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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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4 Ways to Fuel Weight Loss

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


Fuel Weight Loss - brendawatson.com

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

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

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

 

1. Include a daily probiotic supplement.

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

 

2. Add fermented foods to your diet.

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

 

3. Increase fiber in your diet.

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

 

4. Avoid constipation!

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

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

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

Learn more about magnesium here.

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

Loving Basil!

Filed in Chronic Disease, Diabetes, Diet, Dietary Fiber, High blood pressure, Inflammation, Mental Health, Recipes | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/08/2016


Wonderful Basil - brendawatson.com

One of my favorite summer friends is basil. Not the man, the herb! Between the lovely aroma, the list of health benefits, and the delicious taste addition to so many dishes, this green beauty stands tall as a winner on all fronts.

Fairly heat tolerant, we’re able to grow our own basil plants and harvest at will, even here in very hot Florida! Whether you grow your own or find yours at a local farmer’s market, I’d like to offer an interesting harvesting tip.

At some point I’ll bet you’ve placed your basil into the fridge, and fairly soon you noticed that the leaves turned an unsightly black color. To keep this herb fresh and robust, you can make the most of the its wonderful scent and also create a summer bouquet right on your kitchen counter. Trim the stems as you would roses, place them in cold water away from direct sunlight. Change the water daily and your sprigs will last around 5 days.

Varieties of basil abound! Check these out in addition to the classic Genovese:
• Thai basil has a unique flavor of anise
• Lemon basil – extra special for seafood and salads
• Holy basil – pungent flavor
• Spicy cinnamon basil – yes, delicious on desserts!
• Purple basil – especially rich in anthocyanins – the same type of strong anti-oxidants found in blueberries and red cabbage

Okay, I teased you with a list of health benefits. Here you go, 5 great facts about fabulous basil:
1. Is a great source of vitamin K. There have been studies that suggest increasing your vitamin K intake may help guard against diabetes as well as other chronic issues.
2. Contains potent flavonoid antioxidants, which may wield anti-aging properties and possibly even protect against cancer.
3. Contains oils like eugenol and linalool that have strong antibacterial properties. Keep this in mind when cooking chicken and ground meat, making them safer to enjoy.
4. Offers high levels of carotenoids, which studies have shown may actually improve mood, decreasing anxiety as well as balancing cholesterol in the blood. Wow!
5. Along with other herbs adds wonderful flavor to our foods, minimizing the desire for added salt, and indirectly helping to keep blood pressure in check.

I love this fabulous herb in blended green drinks. In this hot weather, my green drinks are the fuel that keeps me going! Not juices, mind you, blended drinks which leave the fiber in the final product! So I wanted to share one of my favorite concoctions with you right here.

To prepare approximately 2 servings. Place the following ingredients in a Ninja or Vitamix;
• 1 inch water
• 1 medium beet
• 3 or 4 basil tops
• 2 handfuls of spinach
• ½ lemon including peel
• 1 small Granny Smith apple
• Handful of ice cubes

Blend — and get ready to feel just great!

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!

Your Very Own New Year’s Miracle

Filed in Adults, Diet, Dietary Fiber, Obesity, The Skinny Gut Diet, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/26/2015


At this holiday time, exclamations of “how delicious those sugar cookies are!” always seem to accompany an unspoken fervent prayer that “this time – just this time – please don’t end up on my hips!”

Well, I have a New Years Miracle to share with you to help you stay slim through the last of 2015, and beyond!

Two years ago at this season it was my great pleasure to be working closely with ten wonderful people conducting research on weight loss, food choices and digestive care supplements. That project resulted in the best-selling book Skinny Gut Diet. I’m happy to report, since it was published last October I’ve received multitudes of testimonials reporting healthy lifestyle changes along with hundreds of unwanted pounds shed.

Fast forward to last week. The magazine Woman’s World delivered their December 21, 2015 issue to the newsstands. Please pick up a copy and flip immediately to page 18 to see one of our Skinny Gut group, Danielle Andrew, looking absolutely beautiful in her holiday attire. Danielle lost 22 pounds (and has kept it off), achieving her results eating her way through not one, but two holiday seasons. How does she do that?

