That’s why it’s so important to truly understand and appreciate what really happens in your own body to do with digestion and absorption. The colon can be very quiet for a long time as disease smolders within. I believe this knowledge has fueled my passion to continue, day after day, to implore people to recognize that their gut is literally the core of their health.

What can go wrong? Intestinal toxemia = poisoning of the intestines!

Intestinal toxemia occurs when the bacteria in the gut act upon undigested food. This interaction can produce toxic chemical and gases. These toxins, in turn, can damage the mucosal lining, resulting in increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut). The net result is that the toxins are then able to spread throughout the body via the bloodstream.

7 common habits that may be poisoning your intestines:

  1. Inadequate amounts of living foods and quality proteins in our dietary choices
  2. Not chewing our foods thoroughly
  3. Drinking with meals
  4. Over-consumption of processed foods (including sugar!)
  5. Overeating in general
  6. Eating foods that we know we are sensitive or allergic to
  7. Inadequate water consumption between meals resulting in low-grade dehydration

Poisoning your intestines is a process that progresses over time. The good news is that you can reverse that process by changing your behaviors.

In the words of Dr. John Matsen, ND, “If you don’t digest your food quickly, some microorganism will digest it for you, making toxins.” These toxins created inside our bodies are called “endotoxins”. I want you to know that they are every bit as damaging to your body as external environmental toxins. We call those “exotoxins”, and are very familiar with the dangers of substances like pesticides, radon or car exhaust.

If the above mentioned habits continue for an extended period of time, the certain result is an overtaxed digestive system. That happens whether you experience mild to severe digestive symptoms, or no symptoms at all. Supporting organs such as your liver and pancreas become overburdened.

Ultimately, your once healthy gut begins its downhill spiral toward altered digestive function. Diagnoses like constipation, diarrhea, IBS or even IBD, along with cardiovascular issues, hormone imbalances, arthritis, fibromyalgia – the list goes on and on. And yes, even cancer.

This is primarily how the sad tale of disease begins – and if you truly understand this, you have the power to change your story and restore your health once more!

Digestive dysfunction. Please don’t let this happen!

Some major dysfunctional results of poor habits:

  • Deficiency of HCL – disrupted protein digestion and decreased stomach pH allowing harmful organisms access to the body
  • Pancreatic insufficiency – reduced enzyme and bicarbonate secretion – inefficient digestion of foods, reduced absorption of nutrients
  • Imbalanced intestinal pH – also reduces proper food breakdown and absorption and compromises immunity

You may think I’m being overdramatic – linking almost all variations of chronic disease processes to the gut. In two words – I’m NOT! Daily more and more supporting evidence is disclosed in clinical trials that prove that your digestion – breaking down and absorbing the nutrients you intake – is absolutely essential to every function in your body.

The premise is so simple it’s unbelievable that many Americans still fail to see the relationship between what goes in their mouths and the way they feel and function. As I mentioned, I think it’s largely due to the forgiving nature of the gut. Symptoms often don’t occur until quite a large amount of damage has been done. And it also has to do with our society’s obsession with simply eliminating symptoms. Many people don’t seem to care to understand what may have been causing that discomfort in the first place. Nexium be gone!

Next post I will give you an action list of exactly what you need to do to understand and heal your gut! Until then, eat lots of living foods!

Healthy Gut Function 101

Filed in Constipation, Diarrhea, Digestive Health, Enzymes, Exercise, Gut Solutions, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 03/16/2017


Healthy Gut Anatomy - brendawatson.com

In this post let’s continue looking at digestive functions, in honor of Colon Cancer Awareness Month. Understanding good digestion is key to a healthy gut. So I’m offering a quick review of how your digestive system works, top to bottom – when it’s working properly that is.

Let me show you the path your food takes in a healthy gut.

Did you realize that the digestive process – the breakdown of your food into nutrients that can be absorbed – actually begins in the mouth? It starts with the secretion of the enzyme ptyalin. At the other end from the colon! This enzyme, mixed with saliva, is crucial to proper digestion of carbohydrates. Food properly chewed into small particles will be completely mixed with the saliva/enzyme mixture. When a person swallows their food after only a few short chews, as so many of us busy people do, there is insufficient time for ptyalin to do its job. Consequently, when you gulp your food, your digestion is impaired. Those large, inadequately chewed food particles are harder for the body to handle and can result in gas, bloating and indigestion. Sound familiar?

In addition to chewing food thoroughly, care should be taken to restrict fluid intake with meals. Over-consumption of liquids may dilute some specific digestive agents which are manufactured in your stomach. The breakdown of protein requires an extremely acid environment, and to handle that job, HCl and the enzyme pepsin are synthesized there. Diluting these digestive substances can result in impaired digestion as well.

It’s important to know that enzymes are complex proteins that cause chemical changes in other substances. They are the basis of all metabolic activity in the body, facilitating more than 150,000 biochemical reactions. They literally empower every cell in the body to function. There are three types of enzymes in the body: metabolic, digestive and food enzymes.

