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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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    • 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.

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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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Glowing Skin From Your Gut

Filed in Diet, Fermentation, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Skin, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/22/2016


Biking, hiking, picnics, swimming – all these activities can place stress on your skin. While a small amount of sun helps support your vitamin D levels, too much can provide more than just a healthy glow.

While we all have sunscreen and hats, the truth of the matter is that a really healthy skin glow actually comes from inside out.

I thought I would take a few minutes to offer some easy and very effective tips on maintaining that glow we hope will last on our skin for decades.

Essential fatty acids (EFAs) are just that – essential for skin health, specifically omega-3s and omega-6s. Your body can’t produce those EFAs, so they need to be included in our daily nutritional choices. Omega-6s are easily obtained from our diets. In fact, there is more concern about too many omega-6s than too few, so lets discuss how to up those critical omega-3 levels.

Did you know that walnuts, flaxseeds, leafy green veggies are high in omega-3s. However, in order for your body to convert these foods to the form that your skin requires it takes energy, enzymes and a properly functioning digestive system. That’s why if you’re serious about making sure your omega-3 levels are up to par, you’ll probably choose high quality fish or omega-3 fish oil supplements.

Increasing antioxidants is a good idea as well, as they are depleted by not only sun exposure, but also by stress and environmental chemicals. Antioxidants block cellular destruction and slow the aging process.

Great news – your diet can easily and deliciously be rich in antioxidants! Goji berries, wild blue berries, cranberries, blackberries and dark chocolate are excellent sources, (keeping in mind your teaspoons of sugar if you’re following the Skinny Gut Diet). I’m happy to tell you that spinach and kale are also rich with antioxidants along with artichokes, cilantro and pecans.

Green tea has long been appreciated for its antioxidant properties as well. And of course, supplements can fill the gap if you’re on the go and don’t feel you’re getting enough dietary support.

Fermented foods and probiotics support digestive balance. Skin health ultimately comes back to the gut. Your skin is a reflection of your digestive system. If your intestinal system is inflamed, your skin, which is your largest organ of elimination, may be the avenue your body uses to deal with those toxins! Fermented foods and probiotics maintain digestive balance while providing additional immune support and myriad other critical functions for vibrant health.

And last but not least (for right now anyway) – your vitamin D levels could surely benefit from some supplementation too. We are almost universally as a nation vitamin D deficient. Make a point to have those levels checked, as vitamin D is critical to skin health and overall well being.

I love the water, I love the Florida sun, and I also really love my skin. I hope these tips will be helpful for you as you enjoy the rest of the summer along with me.

 

Research That Matters

Filed in Diabetes, Immune System, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/29/2016


Research thumbs-up - brendawatson.com

Research is near and dear to my heart. Both when I design supplement formulations as well as when I educate through books and talks, I pride myself on making sure that the information I share is as grounded in scientific study as it can be.

I was delighted to read a recent article in the Wall Street Journal titled “Carrying the Torch for Basic Research” that quotes Elizabeth Blackburn, winner of the Nobel Prize in medicine in 2009 and president of the Salk Institute for Biological Studies. Check it out right here. The post shared that Dr. Blackburn is helping to identify which research questions are on the horizon for scientific review.

In my mind, what she’s doing is in the “most critical decisions for the future” category. Many years ago, medical research was done to learn how the world and our bodies functioned, and researchers looked for any way to improve wellbeing. Funding was scarce, and research was expensive. Colleges would receive endowments from philanthropic individuals and organizations. Competition for the money was fierce. Seeming failures, which always precede success, were expensive and depressing.

Then came the era of the pharmaceutical companies. Research monies began to flow. Although on the surface, clinical studies were funded to learn about healing one condition or another, far too soon the financial endowments became directed toward very specific outcomes, engineered to develop yet one more drug that could produce a financial fortune, and perhaps a modicum of relief to a percentage of patients. Rarely were future health repercussions considered seriously.

In the natural products industry, it’s been much more difficult to find research dollars. We have always been interested in looking at the core biological processes that become imbalanced, creating a condition of un-wellness. We are then committed to identifying natural ways to redirect those systems toward health.

Here’s the bummer. There is no money to be made from researching natural ginger, or maybe milk thistle or licorice. Not unless the substance is molecularly changed in some way so a patent can be given to a company for a “new” product. Those slight changes offer yet more foreign substances to our bodies – yet another unique “can of worms”!

Yet modern medicine demands that we in the supplement industry offer proof of the efficacy of our offerings. They are smacking their lips to get their hands on every natural substance to find a way to make it “better”. Fortunately, the National Institutes of Science have funded the Human Microbiome Project and we are now understanding so much more about those amazing probiotics that live within. Additionally, the positive effects of omega-3s have proven health benefits that are irrefutable.

