Digestive Care Expert Brenda Watson

Brenda and I have talked at length, here on the blog and also in our books, about the importance of gut bacterial balance to weight management. Having the wrong microbes in your gut predisposes you to weight gain, the topic of our last book, The Skinny Gut Diet. Following this line of thinking, researchers have tested the effects of pre- and probiotics on a range of metabolic abnormalities in humans. A recent systematic review and meta-analysis published in the journal Clinical Nutrition found that prebiotics and synbiotics (prebiotics plus probiotics) had a beneficial effect on a range of metabolic abnormalities in overweight or obese adults.1

Remember that prebiotics are compounds—usually soluble fibers—that act as food for the beneficial gut bacteria. They help to increase the levels or activity of the beneficial bacteria in the gut.

The analysis included 513 overweight or obese adult participants from thirteen different clinical trials. Nine of the trials administered prebiotics, and four of the trials administered synbiotics. The prebiotics were mostly inulin-type fibers at doses ranging from 5.5 to 21 grams per day, while the synbiotics were composed of a maximum of 2.5 grams of the prebiotic FOS (fructooligosaccharide) along with 270 million to 5 billion cultures of Bifidobacterium, and/or Lactobacillus, and/or Streptococcus probiotic bacteria daily.

Prebiotic supplementation was found to reduce total cholesterol and LDL-cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol) concentrations, while also reducing triglycerides and increasing HDL-cholesterol (“good” cholesterol) in participants with diabetes. Synbiotic supplementation was found to reduce fasting insulin and triglyceride levels.

“The supplementation of prebiotics or synbiotics could take part in the management of obesity-related comorbidities, such as dyslipidemia and insulin resistance.”

Some of the studies reported abdominal symptoms such as bloating, pain, and nausea, but they also noted improvement of symptoms during the supplementation and no withdrawal of participants from the studies, which the researchers believe is due to an adaptation period. Some people have difficulty tolerating inulin-derived prebiotics (including FOS), which are fermented in the digestive tract to a high degree and can trigger symptoms.

The authors of the review did not look at the effects of taking probiotics alone for some reason. Previous studies administering fermented milk and yogurt containing probiotics have found beneficial effects on cholesterol levels.2 Another study found that a high-dose, multistrain probiotic reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL-cholesterol, as well as increased HDL-cholesterol in overweight adults.3 More studies are needed to determine the effects of probiotics alone on metabolic abnormalities in overweight and obese adults.

The really good news is whether you take prebiotics, synbiotics, or just probiotics, they all seem to have a significant benefit on mitigating metabolic syndrome (high cholesterol, LDL, triglycerides, insulin, blood sugar, and blood pressure, and low HDL, along with increased waist size). Metabolic syndrome is now the world’s greatest health challenge.

Since fiber is critical, it would be wise to eat an 80%+ plant-based diet or at least take prebiotics in addition to probiotics. As we have stated many times: Taking beneficial bacteria plus prebiotic fibers leads to major benefits in immune balance by modulating inflammation. In other words, you will have appropriate inflammation if attacked by an infection, but not the inflammation that is the foundation of metabolic syndrome, autoimmunity, allergies and most all disease conditions.

Start out slow with these products and increase gradually. If there is too much gas, bloating, or abdominal discomfort, stop for a few days and start back on a lower dose. You wouldn’t think of doing a marathon without training, likewise it may take time and persistence to retrain your intestinal response to good bacteria and fiber. Those on an 80 percent or more plant-based diet usually adapt quicker since they are already eating plenty of fiber, the foods preferred by beneficial bacteria.


  1. Beserra BTS, Fernandes R, do Rosario VA, et al., “A systematic review and meta-analysis of the prebiotics and synbiotics effects on glycaemia, insulin concentrations and lipid parameters in adult patients with overweight or obesity.” Clin Nutr. 2014; online ahead of print.
  2. Pereira DI and Gibson GR, “Effects of consumption of probiotics and prebiotics on serum lipid levels in humans.” Crit Rev Biochem Mol Biol. 2002;37(4):259-81.
  3. Rajkumar H, Mahmood N, Kumar M, et al., “Effect of probiotic (VSL#3) and omega-3 on lipid profile, insulin sensitivity, inflammatory markers, and gut colonization in overweight adults: a randomized, controlled trial.” Mediators Inflamm. 2014;2014:348959.

cholesterol, gut bacteria balance, insulin, Lactobacillus Bifidobacterium, metabolic abnormalities, obesity, overweight, Probiotics, synbiotics, triglycerides, weight management

For a treat that satisfies your sweet tooth without adding on the pounds, these chocolate pumpkin cups are the perfect choice. I keep them on hand for a sweet treat without the sugar.


