• 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.

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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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    • 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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    • Pet Health

      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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How to Keep Your Kids (and Dogs) Calm During Summer Travels

Filed in Adults, Children, Diet, Digestive Health, Dogs - Pets, Preventable Issues, Sleep, Stress, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 06/13/2017


summer travels - brendawatson.com

Summer is setting in, and that means, for most of us, it’s time for travel. There is no doubt, traveling is a stressful event for most people. Even if your kids are excited about going on a big adventure, the disruption to routine that comes along with travel is enough to throw off even the most cheerful children. Whether you are planning a road trip or taking a flight to your destination of choice, you’ll want to do all you can to make sure your kids stay as calm as possible. And if you’re bringing a pet (or pets!), I’ll drop a couple tips to keep your fur babies calm too. Implement my tips below to keep your little ones, furry or not, calm and collected during your next summer trip.

 

Set Yourself Up for Success with Adequate Sleep

Travel preparation begins long before you load up the car or step foot into the airport. You may have noticed that the days and even weeks leading up to your trips are packed with extra to-dos and stress, and as a result, not enough sleep. It’s likely your kids are also affected. They feel the added stress and may be losing sleep along with you. If there’s one thing that’s sure to foster extra fussiness in your kids, it’s lack of sleep.

Make it a priority to adhere to your child’s normal sleep schedule in the days leading up to your vacation. That extra hour of sleep your child gets the three nights before vacation can make or break her mood when it matters most. Make this a non-negotiable. If that means you need to start planning your trip a few days sooner than usual, make it happen.

Not as easy, but doable, is the sleep your child gets during the vacation itself. You don’t have to be the time keeper every single night, but for two or three nights before your departure, if you get your kids to sleep on time, your chances of sailing smoothly through your six-hour flight will be greatly increased. You may have to ward off a few “But mo-om!”s, but trust me, it’s worth it.

 

Don’t Forget the Role of Diet on Behavior

Did you know that what your child eats can have a huge impact on his behavior? Many parents miss this important link. If your child is naturally a handful, or even has a diagnosis of ADHD or autism, if you haven’t experimented with his diet, you’ll want to get a head start on it.

For many children, eliminating foods that your child may be sensitive to, like, gluten, dairy, sugar, and even corn, soy, or peanuts, can work wonders on improving behavior.

I’ve heard countless success stories, and read studies that back this theory up. In the weeks or months leading up to your vacation, cutting gluten, sugar, and maybe dairy out of your child’s diet can make a big difference. You could even implement a full elimination diet, but you’ll want to do that with plenty of preparation.

If the idea of implementing an elimination diet before vacation feels like more than you want to handle, at the very least, cut the sugar. Dessert before bedtime is a sure way to interfere with her needed rest. Offer her some berries and whipped cream if she really needs a sweet treat. (It’s a low-sugar dessert, but she’ll never know.)

And if your child doesn’t regularly eat sardines and salmon, consider a fish oil supplement, which won’t work short-term, but over time, adequate omega-3 intake can make a big difference in your child’s behavior. It’s worth adding to your child’s regular supplement regimen if you haven’t already.

 

Pack the Essentials

Children are busy creatures. They jump from activity to activity all day long. Sitting in a car or on a plane for hours at a time is not a normal day for a child. To combat their restlessness, you can pack some essentials to keep them occupied.

First, be sure to pack plenty of healthy snacks and drinks. Relying on vending machines is a recipe for disaster. A nourished, hydrated child will have two less reasons to get irritable. Pack healthy snacks that are not high in sugar. Nuts, granola, apples, and yogurt are great options to hand out every couple hours. And keep plenty of water on hand. Sugary beverages are the last thing you want your child to fill up on while traveling. You don’t want to deal with the repercussions of a sugar high or a sugar low.

If you think that I am going to recommend loading a few movies in your tablet to keep your kids calm, think again. Sure, you might be able to lull your kids into a daze with the screen, but their reliance on this method is sure to backfire on you later. Instead, why not download a fun-filled audio book or two? Your child can listen while still engaging with the world around her. Her imagination will be stimulated while she sits quietly, engrossed in a thought-provoking story.

You can also pack some activity books to keep your children occupied—and their minds working. And for older kids on road trips, set them up with a camera and ask them to take pictures of your journey. Maybe they catch a nice shot of your family in the car, or of the mountains as you pass by them. Activities like these are perfect for avoiding that confused look your children give you after peeling themselves away from too many hours of screen time.

 

Bach Flower Remedies

If you haven’t heard of Back Flower remedies, you’re in for a treat. Their line of flower essences are perfect for travel time. Bach Flower Rescue Remedy, in particular, is one product I don’t leave home without. It’s perfect for bringing calm to stressful situations. Bach flowers work on an energy level to rebalance emotional states. And these mild products are completely safe, even for babies and pets.