So here’s your New Years Miracle. Hold onto your hat. The wonderful miracle is FIBER! Yes, soluble, stir-in fiber! Danielle achieved and maintains her weight loss goals with fiber as one of her foremost allies.

Here’s the deal. Stir-in fiber is tasteless. It soaks up extra calories and toxins from your digestive system. It helps you feel full while eating less, and also assists in balancing your blood sugar. Remember your fiber before parties or meals that could offer potentially irresistible temptations, and you’ll be able to say “no, thank you” with a smile.

And as a bonus for you java lovers out there – soluble fiber is a great addition to coffee. Although it can easily be mixed into any type of beverage, or soft food for that matter, coffee stands out as a great choice.

Coffee has a natural diuretic effect, it boosts energy (which we all need at this time of year) and that cup of Joe has properties that increase the appetite suppressing effects of fiber. And adding some holiday flavors to your coffee like peppermint or eggnog definitely makes the spirit bright!

Additionally, there are some terrific anti-oxidants in coffee to help enhance your immune system that also support the immune boosting effects that fiber offers. Research out of the University of Illinois has shown that soluble fiber actually helps people recover 50% faster from bacterial infections (you MUST read the article!).

So next time you find yourself in the digestive care aisle, do your hips a favor and pick up some stir-in, soluble fiber. You can join Danielle in losing weight during the rest of the holiday season, and then keeping it off through the year! Now that’s my kind of miracle!

Food as Medicine to Balance Your Blood Sugar

Filed in Diabetes, Diet, Dietary Fiber, Inflammation, Metabolic Syndrome, Sugar | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/13/2015


I’m so happy to see that people are becoming so much more aware of the sugar in their diets, and the impact it has on their health. The term “blood sugar” is now common in conversation and most of us are happy to learn of ways to control the fluctuations that may result in metabolic syndrome, diabetes, or other inflammatory conditions like cardiovascular issues.

Obviously eliminating the processed high carb, high sugar offerings is key. Exercise is also an integral piece. I’m not talking about Olympic endurance training. Simple movement like walking on a regular basis will be extremely supportive of your entire well being.

And personally I really enjoy the concept of food as my medicine. Here are some foods that research has found to have blood stabilizing effects on your day.

Anthocyanins are naturally occurring plant pigments found in red, purple and blue fruits and vegetables. In addition to balancing blood sugar and decreasing inflammation, they also have exhibited protective actions for the cells of the pancreas. So next time you enjoy berries, eggplant, black currants, red cabbage or dark beans you’re doing your blood sugar a big favor.

Apple cider vinegar slows down actions of your stomach and increases efficient utilization of glucose. It also has a positive effect on enzyme activity. If you are concerned about the possibility of type 2 diabetes, consuming apple cider vinegar at bedtime may help lower your next morning fasting glucose level.

Fiber, a personal favorite of mine, is a true friend to blood sugar balance. In short, fiber absorbs and dilutes the digestion process of carbohydrates and has demonstrated a decrease in post-meal blood sugar readings by an average of 20 percent. Populations in other countries that consume large amounts of fiber are virtually free of bowel diseases.

Both types of fiber, soluble and insoluble, are found to be helpful, so please be generous with those leafy greens, legumes, low-glycemic fruits, chia, hemp, ground flaxseed and psyllium and even some quality whole grains. Your blood sugar, and your overall digestion will appreciate it.

Chromium is a micromineral that is critical for sugar metabolism, and is widely available in supplement form. However it’s nice to know that you can find chromium in broccoli, organic eggs, barley, oats, green beans, onions, and nuts, so chromium can be delicious too.

This last suggestion may not be supported as conclusively by research as by traditions, and I’ll offer, enjoyment. Although there have been studies linking cinnamon with lower fasting blood glucose, it seems the effects are not long-lasting. Adding cinnamon to your steel cut oatmeal may directly help to balance your blood sugar for that meal, but you better keep the cinnamon shaker around for lunch and dinner as well.

In my experience, when cinnamon is added, many times it seems to satisfy my craving for something sweet. Have you noticed that too? So in a round-about way, that’s sugar control.

