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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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Feeling Sexy? It Could Be Microbes!

Filed in Adults, Human Microbiome, Inflammation, Mental Health, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/14/2017


Love microbes - brendawatson.com

Here’s a different twist on Valentine’s Day! Your attraction to your sexy mate may have less to do with the clothes he/she wears, the sweet nothings he/she whispers and the chocolates he/she buys for you – and much more to do with his/her particular microbes!

While flourishing science is replete with the fabulous abilities of microbes – everything from supporting our immune systems, balancing our digestion, and even affecting our moods, I have to say that I hadn’t considered adding “how sexy a person is” to the good bacteria’s list of accomplishments.

This information was reported last weekend in the New York Times and was offered by Susan Erdman, a microbiologist at M.I.T. She calls this microbial phenomenon the “glow of health”.

Years ago while working with mice in a study of probiotics isolated from human breast milk, she noticed that the male mice began growing very shiny and beautiful fur! Upon further testing, it was noted that their testosterone levels were elevated. They were preening and posturing noticeably. The house mouse transformed into Mick Jagger!

The female mice given this particular probiotic had an extremely fascinating response as well. Two important female substances increased. One was Interleukin 10, which decreases inflammation and helps sustain pregnancy. And the other substance, oxytocin, is chemically the hormonal place where love and cuddles combine.

Oxytocin has been called the love hormone due to the warm and close feelings that it stimulates – for both men and women. Not surprisingly, women produce it abundantly when breast feeding. It’s been observed to increase on occasion of a meaningful kiss. It even rises when close time is spent with dear friends. Important in both sexes in sexual relations, oxytocin infuses the warmth and closeness in the night! Incredible thought – microbes may be furnishing the stimulus that literally creates loving and nurturing behaviors.

Learn more interesting facts about oxytocin here~

Dr. Erdman submits that the possible role microbes play in love and procreation has a twofold effect. It not only results in our own species evolving, but also microbial communities are assured their continued existence too. Humans and microbes working together for the common good of all!

I like this synergistic vision of our future. Much research has been done on the negative parasites and disease causing microbes. However we now recognize that at least 80%, if not more of the residents of our microbiome, from our bellies to our skin, fall into the benevolent and helpful category. Dr. Erdman happened on some Valentine microbes!

So as you look tenderly at your love partner, sharing microbes in the glow of candles in a romantic embrace, it’s a nice thought that your bacterial communities are in your corner, approving and supporting your loving relationship. I wish you a very Happy Valentine’s Day!

Shed Pounds Slowly? Gut Bugs May Be Missing Link

Filed in Adults, Diet, Digestive Health, Human Microbiome, Obesity, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Skinny Gut Diet, Uncategorized, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/08/2017


Shed Pounds - brendawatson.com

Attempting to shed pounds but feeling a bit discouraged? I read some fascinating research that I hope will motivate you. Please give the healthy choices you’re making a bit more time!

The study itself was published last week in the journal Cell Host & Microbe and was conducted by a team led by Jeffrey Gordon, Director of the Center for Genome Sciences and Systems Biology at Washington University. I’ve been following Gordon’s lab for some time. In fact, I shared their previous research in my book, Skinny Gut Diet. If you have a copy you know that Gordon suggested that a person’s potential for obesity can partially be predicted. He measures the ratio of Bacteriodetes (I called those the Be Skinny bacteria) to Firmicutes (Fat bacteria) in their gut. Gordon’s initial research was done with mice. We decided to run our own lay research study with our human Skinny Gut group (you can meet them all in the book) and we found Gordon’s observations to hold true. Fascinating.

Understand what microbes are in your gut!

Gordon’s more recent lab results suggest that despite your best efforts, your gut may not be on your side with regards to losing those extra pounds quickly! If you’re hosting an overgrowth of unhealthy bacteria in your gut, your microbiome (the community of microbes in your gut) may actually require extra time to reset back to health if you are making a switch from a Standard American Diet (SAD), high in refined carbohydrates and saturated fats to more healthy, calorie restricted, plant-based fare.