 

Don’t Forget Fido

Does your dog hate to travel? If a car or airplane ride is the last place your dog wants to be, you are not alone! You’ll want to try Vital Planet’s CALM for dogs. Formulated with nutraceuticals, herbs, and flower essences, CALM supports calmness and relaxation in dogs experiencing anxiousness and stress. The product comes in tasty chewable tablets or powder that you can mix into food or water.

Next post I’ll take a look at your Summer Diet Reboot!

Energize, Power Up! through Breath and Movement

Filed in Adults, Cleansing, Cleansing & Detox, Diet, Digestive Health, Environmental Toxins, Exercise, Herbal Cleansing, Skin, Stress, The Detox Strategy, The Road to Perfect Health, Uncategorized, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 05/23/2017


Energize woman with dog-brendawatson.com

Today I’d like to focus on the second E in the RENEW Total Body Detox program as you Energize your entire body – and by that I mean your immune system as well as your mind and spirit. Listen closely – I don’t encourage you to add new movement programs into your schedule until you have developed your stable routine around food choices.

It’s important to understand that a functional lymphatic system is a critical aspect of detoxification. You’ll recall that lymph is the clear fluid filled with immune cells that moves around the body in a series of vessels, delivering nutrients and collecting cellular waste while helping to destroy pathogens. Both breathing and movement serve to powerfully stimulate lymph flow and immune function.

 

The Magic of Deep Breathing

The mere act of breathing in and out encourages lymph circulation through the body. The deeper you breathe, the more you can achieve this effect. It has long been known that exercise stimulates this movement of lymphatic fluid, but the role of breathing wasn’t entirely recognized until technology provided the means to photograph lymph flow. This direct observation shows that deep breathing causes the lymph to shoot through the capillaries like a geyser. Therefore, you can think of the breath as the pump for stimulation of lymph flow.

Our daily lives are stressful and most of us are shallow breathers, which means we just breathe in our upper chest, and don’t fill the diaphragm, rib cage and intestinal area regularly with oxygen. So here is a good breathing exercise you can do anywhere, at any time.

Simple breath to free stress – and Energize~

As you inhale, count to 7 and allow your ribcage and abdomen to expand. Then hold that breath for a count of 7. Finally slowly exhale to the count of 7. Try it and let me know if you feel the same stress relief that I notice whenever I remember to do this simple process.

 

The Magic of Movement

Movement of your body squeezes lymph nodes, which are concentrated in the neck, underarms, groin and behind the knees, helping to pump toxins out of the body.

Slow movement exercises, such as yoga and tail chi can be enjoyed by people of all ages and fitness levels. Yoga, which I like to do, focuses on both stretching and controlled breathing.

Walking, one of the most accessible forms of exercise is also the perfect starting point for people who are not accustomed to any type of physical activity. As you build up to longer, more rigorous walks you’ll begin to sweat more and unload toxins through your skin.

Whether you’re choosing a 20-30 minute walk after dinner each night, or three 10-minute walks throughout the day, your health benefit will be the same. Leisurely, slow-paced strolls won’t accomplish this if your goal is to Energize.

Your goal in any movement program over time will be increase the workload of your lungs and heart. You’ll notice your heart rate will naturally increase as your breathing comes more quickly (and deeply).

A word of caution here. If you are transitioning from a sedentary lifestyle into one that incorporates regular exercise, please start slowly. Gradually increase the time you engage in your chosen activity and the intensity of your effort. All too often I watch people go too fast and end up tired, strained, and sometimes injured. Before long, they are physically and mentally burned out. They lose interest and soon enough they are back where they started. Please don’t let this be you!

No matter your movement choice, remember to place your attention on your breath, keeping in mind how effective full breathing is to your health. I can’t stress this often enough.

 Awesome benefits of movement!

Check out these 13 inspirational reasons to exercise! You will dramatically support detoxification at many levels, too.

  1. Increased stamina and energy
  2. Increased flexibility
  3. Increased blood circulation
  4. Better sleep
  5. Stress reduction
  6. Increased self-esteem and sense of well-being
  7. Increased oxygen supply to cells and tissues
  8. Increased muscle strength, tone and endurance
  9. Release of brain chemicals called endorphins that act as natural tranquilizers
  10. Increased progesterone and decreased estrogen production in women, potentially easing PMS and cramps
  11. Decreased food cravings
  12. Decreased blood sugar levels
  13. Weight distribution and maintenance

Stretching and Cooling Down 

Don’t forget to stretch after any exercise routine (never before). Stretching is important to keep your body limber, but it should not be done without having warmed up your muscles first through other exercises. Stretching will then help your muscles recover faster, prevent tightening, and increase flexibility. Your goal is to comfortably hold each stretch for 30 to 60 seconds.