Dr. Blackburn thankfully states “If you want to make a big impact, you have to go all the way through to understanding disease processes, though the impulse is to treat.” She continues to offer an example of looking at a form of diabetes to observe how the immune cells interact with the body in that condition. Her focus throughout the article seemed to be immune system directed, which I believe is where the answers are nestled. And that brings us, as always, back to the gut.

I look forward to Dr. Blackburn’s new projects highlighting neuroscience, genomics, and immunity. Her questions are process oriented, not focused on creating a new drug. This may not be the answer to our country’s twisted medical research, but it’s definitely a step in the right direction.

It’s heartening to know that such a brilliant thinker like Dr. Blackburn is at the prow of at least one major research facility.

For the time being let’s all continue to enjoy natural, unprocessed foods along with supportive natural supplements like probiotics and omegas. Let’s exercise our bodies with movements that bring us joy along with good circulation. We can live our research, exhibiting the health benefits that humans have enjoyed throughout the ages and around the world – and we’ll enjoy watching the clinical studies catch up with what we already know!

Happy Valentine’s Day?

Filed in Exercise, General, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Probiotics & Gut Flora, The Skinny Gut Diet | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/12/2016


Valentine’s Day this Sunday evokes a lot of expectations, and in most cases the desired outcome is happiness. However, happiness is really an inside job, as the Dalai Lama XIV expresses so well “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.”

Did you know that research shows that about half your happiness is the result of a genetic set point? How do I know that? Because I spent years in therapy trying to figure out why I was not happy. As I dug into my past I realized that when I was in my mother’s womb she was in grief from the loss of her son (my brother). Sometimes there are very real reasons for your unhappiness that you really have had no control over.

But don’t despair! It’s also been found if your focus becomes happiness, you can attain your goal, no matter. It seems around 40% of ‘daily happy’ is the result of positive day-to-day behaviors and activities. So I thought it might be a perfect time to share some quick tips on “getting happy”.

One of the most powerful tools I can suggest is “choose to be happy!” Right now, simply declare “I’m going to be happy today!” When thoughts cross your mind that don’t support that declaration say to those thoughts “I’m not interested in you! Today I’m happy!” It may take a lot of repetition initially, less as time goes on, and the reward is well worth it.

Many times we think we’re earning happiness as we wait for a big event (like Valentine’s Day) or we finally get ‘THE job’, or we get to go skiing. However, that’s really only a tiny piece of the happiness available to us, and if we depend on those types of events to be happy, let-down is inevitable and intense. My second tip is to practice gratitude – for everything, even little things – on a daily basis. Often at the end of the day I’ll make a list of at least 10 things I’m grateful for that day. It’s not a bad idea to begin your day the same way.

In my experience, with regard to mood, there is no substitute for a healthy eating plan. In Skinny Gut Diet we have 3 simple rules. We could have named them “Rules for Happiness” – 1) Eat more good fats, like olive oil and avocado; 2) Eat living foods every day – greens and fermented goodies; 3) Eat protein at every meal and snack to reduce carb cravings. As these suggestions become your habits, you’ll notice how happy you feel as your blood sugar balances and inflammation decreases in your body.

I’ve always found movement to be essential to uplift my spirits. There’s simply nothing like the feel-good brain chemicals that are released whenever we decide to move our bodies and get the blood really flowing. I’m not talking marathons here – walking, biking, even housework (with the music on perhaps) can offer both brain and body wellness. And if you can find a spot in nature for your exercise, better still.

And here’s a short list of supplements that research has shown to boost mood and health – vitamin D, selenium, B vitamins, omega-3 oils, St. John’s Wort, SAMe, and my personal favorite, probiotics. I’m so grateful these natural substances are being applauded for their mood sustaining benefits.

Of course, happiness is a personal affair. Please be in touch and let me know what brings you happiness. And please enjoy Sunday, in your own unique Valentine way.

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.

 

 

Is Your Best Friend Constipated?

Filed in Constipation, Diet, Digestive Health, Dogs - Pets, Exercise, Heart Disease, Joints, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Probiotics & Gut Flora | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/24/2015


Constipation may not be a topic you’d choose for daily conversation, but it’s really nothing to be embarrassed about. We’ve all experienced it at one time or another – and we realize how debilitating it can become. Although in our society, the medical professionals still say that 3 bowel movements weekly is “normal” – let me tell you, you don’t want to be “normal”. A healthy human being should eliminate daily. And it’s the same for our faithful canine companions.