I hope these simple “food as medicine” suggestions will serve helpful on your own path to balanced blood sugar and excellent digestive health.

HOPE after Cancer – A Clinical Trial

Filed in Adults, Cancer, Chronic Disease, Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health, Enzymes, Immune System, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Prebiotics, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Ulcerative Colitis | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/30/2015


I’m writing to you today as I fly home from Baltimore. My assistant, Dr. Jemma Sinclaire and I traveled there to officially begin a clinical trial that has been in the works for a couple of years now. I hope you enjoy the story of how this project came to be.

Years ago I met Dr. Amando Sardi. He’s an extraordinary gastroenterologist and oncological surgeon at Mercy Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. Dr. Sardi and his team have perfected a surgical technique that has saved countless lives. When cancer is found in the gastrointestinal tract, many times a part of the intestine needs to be removed, along with other organs, like the gall bladder, spleen, and/or parts of the liver or stomach that may also be cancerous. Removal of parts of the intestine is called “bowel resection”.

Historically, after a surgery of this type, a person would then have to undergo whole body chemotherapy, a difficult and extremely taxing process to endure. It was not uncommon for the cancer to be technically gone, however the patient may have passed away from complications of the treatment.

Dr. Sardi’s unique treatment “perfuses the peritoneum” with chemotherapy. That means that after he removes the obvious cancerous growths and parts of the intestines that are involved, he fills the intestinal cavity with the cancer killing drug instead of allowing it to travel the entire body. In this way, the medicine is focused in the exact area where any remaining cancer cells may be, sparing the rest of the body from the debilitating side effects of chemo.

The total procedure is called Cytoreductive Surgery with Hyperthermic Intraperitoneal Chemotherapy (HIPEC) and Dr. Sardi has an amazing survival rate when he performs this protocol. However, after the initial healing phase, the quality of life the patients experience is often “in the toilet”. Sadly, chronic diarrhea is often unrelenting.

The term “Short Bowel Syndrome (SBS)” is used to describe those symptoms that may arise after bowel resection, diarrhea being one of the most persistent.

Initially, after a dramatic procedure of this type, there is a period of time during which a person’s body is stabilizing and adjusting, attempting to compensate for functional loss. It constantly amazes me how the human body is able to recover from that level of trauma.

Then the next phase of healing begins. Dr. Sardi’s vision, to be explored during the clinical trial, is to introduce appropriate nutritional support, through diet and supplementation along with targeted medication that will help a person to experience the highest quality of life possible. Surviving cancer surgery is one thing. Living life after cancer with a compromised intestinal tract is quite another.

This clinical trial was birthed in a conversation Dr. Sardi and I had about what might be possible for these people who had already endured so very much.

Through the Renew HOPE Foundation, Dr. Leonard Smith, Jemma and I along with Dr. Sardi’s team have designed a one-year research project that includes 10 patients who are all at least 2 years post surgery. Their cancer markers are within normal ranges. They are grateful to be alive.

We are teaching them about the HOPE Formula (High fiber, Omega-3s, Probiotics and digestive Enzymes) which I believe are the foundation of digestive health – for everyone.

Additionally we’re using aspects of the Skinny Gut Diet and are helping these people to rebalance the bacteria in their remaining bowel. It always comes back to supporting the good bacteria when you’re goal is improving digestive wellness and supporting the immune system.

I hope that soon we will be able to relate to you that the quality of life these people experience will be much improved.

I felt truly honored to meet with our first 5 patients along with Dr. Sardi and his excellent team, and I look forward to our next year together. I promise to keep you updated.

 

 

Blended Drink for Loving Your Liver

Filed in Adults, Cleansing & Detox, Diet, Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health, Liver, Recipes | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/12/2015


Here comes the summer, and with it, the opportunity to sweat! Of course, when you’re in your business clothes, you may not perceive that as a positive. Maybe if you remember that sweating is one of the most important ways that your body eliminates toxins, it will lessen your dismay at possible perspiration stains on your blouse.