Initially in the study, fecal samples from humans following the SAD diet were compared to those following a healthy diet. I’ve blogged often on bacterial diversity, and how increased diversity of bacteria in the gut is often an indicator of vibrant health. Once again this has been found to be the case. The people on the SAD diet demonstrated a much less diverse microbiome than those on the healthy diet, suggesting generally that the SAD group would also be more prone to immune issues, digestive issues and silent inflammation.

Read more about bacterial diversity

Next the researchers implanted germ-free mice with the two sets of human donor’s gut microbes. Once implanted, both groups of mice were then fed the same healthy plant based diet.

Listen up here – this is the very interesting part. Although all of the mice responded overall to the diets, the group implanted with the SAD diet microbes responded more slowly than the mice that had only received more healthy microbes. Apparently there seems to be a transitional time needed for the mice with the SAD guts to shed pounds and regain health as efficiently as the more healthy ones.

A fascinating additional quirk in this study was when the SAD mice were placed into the same cages with the healthy mice, their gut health improved more quickly than the SAD mice who were living only with other SAD mice. How wild is that? Communal living anyone?

The practical goal of this research was to gather information that would pinpoint specific bacterial strains. Gordon’s team was seeking microbes that might be used to diversify and balance the gut. Normalized weight and increased health are most certainly the desired outcomes. No doubt, this research will continue well into the future. Hopefully one day research like this will result in a specific probiotic formula designed to combat obesity. But that’s still in the future.

Probiotics help you shed pounds.

So lets get back to you! If you recently switched from a SAD diet to more healthy choices and your weight loss isn’t diminishing as quickly as you might hope – hang in there. Good news – prior research shows clearly that your good microbe populations actually shift quickly. It just may take some time until you notice those changes in your skinny jeans.

Check out 4 excellent things you can do to fuel your weight loss

Shed pounds TODAY!

Getting the Poop Scoop on Autism

Filed in Autism, C. difficile, Children, fecal transplant, General, Human Microbiome, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/25/2017


Autism Hope

A report in Science Daily entitled “Autism symptoms improve after fecal transplant, small study finds” caught my eye immediately.

You see, in one of the episodes of my recent PBS special, Natural Health Breakthroughs with Brenda Watson, I interviewed a woman who had undergone fecal transplant with great success. She had been extremely ill with recurrent C. difficile bacterial infections when this innovative treatment was suggested. She felt she regained her life through this process. Now I see it’s being used to help young people with autism!

For those of you unaware of this procedure, fecal transplantation is done by processing donor feces and screening it for disease-causing viruses and bacteria. Then the “healthy” microbes are inserted into the participant’s digestive tract to rebalance the gut, known as the microbiome.

The boys and girls diagnosed with autism, ages 7 to 16, initially were administered a two week course of antibiotics to essentially wipe out existing bacteria, with hopes to start with a “clean slate”. Then doctors then gave the participants a high-dose fecal transplant of healthy donors’ bacteria and viruses in liquid form. Over the 7-8 weeks that followed the youngsters drank smoothies blended with a lower dose powder.

Although it was a small study (18 children), the results appeared to be extremely positive. Diarrhea and stomach pains decreased markedly – up to 82%, and parents also reported that behavioral autism symptoms significantly changed for the better. The study followed the participants for 8 weeks after the implantation, and positive results appeared to continue.

Researchers were also able to use laboratory testing to compare the autistic children’s bacterial diversity with their healthy peers following treatment. The participants’ bacterial diversity had improved to the point that the test results were indistinguishable from healthy children. This is such an important finding since previous research has shown that children with autism typically have less diversity of bacteria in their guts, and are also missing some important bacteria that are regarded as markers of a healthy microbiome, as I discussed in this blog.

The relationship between mental health and gut microbes has been researched often as well. So it seems logical that attempts to restore balance to the autistic child’s gut, as so many parents have worked to do over the years with great results through diet and probiotics, would and does result in better health.

