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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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Yummy Chocolate Holiday Splurge!

Filed in Allergies, Gluten, Gluten Sensitivity, Recipes, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/08/2016


Chocolate Black Bean Brownies - brendawatson.com

Every year the month of December stimulates my “splurge” button – regarding different foods that is. I know I’m not alone. So I’d really like to share with you a chocolate treat I found that manages to be vegan, gluten-free and grain free. It’s even reasonable with regards to sugar content, especially depending on your ingredient choices. I’m going to provide all sorts of substitutions to get your creative juices flowing!

Let’s make some “Flourless Sea Salt Chocolate Squares”. I noticed this easy and interesting recipe first in the December issue of Canada’s Alive magazine, and decided to have some fun with it.

Ingredients

1 – 14 oz can pinto beans, drained and rinsed
1/2 – cup coconut oil, melted (better than butter for maintaining your figure)
1 – tsp vanilla extract
2/3 – cup unsweetened cocoa powder, plus extra for garnish
1/2 – cup almond meal
1/4 – cup coconut sugar or evaporated cane sugar or a zero-calorie sweetener like Lakanto
1 – Tbsp ground chia seed
1/8 – tsp fine-grain sea salt
1/4 – cup dairy-free dark chocolate chips
1/4 – tsp flaky sea salt or larger granule sea salt, with a bit extra for garnish if desired

Added fun and color on top – candy canes – crushed. Look for canes at your local health food store made with natural cane sugar and vegetable dye. Any extra candy canes can certainly brighten your tree!

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 8” x 8” baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang for easy removal.

Pull out your food processor and puree the pinto beans until smooth. Add coconut oil and vanilla. Blend until smooth, and scrape down the sides. Add cocoa powder, almond meal, sweetener of choice, chia seed powder, and fine grain sea salt. Pulse in chocolate chips carefully. Use a thin spatula to smooth the mixture into the pan. An offset spatula may be easiest if you have one in your kitchen. If you’re adding candy canes, now’s the time to crush them and sprinkle them on top before baking.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, until edges appear dry. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt while still warm if desired. Cool completely in pan, cover and chill in refrigerator until cold. Remove from the baking pan using the parchment overhang. Slice into 16 squares and garnish with a dusting of additional cocoa powder and flaky sea salt if desired. (I like to make my servings on the small side which discourages overindulgence!)

These may be stored up to a week in an airtight container.
Of course, minimizing the chocolate chips will lower the sugar content, however even preparing the recipe as it is offered, each serving contains right around 2 teaspoons of sugar. While that’s not something that we on Skinny Gut Diet want to consume daily, it’s certainly a reasonable holiday splurge!

Enjoy and happy holiday~

Gut Issues. Gluten or Glyphosate?

Filed in Celiac Disease, Diet, Digestive Health, Environmental Toxins, Gluten, Gluten Sensitivity, Immune System, Organic | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/29/2016


Glyphosate in our wheat? - brendawatson.com

If you’ve been following me for any time at all, you’ll know that I’m an advocate of gluten free eating. Dr. William Davis of Wheat Belly fame has certainly given us ample evidence why the modified wheat of today may be regarded by our bodies as an invader that often causes our immune systems to over-react. Unpleasant symptoms of all types can be the result ranging from low energy to digestive upset to autistic symptoms to chronic health conditions.

Years ago I found out through DNA testing that I had a genetic pre-disposition to celiac disease. That information ended my gluten consumption immediately. However, this is not the case for everyone who believes they may have a gluten issue. Testing can be very helpful to understand your own body.

If you’ve been to Europe or another country and eaten wheat without experiencing symptoms as some of my friends have reported, and then you returned home and found wheat once again your enemy, this blog may be for you. In general, the wheat in Europe seems different from that consumed here in the US. Not always, with our trade avenues these days, but many times. No matter your personal gluten situation, I hope you find some interest in this food for thought.

Mike Adams, well known as the Health Ranger, made some noteworthy points in his post and audio report. I’d like to share some highlights here.

Gluten-free has become a buzzword across our society, similar to fat-free or sugar-free. These terms are used by food manufacturers to imply that the product inside a package is a healthy one, and is often more expensive as well. In too many cases, “healthy” may not be as true an association as we might hope.

Mr. Adams points out that most (not all) gluten-free products that are sold in the grocery store are potentially peppered with GMOs and MSG. If you’re curious, check out the ingredients on the package. Remember, unless specifically labeled “organic” – and I mean each ingredient, there are significant chances that you may be buying GMOs. It’s a darn slippery slope.

The majority of the time, ingredients like corn, maltodextrin (which is derived from corn), soybean oil and soy lecithin may be GMO in nature. And did you realize that “yeast extract” is a favorite way that manufacturers hide MSG on a label? There are many other terms that mask MSG as well.

Here’s the kicker, at least according to Mr. Adams. In many cases it may not be the gluten that you’re sensitive to in the first place – it may be the glyphosate, which is the active ingredient in Monsanto’s Roundup. He believes that the residual toxicity left in wheat from spraying that chemical could create symptoms similar to gluten sensitivity.

