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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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Texts – New Teenage Health Food?

Filed in Diet, Fermentation, General, Leaky Gut, Skin, Teens, The Skinny Gut Diet, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/19/2016


Texts are like health food for teens - brendawatson.com

Are your kids back to school yet? If not, hang in there, the time is fast approaching! And perhaps this year, you can consider sending healthy texts to make a difference in what your teen chooses to eat! Now that’s a novel idea~

My beloved granddaughter has been staying with me this summer and she’s off to college on Monday. Add to that her birthday was last Wednesday, so to celebrate Stan and I took her on a trip to the Florida Keys. To increase the fun we invited some close friends of ours that have teenage daughters too. It was a non-stop texting and photo shoot (whatever did one do before the selfie?), tons of laughs and of course a food fest!

I had to grin when I checked out the Wall Street Journal and saw this article – “Appeal to Teens Vanity to Get Them to Eat Better”. I just lived and breathed that title!

The study published online in the British Journal of Health Psychology stated that “teenagers are more likely to eat healthier foods, particularly fruits and vegetables, if they are reminded it will improve their emotional well-being, attitude and appearance”.

I’ll bet you’re not surprised that the daily reminders were delivered via text. The abstract of the actual study can be found here. In a nutshell, texting proved to be a helpful tool in stimulating teenagers, ages 14 to 19, to increase their positive nutrient consumption.

While teens who received texts about increased health benefits and decreased cancer risk did consume more fruits and veggies than a control group that didn’t receive texts, the group that showed the most improvement in their eating habits received texts that focused on optimistic attitudes and a more attractive appearance.

That makes perfect sense to me. When I was that age, prevention and disease processes were the furthest things from my mind. After all, when you’re a teenager, it’s very clear you’ll live forever, won’t you? That’s the attitude that makes jumping off bridges and rock climbing just another day in the life! How I looked and how happy I was were of paramount importance!

As I consider these findings, I realize once again that the most important reminders any teenager can receive are those he or she experiences right at home. My granddaughter will come into the kitchen when something different is being prepared, and although her adorable nose may turn up a bit, her curiosity wins out time and again. You see, for years I’ve offered whole food, sometimes unusual substitutes for processed junk food on my table. As a grandmother, my influence goes only so far, but I believe that the seeds of health awareness have been firmly planted.

I find it a bit unsettling that she is recently recognizing more and more food sensitivities. Those allergic reactions point to Leaky Gut Syndrome and damage already done to the intestinal wall. Sadly, gut dysfunctions are happening at earlier ages than ever before, even in those considered “healthy teens”. (Tip for Mom – fortify your teen’s belly with a good probiotic daily!)

My granddaughter’s path is her own, and never before was her independence asserted more than during this vacation. She’s growing up and I look forward to watching her become a fine young woman. She knows I’m always here for her.

I’m thinking perhaps I should consider creating a series of texts that will let her know that live greens and fermented foods will make her skin glow (and that’s the total truth)!

Or maybe I will sneak a copy of Skinny Gut Diet into her suitcase. She just might get bored and read it one day – especially if I tell her she will definitely be even more beautiful if she does!

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.

 

Toxic Heart, Toxic Body

Filed in Cleansing, Cleansing & Detox, Diet, Environmental Toxins, Exercise, Heart Disease, Heart of Perfect Health, High blood pressure, Inflammation, Skin, Stroke | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/26/2016


As American Heart Month 2016 winds down, I’d like to shift my focus to an area that we don’t always associate with heart issues – toxins. Toxins are everywhere; there is no doubt about it. In the air we breathe, in the water we drink, in the food we eat, in our homes, in most products we use—even in the most pristine places on earth—toxins are there. Truth is, toxin accumulation can directly impact our cardiovascular system, and many times will manifest as high blood pressure, increased atherosclerosis, and ultimately heart issues.

Toxins are chemicals that interfere with normal functions in the body, and most have been associated with adverse health effects. At this point, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) regularly measure over 200 toxic compounds, tracking the levels in different aspects of our population. However there are 80,000 chemicals currently in use! Although the CDC adds new chemicals to track annually, it’s simple to see that we will never be able to really understand the full impact of the substances we’re all exposed to. The sad fact is many chemicals contribute to cardiovascular disease – either directly, or indirectly – through an increase in oxidative stress and general systemic inflammation.

So what is oxidative stress, also known as oxidation anyhow? It is one of the main drivers of inflammation in the body. Inflammation is at the root cause of heart disease, and for that matter, all other chronic disease as well.

Consider this analogy illustrating the destructive properties of oxidation: Oxidation is like a punch thrown from a bully (the oxidant), and it can easily lead to a full-blown fight if enough molecules get involved. Destruction results. Oxidation occurs when there are not enough antioxidants (the peacekeepers) around.

Oxidative stress triggers inflammation and regarding cardiovascular issues, it initiates the destruction of the lining of the blood vessels, called endothelial dysfunction.