It’s exciting to see that research may offer a more direct tool in the future with the potential to improve so many lives. As larger studies are done, it is hoped that researchers will uncover the precise bacteria and viruses that impact very specific diseases. What an interesting future we have to look forward to!

Probiotics – Good Summer Bugs!

Filed in Adults, Breastfeeding, Fermentation, Human Microbiome, Infancy, Obesity, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Skinny Gut Diet, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/10/2016


probiotics - brendawatson.com

Although obesity remains one of our most pressing health problems today I’m hoping that for many Americans as the summer days unfold it may be an easier time to let go of some extra weight. In the heat, heavy foods just don’t seem quite as inviting as they were when it was cold outside. Moving around in humidity is much easier when you’re feeling lighter, and salads and light fruits are much more appealing in steamier weather. Fermented foods, which provide good bacteria known as probiotics become an excellent condiment with most any meal. Have you tried fermented salsa lately?

As always, I’m on the lookout for any new information regarding those great bacteria called probiotics. In addition to being present in fermented foods, the probiotics that we carry around inside of us also seem to impact our tendencies to accumulate weight. I found something I’d like to share with you in this article.

In my recent book Skinny Gut Diet we explored the different bacteria that have been researched thus far that play a part in whether we tend to be more fat or skinny. We actually tested our participants’ microbial ratios throughout our study and noticed that as the Bacteriodetes increased, their weight also decreased! That had also been the findings of many research studies and is mentioned in the article above. Fascinating!

Additionally, when I interviewed Rob Knight formerly of the University of Colorado and currently with the University of California, San Diego, it was clear in his studies of the Human Microbiome Project that the greater diversity of bacteria that a person’s gut environment portrayed, the more likely that person was to be healthy and balanced over all. I look forward to sharing that segment along with many more fascinating interviews with you this fall. The upcoming show is called Natural Health Breakthroughs with Brenda Watson. Keep an eye out on your local Public Television Station.

These type of studies are still in their infancy, and I’m certain much more will be learned about the actual benefits or health challenges that are directly associated with specific microbial species. Whether the research reflects obesity issues, cardiac challenges, or mental disorders, it will certainly be exciting!

What I loved reading most was research that is currently going on in Puerto Rico under the guidance of Maria Gloria Domingues-Bello of N.Y.U. It was found in previous studies that when newborns travel down the birth canal, they ingest bacteria that help them digest milk. There is a lot of evidence that babies raised on formula as opposed to breast milk are much more likely to suffer from allergies, skin conditions and even digestive issues and obesity. Babies raised on formula simply do not receive critical substances in breast milk that promote good bacteria and retard the growth of bad bacteria.

Dominguez-Bello’s new clinical trial will monitor the weight and overall health of babies born by cesarean section. These babies will be swabbed immediately with a cloth laced with the mother’s vaginal fluids and resident microbes as they come into the world. How interesting it will be to see the impact that Mom’s natural bacteria have as these children grow and develop.

I love these studies on newborns, as they are most certainly our future. However, no less important to our world is helping you to understand healthy choices that will nourish the good bacteria in your own life! And it’s easy, especially in this season to enjoy large amounts of fresh veggies and fruits along with fantastic fermented goodies. Here’s my bonus gift for you today – one of my favorite recipes! And easy to make. Happy summer probiotics to you!

Red Wine for Heart Health?

Filed in Adults, Digestive Health, Heart Disease, Human Microbiome, Obesity, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/15/2016


Red Wine for your Heart - brendawatson.com

Reducing your risk of heart disease may have just become a bit more fun. A new study done by researchers from China explores the actual mechanism of how a compound found in red wine, resveratrol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.

Resveratrol, found in peanuts, grapes, red wine and some berries has been touted as a health promoting substance, which supports cardiovascular health and infers anti-atherosclerotic benefits. However understanding exactly how that takes place has been murky and debated.

