• Gut Health
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    • Heart Health

      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.

  • Skin Health
    • Skin Health

      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.

  • Brain Health
    • Brain Health

      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 .

  • Diet & Health
    • Diet & Health

      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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Sleep Your Way to Happy and Thin

Filed in Adults, Chronic Disease, Metabolic Syndrome, Obesity, Sleep, Stress, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/11/2015


At this extremely busy time of year, it may seem like even more of a challenge to maintain your weight along with your good attitude. Could it be because you are not getting enough sleep?

Through the years I’ve blogged often on how important sleep is to your health. And it’s simply so important that I wanted to have a chat about it again.

I read an interesting article describing how metabolic syndrome, described as insulin resistance, a pro-inflammatory state, hypertension-elevated sympathetic tone, dyslipidemia, dysglycemia and obesity – is actually a survival advantage for animals in the wild during seasons of stress, like in the winter. Their physiological processes are tied to their biological clocks, which regulate all the major activities of the body like behavior, metabolism, reproduction and immunity. As days shorten and animals behave differently, they sleep more or less. As a response, their bodies create “metabolic syndrome” which helps them to survive. Here’s the news. Animals don’t suffer any pathology from the metabolic changes since they are not chronic, ongoing adaptations.

The biological clock pacemaker system for our own bodies is located primarily in the hypothalamus. Sleep disruptions whether too little sleep, even too much sleep or medical conditions like sleep apnea over time have been found to lead consistently to metabolic syndrome in humans. Sadly for us, due to chronic stress and sleep disruptions, our bodies respond as though winter survival is necessary all year long, every day! This may explain why, although we may try to lose weight through excellent dietary shifts, the pounds may stubbornly stay glued to our hips.

Sleep deprivation can also change your genes! In one study conducted in the UK, blood samples taken after just one week of getting fewer than six hours of sleep a night showed changes to more than 700 genes due to sleep deprivation alone. Eek! The genes affected seemed to be in the area of immune, stress and inflammatory responses. I don’t know about you, but I really want those particular types of genes to be in top form in my body!

An entertaining episode of Secret Eaters, a UK based TV show that examines weight issues in England, conducted a research project with two groups of people. One group was allowed to sleep soundly through the night. The other group was awakened a number of times to focus and complete a survey. The groups weren’t told the true reason for this study. The next day, the two groups were offered the same foods. The group whose sleep was disrupted actually consumed 35% more carbs and fats than the well-rested group. Wow!

If you’re confounded by weight that just won’t budge, please carefully review your sleeping habits. Turn off the television, drink hot tea, journal, pray, meditate, breathe. Here are some other great tips to help you get to sleep.

Allowing your body and mind to recognize that it can rest and restore itself will pay off in so many ways, and certainly give you a happier holiday season. Although it may be winter outside at this time of year, our bodies in our warm, safe houses don’t need to behave as though it’s “metabolic winter” in the wild. That good night sleep may keep those pounds at bay and put big smiles on your face too!

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.

Increase Your Magnesium – A Message Worth Repeating!

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Do Pets Need to Detox Just Like People?

Filed in Cleansing, Diabetes, Dogs - Pets, Heart Disease, Metabolic Syndrome, Non Alcoholic Fatty Liver Disease - NAFLD, Obesity | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/09/2015


In recent years we have seen a drastic increase in the number of people in this country who are overweight and obese. This has led to a scary increase in many chronic health conditions ranging from diabetes and metabolic syndrome to heart disease. We are also seeing a rise in NAFLD (nonalcoholic fatty liver disease) in humans. I’ve written many blogs on this topic. Nonalcoholic fatty liver disease is a term used to describe the accumulation of fat in the liver of people who drink little or no alcohol. People usually don’t have symptoms, or if they do, the symptoms are mild—most commonly, episodes of fatigue. But we now know that the increase in NAFLD is due in part to obesity. It is no secret that weight loss is an important factor in improving a fatty liver.

As a big proponent of supporting liver function in people by using detoxing programs, I have always suggested the use of herbs, amino acids, and nutraceuticals in a combination formula. I have seen this formula help countless people over the years as they work on improving their health and losing weight.

Veterinarians are also finding that, just like people, dogs and cats that carry extra weight place additional demands on their organs too, especially on their livers.

So the question is: how do we help our furry friends who are overweight? We can’t exactly offer our pets suggestions like “Push away your plate before you are full,” or “Stop opening the refrigerator after 7 PM for that extra snack!” I sometimes joke about our dogs with my husband Stan, “I’ll bet they wish they had thumbs so they could open the refrigerator.” You see, I am also trying to control the weight in my dogs at this time, yet they have learned so many ways to control me and devour more food! I often read articles that claim overweight pets habitually hang around during mealtimes and while food is being prepared. Well, where else would they be?

Hepatic lipidosis (commonly known as fatty liver) is one of the most common feline liver diseases in cats. But dogs can also suffer from fatty liver, which results in a decrease in liver function and leads to myriad other health conditions. Once again, we share the same problems with our health as our pets when it comes to both weight and liver disease.

Guess what? The answer to this problem is the same for both humans and pets: lose the extra pounds. When we—and our pets—lose weight, the liver then loses fat. And by detoxing the liver, it will naturally become healthier.

Many pet owners have been detoxing their own livers for years. We now know that liver detox is important for our beloved pets as well. A very important point to remember is to choose a gentle daily detox for our pets (just as we do for ourselves) that will not cause them to feel poorly as their livers detox. You’ll want to find a formula that includes milk thistle, turmeric, and MSM. These gentle ingredients support and assist in liver detoxification in animals just as they do in humans. Look for a product that includes the above ingredients. Make sure that it’s specifically formulated for pets.

Now to address the issue of helping our furry friends lose weight; the responsibility is ours. We must make sure to not overfeed them or give them too many treats. I have one important rule with my dogs: I never feed them from the table!

Admittedly, it’s not easy to refuse those pitiful eyes when they look up at me asking for a treat. But I know that their health depends on it.