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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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      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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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.

Prenatal BPA Exposure Linked to Poor Lung Function in Children

Filed in Children, Environmental Toxins, Respiratory issues | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/17/2014

Asthma rates in children have been climbing over the last thirty years, and experts have identified a number of environmental pollutants, such as tobacco smoke and airborne pollutants, as risk factors for the disease. Some researchers have added the hormone-disrupting chemical bisphenol A (BPA) to the list of potential risk factors for the development of asthma.

In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, researchers found that every ten-fold increase in urinary BPA concentration was associated with a 14.2 percent decrease in lung function as measured by the forced expiry volume in the first second of expiration (FEV1) test. They also found a 54.8 percent increase in the odds of wheezing.

“If future studies confirm that prenatal BPA exposure may be a risk factor for impaired respiratory health, it may offer another avenue to prevent the development of asthma,” noted the researchers.

The study involved 398 mother-infant pairs, and urine samples were collected from the mothers at 16 and 26 weeks of pregnancy, and from their children each year. Raised BPA levels in mothers were linked to impaired breathing, but raised BPA levels in the children themselves was not.

More studies are needed to confirm the results and expand on our knowledge of just how this hormone disrupting chemical affects lung function in children. Until then, there are plenty more reasons to avoid this toxin.

Prebiotics May Help Reduce Infection in Young Children

Filed in Children, Cold and Flu, Common Cold, Immune System, Prebiotics, Respiratory issues | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/09/2014

On average, children in the United States develop six respiratory tract infections each year. Another infection—gastroenteritis, also known as the stomach flu—accounts for over 1.5 million outpatients visits, 200,000 hospital visits, and about 300 deaths each year. Together, these infections account for a considerable degree of illness in children. If you are a parent, you are familiar with the frequency of these conditions during childhood.

The search continues for therapies that will reduce these childhood infections. A recent review published in the journal Nutrition Reviews highlights a potential answer for children under two.

The authors conclude that the evidence “suggests that preventive use of prebiotics decreases the rate of infections requiring antibiotic therapy in infants and children aged 0–24 months.”

Prebiotics are non-digestible fibers that promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the intestines.

The researchers also state that prebiotics may be an effective preventive treatment for decreasing the rate of overall infections in these children. The prebiotics used in the studies include oligosaccharides, galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS), fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS), fructans, inulin, and oligofrutose.

Interestingly, the researchers were unable to find studies using prebiotics to prevent infections in children over the age of two. They suggest such studies be undertaken, since older children are commonly introduced to new environments in which they are exposed to acute infections.

I recently blogged about a meta-analysis that found beneficial effects of probiotics for the treatment and prevention of cold and flu in children. Together, these two papers give us strong evidence that gut microbes have a major effect on our children’s immune health both in and out of the digestive system.

When taken together, probiotics and prebiotics pack a powerful punch. There is a synergistic effect between the two. Fortunately, you can eat foods high in the prebiotic inulin. Chicory root, Jerusalem artichoke, leeks, onions, garlic, and bananas all contain high amounts. A probiotic supplement plus prebiotic foods is a great combination to help maintain a healthy balance bacteria in your gut.

Probiotics for the Common Cold

Filed in Common Cold, General, Immune System, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Respiratory issues | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/16/2014

Probiotics, or beneficial bacteria, have been studied for a number of health conditions, but one of the most exciting benefits of probiotics is their effect on the common cold. A number of studies have looked at probiotic treatment and prevention of upper respiratory tract infections (cold and flu, most notably). A recent systematic review evaluated data from twelve randomized, controlled trials in children and adults and found that those people who had taken Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium probiotics experienced fewer days of illness, shorter illness episodes, and fewer days absent from daycare, school, or work when compared to those participants who took a placebo.

“This paper shows that with the addition of live lactobacilli and bifidobacteria to your diet, the duration of upper respiratory tract infections (e.g. colds) could be shortened,” stated Sarah King, PhD. “Combined with results from a 2011 meta-analysis published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, which demonstrated that probiotics can reduce the incidence of upper respiratory tract infections, the implications of these findings are significant and could translate into cost savings and quality of life improvements.” The economic impact of colds is estimated to cost the United States $40 billion each year, so any reduction in the common cold is welcome.

Probiotics impact the immune system in a number of ways. Up to 80 percent of the immune system resides in the gut. The gut bacteria help to educate the immune system so that it responds appropriately. So it’s no wonder that probiotics have a beneficial effect on the respiratory tract.