This study has uncovered evidence that the protective effect of resveratrol actually closely involves the gut microbiome – the extensive community of microbes that inhabit the digestive system of each of us.

Specifically, it seems resveratrol is able to inhibit gut bacteria from creating a compound called TMA. TMA is required to produce TMAO – an inflammatory compound well known to contribute to the development of atherosclerosis. The concept is that the less TMA produced = less atherosclerosis in your blood vessels = better cardiovascular health! Great news for red wine drinkers!

In my book Skinny Gut Diet we actually conducted our own small research project on gut bacteria right here in sunny Florida. We observed that when people in our group increased their ratio of Bacteroidetes (we called these the “Be Skinny” bacteria) to Firmicutes (our nickname was “Fat” bacteria) by shifting their eating habits and using digestive supplementation, weight reduction was the happy result. We used comparative Comprehensive Stool Analysis testing to measure the shifting bacterial ratios over time.

In the recent study I mentioned above, the principal investigator Dr. Man-tian Mi said, and I quote “we found that resveratrol can remodel the gut microbiota including increasing the Bacteroidetes-to-Firmicutes ratios, significantly inhibiting the growth of Prevotella, and increasing the abundance of Bacterioides, Lactobacillus, Bifidobacterium, and Akkermansia in mice.”

Stay with me here, please. Essentially Dr. Mi is telling us that resveratrol helps to rebalance the ‘good guy-to-bad guy ratio’ of different bacterial species in the gut. The Chinese study was focused on the ratio of different species of bacteria as they related to cardiovascular disease specifically.

In Skinny Gut Diet, we were looking more at bacterial ratios and their impact on obesity and weight loss. Certainly obesity and heart disease sadly go hand in hand. Any food or substance that will lessen obesity is sure to improve cardiovascular health. Bottom line – substances like resveratrol, healthful diet and probiotics that positively impact your microbiome have the greatest potential to protect your health.

I never tire of reading innovative studies from around the world that deepen my understanding of how those helpful probiotics we have in our bellies function. From China to Florida, our research agrees. Heal your gut, heal your body – and in this case, your heart.

Variety of Veggies = Healthy Microbiome

Filed in Adults, Diabetes, Diet, Digestive Health, Fermentation, Human Microbiome, Inflammatory Bowel Disease, Obesity, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/01/2016


Variety of Veggies for Your Gut - brendawatson.com

Over the last decade, a tremendous amount of research has been directed toward examining the family of bacteria and microbes we host in our digestive system known as the microbiome. From the multi-pronged Human Microbiome Project funded by the National Institutes of Health to the American Gut Project, the largest crowd sourced citizen science projects to date, valuable information is being gathered daily. You can even join the American Gut Project and learn what’s in your own gut. And a true friends of the microbiome are a variety of veggies.

Recently I came across an article in Science Daily discussing how our farming practices over the last 50 years have impacted our microbiome.

The prevalent research shows that the more diverse the bacteria in your gut are, the healthier you tend to be. And the more variety of veggies you eat, the higher your gut microbiome diversity, also known as microbiotic richness. We’re right back to “eat your vegetables!” aren’t we? Grandma knew what she was talking about!

Sadly, our farming practices have been working against our microbiome by decreasing the numbers of different crops that are regularly produced. And then many of us simply buy for our families what is in the grocery store that looks the nicest up front. We may buy the same vegetables year after year, believing we’re eating very well.

Today I’d ask you to consider the fact that many of our chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes, obesity and inflammatory bowel disease are directly associated with reduced microbiotic richness and therefore lack of diversity in the foods we choose to eat. Think about choosing a variety of veggies for your family’s immune system and digestion!

Believe me, I understand how it is. In our fast paced world we tend to grab our food as we go, and often find ourselves set in habitual patterns. We also may be following a particular dietary regimen and attempt to remain within strict guidelines. The good news is most dietary programs enthusiastically encourage eating as many veggies as you choose!