 

Endocrine system out of balance? Energize!

No discussion of tools to Energize your body can be complete without recognizing the hormonal system and the impact that has on your overall vitality. Your hormonal system includes many more organs and glands than those I’ll mention here. The complex interaction of your endocrine glands intensely affects you in so many ways including your sleep, your weight, and your overall sense of wellbeing. A full discussion of these systems is out of the scope of this post, but can be found in my recent book, The Road to Perfect Health.

Today’s tips will focus specifically on the adrenal and thyroid glands.

As discussed previously, toxins like fire retardants and perchlorate from dry cleaning can impact the efficiency of these endocrine glands.

According to thyroid.org, more than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime. An estimated 20 million Americans have some form of thyroid disease. Up to 60 percent of those with thyroid disease are unaware of their condition.

Additionally, adrenal fatigue is a surprisingly common affliction, with some experts stating that 80 percent of the Western world can expect to be affected at some point in their lives, as stated by adrenalfatiguefocus.org.

Please check back shortly for my next post where I will detail two of my favorite movement exercise programs – rebounding and strength training with exercise bands. Until then – breathe and Energize!

Healthy Colon Action Steps for a Happy Life!

Filed in Adults, Cancer, Colon, Diet, Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health, Enzymes, Exercise, Fermentation, Heart of Perfect Health, Omega-3 & Fish Oil, Prebiotics, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Sleep, Stress, The Skinny Gut Diet, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 04/06/2017


Healthy Colon Awareness Ribbon - brendawatson.com

There are many ways to look directly at the gut connection to cancer. I believe the most important information you can receive is how to support and maintain a healthy colon.

I realize now that in these four posts honoring Colon Cancer Awareness Month I have only scratched the surface of the information I would love to share with you. Over the years, I have learned so very much interacting closely with so many people. In the 1990’s, I also practiced colon hydrotherapy in a holistic cancer clinic in conjunction with a medical doctor who cared primarily for cancer patients. It was an honor to witness the amazing health changes that occurred for people who used natural methods of healing. I was also regularly humbled by the devastating effects that chronic disease and cancer can have on the body.

Today I’m offering you tests and natural solutions that I hope will be informative and helpful to you. Whether you are personally touched by cancer or simply looking to maintain vibrant health (and that most important healthy colon), there are valuable tips for you here.

To begin, I previously mentioned that colon cancer can, in some cases, manifest silently. What I mean is that the patient reports having no symptoms. For this very important reason, please be sure to schedule a colonoscopy screening when your doctor advises.

Do you have a healthy colon? Find out about cancer screening now

Over the years I’ve seen colon hydrotherapy be a profound therapy for people. I never thought I would see the day when traditional gastroenterologists would embrace colon hydrotherapy. But the time has finally come. One of the first digestive care clinics that I founded began receiving patients from a local GI doctor for pre-colonoscopy treatment. He reported positive feedback from his patients. He also noticed beneficial results in their digestive tracts. I’m so happy that acceptance of colonoscopy by mainstream GI doctors is increasing. Today, you may find it acknowledged as an alternative to the toxic and uncomfortable pre-colonoscopy treatment. Additionally, many alternative cancer doctors are embracing colon hydrotherapy in the design of their total programs. This therapy fits perfectly with other integrative therapies that seek to restore total health to cancer patients.

Learn more about colon hydrotherapy here

There are a number of functional tests that I believe provide extremely important baseline health information. They are useful for both understanding your colon and maintaining your overall well being. I explained and listed them in detail in my recent book, Heart of Perfect Health.

In my mind, no discussion of cancer is complete without addressing nutritional choices. Revising a person’s diet and providing supportive natural supplementation in the face of a cancer diagnosis is now widely embraced. Thank goodness! So lets talk specifically about what I believe to be the basic, essential nutritional support for both maintenance and healing.

It’s important to realize that a chronic microbial imbalance or overgrowth (dysbiosis ) anywhere in the digestive tract can trigger immune imbalance. From mouth to anal canal, this imbalance can negatively impact your body’s immune system. In a healthy, balanced system, the thousands of genetically damaged cells, which can become cancer, are easily destroyed and recycled by your natural defenses. There is evidence to suggest we all have abnormal cells most of the time. It’s how your body’s immune system handles these cells that will determine if and when you develop cancer. In addition, with aging there is often a depletion of beneficial bacteria (especially bifidobacteria) with an associated decrease in natural killer cells (protector cells). This may partly explain the increased incidence of most cancers with aging.