I’ve been writing a lot lately about loving your liver, and suggesting that from time to time you make an effort to cleanse. So I decided to share one of my favorite blended detox drinks here today – one that includes ingredients that will help promote optimal liver function.

 

2 ribs of celery

1 cup chopped green cabbage

1/3 lemon or lime

1 small beet

1 whole Granny Smith apple

A handful of spinach

And/or dandelion greens and/or arugula – these liver supportive greens tend to be more bitter, so add them depending on your “bitter tolerance”

Handful of ice cubes, if desired

 

Place ingredients in Ninja or Vitamix and blend until smooth.

You might even consider adding some flax, chia or soluble acacia fiber to your drink that will increase your fiber intake. During a liver detox as bile flow is stimulated from the liver to the gallbladder to the gut, it’s helpful to provide extra fiber to absorb those released toxins, preventing them from being reabsorbed back to the liver.

Make loving your liver a habit. Believe me, it’s one that will pay off in the long run.

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!

Fiber Supplement Shifts Gut Bacteria Toward Favorable Balance

Filed in Dietary Fiber, Human Microbiome, Obesity, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by lsmith on 12/24/2014


Fiber supplements are known for a range of benefits, including the improvement of bowel regularity, regulation of healthy blood sugar levels, and reduction of appetite. Another amazing benefit of some fibers is the ability to favorably alter the balance of gut bacteria. A recent study published in the journal Microbiome analyzed the ability of two types of fiber—polydextrose and soluble corn fiber—to alter the gut bacteria of a group of healthy men.1

Twenty healthy men eating an average of 14 grams of daily fiber were given snack bars containing 21 grams of polydextrose fiber, bars containing 21 grams of soluble corn fiber, or bars with no fiber for 21 days. Stool samples were collected and analyzed using a method of DNA analysis called 454 pyrosequencing, which examines the full range of genetic information to avoid missing certain bacterial groups that sometimes go undetected using 16S DNA sequencing.

The researchers found that those participants who ate bars supplemented with polydextrose or soluble corn fiber had increased amounts of Bacteroidetes and decreased amounts of Firmicutes. These changes have also been found in studies evaluating the effects of weight loss and obesity on the gut microbiota.2

“This was of particular interest to us because other research has shown that having more Bacteroidetes may be beneficial because the higher that proportion is, the individual tends to be leaner,” noted Hannah Holscher, PhD, RD. “With higher Firmicutes, that individual tends to be more obese. It’s an exciting shift and helps to drive researchers to study these fibers as part of a weight-loss diet.”

After the fiber was discontinued the bacteria levels went back to their previous levels, suggesting that fiber supplementation needs to be continued to maintain healthy changes in gut bacteria. And of course, the researchers recommend that a healthy diet, high in fibrous foods like fruits, vegetables, and legumes be eaten daily to fully support a healthy balance of gut bacteria.

Soluble corn fiber has been found to have prebiotic effects in a previous study by the same research group.3 Other soluble fibers are also known for their prebiotic effects. Acacia, inulin, and oligofructose fibers also favorably alter the bacteria in the gut.4,5 Soluble fibers are rich in polysaccharides that act as food for the good gut bacteria, helping to increase their populations and produce beneficial compounds such as short chain fatty acids (SCFAs), which act as fuel for the cells that line the intestine.

Some soluble fibers, such as the ones in this study and acacia fiber, are better tolerated because they cause less gas, bloating, and abdominal discomfort than inulin-type fibers. In addition to the SCFAs feeding the gut lining, they also sit on receptors of the white blood cells and modulate immunity in a very beneficial and profound way.6

