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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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    • 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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      Our dog’s health is precious! They provide us with unconditional love and companionship. A daily probiotic formula is a great way to ensure good health. Make sure you choose one that delivers the recommended potency level and strain count. There is nothing quite like a healthy and happy dog. Happy Dog. Happy Life!

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Surprise! You’re Addicted!

Filed in Adults, Diet, Digestive Health, Enzymes, GERD, Heart Disease, Heartburn, Indigestion, PPIs, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Reflux | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/14/2016

Last Monday it was reported by NPR that the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) will soon be publishing yet one more reason to leave those PPIs alone! Protect your kidneys! You can now add kidneys to previous evidence of increased risk of bone fracture, infections and possibly even cardiac issues. This is another warning to all of you who regularly choose Nexium, Prilosec or Prevacid to quiet your heartburn, indigestion or GERD.

I have been blogging on the potential issues associated with regularly blocking the normal production of stomach acid for many years. These serious medications, not viewed as potentially dangerous by the medical community until recently, have caused unbelievable heartache and misery for countless Americans. I’ve seen and heard about the damage they produce firsthand as I’ve spoken on digestive health and have been privileged to personally meet with so many of you over the years.

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) have been thought to be so safe that they are now available over the counter. The only difference between a person’s prescription PPI and the ones at the drugstore is the dosage. So we can do math, can’t we? More heartburn? Just take more Nexium, omeprazole, or similar. NO!

Don’t get me wrong. These drugs can be life saving – short term. That’s the key – short term. While a person is healing from an ulcer or surgery it can be absolutely essential to decrease the amount of acid that’s created in the stomach so the tissues can heal properly. After the healing is complete, those drugs need to go – fast!

Even after a short period of time it can be challenging to wean off PPIs. The longer you depend on them, the harder it becomes. We think of addictions and what comes to mind is pain pills or heroin. Sadly, proton pump inhibitors are every bit as physically addicting, just in a different way.

Morgan Grams, an epidemiologist at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Health led the research resulting in the upcoming JAMA Internal Medicine article. The study focused on evaluating the potential for PPIs to increase the chances you’ll develop chronic kidney disease. While the report wasn’t conclusive in itself, the findings were disturbing enough to cause Grams to warn all of us to only use these drugs when they are absolutely necessary.

Here’s the core issue. If you experience heartburn or indigestion of any type, there’s a reason. Your body is trying to tell you that something needs to be changed. Often it’s your diet (sorry, but that’s the truth). Actually, dietary shift can make a huge positive impact on digestive issues over 80% of the time.

It also might be that it’s time to purchase some digestive enzymes. As we age, our enzyme and acid production decreases so we can use a little help in that regard.

Commonly, after years of unhealthy eating habits, our internal bacterial balance is way out of wack. Probiotics can be your lifesaver in this case.

I implore you – before you start popping PPIs to quell that burning feeling, get a tiny bit creative. Try other digestive aids. Even bust way out of your box and consider a different eating plan! It’s not fun to suffer. I know that. However ignoring the real issue that is screaming for your attention by covering up the symptom will come back to bite you – possibly in your kidneys.

I wish only good digestion for you always!

Proton Pump Inhibitors Decrease Gut Microbial Diversity

Filed in Heartburn, Human Microbiome, PPIs | Posted by lsmith on 01/07/2015

Proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) are one of the most commonly prescribed medications in the United States, earning billions of dollars for pharmaceutical companies. PPIs markedly decrease the production of stomach acid as a treatment for conditions in the upper digestive tract such as acid reflux, ulcers, and Helicobacter pylori infection. While these medications are sometimes necessary in the short term, long-term use has been associated with a number of adverse effects, including a 74 percent increased risk for Clostridium difficile infection according to a five year follow-up study of 100,000 patients taking a proton-pump inhibitor daily.1

In a recent study published in the journal Microbiome, researchers explored a possible explanation for the link between PPI use and C. diff infection.2 They found that after 28 days of either low- or high-dose PPI treatment in healthy individuals, the diversity of microbes in the gut was decreased in a similar way as is found in individuals who are infected with C. diff for the first time.

C. difficile infection occurs when gut microbial diversity is decreased.3 When diversity is down, the pathogenic C. diff can more easily gain the upper hand. In this study PPI use reduced microbial diversity, which helps to explain how PPI use is associated with C. diff infection.

“Evidence has been mounting for years that long-term use of proton-pump inhibitors poses increased risks for a variety of associated complications, but we have never really understood why,” noted John DiBaise, MD, lead researcher. “What this study does for the first time is demonstrate a plausible explanation for these associated conditions.”