The HOPE program (High fiber – balanced soluble/insoluble, balance of Omega-3 and 6 essential oils, pre & Probiotics, and digestive Enzymes) may do much to help prevent cancer. A supplemental HOPE program would also be wise to follow if you or a loved one are currently dealing with cancer.

The HOPE Program + Skinny Gut Diet eating plan = The Best YOU ever!

High-fiber Prebiotic soluble fibers plus good bacteria (probiotics) create short chain fatty acids (SCFAs). Butyrate is the most notable SGFA with regard to colon cancer. Butyrate levels are generally accepted even by traditional medicine as an indicator for colon cancer risk. Butyrate is the fuel for the cells that line the colon. In addition, butyrate triggers the destruction of sick colonic cells (exposed to toxins and harmful microbes).  This happens especially when combined with EPA/DHA omega-3s. Without healthy levels of butyrate, the colon cells may grow uncontrolled, turning into cancerous cells.

Omega oils Both the balance (ratio) and total amounts of omega-6 and omega-3 essential oils have profound effects on cellular function. This balance of oils can result in either health – or cancer. There is much evidence that too much omega-6, or too high of an omega-6/omega-3 ratio can actually be a factor in promoting cancer. The current ratio in our society is believed to be anywhere from 12/1 to 20/1, but should be about 4 to 6/1! There is much scientific evidence that suggests this very high imbalance, the result of eating too much omega-6 (the oils most used in salad dressings, food additives, and cooking), is responsible for many of our modern illnesses, including cancer.

On the other hand, high normal levels of omega-3s have been shown to prevent and even be helpful in overcoming various cancers. This includes colon cancer. Omega 3s are already recognized as a companion therapy with chemotherapy treatments.

However, we must remember that everything is a question of balance, and that too much omega-3 is not recommended either. There are several labs that can measure both the omega-6, omega-3 ratios and other important fats in red blood cell (RBC) membranes. I think it is important to periodically (2 to 3 times per year) check your levels if using any more than a maintenance dose of fish oil, and especially if using high doses for any serious illness.

Cost effective lab test to measure your Omega 3/6 ratio, and more!

Probiotics Another way to look at the value of probiotics in the prevention of cancer is to look at what happens to the food we eat when it is acted on and transformed by pathogenic bacteria. Normal proteins, fats and carbohydrates in our daily diet can be converted into toxins, known as carcinogens, when acted upon by harmful bacteria as I mentioned in my last post.

The good news is that this toxic build-up can be minimized by regular consumption of prebiotics and probiotics and/or fermented foods along with an 80 to 90 percent plant-based diet. A plant-based diet is supportive of the lactobacilli, bifidobacteria, and beneficial E. coli and S. thermophilus strains as well as other probiotics so necessary for a healthy colon. However diet alone may not be enough. I suggest a high potency, multistrain probiotic daily to insure your continued health.

Enzymes We discussed how enzymes maintain good health in our last post. Well, the lack of different enzymes has been strongly implicated in prevalence of various cancers. In some cases this seems to be related to a chronic shortage of pancreatic enzymes specifically. There is evidence to support that proteolytic enzymes, either from the pancreas or taken orally, are absorbed systemically. These enzymes have been found to decrease tumor production and growth through many mechanisms.

In summary, a predominantly plant-based diet plus the HOPE program, coupled with appropriate detoxification programs, good bowel elimination with colon hydrotherapy, high-quality sleep, moderate exercise and stress reduction with meditation, including psycho-emotional-spiritual reconnection, will all be helpful in both prevention and as alternative therapies for cancer recovery – and will support and maintain your healthy colon for life!

4 Ways to Fuel Weight Loss

Filed in Adults, Constipation, Diet, Dietary Fiber, Digestive Health, Fermentation, Inflammation, Prebiotics, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Stress, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/02/2017


Fuel Weight Loss - brendawatson.com

As we say goodbye to the month of January, and begin to notice Valentine’s Day candy donning the grocery store shelves, I hope that your New Year’s resolutions to shift your dietary choices have not waned! No Peeps for you! With that thought in mind, I wanted to share 4 things that will most definitely fuel your weight loss. Let’s say goodbye to that plateau! Don’t give up! Remember, it takes three weeks to establish a new habit and we are barely beyond that in 2017~

It’s time to give yourself a break, especially if you made a dramatic switch from a so-called “Western diet” last month, one that was high in saturated fats and sugars, to a more healthy, calorie restricted, plant based diet. Am I talking to you? There is a good reason that your weight loss may have stalled. It’s all about your microbiome, the microbes in your gut.

