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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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Sleep More in Class, Teens Learn More. Surprise!

Filed in Adults, Heart Disease, Preventable Issues, Sleep, Teens, Uncategorized, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/24/2017


Sleep Deprived Teen - brendawatson.com

Sleep. How great it is when we’ve rested well the night before. How distressing it can be when that just wasn’t the case. Over the years I’ve offered many tips and hints on how to grab those extra winks.

Recently I enjoyed reading a report in the Wall Street Journal about organized napping in high school. According to study after study, lack of sleep in adults reduces workplace efficiency, can lead to overeating, and recently was even associated with stress on the heart.

            Short-term sleep deprivation has now been shown to affect heart function. Read more here.

Babies and school age children tend to get the healthful sleep they need, largely because we adults are able to make sure that happens. Stress increases and circumstances shift as our youth enter high school. Studies show that our teenagers are the age group most seriously impacted by lack of sleep. It’s generally agree that 8.5 to 9.5 hours nightly are needed to optimize teen growth. Many of these youth fall very short of that goal and school start times have been associated.

How much sleep is enough? Find out.

Did you realize that in 2014 the American Academy of Pediatrics released a policy statement for high school to begin no earlier than 8:30 a.m., allowing teens to get more sleep nightly? A study of over 9,000 students was conducted that compared early and late school start times. Marked improvements in class performance as well as bettered national test scores were recorded with later arrival to school. Daily attendance improved. And here’s an unexpected stat. Car crashes by drivers 16 to 18 years old were reduced by 70% when school began later, at 8:55 as opposed to 7:35.

Inside of heightened pressure to perform for college and other activities, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) believe that insufficient sleep as a teenager may be associated with weight gain, drinking alcohol, smoking tobacco, drug use – and subsequently, poor academic performance. I’m sure you’ll agree – falling asleep in class just doesn’t bode well for a student’s future.

            Check out the CDC report.

If you parent a teen, you may be thinking “my child’s school never read that report!” Your son or daughter’s required arrival time to class is probably around 7:30. Since institutions tend to be slow to change the way things are structured, it may be by adding napping to the high school curriculum, students may find some additional winks.

Due to increased awareness of sleep teen needs, here are some great napping programs that are cropping up in schools across the country:

  • Students with good grades get a weekly first period free so they can sleep in.
  • Quiet time for students – 20 minutes at the beginning and end of each day with closed eyes, no talking. One group is actually practicing transcendental mediation!
  • The Path Program in Boston has high-schoolers spend one period each day in a special area designed with comfy chairs and yoga balls to rest and de-stress. Counselors are available to offer guidance on good sleep habits.
  • A New Mexico pilot program purchased Restworks EnergyPods through a government grant. These pods, originally designed to afford stress relief in the workplace, seem perfect for students as well. After a 20-minute session, participants report emerging rested and refreshed.

Although most sleep professionals still feel an earlier bedtime is preferred over napping, I feel hopeful when I hear about these innovative rest programs. After all, these are the young people who will be shaping our futures. I for one would like to imagine they will be clear-minded and well-rested.

High Blood Pressure – in Kids?

Filed in Adults, Children, Chronic Disease, Diet, High blood pressure, Obesity, Teens, The Skinny Gut Diet, Uncategorized, Weight Loss | Posted by Brenda Watson on 11/07/2016


Blood Pressure and the Heart - brendawatson.com

Recently I’ve been noticing different articles that focus our attention on childhood ailments that previously were only adult conditions. One article I read was citing that high blood pressure in children is on the rise. What?

High blood pressure in adults is recognized as the silent killer since many times there are no obvious symptoms. I have blogged many times on this subject, and ways to recognize and control it. I have even shared a study where probiotics reduced high blood pressure in people who supplemented regularly over 8 weeks.

In adults it’s estimated that one out of three people has hypertension but only about half of them have the situation under control. The pre-hypertension group of adults is also one out of three.

It’s tough to realize that today I’m talking about a study conducted with middle school and high school athletes. Twenty percent were found to be overweight and 24 percent were considered obese, with 15 percent actually diagnosed with high blood pressure – and these are teenagers. Too much sugar, whether from sodas, candy, bread or cakes, fast foods, poor fats, huge amounts of salt. Worse yet, I often meet kids who literally have an aversion to vegetables.

And here we are right back to dietary choices at the crux of this situation. On one hand this is fantastic news since theoretically diet can be controlled much more easily than say, genetics.

However in my recent fascinating interview with Kenneth Fine, M.D., brilliant researcher, gastroenterologist and founder of EnteroLabs.com and the non-profit Intestinal Health Institute, something that really rang true to me was said. And I quote “Change strikes fear in every human being, but dietary change strikes terror!”

You’re probably laughing at this point, but this is why these chronic health issues exist at all – for both teens AND adults! Sometimes it seems the most difficult thing in the world to do is to change your eating habits! This is the point where education and parent-child-community interaction becomes so critical.