It does takes a plan and a bit of preparation time to gather good foods together in our crazy world. And it’s so worth it in the end. When you care for your microbiome, you’re supporting the very core of your health and happiness.

So today I’d like to encourage you to take a quick review of your vegetable eating habits. Think of something you haven’t eaten in a while like maybe parsley? Arugula? Red cabbage? Watercress? Sprouts? Edible flowers? Check out your local farmer’s market or maybe an oriental market for new ideas.

In Skinny Gut Diet I suggest having at least one fermented food daily. Fermented veggies of all types are extremely delicious, simple to make and come jam-packed with their own communities of gut-loving probiotics. Doesn’t get any better than that! A win for both your microbiome and your palate. Experiment!

What’s the most unusual veggie you’ve eaten lately? I’d like to hear from you!

Thinking With Your Gut

Filed in Adults, Brain, Digestive Health, Fermentation, Human Microbiome, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 03/25/2016


If you’ve been feeling emotionally taxed (pun intended – yes, this is the season) and/or mentally foggy, I have a suggestion for you. Increase your intake of fermented foods containing those good bacteria, probiotics.

Recently I interviewed Dr. Emeran Mayer for my upcoming television special, Natural Breakthroughs with Brenda Watson. Dr. Mayer is professor of medicine at UCLA, a specialist in gastroenterology and is the director of the UCLA Centre for the Neurobiology of Stress. He has written several books that explore the brain-gut connection and in fact has a new book coming out in July that combines cutting-edge neuroscience with the latest discoveries on the human microbiome.

I wanted to share the results of a study that Dr. Mayer and his team conducted with 36 healthy women that may take the edge off your day. He divided the women into 3 groups that committed to drinking a specific beverage twice a day for four weeks. One group drank milk fermented with probiotics, the second drank milk without probiotics, and the third drank a non-milk product.

The women agreed to undergo functional magnetic resonance imaging of their brains before and after the four-week period. The test results of the group drinking the fermented milk positively affected the activity of brain regions that control the central processing of emotion, sensation and even task completion, compared to the other two groups. That’s certainly a direct gut-brain connection. And a calming and productive one at that!

Eating fermented foods on a daily basis is a core concept in the Skinny Gut Diet. Fermentation educator Donna Schwenk joined us during the filming of that public television special, and shared many simple recipes. Milk can easily be fermented to create kefir, a food that naturally offers a rich diversity of probiotic species. Kefir can be enjoyed as a beverage, or included as an ingredient of a wide array of other delicious treats, from ice cream to salad dressing to smoothies.

Fermented vegetables are my personal favorite. Although cabbage is certainly a versatile crowd favorite, I really enjoy culturing different veggies like asparagus, broccoli and carrots. Through the ages, fermenting has been used around the globe to extend the life of foods, and without direct awareness at the time, people’s lives were improved too. There are even some great tools that make fermenting easier than you can imagine, and great fun too!

Although some people in our germ-phobic society may be worried about the safety of fermenting, when we ferment produce whether we use salt or a starter culture, the probiotic lactobacilli predominate, crowding out potential bad guys in the process. It’s interesting to note that improperly washed raw veggies out of our gardens or from the store can actually contain harmful microbes and can potentially create more issues than their fermented counterparts.

Adding more probiotics in any form into your daily routine is a sure winner – for a healthier gut and a sharper brain!

Bacteria or Virus? Express Yourself!

Filed in Adults, Antibiotic resistance, Antibiotics, Children, Cold and Flu, Common Cold, Digestive Health, Human Microbiome, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Respiratory issues | Posted by Brenda Watson on 03/11/2016


As this year’s flu and cold season wanes down a bit, I found it heartening to read that science is focusing on a way to distinguish between bacterial and viral infections to help limit over-prescribing of antibiotics. Over the last decades doctors have been far too willing to offer a sad and miserable patient antibiotics, resulting in killing off many of the body’s good bacteria and creating serious bacterial imbalance in their gut!