You need to know that in many cases it takes time for your good gut bacteria populations to multiply and restore. Increasing your probiotic (good guy) population is at the core of successful and lasting weight loss. Do not despair – there are excellent things you can do help rebalance your gut TODAY, and continue to melt those pounds away!

 

1. Include a daily probiotic supplement.

That choice will directly encourage positive changes in those communities of good bacteria in your gut. When you’re considering a probiotic, look for one that offers at least 10 different types/strains of bacteria and at least 30 billion live cultures to increase your diversity. Make sure the formula includes bifidobacteria, the main bacteria in your colon.

 

2. Add fermented foods to your diet.

Fermented goodies are an excellent way to invite new and different microbes into your life. The process of fermentation provides lactobacillus strains of bacteria – necessary for proper absorption of nutrients along with intestinal repair and decreased inflammation, just to name a few important jobs those good guys do. Fermented veggies are delicious as condiments or even side dishes daily. Kefir provides you with an extensive variety of bacterial strains. Kombucha is rich in both healthy yeasts and bacteria. Let these foods be your friends!

 

3. Increase fiber in your diet.

Soluble fiber acts as a prebiotic, feeding those good microbes in your gut. Prebiotic foods like raw dandelion greens, garlic, leaks, jicama, and raw or cooked onions are delicious to include in your daily meals. Acacia fiber is an excellent fiber supplement that is tasteless and simple to add to your foods or smoothies for an extra fiber boost. Insoluble fiber found in vegetables, oats, beans and legumes provides bulk for your stool, which leads to me to #4.

 

4. Avoid constipation!

Many people notice initially when they make a dramatic dietary shift, they begin to experience changes in bowel habits. That makes total sense since the bacteria and other microbes also reorganize with dietary change. During the shift, both weight loss and bowel regularity may slow. Bottom line, constipated people simply don’t lose weight easily. Their bodies are too overwhelmed with toxicity and inflammation.

Should you experience constipation, please make sure you’re drinking plenty of fluids. All three of my previous suggestions help to normalize your bowel and relieve constipation. However, depending on your circumstance, for a short time it may be wise to consider supplementing with a natural laxative formula. Remember, it’s imperative to avoid constipation, no matter what. Look for natural ingredients in a supplement formulation like magnesium, aloe, rhubarb and triphala.

Many people have great success adding magnesium citrate or other form of magnesium into their daily regimen. Magnesium deficiency is widespread so looking into ways to add magnesium for optimal health is always a great idea for well-being.

Learn more about magnesium here.

AND, hang in there! Be kind to yourself. Please don’t stress about immediate results. We know that stress itself decreases your ability to lose those pounds. Instead focus on your increased energy levels, perhaps a skin condition is resolving or you notice your mood has improved and/or your mind has cleared! It only gets better as your gut balances.

Heart for the Holidays

Filed in Adults, Heart Disease, Heart of Perfect Health, Stress | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/19/2016


Protecting your heart - from Brenda Watson's official blog

With the holidays now in full swing, rarely do we find a person who doesn’t experience some type of added stress. “Joy to the world” is sometimes difficult to achieve as we frantically shop and make arrangements to accommodate the arrival of friends and family. Some of us are reminded of those that are no longer at our table, and for others, this can be a lonely time for many reasons. Even extreme happiness can be stressful! No matter your situation, please keep these recent articles in mind prompting you to protect your heart – both physically and emotionally.

Intuitively we all know that our hearts work very hard during extreme physical effort. Most of us feel similar strain when we are under severe emotional upset. The INTERHEART Study, a huge global investigation of more than 12,000 people who experienced their first heart attack revealed that anger and emotional upset doubled the risk of an attack. And get this – engaging in heavy physical activity when highly emotional more than tripled the risk! Beware of arguing with your spouse when you’re dragging your Christmas tree into the house!

Last Monday Science Daily shared an article written by a cardiologist from Houston Methodist DeBakey Heart & Vascular Center. See that here. There is a phenomenon called “silent heart attack” that primarily strikes women, generally in their mid-50’s to mid-70’s. As we race through these December days striving for perfection, it may be easy to ignore the more subtle symptoms of this stealthy condition. Often the stress of the season may be compounded by another traumatic event like a death in the family, an auto accident, money issues. Ignored, this condition can be fatal so please listen up.

Dr. Kurrelmeyer tells us “Most of the time people who are experiencing a heart attack will have pain in the chest, shortness of breath, etc. Silent heart attack symptoms might be as simple as indigestion, flu-like symptoms, or feeling discomfort like a pulled muscle in the chest or back. It’s important to have these symptoms checked as soon as possible to avoid scarring or damage to the heart.”

Although women are primarily at risk for this condition known as stress-induced cardiomyopathy, it can also be experienced by men. Stress hormones actually shock the heart, causing the left ventricle, which is the main pumping chamber of the heart to malfunction.