These chocolate cups have only 0.5 teaspoons of sugar (that includes sugar that breaks down from starchy carbohydrates), as calculated using my sugar tracker calculation from my book, The Skinny Gut Diet:


0.5 teaspoons of sugar per cup
65 minutes to prepare and freeze
Makes 20 cups

1/3 cup coconut cream concentrate (coconut butter)
1/3 cup coconut oil
6 tablespoons cacao powder
1 teaspoon natural, non-caloric sweetener (monk fruit, stevia, etc.)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 tablespoon pumpkin pie spice

½ cup pumpkin puree (canned or prepared from fresh pumpkin)
¼ cup nut butter
1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice

¼ cup coarsely chopped nuts

1. Melt the coconut cream and the coconut oil in a saucepan over low heat. Remove from heat and add the cacao powder, sweetener, vanilla extract, and 1 tablespoon of the pumpkin pie spice. Mix until well blended.
2. Place cupcake liners into a mini muffin pan. Add ½ teaspoon chocolate mixture to each of 20 cups. Place in freezer for about 20 minutes.
3. In a mixing bowl, combine the pumpkin puree, nut butter, and 1 teaspoon pumpkin spice. Place ½ teaspoon of the filling mixture on top of frozen chocolate. Place another ½ teaspoon of chocolate mixture over the filling.
4. Sprinkle with the coarsely chopped nuts, and freeze for 30 minutes or until hardened.

chocolate pumpkin treats, sweet treat, The Skinny Gut Diet

I have found that even the most devote Brussels sprouts haters actually love to eat the leaves. That’s good news because these nutritious veggies are so good for you and your liver. I like to use my hands when preparing this dish because it adds an extra touch of love.


20 minutes to prepare and cook
Serves 6

1 pound large Brussels sprouts
2 large leeks
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon lemon pepper seasoning
Optional: ¼ cup crushed cashews or 2 strips cooked, crumbled bacon

  1. Remove stems from the Brussels sprouts and slice in half, lengthwise. With a small knife, cut out the core (small white part inside) to make it easy to separate the leaves. Set leaves aside in a bowl.
  2. Slice the leeks and break up the slices into circles. Combine with the Brussels sprouts leaves. Add the olive oil, lemon pepper seasoning, and optional cashew or bacon and mix well, massaging with your hands to coat with the oil.
  3. Spread the leaves and circles onto a baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes, depending on desired consistency. I let the leeks get nice and browned.

Brussels sprout leaves, leeks, roasted, Thanksgiving

Antibiotic overuse during childhood is rampant. Most physicians, often at the parent’s urging, will prescribe an antibiotic for colds, flu, and ear infections even though antibiotic prescription is not indicated in such cases. Antibiotics are unnecessary for these common childhood ailments, and their overuse has far-reaching negative effects.

In a recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) Pediatrics, researchers studied the medical records of almost 65,000 babies and children in the Philadelphia area. They discovered that babies who received wide-spectrum antibiotics (including amoxicillin, tetracycline, streptomycin, moxifloxacin, and ciprofloxacin) during their first two years of life were 11 percent more likely to be obese between ages 2 and 5 than those who did not receive the drugs. And the earlier the exposure to the drugs, the more likely the child was to be obese between age 3 and 5.

“Because the first 24 months of life comprise major shifts in diet, growth, and the establishment of intestinal microbiome, this interval may comprise a window of particular susceptibility to antibiotic effects,” noted the researchers.

Martin Blaser, a prominent researcher who is currently studying the effects of antibiotics on the human gut microbiome has said, “Antibiotic perturbation may cause a shift to an alternative stable state, the full consequences of which remain unknown.” His studies have found that gut bacteria may never fully recover after antibiotic use.

Antibiotic use has been linked to obesity in adults and children in previous studies, so this new study in children only adds to the evidence that gut bacterial balance is essential for weight management. Truly there is more to the story than calories in, calories out, a topic that I cover in depth in my new book, The Skinny Gut Diet.

“This really gives strong evidence that, often, obesity really is not a personal choice,” noted Stephen Cook, MD, MPH, lead researcher. He said that childhood obesity “is a much more complicated issue than ‘move more and eat less.’”

Even the authors of the study are skeptical that physicians will give up using antibiotics for these conditions, so they suggest using narrow-spectrum antibiotics instead, which target a smaller group of bacteria and have less of a negative impact on the beneficial gut bacteria. This is a step in the right direction, but judicious use of antibiotics is really imperative if we are to stop the spread of antibiotic resistance.

antibiotic overuse, antibiotic resistance, antibiotic use, antibiotics, childhood, childhood obesity, cold, ear infection, flu, The Skinny Gut Diet


Fresh Cranberry Relish Delight

This delicious relish is a new twist on an old favorite. A refreshing hint of sweet without all the sugar, this cranberry delight is sure to please.