Probiotics Help Allergy Sufferers Feel Better

Filed in Adults, Allergies, Children, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Respiratory issues | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/07/2014

In some parts of the country (especially here in Florida where I live) allergy season is in full swing. So many people are suffering with congested sinuses, stuffy noses, and feeling like, well, not so great. Over 11 million people in the United States are diagnosed with allergic rhinitis, or hay fever—what most people simply call allergies—each year. I am sure there are many more people who do not get officially diagnosed, adding to this staggering number.

A recent study published in the European Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that people taking the probiotic Lactobacillus paracasei daily for five weeks in addition to their usual allergy medication had improved quality of life along with improved ocular symptoms (less watery, itchy, red, and swollen eyes). Improvement in specific nasal symptoms was not found, however.

“Probiotic foods or food supplements seem to be popular and widely used by subjects suffering from allergic rhinitis, however, a study under real-life conditions and in subjects receiving a medicinal treatment was needed,” noted the researchers. While they did find a benefit of the probiotic, more studies will be needed to determine whether the addition of other strains will increase the effect.

A number of probiotic strains have already been studied in people with allergic rhinitis, but most of them have been single strain studies with mixed results. Researchers have begun to look at multiple strain formulas for allergies, but we are still in the early stages of research. My hunch is that the multi-strain probiotic formulas will be more effective because they target a wider range of immune functions. I will keep you posted as I learn more.

Dietary Fiber Protective against Asthma

Filed in Adults, Allergies, Dietary Fiber, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Respiratory issues | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/21/2014

A diet high in fiber triggers a chain reaction via the gut bacteria that protects against the inflammatory process involved in asthma, according to a recent study published in the journal Nature Medicine. Gut bacteria are known to ferment dietary fiber, a process that produces beneficial compounds, or metabolites. In the current study, the researchers found that the fermentation process in the gut produced fatty acid metabolites that entered the bloodstream and reduced the inflammation response to allergens in people with allergic asthma.

“We are now showing for the first time that the influence of gut bacteria extends much further, namely up to the lungs,” noted Benjamin Marsland, MD, lead researcher. Using an animal model, they fed mice a standard diet with a high amount of dietary fiber or a standard diet low in fiber, comparable to the standard American diet (SAD). They found that the fatty acids in the bloodstream influenced immune cells in such a way that, when the mice were exposed to dust mite allergens (a common allergen for people with asthma), the immune system mounted a weaker allergic response.

This study will lead to studies in humans to determine whether the same effects occur. In the meantime, keep your fiber intake high by eating plenty of non-starchy vegetables and low-sugar fruits. And take a fiber supplement to be sure that you reach your daily 35 grams of fiber.

Antibiotic Resistance—A Call for Global Response

Filed in Antibiotic resistance, Antibiotics, Cold and Flu, General, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Respiratory issues | Posted by lsmith on 12/11/2013

A new report published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases journal warns that “we are at the dawn of a post-antibiotic era,” with “almost all disease-causing bacteria resistant to the antibiotics commonly used to treat them.”1 The gravity of the problem was summed up in a commentary on the report: “Rarely has modern medicine faced such a grave threat. Without antibiotics, treatments from minor surgery to major transplants could become impossible,” and “infection-related mortality rates in developed countries might return to those of the early 20th century.2 The report describes the global situation of antibiotic resistance, its major causes and consequences (which affect “everybody in the world”), and identifies key areas in which action is urgently needed.

The report states that the global burden of resistance is probably concentrated in three major categories: longer duration of illness and higher death rates in patients with resistant infections, increasing costs of treatment for resistant infections, and inability to perform procedures (i.e. surgeries) that rely on antibiotics to prevent infection. Sadly, this message is not new. In fact, back in 1945 Sir Alexander Fleming warned of the danger of antibiotic resistance resulting from overuse of antibiotics. Yet here we are almost 70 years later, still largely ignoring age-old advice.

The report calls for national commitment, on a global scale, to the implementation of successful strategies for “getting out of the impasse.” They call for rational use of antibiotics in hospitals and in the community. They call for education and changing social norms. (The attitude, “But I always take/prescribe antibiotics for a cough/sore throat/cold/urinary tract infection/acne/etc.” must change if we are to reverse the impasse.) They call for an increased role of better diagnostics, a reduction of the inappropriate use of antibiotics in agriculture, and for new antibiotics and alternative strategies to treat existing and future antibiotic-resistant infections.