Since this condition is widely overlooked in children for a number of reasons expressed in the article, I’m pleading with you as parents to insist that your child’s blood pressure is monitored regularly and here’s why.

Apparently a condition called left ventricular hypertrophy can develop in just a few years in young people with hypertension. That’s where the heart’s main pumping chamber enlarges. The good news is if the blood pressure irregularity is noticed and brought under control, the heart can heal completely. Unrecognized, the condition will progress and can eventually lead to heart failure.

I wanted to share a resource I found recently – Teachabletaste.com. This website was created by Mott’s Applesauce, and many of the recipes are easy, delicious and even align with many of the Skinny Gut Diet principles. Enrolling your kids in creating healthful meals will have long-range effects as they grow through their teens and beyond.

Type 1 Diabetes On The Rise

Filed in Antibiotics, Autoimmune Disease, Children, Gluten Sensitivity, Immune System, Teens, Type 1 Diabetes, Uncategorized | Posted by Brenda Watson on 09/02/2016


Type 1 Diabetes - brendawatson.com

Parents, please listen up! I have some important research to share with you right now! It has to do with the possibility of preventing the development of type 1 diabetes in your children!

When I read the results of this recent study in Science Daily, my heart fell. In a nutshell, it informs us that repeated antibiotic exposure greatly increases the risk for type 1 diabetes.

My own nephew was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at around 13 years old, along with severe gluten sensitivity. Just last week my dear friend’s daughter was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 14. I can tell you that both of these young people had round after round of antibiotics as children.

The article states that the average American child currently receives 10 courses of antibiotics by age 10. Of course, when given, the doctors are very convincing and assert that the antibiotics are very necessary. That’s why it’s so important that you, the parents, are well-informed.

Type 1 diabetes is no fun, period. It used to be called juvenile diabetes and was quite rare. However as children’s exposure to antibiotics has increased in recent years, the diversity and density of good gut bacteria, responsible for strong immunity, has dramatically shifted. Along with that shift in the gut environment, the occurrence of auto-immune diseases like type 1 diabetes has more than doubled.

Our immune systems are designed to protect us from harm. In the case of a person with an auto-immune disease, their immune system mistakenly attacks their healthy tissues or organs. With type 1 diabetes, the misguided immune system destroys the islet cells in the pancreas where insulin is produced. Islet cells don’t grow back. Insulin is essential to control blood sugar levels. Without insulin, excess sugar builds up and will ultimately damage nerves and blood vessels. The unfortunate person with this condition will need to be closely monitored and remain on medication daily for the rest of their life. As I said, no fun.

The summary of the clinical trial I mentioned above, which was conducted by well-known researcher Dr. Martin Blaser at NYU Langone Medical Center, reads “In doses equivalent to those used regularly in human children, antibiotics changed the mix of gut microbes in young mice to dramatically increase their risk for type 1 diabetes.” I find that to be a very frightening statement.

Jessica Dunne, director of Discovery Research at the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation, puts it this way. “This is the first study of its kind suggesting that antibiotic use can alter the microbiota and have lasting effects on immunological and metabolic development, resulting in autoimmunity.”

So I say to you, please, please consider all other options before allowing antibiotics to be administered to your beloved young son or daughter (or yourself!). During cold and flu season, antibiotics are often prescribed for common respiratory issues. In the case of a viral infection, antibiotics are absolutely ineffective as I shared in this recent blog. Here’s a short list of natural products known for their anti-viral and in most cases, also antibacterial properties. These can be found in your local health food store and may be wise to keep on hand:

  • Monolaurin
  • Biocidin
  • Colostrum
  • Bee propolis
  • Grapefruit seed extract
  • Reishi mushrooms
  • Oregano oil

It’s always a good idea to consult a trusted health practitioner to determine which might be the best fit for you and your family.

I’ve blogged often about antibiotics and their consequences. It’s a crusade I will not surrender, as I know that through education and awareness, all of our immune systems – both of our children and ourselves – have the best chance for a healthy tomorrow!

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!

Back to School Health Tips

Filed in Children, Cold and Flu, Common Cold, Diet, Digestive Health, General, Immune System, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Sugar, Teens | Posted by Brenda Watson on 08/28/2015


Goodbye to summer! I hope yours was enjoyable and relaxing.

Here in Florida, we’re hoping that the heat will lift soon. The kids are headed back to their classes and with the new school year comes the inevitable increase in colds and flu. Lots of excited little human beings in an enclosed space together, laughing, touching and generally sharing their bacteria with anyone in coughing or sneezing range.

How can we parents help to support our children’s immune systems and overall health while minimizing the chances of bringing home the newest variety of bacteria or virus?