Antibiotic overuse has also created a global issue termed “antibiotic resistance” where the bad bugs appear to get stronger the more often they are exposed to antibiotics. Research shows these “superbugs” become invulnerable to our current antibiotics creating the potential for more virulent diseases – and that’s another story.

This article from the Wall Street Journal states that nearly 75% of acute respiratory illnesses are viral in nature – and there’s currently no prescribed treatment for a viral infection. Dr Ganiats, a family physician and professor at the University of Miami states “Its often hard to get a person who doesn’t need an antibiotic to accept that.” He believes testing that differentiates bacteria from virus would be very helpful.

The Duke University research is doing just that. It’s designing a blood test to determine whether a respiratory infection is viral or bacterial in nature. At this point, it’s only a research tool, and has an 8-10 hour turn-around time. The hope is to develop a 1-hour blood test that could be used in the doctor’s office. However that test is still 2-3 years away from arriving on the market.

The research focuses on how our body’s genes respond differently to bacteria or viruses. This response called gene expression will turn genes on or off depending on the type of infection present. The study follows how the genes express in the absence of infection as well. Testing genes is believed to offer more dependable results than other types of tests currently available.

In a study using a cohort of 273 that was published last month in the journal Science Translational Medicine, this test was found to be 87% accurate. It was able to differentiate whether the patient had a viral or bacterial infection, or actually was ill due to something other than an infection.

Interesting point to note, sinus issues very commonly indicate an underlying yeast/Candida infection.

Honestly, at the first onset of respiratory symptoms, I would be inclined to max out on probiotics, Vitamin C, along with immune stimulating herbs and ride it out as long as possible and appropriate.

And I realize not everyone has the health convictions I do. No matter what direction your personal choice for healing may lead you, it’s always helpful to understand the underlying issues so we can address them effectively. I’m looking forward to more of this type of testing to be available for all of us.

Please do me a favor – think twice, maybe three times before you decide on an antibiotic. Your gut and also the rest of the world will appreciate your consideration.

Probiotics Shine in the Fight Against Type 1 Diabetes

Filed in Autoimmune Disease, Children, Diabetes, Human Microbiome, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/20/2015


The University of South Florida here in Tampa is known for its world-class research and treatment of diabetes. Over the last 15 years grant monies have supported the Diabetes Center’s efforts to examine both prevention and environmental causes of this dramatically rising health risk.

An interesting article in The Tampa Tribune just the other day reported exciting findings of a new study spearheaded by USF researcher Ulla Uusitalo. The results stated that infants with a high genetic risk of developing Type 1 diabetes who were given probiotic-rich formula or supplements in their first 27 days of life were 60% less likely to develop islet autoimmunity, a precursor to the disease. Wow!

Uusitalo, an associate professor of pediatrics at USF, worked with an international team of coauthors and researchers studying the diets and blood samples of 7,473 high-risk children, ages 4 to 10. The study was conducted between 2004 and 2010 and the children studied lived in such diverse places as Colorado, Georgia, Florida, Washington as well as Germany, Finland and Sweden. The study is known as “The Environmental Determinants of Diabetes in the Young” and the future intention is to follow the children until they’re 15 years of age.

Although Uusitalo is very clear that the study doesn’t prove that probiotics can prevent the disease, it is nonetheless heartening that research is now looking at what might help prevent a disease from manifesting, as opposed to focusing on what might cause the disease symptoms to develop. What an important distinction!

The article, published this month in the medical journal JAMA Pediatrics, is one of the first of its kind, and I’m so happy to see that the star of the show is probiotics! Those good bacteria deserve lots of applause!

As Thanksgiving week approaches, I’m very grateful to reflect on the positive direction that awareness of our microbiome (that garden in our gut) seems to be moving. I’m also thankful each time I see another article that educates on the harmful effects of sugars and processed foods and offers healthy alternatives.

I can’t think of anything that has a more profound effect on overall health than feelings of gratitude. So at this happy time, I wish you many grateful moments, and lots of probiotics too.

 

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!