Atherosclerosis involves endothelial dysfunction and chronic inflammation in the artery walls, progressing to the buildup of plaque and eventual cardiac complications such as heart attack and stroke. So I’m sure you can clearly see how toxins that increase oxidative stress are definitely the enemy. And antioxidants are our friends.

It is a myth that nothing can be done about toxin exposure. The fact of the matter is that supporting the body’s seven channels of elimination – colon, liver, lungs, lymph, kidneys, skin, and blood – through diet and cleansing will help improve the body’s natural detoxification abilities. A healthy eating plan and cleansing routine will fortify your heart right along with every other part of your body.

In addition to the antioxidants your body naturally produces, you also obtain antioxidants from your diet. A diet high in antioxidants includes plenty of deeply colored fruits and vegetables. This important step helps decrease oxidative stress and general systemic inflammation.

Regular exercise stimulates sweating and the release of toxins from your skin. Different herbal formulas help support the organs of elimination. Next month I plan to discuss cleansing in more detail.

In my book, Heart of Perfect Health, I offer information and targeted programs designed to protect your heart for the rest of your life. Toxins may be all around us, but we have ways to release them – and renew our health.

Let’s Talk Shower Health

Filed in Adults, Personal Care, Skin | Posted by Brenda Watson on 01/08/2016


When you hopped into the shower this morning, chances are you didn’t give a lot of thought to the water temperature. You prepared your shower like you have time and again, perhaps precisely the same for years.

Showers for me range from gloriously relaxing after a particularly intense workout to very rudimentary – in and out as quickly as possible. Now I can add that I’ve learned something about one doctor’s idea of optimum conditions for a maximally healthful experience. So for fun, I thought I’d share this info.

Dr. Melissa Piliang, a dermatologist with the Cleveland Clinic was interviewed by the Wall Street Journal. You can read the entire article here.

Bottom line:

Optimum temperature – 112 degrees Fahrenheit. (No, I don’t expect you to carry a thermometer in the shower. Pleasantly warm and not uncomfortably hot seems to be the suggested “just right” heat intensity.)

Yet again this is one of those ‘age dependent’ situations. It seems as we mature, our protective lipid layer replenishes itself at a slower pace. It’s important to do our best to maintain that precious layer as it provides our skin its youthful appearance. So taking two showers a day at 40 may reveal dry patches that simply weren’t there at 20.

I enjoyed Dr. Piliang’s analogy comparing the action of the hot water to washing butter off a knife. In our skin’s case, we want the butter to remain even as we release environmental toxins and bacteria. Sadly, according to the doctor, applied emollient products don’t effectively replace the oils we lose.

As for that quick 15-second blast of cold water at the end of the shower – seems it may be great for aligning the keratin on the hair, giving it a smooth appearance that better reflects light. And cold water splashed on the face after the facial pores are nice and clean may close them up tight for a more vibrant look.

On a bit more serious note, while you may have a world class filter on your tap water in the kitchen where you and your family drink, unfortunately showering in water that contains chlorine or chloramines may present a substantial health risk – one you may not have considered. Please give some thought to the purchase of a shower filter. It will greatly improve those precious benefits of shower-time even more!

Here’s to your clean and radiant health!

Bacteria and the Skin

Filed in Human Microbiome, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Skin | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/18/2014


When someone talks about the bacteria that are found in and on the human body, the conversation usually turns to the gut because that is where the majority of these microbes are found. But the skin is an often overlooked habitat for a large diversity of microbes that are only recently being recognized as important for human health.

In a new study published in the Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology (FASEB) journal, researchers found a difference in the bacteria on the skin of people with wounds that heal quickly compared to those on people with chronic wounds. “Our data clearly support the idea that one could swab a wound, profile the bacteria that are there and then be able to tell whether the wound is likely to heal quickly or persist, which could impact treatment options,” stated Matthew Hardman, PhD.

They also found that mice lacking a certain gene had a different array of bacteria that were associated with slower wound healing. The gene has also been linked to Crohn’s disease and is known to help cells recognize and respond to bacteria. “Taken together, our studies in humans and mice offer good evidence that the skin microbiome has a direct effect on how we heal,” noted Hardman.

While the bacteria on skin play a role in skin health, recent research has found that probiotics, when taken orally, also affect skin health. The study, by scientists from L’Oreal and published in the journal Beneficial Microbes, found that two months of supplementation with the probiotic Lactobacillus paracasei NCC 2461 (ST11) decreased the reactivity of skin in people with sensitive skin when compared to placebo. The study will likely lead to the development of a nutritional approach to skin sensitivity—a beauty-from-the-inside-out approach.

The skin is the body’s largest organ and protects us from invaders in a similar way as the digestive tract protects the inside of the body from potential invaders within the digestive system. So it makes sense that bacteria also play a vital role to the health of the skin. We will likely see that the bacteria on our skin also play a role in many different areas of health.