Although these simple habits can be taken for granted as obvious, verbal suggestions and leading by example seem to make all the difference. We all remind each other to:

  • Wash hands after using the bathroom.
  • Sneeze or cough into our inner elbow, rather than into our hands
  • Try not to put fingers into noses or mouths – generally avoid touching the face
  • Avoid the drinking fountain at school – bring bottled water if possible – there are some great eco friendly options available

And my favorite – it’s never too soon to teach our children about the dangers of sugar, and that sugar actually increases their chances of getting sick by feeding bad bacteria that make for unhappy sneezes and coughs. So minimizing sugar, both at school and at home, is one of the healthiest things we can all do together.

Which brings me to something I’d really like to say. Over the last decade, I’ve watched our awareness slowly shift from simply treating symptoms of disease to the sound concept that maintaining our natural health is the most intelligent choice we can make – on a daily basis. Sadly, American marketing techniques are often ahead of our best intentions.

Natural health isn’t always “natural” or “healthy”. We can be tricked by products that might contain a few positive nutrients lost in other ingredients that are downright unhealthy, like sugars. Gummy vitamins are the perfect example.

Sure, our kids love them because they taste like candy. Guess what – they ARE candy! And candy isn’t the way to maintain health – period.

Moms and Dads, please read the labels on those supposed healthy vitamins. If you go to your local health food store and ask, they will show you products that are sweetened with stevia or erythritol or other healthy sweeteners. Spend wisely and really preserve your children’s wellness.

Two other valuable tips:

  1. After breakfast, be sure to give your children a quality multi-vitamin that contains extra vitamin D and,
  2. Before bed, give your kids a probiotic. Their immune systems will love you for it!

Misery and suffering can be optional. Let’s all maintain our health together.

Early Menopause and Early Menstruation—Possible Causes

Filed in Environmental Toxins, Menopause, Sugar, Teens | Posted by Brenda Watson on 02/23/2015


The average age of a girl’s first menstruation has been decreasing in recent years. While there are a number of potentiation causes, consumption of the contributing of sugary drinks is the topic of a recent study published in the journal Human Reproduction. Researchers followed over 5,500 girls aged nine to 14 years and found that those who drank more than 1.5 servings of sugary drinks per day had their first period 2.7 months earlier, on average, than those who consumed two or fewer drinks per week.

“Our findings suggest that frequent consumption of sugar sweetened beverages may be associated with earlier menarche [onset of menstruation],” noted the authors. “A one-year decrease in age at menarche is estimated to increase the risk of breast cancer by five percent … thus, a 2.7-month decrease in age at menarche likely has a modest impact on breast cancer risk.”

In another study published in the Public Library of Science ONE journal that included over 1,400 women aged, on average, 61, researchers found that those women who were exposed to high levels of chemicals found in everyday household and personal care items experienced menopause two to four years earlier than those women with lower levels of these chemicals.

“Chemicals linked to earlier menopause may lead to an early decline in ovarian function, and our results suggest we as a society should be concerned,” noted Amber Cooper, lead researcher. “Many of these chemical exposures are beyond our control because they are in the soil, water, and air, but we can educate ourselves about our day-to-day chemical exposures and become more aware of the plastics and other household products we use.”

The researchers tested the women’s blood and urine for 111 chemicals from the following categories: dioxins/furans, phthalates, phytoestrogens, polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), phenols, organophosphate pesticides, surfactants, and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons.

Both of these studies are cause for concern. Although they do not prove causation, they suggest that reducing sugar intake in young girls, and reducing chemical exposure in women is a priority.

Probiotics and Your Family Vacation

Filed in Adults, Children, Digestive Health, General, Probiotics & Gut Flora, Supplements, Teens | Posted by Brenda Watson on 05/26/2009


Summer is quickly approaching and I’m sure everyone is starting to think about their family vacation. You might be going to a state park, an amusement park or visiting friends and family. No matter where you are planning to spend your family vacation, you are sure to think of your family’s safety first. With that said, one part of your family’s safety is keeping them healthy during travel.

During your vacation it is important to have your children wash their hands before eating, use the antiseptic wipes at crowded places and avoid contact with anyone coughing or sneezing. But, equally, if not more important, is for you and your children to take a probiotic supplement daily.

I would recommend starting one a week before your scheduled travel and take it religiously throughout your trip. A good probiotic supplement will help keep your family’s immune system stay strong and ready to fight off bacteria and viruses you may come into contact with on your vacation.

I would suggest ReNew Life brand FloraSmart probiotic. This probiotic supplement is great for travel because it is “shelf stable” so it does not need refrigeration. Plus, the tablets are individually wrapped, which makes them easy to shove into your purse or pocket. There are several different strengths including a 6, 12 and 24 billion culture strengths. For travel I would suggest at least the 12 billion culture strength. This is suitable for your entire family. This means that children from age 3 and up can take the same adult probiotic supplement. This will make your travels easier knowing you only need one option on hand.

So, go out there, have fun and enjoy your family vacation.