Metabolic enzymes run, heal and repair the body. Your body could not function or heal without them.

Most enzymes required for digestion are manufactured by the pancreas. There are about 22 pancreatic enzymes, chief of which are protease (digests protein), lipase (for fat digestion) and amylase (for carbohydrate digestion).

Food enzymes also digest food: however they are supplied to the body solely through the diet, only from raw foods. These raw foods primarily supply enzymes to digest the food in which they’re found, and aren’t particularly helpful to digest other foods.

By the way, cooking at temperatures of more than 116 degrees destroys food enzymes. Enzyme deficiencies are widespread in the American culture because virtually all food in the standard diet is heated during processing.

The majority of nutrient absorption is accomplished in the small intestine through intricate interactions between enzymes, probiotics (good bacteria) and the various foods being digested. In a healthy gut the food particles have been broken down well. If not small enough, bloating and gas can be the uncomfortable result.

In addition to absorption of nutrients, your intestinal tract is also home to a large part of your lymphatic system. That system consists of the spleen, lymph nodes, bone marrow and other tissues responsible for defense against infection. In fact, the number of cells of gut associated lymphatic tissue (GALT) exceeds the number of plasma cells in the other parts combined! Your intestinal tract is a huge player in your immunity as well as your digestion.

I could share many blogs just focused on the amazing abilities of your intestine as it maintains your healthy gut, but I promised a brief discussion here.

So on to the colon! The final stages of digestion occur in the colon with the absorption of water and a small number of nutrients not absorbed by the small intestine.

Important point – one needs to have one good bowel movement per day, but two to three are ideal. A “good” bowel movement is one that is walnut brown in color, with a formed consistency, about the length of a banana. The stool should be free of odor, leave the body easily, settle in the toilet water and gently submerge. (Forgive me for TMI!)

Take a look at this chart to determine if you have a healthy gut!

The transit time for food – the elapsed time it takes for a meal to enter the mouth and then exit the rectum – should ideally be less than 24 hours. However, too short a transit time may result in a loose stool. Transit time is related to exercise and the consumption of fiber and water. When transit time slows, putrefied material stays in the colon longer, and toxins can enter the bloodstream through the intestinal wall. One possible result might be constipation.

The colon houses three types of bacteria: good, neutral and bad. In fact, the majority of bacteria can be found in the colon. A balance of approximately 85% good to no more than 15% neutral or bad is desirable for health maintenance. This balance will assist the body in normal elimination of solid waste.

Now that you have a sense of good digestive function, in my next post I’ll take a look at factors that negatively impact your healthy gut. An unhealthy gut will ultimately set the stage for different disease processes.

Travel Advice for your Gut

Filed in Constipation, Diarrhea, Diet, Dietary Fiber, Enzymes, GERD, Heartburn, Indigestion, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/24/2016


Travel advice with friends - brendawatson.com

Summer vacation, 4th of July – wonderful opportunities for travel and sampling exciting and different foods. Whether you’re visiting family, or jetting to the Far East, the fun ends abruptly when your digestion becomes distressed! With that in mind, I thought I’d offer some travel advice for your gut that may afford relief for belly troubles during your time away from home – and offer new life to your vacation.

Diarrhea is a common gut reaction when it senses something irritating or a bit too unusual. In many cases, your system simply wants whatever food or drink you’ve chosen out, and quickly! There are also those cases where you may have consumed tainted food or water along your route. Of course, whether camping or simply enjoying a different environment, sanitary conditions can be less than ideal.

When traveling, it’s always a good idea to consume all foods hot and fully cooked to avoid unwelcome food-borne pathogens. And should the hot days entice you to don your bathing suit, avoid swallowing the water that is so refreshing to your body.

Taking your probiotics daily offers you the best insurance against traveller’s diarrhea and peaceful digestion in general. However in case of unpleasant disruption be sure to have a particular probiotic on hand called Saccharomyces boulardii. This probiotic yeast shines in cases of even the toughest diarrhea and doesn’t require refrigeration. You may also want to supplement with goldenseal (constituent berberine) to help additionally curb symptoms and for its antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties.

Personally, when I travel I tend toward constipation. I’ve read that up to 25% of travelers have reported similar discomfort. For some people, a fiber supplement will be helpful. Truthfully, supplementing on a daily basis with fiber while striving to reach at least 30 – 35 grams daily is a valuable maintenance practice, rather than just using fiber once constipation has set in.

Drink plenty of fluids, especially in this hot summer weather to avoid dehydration and further constipation. I have found consistently that an herbal formula that contains magnesium hydroxide along with aloe, rhubarb, possibly triphala taken with probiotics is a very helpful combination. I never leave home without these.

No travel advice for your gut would be complete without addressing occasional heartburn. The possibilities while traveling to trigger those unpleasant symptoms are abundant. New foods, hearty portions amid friends and family could produce an unhappy gastric result.