So it follows if you’re eating non-organic wheat products like bread, cakes, pasta, cereals – you may be getting a rather unwanted dose of that toxin on a regular basis. If you’ve not read about the potential risks of glyphosate, check out what Dr. Mercola has to say here.

Ultimately, whether products contain gluten or are gluten-free, the conversation comes down to eating REAL food – not processed. If you’re seeking out organic fruits and veggies (which haven’t been sprayed with glyphosate, by the way), if you can access quality protein, and you read your labels carefully, you and your loved ones’ exposure to toxins in our food supply is lessened considerably. And never forget – the healthier your gut is, the better your body can deal with whatever digestive or immune challenges you may encounter.

Time and again we circle back to the importance of making organic choices whenever possible. Understanding the source of our foods is becoming more important daily. Knowing your farmer is indispensable if at all possible.

Many people in our society are legitimately gluten sensitive. If you’re like me, you’re choosing gluten-free foods because you’re striving to achieve more health. Please use this bit of information as support in truly reaching that goal. And for those of you who find you can enjoy organic wheat – good for you!

Here’s to selecting “organic” and “unprocessed” foods for a healthy future!

A Peculiar Solution for Celiac Disease—Hookworms

Filed in Celiac Disease, Diet, Gluten, Parasites | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/05/2014


Celiac disease is a serious digestive disease that involves degradation of the intestinal lining in response to gluten. People with celiac disease must vigilantly avoid gluten in order to steer clear of severe digestive symptoms and intestinal damage. A strict gluten-free diet can be difficult to follow, so researchers have been trying to discover a way for celiacs to be able to eat the dreaded gluten without experiencing the harmful effects.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Allergy and Clinical Immunology, 12 patients with celiac disease were infected with hookworm larvae and gradually given increasing amounts of gluten over the course of a year, beginning with one-tenth of a gram (less than a one-inch segment of spaghetti) increasing up to three grams (75 spaghetti noodles).

“By the end of the trial, the worms onboard, the trial subjects were eating the equivalent of a medium-sized bowl of spaghetti with no ill effects,” noted Paul Giacomin, PhD. “That’s a meal that would normally trigger a debilitating inflammatory response, leaving a celiac patient suffering symptoms diarrhea, cramps, and vomiting.”

Although eight participants did not finish the trial for reasons mostly unrelated to gluten, the eight remaining participants were able to eat the equivalent of a bowl of spaghetti without symptoms. They were able to increase their gluten tolerance by a factor of 60. That’s impressive.

If you are scratching your head about this strange treatment, you are probably not alone. But the therapy works, mostly because the worms help to reduce the human immune response, which allows them to survive while not compromising their ability to fight other diseases. The researchers found that certain immune cells known as T cells within the intestine were converted from inflammatory to anti-inflammatory cells.

They believe that proteins secreted by the hookworms are responsible for their effects, and they plan to study these compounds further so that they can isolate the proteins and not need to infect people with the parasite. “We do recognize that a protein pill will have broader market appeal than a dose of worms.” Indeed.

As a testament to the efficacy of the treatment, all of the participants refused drugs that that would eliminate the hookworms at the end of the trial, even though they were told to resume a gluten-free diet.

I look forward to future developments of this study. I hope that they will also be applied to people with gluten sensitivity, which is a milder form of celiac disease. Until then, a strict gluten-free diet is the best—and only—treatment for celiac disease.

Another Must-Read: Wheat Belly Total Health by William Davis, MD

Filed in Diet, Gluten | Posted by Brenda Watson on 09/16/2014


Wheat Belly Total Health

September is proving to be an exciting month for new book releases, including the newest book by renowned cardiologist Dr. William Davis—just released today! It’s called Wheat Belly Total Health (The Ultimate Grain-Free Health and Weight Loss Life Plan), and I highly recommend adding it to your reading list.

Dr. Davis and I agree that a diet filled with grains and wheat is behind the epidemic of chronic health problems and obesity we see so often today. His first book, Wheat Belly, sparked a nationwide movement and has helped millions take back control of their health and their weight through the benefits of living a grain-free lifestyle.

Now, with Wheat Belly Total Health, Dr. Davis builds on his previous message, providing new information about the different types of grains we may encounter and why “no grain is a good grain” when it comes to optimal health. He talks about how to make the transition to a life without grains; how your body (including your digestive system) may react; and how to successfully balance your nutrition once you eliminate grains from your diet. This includes taking probiotics to help the body recover from “Post-Traumatic Grain Gut Syndrome,” as Dr. Davis calls it, and he names ReNew Life probiotic supplements among the “best probiotics” on the market because of their high potency and multibillion CFU range.

But I think what I found most amazing about Wheat Belly Total Health were the personal stories and photographs of people just like you who experienced complete health and weight loss transformations without the need for medication or surgery—and who now have more energy and feel better than they ever have before.

Whether you have already made the transition to grain-free living or you are ready to take the first step, this book has all the information you need. It explores the science behind how grains affect everything from weight gain and metabolism to sleep patterns, mood and cardiovascular health. It even includes a handful of new recipes (homemade yogurt and kefir made easy!), plus shopping tips and advice for keeping track of hidden grains as you embrace your new lifestyle.