15 minutes to prepare
Serves 16

1 large unpeeled orange, cut into wedges and seeded
One 12-ounce package Fresh cranberries, rinsed and drained
1 apple, chopped
1 cup pecans
½ cup fresh orange juice

  1. Blend orange, cranberries, apple, and pecans in a food processor until evenly chopped, but still chunky. Transfer to bowl.
  2. Add the orange juice. Cover and refrigerate. Serve chilled.

cranberry relish, Thanksgiving


Have you heard? Skinny Gut, Vibrant You begins airing nationwide next week, and I couldn’t be more excited. The path to weight loss success starts here!

So many people ask me the secret to losing weight and keeping it off—an issue I struggled with for a long time. Today, I am here to tell you that you are not entirely responsible for your weight gain or your poor health. There is actually a missing piece to the puzzle.

It has to do with the trillions of bacteria inside your gut and whether they are in balance or out of balance. They are the underlying reason why you struggle to lose weight and achieve optimal health. But, by addressing your gut balance you will finally be able to lose the weight and keep it off—plus enjoy the side benefits of fewer digestive problems, a stronger immune system, and even a better mood.

In Skinny Gut, Vibrant You I reveal how living a Skinny Gut lifestyle can help you regain vibrant health. Be sure to tune in to this eye-opening special that reveals the science behind your inner weight loss secret and provides simple ways to achieve permanent weight loss.

Click here to find out when it will be airing locally, and be sure to watch Skinny Gut, Vibrant You starting next week!

For a quick preview of my new special, click on the link below!

lose weight, Public Television, Skinny Gut lifestyle, Skinny Gut Vibrant You, weight gain, Weight Loss

Homemade stuffing is one of the biggest temptations at Thanksgiving dinner for those of us who are limiting grains and starches. But rest assured that I have a delicious breadless stuffing option that you and your family will love.


60 minutes to prepare and cook
Serves 6

1 large sweet potato or yam, diced
2 tablespoons olive oil
6 slices bacon
1 onion, chopped
5 stalks celery, chopped (organic, if possible)
2 medium Granny Smith apples, chopped (organic, if possible)
1 pound pork sausage
4 tablespoons apple cider
3 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup organic chicken broth
1 cup dried tart cherries (with no added sugar)
1 cup chopped walnuts
Salt and pepper
Parchment paper

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread the sweet potato or yam pieces on a cooking sheet and dredge with the olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Place the bacon on another baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake both sheets for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through. Set aside to cool, removing the bacon from the parchment paper. Save the bacon grease.
  2. In a large skillet, sauté the onions, celery, and apples in 2 tablespoons of bacon grease on medium heat. When the onions begin to soften, add the pork sausage and apple cider, and sauté until cooked, about 10 to 15 minutes. Set aside to cool.
  3. In large mixing bowl, combine the eggs, chicken broth, sweet potatoes, dried tart cherries, walnuts, and crumbled bacon. Combine all ingredients and mix thoroughly.
  4. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 to 20 minutes.

breadless stuffing, grain-free stuffing, Thanksgiving, The Skinny Gut Diet

i-quit-sugarWe are all familiar with the enticing pull of sugar—sweet desserts, succulent fruits, and refreshing juices have graced our lips on numerous occasions. If you are among the many who fear you could never give up your sweet treats, I have a book for you. I Quit Sugar by Sarah Wilson is a complete 8-week program that gradually weans you off sugar, week by week.

If you have the sinking feeling that you eat too much sugar (and you need to do something about it), this book is a great introduction for you. The book is beautifully designed with plenty of tips and how-to’s that will help you succeed every step of the way. With over 100 delicious recipes, like Zucchini “Cheesecake” and Coconut Curry Meatballs, or on-the-go snacks like Meal-in-a-Cracker, I Quit Sugar is a treasure trove of good advice.

Sarah Wilson quit sugar in January of 2011 as an experiment and never looked back. She suffered from the autoimmune disease Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (a disease that involves an attack of the thyroid by the immune system) and knew that sugar negatively affected the disease. She was addicted to sugar, but was able to break her habit with the 8-week program that she outlines in the book. The book will show you how to take sugar out of your diet and get well.

I love her “facts to arm yourself with”:

  1. Fat doesn’t make you fat (sugar does).
  2. Fat fills us up—so we can’t gorge on it.
  3. But, we gorge on sugar. In fact, we’re designed to.
  4. Sugar turns directly to fat.
  5. Sugar messes with our hormone systems.

And that’s just the beginning. I would add that starchy carbohydrates break down into sugar and have a wide range of negative effects of their own, but sugar is certainly the biggest culprit when it comes to its stronghold on our health, and it’s a great place to start.

I recommend this book to anyone who can’t bear the thought of giving up sugar. I am here to tell you that you can, and I Quit Sugar will help you on your way.