Since heart problems in women aren’t as obvious as those men experience, I thought it might be helpful to offer a list of symptoms to be aware of right here. Please share this article with those women you love.

  • Extreme weakness, anxiety, or shortness of breath.
  • Discomfort, pressure, heaviness or pain the chest, arm, below the breastbone or in the middle of the back.
  • Sweating, nausea, vomiting or dizziness.
  • Fullness, indigestion, tightness in the throat area.
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeats.

In my recent book Heart of Perfect Health, I discuss with renowned medical doctors and surgeons the importance of heart health and how disease is created. We also offer instructions on ways to maintain your cardiac health. Tips are given on various cutting-edge testing procedures that will reveal your own heart’s condition along with complete instructions on a heart healthy diet to provide you with vitality throughout this year, and for years to come.

Difficult as it may seem in the moment, male or female, the bottom line is – take a breath and do your best to relax. As Dr. Kurrelmeyer so poignantly reminds us – “The holidays should be a joyous time spent with family and friends at home, not with doctors in an emergency room.”

Cut the Stress, Free Your Mind

Filed in Adults, Alzheimer's, Brain, Dementia, Depression, Mental Health, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Stress, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 12/01/2016


Free Your Mind From Stress - brendawatson.com

One of the joys of the holiday season is when we reconnect with our families, young and old. Of course, it’s great fun when we get to hear of our Grandparent’s exciting trip they took to Ireland last year. But for some families the reunions are more bittersweet, as we notice the progressive changes that a year has taken on our loved one who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s.

Last weekend I saw an impactful edition of 60 Minutes on TV. Follow this link to view it yourself. In summary, it documents the struggles of a unique Columbian family that has a rare and disastrous genetic mutation, resulting in roughly 50% of their lineage to fall prey to very early onset Alzheimer’s followed by an approximate 10 year decline into oblivion. The episode is extraordinary to watch (grab your Kleenex box), and a clinical trial has begun that may offer incredible insights and even a possible cure into this dismaying disease. Please note that this type of Alzheimer’s is very rare. My prayers go out to this brave family.

Don’t despair, I have some good news for you here should you have concern about a bit too much forgetfulness lately. From an entirely different perspective, an encouraging article I read in the Wall Street Journal this week wants us to know that although Alzheimer’s is the 6th leading cause of death in the US, the chances of actually having a dementia condition like Alzheimer’s at a relatively early age – and early is defined as between 50 and 65 – is actually more remote than you might have imagined.

If you’ve been concerned, it’s far more likely that you are simply experiencing very normal age-associated declines in cognitive skills that can be greatly exacerbated by other lifestyle factors like exhaustion due to sleep issues, overwork, drug side effects, substance abuse, depression or adult attention deficit disorder. The general term for this situation is “brain fog”. Yes.

STRESS, along with a buffet of the choices we are casually offered in our society to deal with demanding circumstances to the best of our ability can magnify memory and cognition issues – and fog us up like we live across the bay from San Francisco. Uncover the stress that is intensifying the symptoms and clarity can again be yours.

Of course, if you have watched a family member decline into senility, you may be more sensitive to changes you note in your own life. And worrying that you are not at the top of your game can be absolutely debilitating. A well-intentioned physician may prescribe you an aid that doesn’t really benefit your particular situation. Or a seemingly relaxing habit like a drink or medication before bed may rob you of much needed deep sleep and clarity in the long run.

I’m not saying to ignore memory and cognition lapses. I am saying to love yourself, take a deep breath and attempt to evaluate the stress level you’re expecting yourself to function at. Would you even suggest that level of stress to your 30 year old niece? Probably not.

And if you are seriously concerned that your thoughts seem to be slipping, seek out an expert such as a geriatric psychiatrist or a neurologist who can review your symptoms and run appropriate tests.

In my experience, dietary choices and toxicity are always involved in any type of cognitive and mental issues. Caring for ourselves by making healthy meal choices, drinking plenty of water, exercise – all these are guaranteed to clear away a bit of that fog. And a great research study I read the other day (one of many) clearly demonstrates that probiotics, those good bacteria in your gut, may help boost memory and learning for Alzheimer’s patients. If they can do that for someone that already has symptoms, imagine how helpful they may be for the rest of us!

My greatest wishes are for you to enjoy a clear and joy-filled holiday – and please remember – cut the stress! You’ll free your mind!

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!