References

  1. Holscher HD, Caporaso JG, Hooda S, et al., “Fiber supplementation influences phylogenetic structure and functional capacity of the human intestinal microbiome: follow-up of a randomized controlled trial.” Am J Clin Nutr. January 2015;ajcn.092064.
  2. Ley RE, Turnbaugh PJ, Klein S, et al., “Microbial ecology: human gut microbes associated with obesity.” Nature. 2006 Dec 21;444(7122):1022-3.
  3. Hooda S, Boler BM, Serao MC, et al., “454 pyrosequencing reveals a shift in fecal microbiota of healthy adult men consuming polydextrose or soluble corn fiber.” J Nutr. 2012 Jul;142(7):1259–65.
  4. Cherbut C, Michel C, Virginie R, at al., “Acacia gum is a bifidogenic dietary fibre with high digestive tolerance in healthy humans.” Microbiol Ecol Health Dis. 2003; 15(1):43–50.
  5. Kolida S, Tuohy K, and Gibson GR, “Prebiotic effects of inulin and oligofructose.” Br J Nutr. 2002 May;87 Suppl 2:S193–7.
  6. Maslowski KM and Mackay CR, “Diet, gut microbiota and immune responses.” Nat Immunol. 2011 Jan;12(1):5–9.

Low-Carbohydrate Diet for Diabetics

Filed in Diabetes, Diet, Dietary Fiber, Sugar, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/22/2014


One of the best ways to get diabetes under control is by eating a low-carbohydrate diet. Carbohydrates include mostly sugars and starches, with fiber making up a smaller portion. Starches—as found in breads, pastas, pastries, crackers, etc.—break down into sugar in the digestive tract, so you can think of starches as “hidden sugars.” A diet high in carbohydrates is really a diet high in sugar, which triggers insulin resistance and high blood sugar, leading to diabetes. Yet for some reason, reducing carbohydrate intake has not been widely recommended. The starches have been overlooked while sugar gets all the blame.

In a recent review published in the journal Nutrition, researchers offer 12 points of evidence in support of a low-carbohydrate diet as first-line treatment of type 2 diabetes, and in conjunction with insulin in people with type 1 diabetes.

“Diabetes is a disease of carbohydrate intolerance,” stated Barbara Gower, PhD, one of the researchers. “Reducing carbohydrates is the obvious treatment. It was the standard approach before insulin was discovered and is, in fact, practiced with good results in many institutions. The resistance of government and private health agencies is very hard to understand.”

Here are some highlights from the review:

  • High blood sugar is the most prominent feature of diabetes. Dietary carbohydrate restriction has the greatest effect on decreasing blood sugar levels.
  • During the epidemics of obesity and type 2 diabetes, caloric increases have been due almost entirely to increased carbohydrate.
  • Although weight loss is not required for benefit, no dietary intervention is better than carbohydrate restriction for weight loss.
  • Replacement of carbohydrate with protein is generally beneficial.
  • A diet high in total and saturated fat does not correlate with risk of cardiovascular disease.
  • Fats in the blood are more affected by eating a diet high in carbohydrates than a diet high in fats.
  • The best predictor of vascular complications (heart disease) in people with type 2 diabetes is blood sugar control. That is, better blood sugar control, less complications and vice versa.
  • Dietary carbohydrate restriction is the most effective method of reducing high triglycerides and increasing HDL (“good”) cholesterol.
  • Patients with type 2 diabetes on carbohydrate-restricted diets reduce and frequently eliminate medication. People with type 1 usually require lower insulin.
  • Intensive lowering of blood sugar levels by restricting dietary carbohydrates has no side effects comparable to the effect so intensive diabetes medications.

The low-fat diet craze, which was supposed to lead to better health, has only worsened the situation of chronic disease in this country. People are beginning to get the message that we need fats in the diet, but they are slow to realize that we also need to cut the carbs.

If the points above aren’t enough to convince you to try to reduce your carbohydrate intake, I’m not sure what is. My last book, Heart of Perfect Health, delves into the topic of high blood sugar as it relates to heart disease (because it very much relates to heart disease), and recommends a low-carbohydrate, high-fiber diet complete with plenty of fiber.

“The low-fat paradigm, which held things back, is virtually dead as a major biological idea,” stated lead author, Richard David Feinman, PhD. “Diabetes is too serious a disease for us to try to save face by holding onto ideas that fail.”

What most low-carb diets miss, however, is the fiber component. Because fiber is technically a type of carbohydrate, low-carb diets can also be low in fiber. But I view fiber as a freebie carb. As long as it’s not found in starchy foods, fiber is your friend. The best source of fiber comes from non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits. Not only do you get plenty of digestive benefits, but you also get plenty of nutrients when you eat these foods.