“The future of antibiotics and survival of every human being that acquires a bacterial infection will depend on the serious commitment of many stakeholders, including government authorities, policy makers, health-care workers, university teachers, pharmaceutical companies, and consumers,” they warn.

The judicious use of antibiotics is crucial not only at the global population level, but also at the individual level. If you take antibiotics frequently, your bacteria gradually become more resistant to those antibiotics and one day you find that the antibiotic that always worked suddenly does not. Then you have to take a broad-spectrum antibiotic, which targets a broad range of bacteria. But the more you take broad spectrum antibiotics, the more likely a broad range of your bacteria are to become resistant. Do you see the vicious cycle here?

According to the CDC, “nearly 2 million people in the United States acquire an infection while in a hospital, resulting in 90,000 deaths. More than 70 percent of the bacteria that cause these infections are resistant to at least one of the antibiotics commonly used to treat them.”3

Certainly, if you are treating an infection that cannot be addressed by any other means, then antibiotics are necessary. But there are many conditions for which antibiotics should not be used, yet their use continues. Brenda and I have written many times about the inappropriate use of antibiotics and the threat of antibiotic resistance. See those articles for more information.

The opposite of danger, some say, is opportunity. I think it is high time that the medical science and the medical profession look at nutritional and lifestyle factors that predispose to infection and cause prolonged illness and/or death.

A real preventative health care program would include the following: prebiotics, probiotics, and cultured beverages/foods, a plant-based diet, optimum amounts of omega-3 oils and fish, vitamin D3, vitamin C (oral and intravenous), zinc, selenium, magnesium, and multiple mushrooms (from supplements and/or food) to name a few.

If you are under your physician’s care and you are doing all of the above, it is possible that you may be able to shorten your antibiotic course from 10 days to 3 to 5 days, which may help prevent antibiotic-associated diarrhea as well as further resistance to antibiotics. If you do this and your symptoms return, immediately recontact your physician.

All of the above have been shown to balance immunity and prevent, treat, and survive many microbial infections, be they bacterial, viral, fungal, or parasitic. There is testing that can assure that the levels of most of these nutrients are in the high normal range and would confer protection, as well as be therapeutic. It would be interesting to see how nutrient deficient are the 23,000 people who die annually from an infection that has high antibiotic resistance.

So we are now basically being forced back to the natural order of things in which bacteria fight bacteria. With healthy, flexible immune balance most people will likely survive serious infections with appropriate lifestyle, diet, supplements, stress reduction, exercise, sleep, and good elimination.



  1. Laxminarayan R, Duse A, Wattal C, et al., “Antibiotic resistance—the need for global solutions.” Lancet Infect Dis. 2013;13(12):1057–98.
  2. Howard SJ, Catchpole M, Watson J, et al., “Antibiotic resistance: global response needed.” Lancet Infect Dis. 2013;12(13):1001–3.
  3. http://www.fda.gov/drugs/resourcesforyou/consumers/ucm143568.htm

Probiotics for Common Cold in Healthy Adults

Filed in General, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Respiratory issues | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/11/2013

Probiotics are live microorganisms that, when taken in adequate amounts, confer a health benefit on the host (that’s you). Probiotics are most known for their digestive benefits because the digestive tract is where they work. Not everyone is aware that probiotics also have important immune health benefits, primarily because up to 80 percent of the immune system resides in the digestive tract. The gut-associated lymphoid tissue (GALT for short) is situated in and around the intestines and is in constant contact and communication with the microbes (which includes the probiotics) living in the intestines.

Probiotics play as much a role on immune health as they do on digestive health. A recent study published in the journal Clinical Nutrition highlights the immune benefits of the probiotic Bifidobacterium lactis. The study involved 465 healthy adults average age 35 and found that those participants who took 2 billion CFUs (colony forming units) of Bifidobacterium lactis daily for 150 days had a 27 percent reduction in the risk of upper respiratory tract infections (that’s a fancy way of saying the common cold) than did those participants who took a placebo.

“This study adds important new information regarding the effects of probiotic supplementation for respiratory illness,” wrote the authors. “The positive effects of probiotic supplementation appear to extend beyond individuals considered to have a higher susceptibility to illness.” They also found that the time it took for participants to get sick was delayed by 0.7 months in those people taking the probiotic when compared to those taking placebo.

This study shows that daily supplementation with B. lactis has important immune benefits even for healthy people who want to ward off the common cold.