Heart Advice for Difficult Times

Filed in Conditions, Diabetes, Heart Disease, Inflammation, Stress | Posted by Brenda Watson on 10/02/2015


Since the age of 17 I have studied a large number of the spiritual philosophies from around the world. Ultimately, the unifying piece of all for me has been meditation, or commonly these days, it seems to be termed ‘mindfulness’. I have blogged many times about the healthful effects of mindfulness – a state of active, open attention to the present moment. The myriad chronic conditions that benefit from decreasing stress and allowing the moment to just “be” are notable – diabetes, cardiovascular disease, chronic inflammation, depression – and the list continues.

So what is it in our lives that keeps us from taking that small amount of time for ourselves to relax into our breath and go within? Many times the simple practices of mindfulness get lost, and often in the best of times, leaving us feeling empty when we thought we might be overflowing with happiness. The regular practice of going within offers far-reaching joyful benefits – and there’s a reason it’s called a practice.

I’ve noticed that through the years, my own personal “rules” for how things must be to contact that peace within have shifted spaces and formats.

These days there are free resources all over the internet to help us let go of anxiety and find peace within our seemingly chaotic days.

Recently I suffered an intense loss in my life and like many others in times of grief, my meditation practice has grown even more dear to me. What has shifted strongly through my own letting-go process is not only do I have a certain place where go to practice, I have recently placed objects there that have deep significance to me.

I am a vibrational person, as I believe we all are, and I use my toning bowl to create sounds I love. I may play some music. I may read for a while, perhaps light a candle, sometimes chant. There may be alligator tears, or giggles that surprise me. I’ve seen my willingness increase dramatically to confront the inevitable painful mental blocks and searing emotions that arise around those times of loss in our lives. I’m allowing the love and light that is present in all to heal me. And no matter when I arrive, I always walk away closer to the heart of beloved peace.

In the past, even 5 minutes would do. However now as I recognize my own need for healing, I’ve made a serious commitment to my daily practice. Without fail I spend a minimum of 20 minutes which may turn to an hour. Some days I have to get up at 5 a.m. to keep this commitment. And believe me, it’s worth it.

For you, it may be a place in the woods, a tiny spot in a garden, or even a chair in a library where you find yourself willing to breathe and be still. Others are able to meditate through physical movement like tai-chi. I’ve watched artists in meditation as they create their own form of beauty. It’s all good.

For now, I’d like to offer you 7 points that may be helpful if you’re considering a regular mindfulness practice.

  1. Whether you’re sitting on the floor, a chair, or wherever – be comfortable.
  2. I believe it’s most effective for you to make a sacred place where you return each day, at least in the beginning. There is something soothing about repetition.
  3. Be sure your legs are at ease. If you’re sitting in a chair, have your feet flat and spaced a few inches apart.
  4. From your head to your seat, it’s best to have your spine upright, not slouching.
  5. Allow your hands to be open with your palms resting on your thighs.
  6. My suggestion is to keep your eyes open and relaxed, gazing downward and directed 4-6 feet in front of you. This is not nap-time.
  7. Leave your mouth slightly open so your jaw is relaxed. That way air can move easily through your mouth and nose.

Remember, breath is your spirit. If you find your mind wandering and you’re thinking about situations, emotions or sensations, you can let them go by saying (even out loud) “I’m thinking” – and then focus your attention on an out-breath. Repeat as necessary. There is no wrong way. You are loved.

Ultimately it comes down to the question of how willing are we to commit our time, to loosen our grip on daily life, and be honest with ourselves.

My request for you today is that you take some breaths and moments just for you – and yes, do that each day. It will be my pleasure to meet you across time and space in the present moment of peace.

Happy mindful meditation to you.

Mother’s Prenatal Stress Affects Infant’s Gut Bacteria

Filed in General, Human Microbiome, Infancy, Pregnant women, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Stress | Posted by lsmith on 02/04/2015


A number of studies have linked stress during pregnancy to premature birth and low birth weight, eczema, asthma, skin condition, and general illness as well as anxiety, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD) and impaired cognitive and psychomotor development.1 The reasons for these associations is not completely understood. Some researchers believe that gut microbes play a role.

Intestinal microbes affect the development of an infant’s immune system, development of the gastrointestinal tract, and hormone function. Infants receive their gut microbes largely from their mother—especially if they are delivered vaginally and breastfed—and to a smaller extent from their environment. Compromised development of a healthy balance of gut bacteria during infancy can have long-lasting negative health effects.

In a recent study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, researchers found that women who experience stress during pregnancy are more likely to have babies with an imbalance of gut bacteria and worse gastrointestinal problems and allergic reactions when compared to women with less prenatal stress.1

Fifty-one mother-infant pairs were involved in the study. Stress levels during pregnancy along with salivary cortisol levels were measured. Cortisol, known as the stress hormone, is secreted under conditions of stress and so is a biological marker of stress. Those women with either high stress levels as measured by questionnaires or high cortisol levels were more likely to deliver babies with greater gut bacterial imbalance.