While more studies are needed to work out how the bacterial diversity decreases, two main mechanisms are postulated in this study:

  • Increased bacterial load entering the colon
  • Changes in dietary proteins entering the colon

In a previous study by Kanno, et al, PPI use increased all groups of fecal bacteria they looked at with the exception of decreased Bifidobacterium.4 So when the protective diversity of bacteria are decreased by PPIs, there will be an increased load of bacteria entering the colon that knock out many of the beneficial bacteria. This is seen in C. diff patients and also in patients with small-intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO).

A change in dietary proteins entering the colon, triggered by reduced stomach acid (and reduced digestion of proteins) can increase C. difficile growth by providing certain amino acids that may increase C. diff growth.

In addition, antibiotic use in vivo has been found to increase sialic acid in the gut, a favored catabolite of C. diff that is strongly associated with C. diff bacterial load.5 Antibiotics are often used in conjunction with PPIs, especially when treating H. pylori.

If this applies for PPIs, what about the senior citizens and people who are genetically predisposed to hypochlorhydria (low stomach acid) with age? It is likely they are also at increased risk for C. difficile infection and/or SIBO especially when treated with broad spectrum antibiotics and PPIs.

In addition to increased risk for C. diff, long-term use of PPIs has been linked to iron, calcium, and vitamin B12 deficiencies, low magnesium levels, osteoporosis-related bone fractures, small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, and community-acquired pneumonia. The risk of C. diff infection with long-term PPI use has prompted the Food and Drug Administration to require a warning on the product insert that states PPIs may increase the risk of C. difficile infection.

If you have acid reflux, talk to your doctor about controlling the condition with non-pharmacological means. There are many lifestyle changes you can make that will help to keep this condition under control without having to use these potentially dangerous medications.



  1. Linsky A, Gupta K, Lawler EV, et al., “Proton pump inhibitors and risk for recurrent Clostridium difficile infection.” Arch Intern Med. 2010 May 10;170(9):772-8.
  2. Seto CT, Jeraldo P, Orenstein R, et al., “Prolonged use of a proton pump inhibitor reduces microbial diversity: implications for Clostridium difficile susceptibility.” Microbiome. 2014; 2: 42.
  3. Antharam VC, Li EC, Ishmael A, et al., “Intestinal dysbiosis and depletion of butyrogenic bacteria in Clostridium difficile infection and nosocomial diarrhea.” J Clin Microbiol. 2013 Sep;51(9):2884-92.
  4. Kanno T, Matsuki T, Oka M, et al., “Gastric acid reduction leads to an alteration in lower intestinal microflora.” Biochem Biophys Res Commun. 2009 Apr 17;381(4):666-70.
  5. Ng KM, Ferreyra JA, Higginbottom SK, et al., “Microbiota-liberated host sugars facilitate post-antibiotic expansion of enteric pathogens.” Nature. 2013 Oct 3;502(7469):96-9.

Still Taking PPIs for Heartburn? New Study May Have You Thinking Twice

Filed in Adults, Brain, Digestive Health, General, Heartburn, PPIs | Posted by Brenda Watson on 05/05/2014


Millions of Americans with occasional heartburn turn to medications such as omeprazole (Prilosec), esomeprazole (Nexium) and lansoprazole (Prevacid) to help reduce stomach acid, but new research may have folks thinking twice about the possible side effects—and considering safer natural alternatives.

Last month ABC.com’s Health Report featured an interview with Douglas Corley, a board-certified gastroenterologist and research scientist with Kaiser Permanente in California. Dr. Corley discussed the results of a recent study he and his colleagues conducted, which showed that people taking a class of acid-suppressing medications known as PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) for heartburn and reflux may be at a higher risk for vitamin B12 deficiency.

Kaiser Permanente provides health care coverage to more than 3 million Americans annually, and after reviewing its member records Corley and his team found that those using PPIs were about 65% percent more likely to develop vitamin B12 deficiency, as opposed to a 25% risk increase for those taking another class of heartburn drugs called H2 blockers (e.g. Zantac).

According to Dr. Corley, “Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause nerve damage, so it can cause numbness or tingling in the hands or the feet. In severe cases it can cause dementia and nerve damage to the brain. And it can also cause anemia.” While he emphasized this was just a single study and more research is needed, Dr. Corley advised people to be cautious about taking certain medications and to consider getting checked for vitamin B12 deficiency if taking PPIs.