Breathe before you begin eating, chew your food thoroughly, and don’t forget your digestive enzymes! Food is to be enjoyed, and paying attention to what’s on your plate rather than eating without a thought can make a huge difference in your digestion. Do your best to focus on taste rather than quantity.

It’s best not to drink liquids with your meals, as that will dilute your stomach’s natural acids whose job it is to effectively break down your food.

When traveling, wear comfortable clothing. Did you realize that tight waistbands can compress the valve that controls acid flow? And whatever you do, avoid laying down to sleep immediately after you eat, as the acidic stomach contents can easily seep into your esophagus when you’re laying in the bed and create irritation.

As a last resort, should symptoms persist, you can immediately relieve heartburn with one or two teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of cold water. Please use this method infrequently. Diminishing your stomach acid using any type of antacid today can often lead to even more issues in the future.

Happy, healthy, and comfortable trails to you and yours!

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!

Multi-strain Probiotic Reduces Risk of Antibiotic-Associated Diarrhea

Filed in Antibiotics, Diarrhea, General, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/29/2014


A multi-strain probiotic has been found to reduce the risk of antibiotic-associated diarrhea (AAD) and reduce gastrointestinal symptoms in hospitalized patients taking antibiotics according to a recent study published in the journal Vaccine. The formulation contained four strains of Bifidobacterium and Lactobacillus and was taken daily up to seven days after the final antibiotic dosage.

Those patients taking a higher dosage of probiotics (17 billion CFUs daily) were at decreased risk of AAD and also experienced less fever, abdominal pain, and bloating, as well as had a decreased number of liquid stools and duration of diarrhea when compared to those receiving low-dose probiotics (4 billion CFUs daily). And the low-dose group still fared better than those patients receiving only placebo. “The results indicate that the higher tested dose is more efficacious than they lower lose in reducing AAD symptoms, duration, and incidence in a hospital setting,” noted the researchers.

Antibiotic-associated diarrhea is one of the conditions most benefitted by probiotic supplementation, according to studies. Because antibiotics disrupt the balance of beneficial bacteria in the gut (remember that the word antibiotics means “against life” and probiotics means “for life”), digestive disruptions often occur along with antibiotic use. By replenishing beneficial probiotic bacteria during antibiotic use, these digestive disruptions can be avoided, as illustrated by this study.

If you are prescribed antibiotics, it would be wise to take probiotics as well. Just remember to take them at a different time of day than the antibiotics so that their chance of survival is increased.

Diarrhea that just won't go away?

Filed in Diarrhea, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/28/2009


Notable News

Clostridium difficile (C. diff) – More than Difficult!  Chances are you’ve probably heard of C. diff before, or at least its most common (and least pleasant) side effect – the gut-wrenching diarrhea. I know, I know, here I go talking about poop again, but this is important! C. diff infections are becoming more common every year. Studies tell us that 7,000 people are infected each day, and 300 of those die from the infection. So I say the more we know about C. diff, the better.

Okay, let’s start with the basics – just what is C. diff anyway? It’s short for Clostridium difficile, a disease-causing bacterium that most often appears after a person has taken antibiotics. This happens because the good bacteria that are normally present in the intestines (and which help keep our immunity strong) are also destroyed by antibiotics. Basically, when we take antibiotics to fight infection, they kill a lot of the good bacteria in our gut along with the bad, which disrupts our normally healthy intestinal balance. And C. diff is one of those opportunistic little buggers that will quickly take over and multiply if it has the chance, causing a potentially dangerous infection whose symptoms include severe diarrhea, abdominal cramping and nausea.

Interestingly, another culprit in the C. diff epidemic has come to light. The use of proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) has been associated with a risk for C. diff infection.  PPIs are used to treat gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), also known as acid reflux. These drugs suppress the secretion of acid in the stomach. 

But Wait! We Need Our Stomach Acid!  One of the functions of stomach acid is to kill bacteria that comes in with food. When there is not enough stomach acid, as occurs in people taking PPIs, harmful bacteria like C. diff can enter the intestinal tract and quickly multiply.

Can You Say Superbug? Have you heard the term Superbug?  C. diff is a Superbug. Superbugs are bacteria that become resistant to antibiotic treatment, which means that after a while, taking antibiotics won’t do anything to stop the harmful effects of the bug. Antibiotic resistance is largely the result of over-prescribing antibiotics for every little sneeze or sniffle instead of giving the body a chance to fight off the infection on its own, and it’s become a huge concern in the medical community today. I’ll talk about this more in a later post, so stay tuned!

Bottom Line? Our intestinal flora – the friendly bacteria in our intestines – play a major role in our health. One particular probiotic called Saccharomyces boulardii has been found to be especially useful for people with C. diff, particularly those that have recurrent C. diff infections. The reason is because S. boulardii is actually a yeast organism, so it’s not destroyed by antibiotics like most bacteria, which means it can keep working in the body to protect against C. diff – even if you’re taking antibiotics. The bottom line is, maintaining a good balance of beneficial microorganisms (probiotics) in the gut is a vital part of creating digestive health, which as we all know is the foundation for total-body health!