Fecal samples were collected up to five times beginning at seven days after birth up to four months after birth. Mothers with high stress and high cortisol levels had babies with higher amounts of Proteobacteria, which is comprised of a number of pathogenic species, and lower amounts of lactic acid bacteria (a group including the beneficial Lactobacillus) and Actinobacteria (a group including the beneficial Bifidobacterium). These children also experienced greater gastrointestinal symptoms and allergic reactions. Even breastfeeding, which is known to help promote the growth of beneficial bacteria in the gut due to its prebiotic content, was not enough to protect from the negative effects of stress.

“We think that our results point towards a possible mechanism for health problems in children of mothers who experience stress during pregnancy,” noted Carolina de Weerth, lead researcher. “Giving other bacteria would probably benefit these children’s development.”

The researchers suggest that cortisol may be affecting gut microbes in three main ways. First, cortisol may be interfering with bile production which can have an effect on gut bacteria. Second, cortisol may cross the placenta and increase fetal cortisol levels, which might affect the development of the gastrointestinal tract and impact gut bacteria. Third, cortisol may be transferred to the infant from breast milk. Cortisol is not the only mechanism, however, since prenatally stressed women without elevated cortisol also had babies with gut imbalance. The researchers suggest that the effects of stress on the endocrine and immune systems might be to blame. These mechanisms require further study.

Indeed, this study points to the need for a diet high in plant-based foods that feed the beneficial bacteria in the gut, supplementation with pre- and probiotics, and stress-reduction therapies such as meditation during pregnancy. Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium bacteria are sensitive to environmental disturbances, and yet are well known to be crucial to the development of a healthy gut microbiota in children. Replenishing this population of bacteria—and preventing its depletion—during pregnancy, infancy, and beyond is crucial.

References

  1. Zijlmans MAC, Korpela K, Riksen-Walraven JM, et al., “Maternal Prenatal Stress and Infant Intestinal Microbiota.” Psyconeuroendocrinol. 2015;19 Jan: online ahead of print.

3 Foods to Fight Chronic Stress and Obesity

Filed in Inflammation, Obesity, Stress | Posted by Brenda Watson on 07/11/2014


When you encounter a perceived threat, your body reacts by activating the fight-or-flight response—your adrenals pump out stress hormones that put the body and mind into a hyperaware, ready-for-anything mode. Digestion shuts down and the cardiovascular system pumps up in anticipation of, well, a fight or flight.

This bodily process is elegantly designed to help save our lives when we are in danger. It works quite well when utilized on occasion. The problem is that in today’s world, we are presented with constant mini-threats in the form of work stress, family issues, financial problems, and relationship troubles. Many people are in a state of chronic stress, putting out small fires all day long, all week long, month after month. Under chronic stress, our fight-or-flight response is constantly activated, which takes a big toll on our health. Inflammation increases, hormone levels alter, and energy runs low.

Chronic stress is a major contributor to disease. Not only are we more likely to experience mental disorders such as anxiety and depression, but our digestive health suffers (remember that the fight-or-flight response shuts down digestion), our heart health diminishes, and we experience weight gain, sleep problems, and trouble with memory and concentration.

In a recent study published in the journal Psychoneuroendocrinology, researchers found that women who were chronically stressed and eating foods high in fat and sugar gained inches around the waist, increased fat, had higher oxidative damage, and more insulin resistance when compared to women who were not under stress and eating the same foods. In short, the chronically stressed women were on the road to metabolic syndrome, the precursor to diabetes and heart disease.

“Diet appears to be a critical variable that can either amplify or protect against the metabolic effects of stress, but we still don’t know the details of how much it takes,” noted Elissa Epel, PhD, senior author.

Stress is a regular part of most people’s lives in the world we currently live in. We must remember that adding unhealthy foods to our already stressed-out existence will have consequences. Instead, why not choose foods that help to quell the inflammation that comes with stress? By eating more of the following three foods—while avoiding grains, sugar, and grain-fed meats—you can help deter the effects of chronic stress.

Non-starchy vegetables. Vegetables are some of the healthiest foods you can eat. As long as you avoid the starchy vegetables (corn and potatoes in particular) and fill your plate with plenty of colors, you will help to nourish your body and lower inflammation.

Low-sugar fruit. Many fruits are very high in sugar. It’s best to stick with nutrient-rich berries (strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, etc.) because they are naturally low in sugar, which fuels inflammation.

Healthy fats. Not all fats are bad. Healthy fats are an important part of the diet. By eating plenty of omega-3 fats found in oily fish, walnuts, and flax and chia seeds, you will help to balance the inflammation response triggered by stress and a poor diet.