Sarah has agreed to giveaway one free copy of her book. To enter, simply share in the comments what you’re doing to lead a sugar-free lifestyle and we’ll pick one lucky person at random to win a copy of her book. Good luck!

book review, fat, I Quit Sugar, Sarah Wilson, sugar

Every Friday for six weeks I have been sharing with you a recipe from my new book, The Skinny Gut Diet. If you have tried it all, but you still can’t lose weight, then this book is for you. You are not entirely to blame for your extra pounds. As it turns out, the bacteria in your gut play a major role in whether or not you will lose weight—and keep it off—for good.


Cacao, avocado, and chia mousse is a decadent dessert that you don’t have to feel guilty about. When you have a craving for sweets, this simple yet delicious dessert is all you need, with only 1.6 teaspoons of sugar (that includes sugar that breaks down from starchy carbohydrates), as calculated using my sugar tracker calculation:


0.6 teaspoons of sugar
15 minutes to prepare and cook
Serves 4

1 avocado
¼ cup cacao powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup unsweetened almond milk
2 tablespoons chia seeds

Place the avocado, vanilla, and almond milk in a food processor and process until smooth. Stir in the chia seeds. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and refrigerate for 1 hour. Scoop into individual bowls and serve chilled.

avocado, cacao, carbohydrates, chia, dessert, mousse, sugar

skinny-gut-diet-pollySurgical weight loss is a hotly contested topic. Some feel it’s a miracle. Others, like Polly Bauer, one of the participants in the Skinny Gut Diet project, have a different story to tell. Of course I knew from personal experience that by eating the right foods for a balanced gut, most of us are one step closer to losing weight and keeping it off for good. But would that prove to be the case after a lifetime battle with weight and ultimately a surgical failure?

Polly is an acclaimed international speaker and credit card industry expert who recently co-authored an award-winning book titled, The Plastic Effect: How Urban Legends Influence the Use and Misuse of Credit Cards. For 44 years she has been educating corporate executives, merchants, and consumers on the use and abuse of credit cards. (Her new book is a must-have if you carry plastic!) It was fascinating when Polly shared with me that the core concepts she learned following the Skinny Gut Diet were as critical in providing her with optimum physical health as understanding credit is to strong financial health.

I’m thrilled to tell you it was Polly’s good fortune to lose 37 pounds on our Skinny Gut Diet program and experience the resilience of her digestive system. Her return to health was a testimony to the powers of healing inside us all. Read her story below.

What attracted you to the Skinny Gut Diet?
I knew I would have a proven, tested, well researched program to dedicate myself to. When I start a program, I go all in. I’ve been following Brenda Watson for a decade or so and greatly respected her knowledge base and integrity. When I heard about the possibility of being a part of the original Skinny Gut group, I pursued the opportunity.

Tell us about your success with the Skinny Gut Diet.
I began to understand food and nutrition in a way I had never grasped it previously. I was surprised how easy the meals and snacks were to prepare, once I got the hang of it. I came into the program after a lifetime of dieting, and a failed lap-band surgery. I was haunted by the misery of daily nausea and frequent vomiting. I was ecstatic, after starting the supplement program, to see those horrible chronic symptoms simply vanish. There are no words to describe my relief and gratitude.

What surprised you most about the Skinny Gut Diet?
In a very short period of time I completely lost my sweet and salt cravings. They disappeared around Day 5! I never had really understood how sugar, and also carbs (even gluten-free ones) were damaging my health.

How easy is it to follow the Skinny Gut Diet away from home?
I travel internationally as a speaker, so this was somewhat of a concern early on. I quickly realized that I could easily order foods that were healthy for me everywhere I went. Once I understood the nutritional component of the foods, I became empowered to dine globally and stay with the program – no problem!

Why do you think the Skinny Gut Diet worked so well for you?
Through my lifelong battle with weight, I always placed too much emphasis on what the scale said in the morning instead of how I felt inside and how I fit into my clothes. It was an interesting experience with the Skinny Gut Diet. I am a person who wants results quickly. With the Skinny Gut Diet I was continuously motivated by how rapidly my body dimensions were changing. Other participants mentioned they noticed the same thing. It seemed like I was literally shrinking, even when the numbers on the scale didn’t decrease as quickly as I might have liked. I experienced “looking good and feeling better” results faster than I ever had before and that kept me committed. This is truly my lifestyle – for life. I’m a Skinny Gut Girl forever!

Would you recommend the Skinny Gut Diet to others?
Absolutely! Keep this secret all to myself? Never. I tell everyone I meet!

You can read more about Polly’s story on page 28 of The SkinnyGut Diet. She’s truly an inspiration!

Keep the success stories coming! Join my Skinny Gut Online Community to ask questions, get more information and connect with other Skinny Gut Dieters to share tips and stories.

balanced gut, Skinny Gut Diet, Skinny Gut Dieters, The Plastic Effect

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