Like I said: a must-read!

New Book Recommendation: The Grain Brain Cookbook, Released Today!

Filed in Alzheimer's, Gluten, Mental Health | Posted by Brenda Watson on 09/09/2014


grain-brainIf you loved reading Grain Brain by Dr. David Perlmutter as much as I did, you’re going to love what I have to say next. The Grain Brain Cookbook is now available—with over 150 recipes for everything from Eggs Benedict with Zucchini Pancakes to Chicken Breasts Stuffed with Swiss Chard and Goat Cheese. Yum!

But healthful and delicious recipes aside, the real message is one Dr. Perlmutter carries through from his previous book: the more we know about the damaging effects of wheat, grains, carbs and sugar on the human brain (and consequently the whole body) the closer we come to understanding the critical role of diet and nutrition in preserving and maintaining our well-being. It’s a message both he and I are working hard to spread.

Fatigue, brain fog, depression—all of these can be blamed on a body weighed down by carbs, sugar and unhealthy fats. And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. In the beginning of The Grain Brain Cookbook Dr. Perlmutter talks about the dangers of silent inflammation and its effects on the human brain, as well as the connection between blood sugar, dietary fats (they’re not all evil), grains and brain health. From there, you’ll learn how to choose and prepare foods that will truly benefit your whole body with the Grain Brain Diet.

Wouldn’t it be nice to finally put an end to your carb and sugar addiction? And to fill your body with foods that make you feel healthy from the inside out? Once you learn exactly what to keep and what to toss from your pantry (and why), you’ll be ready to start making all those yummy recipes.

Happy (and healthy) cooking!

Brain Fog Improves on Gluten-Free Diet in People with Celiac Disease

Filed in Brain, Celiac Disease, Gluten, Mental Health | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/18/2014


Celiac disease is a condition that involves damage to the small intestines as a result of an inflammatory response to gluten from the diet.

People with celiac disease commonly report that they experience brain fog, which can include difficulty concentrating, trouble paying attention, lapses in short-term memory, difficulty finding words, temporary loss in mental sharpness or creativity, and confusion or disorientation. These same patients usually report that the brain fog dissipates after following a gluten-free diet for a period of time.

Until recently, these reports of improved symptoms after following a gluten-free diet were confined to doctors’ offices and patients’ homes. It was all anecdotal. No studies had been done to confirm or deny the phenomenon. A recent study published in the journal Alimentary Pharmacology and Therapeutics, is confirming what these patients and doctors have known for so long. They found that recently-diagnosed celiac patients with brain fog improved their cognitive function after following a gluten-free diet for a year.

“The study outcomes highlight the importance for individuals with celiac disease of maintaining a gluten-free diet not just for physical well-being but also for mental well-being,” stated Greg Yelland, PhD, lead researcher.

Improvements in short-term memory, movement, and processing speed in these patients occurred along with a healing and recovery of their intestinal lining. Before the diet, the patients were functioning at the level of someone with severe jet lag, and by the end of the study their cognitive function was the equivalent of someone who had recovered from jet leg over a 24-hour period.

This study is important because brain fog may be a sign of underlying celiac disease in people who are undiagnosed. An astonishing 83 percent of people with celiac disease have not been diagnosed with the disease.

I know that brain fog is a common symptom in so many people. It’s not just celiac disease, but also gluten sensitivity that underlies symptoms of brain fog. So many people find that they feel better—mentally and physically—after following a gluten-free diet. If you experience brain fog, you may want to consider this option as well.

Gluten-Free Diet during Pregnancy May Reduce Risk of Type I Diabetes in Children

Filed in Children, Diabetes, Gluten, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/30/2014


Type I diabetes, once called juvenile diabetes because it usually shows up during childhood, is a condition in which the pancreas no longer produces enough insulin, a hormone that regulates blood sugar. Type I diabetes is also known as insulin-dependent diabetes because people with the condition need to take insulin injections on a daily basis to regulate their blood sugar levels.

In a new study published in the journal Diabetes, researchers show that, in an animal model, mothers who consume a gluten-free diet are less likely to have offspring that develop type I diabetes when compared to mothers who eat a standard diet. According to researchers from the University of Copenhagen, these findings may apply to humans.

“Preliminary tests show that a gluten-free diet in humans has a positive effect on children with newly diagnosed type I diabetes. We therefore hope that a gluten-free diet during pregnancy and lactation may be enough to protect high-risk children from developing diabetes later in life,” said Camilla Hansen, one of the researchers. “Early intervention makes a lot of sense because type I diabetes develops early in life,” noted Axel Kornerup, PhD, another researcher.

The study found that the gluten-free diet changed the intestinal bacteria of the mother as well as the offspring. It is known that gut bacteria play an important role on the development of the immune system, indicating that the change in bacteria may be responsible for the protective effect

While this study is preliminary, it offers hope that we might one day be able to prevent the development of this challenging disease by simply recommending a gluten-free diet to pregnant women. Studies in humans are needed, and the researchers hope to continue the work with a human clinical trial. I will keep you posted if I hear more on the topic.