Dogs also suffer from constipation. If your dog is showing signs of having trouble eliminating, take him to the vet to make sure there is not an underlying condition. If there’s not a physical problem, then it’s up to us, and what we provide as owners, to help our dogs eliminate better.

Dogs show signs of being constipated by straining to defecate – with small volume expelled. You may notice hard bowel movements. As I mentioned, dogs need to eliminate everyday to be healthy. They may also look bloated and/or show signs of pain when attempting to defecate. Lack of appetite or even depression could be a sign of toxic buildup or discomfort due to constipation. Be sure to notice any differences in color or texture.

Well, what exactly can we do at home to help our dogs? Making sure they eat a good diet with moist food – not just dry food – is a must. Supply your pet with plenty of clean water and exercise.

Certain supplements have also been shown to help. Just like people, dogs need the good bacteria from probiotics to balance their guts and help with regularity. Choose a supplement that is potent enough to make a difference – at least 20 billion cultures per serving (whether in pill or powder) and containing 10 different strains of lactobacillus and bifido bacteria. Dogs have many of the same strains of good bacteria in their gut as their owners so providing them with a high culture count and multi strain supplement is as important for them as it is for us.

Here’s another important tip that many may not know – Omega 3s, which vets suggest for many other problems in dogs like kidney, heart and joint diseases, is also very effective in relieving constipation. A high dose omega blend of EPA and DHA totaling about 750mg of total omega3 is best.

Chances are good that you regularly clean up as your dog eliminates. That poop helps you to notice any changes that may be occurring in your pet’s health. Our dogs are so willing to give us unconditional love – and we enjoy it thoroughly! However they depend on us totally for their digestive needs. Let’s make sure they have the same opportunities for vital health that we do!

 

Omega-3 Supplements Reduce Cigarette Cravings

Filed in Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Smoking | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/14/2015


Cigarette smoking causes almost half a million deaths each year in the United States alone. One in every five deaths in this country are attributed to smoking. Smokers are more likely to develop heart disease, stroke, and lung cancer than are nonsmokers. And smoking is responsible for one-third of cancer deaths in the United States. With all these scary statistics, it’s a wonder so many people still smoke. But the truth is smoking is highly addictive. It is a physical and mental addiction that takes hold and, for many, feels almost impossible to shake.

In a recent study published in the Journal of Psychopharmacology, researchers discovered that omega-3 supplementation helps reduce craving for cigarettes and also reduces the number of cigarettes smoked per day. The study involved 48 smokers aged 18–45 who smoked at least ten cigarettes daily for an average of eleven years. They were divided into two groups: one group received an omega-3 supplement containing 2710 mg EPA and 2040 mg DHA daily for one month, and the other group received a placebo.

“The substances and medications used currently to help people reduce and quit smoking are not very effective and cause adverse effects that are not easy to cope with,” noted Sharon Rabinovitz Shenkar, PhD. “The findings of this study indicated that omega-3, an inexpensive and easily available dietary supplement with almost no side effects, reduces smoking significantly.”

After thirty days, the smokers taking the omega-3 supplementation were smoking two less cigarettes per day without having been asked to change their smoking habits at all. They also had a decrease in nicotine cravings. Thirty days after the supplementation had been discontinued cigarette cravings increased slightly but were still lower than the initial amount before supplementation, suggesting that omega-3s exert an effect long after they are stopped.

Fish Intake Linked to Better Antidepressant Response

Filed in Depression, Diet, Omega-3 & Fish Oil | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/02/2015


The mental health benefits of high fish intake are well known, particularly when it comes to fatty fish high in the omega-3s EPA and DHA. For this reason, some researchers have investigated the effects of fish and fish oil intake on mental health conditions, including depression. The main medication to treat depression—selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)—does not work in about half of the people taking them. Researchers decided to investigate whether fish intake played a role in the response rate to SSRIs in patients with depression.

In a study presented at the European College of Neuropsychopharmacology congress in Berlin, researchers found that, indeed, those people who ate the most fish responded best to the SSRIs. They compared 70 patients with depression to 51 healthy controls. They measured their fatty acid and cortisol (stress hormone) levels. They found that those who ate fatty fish at least once a week had a 75 percent chance of responding to antidepressants compared to 23 percent chance in those who never ate fatty fish.

“These findings suggest that measures of fatty acid metabolism, and their association with stress hormone regulation, might be of use in the clinic as an early indicator of future antidepressant response,” noted Roel Mocking, lead researcher. “Moreover, fatty acid metabolism could be influenced by eating fish, which may be a way to improve antidepressant response rates.”

The researchers are also investigating the association between fish intake and drug response in other mental health conditions, such as post-traumatic stress disorder and schizophrenia. Larger scale studies are needed to confirm the association and determine whether the link is causal. I look forward to hearing more about this research in the future. In the meantime, increase your intake of fatty fish low in mercury, such as salmon, sardines, and herring. Or, take a purified fish oil supplement. There are so many healthy reasons to increase your omega-3 intake.

2 Reasons to Love Your Omega-3s this Holiday Season

Filed in Brain, Depression, Omega-3 & Fish Oil | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/19/2014


The holidays can take a toll on your body—both physically and mentally. Whether you’re entertaining at home or traveling to see friends and family, remember that your health is the most precious gift of all. Here are two good reasons to take your Omega-3s this season!

  1. Seasonal Depression? Omega-3s to the Rescue

Seasonal depression, or seasonal affective disorder (SAD), affects roughly 500,000 Americans every year, and according to the Mayo Clinic three out of every four SAD sufferers are women. Symptoms can range from mild to severe and may include sadness, anxiety, fatigue, irritability and weight gain. However, a recent review of clinical studies points to omega-3 fatty acids from fish oil as a possible way to alleviate those symptoms and help SAD sufferers endure the long winter months.

Looking at the results of several studies, including one conducted by Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston and one from the New York State Psychiatric Institute, researchers concluded that the beneficial omega-3 fats found in fish oil—specifically EPA and DHA—helped ease depressive symptoms and improve mood. Vitamin D supplementation is also important, said researchers, since people suffering from depression and mental health disorders are often deficient in vitamin D.

  1. Go Easy on the Alcohol, But Just in Case…

Alcohol in excess is never good for your body, but the holidays have a way of thwarting our healthy habits. On the bright side, results of a new study from the Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine reveal how fish-derived omega-3 DHA may help protect against alcohol-related brain damage because of its natural antiinflammatory properties. In a study involving rats, results showed 90% less inflammation and cell death in brain cells exposed to alcohol and omega-3 DHA when compared to those exposed to alcohol alone.

EWG’s Consumer Guide to Seafood

Filed in Environmental Toxins, Omega-3 & Fish Oil | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/01/2014


I often talk about the importance of eating fish high in omega-3. And I also recommend that fish high in mercury be avoided. To optimize omega-3 intake and also minimize mercury intake, there are three main fish that I have recommended over the years: salmon, sardines, and herring. If you don’t happen to like these three fish, you are not left with many safe and nutritious seafood options…until now.

The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has done an amazing job compiling research to create a user-friendly guide that shows you which fish are best to eat, not only based on omega-3 and mercury levels, but also on sustainability. Their Consumer Guide to Seafood makes it easy to eat the right seafood without the worry.

The site personalizes your recommendations based on your weight, age, gender, pregnancy or nursing status, and heart disease status. How great is that? This site takes out the guesswork. In addition to learning what seafood is safe, you will also learn how many servings you can eat per week.

I have been looking for a tool like this for some time now. Kudos to EWG for creating such a useful site. Check it out.

Omega-3 DHA in Breast Milk Linked to Higher Test Scores Later in Life

Filed in Brain, Children, Diet, Omega-3 & Fish Oil | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/05/2014


Omega-3 fats are known to be beneficial to brain health, especially the omega-3 fat DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). DHA is found in cold-water fatty fish and in algae, and can be obtained by consuming fish high in DHA (salmon, sardines, and herring, in particular), fish oil supplements, or vegetarian DHA supplements derived from algae. Throughout every phase of life, DHA plays a role in protecting and improving brain health.

In a recent study published in the journal Prostaglandins, Leukotrienes and Essential Fatty Acids, researchers compared the fatty acid levels of breast milk with children’s academic test scores. The researchers used data on DHA content of breast milk and test scores from 28 countries. They found that higher amounts of omega-3 DHA in mothers’ milk strongly predicted later test performance in their children. DHA levels predicted test scores even more strongly than national income or dollars spent per pupil in school.

“Human intelligence has a physical basis in the huge size of our brains—some seven times larger than would be expected for a mammal with our body size,” noted Steven Gaulin, one of the researchers. “Since there is never a free lunch, those big brains need lots of extra building materials—most importantly they need omega-3 fatty acids, especially DHA.”

While economic well-being did play a role in predicting test scores, “If you had to choose one, you should choose the better diet rather than the better economy,” noted Gaulin. That says a lot, doesn’t it?

Dietary omega-3 intake in the United States is woefully low, and to add insult to injury, omega-6 intake is extremely high. To combat this imbalance, be sure to eat plenty of fish high in omega-3, and add a DHA supplement to ensure you are getting enough.