Allen & Leaf Miracles of Love Lorna Byrne A message of hope from the angels
Awareness Magazine : Southern California's Guide to Conscious Living Awareness Mag on TwitterAwareness Mag on Facebook
Home Button
About Button
Mission Button
Current Issue Button
Library Button
Advertisors Button
Ad Rates Button
Calendar Button
Classifieds Button
Subscribe Button
Editorial Button

Awareness Magazine
5753-G Santa Ana Canyon Rd. #582
Anaheim, CA 92807
(714) 283-3385
(800) 758-3223
(714) 283-3389 Fax

The Heart of Perfect Health

By Brenda Watson


Heart disease has long been thought of as a man’s disease, but this idea is mistaken. Heart disease or stroke kills one out of every two women. Compare this to breast cancer, which kills one out of every 25 women, and you can see the extent of the problem. It gets worse — 42 percent of women who have a heart attack die within one year compared to only 24 percent of men.

Symptoms are another important distinction between men and women when it comes to heart disease. Symptoms of a heart attack in women differ from those in men. Men tend to experience the classic heart attack symptoms of chest pain and pressure, whereas women often experience subtle symptoms that mimic less-critical health conditions, such as gastrointestinal distress, anxiety, or stress.

The main risk factors for heart disease in women include high total cholesterol, high LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, low HDL (“good”) cholesterol, high triglycerides, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, and obesity. Conventional medicine treats these risk factors with medications without considering what may be causing them in the first place.

This is an important distinction between conventional, or allopathic, medicine and integrative, or functional medicine. Conventional medicine treats diseases by addressing the signs and symptoms while integrative medicine looks at underlying causes of the signs and symptoms of a disease.

The Silent Culprit

Through the lens provided by the integrative medicine approach, we can see that the risk factors for heart disease all have a common underlying cause — inflammation. When most people think of inflammation, they think of joint pain, cuts, or something that hurts. But inflammation can’t always be felt. In fact, inflammation can be present in such a way that you might not even know it is there. This kind of inflammation — chronic, low-grade inflammation — is also known as silent inflammation because it can be present without being felt.

Inflammation is the body’s natural immune response to a foreign invader (such as a pathogen), an injury, or some sort of malfunction in the body. Inflammation works to destroy and eliminate foreign substances or abnormalities in due time. Inflammation resolution, or the ending of the inflammatory process, is crucial for the body’s return to homeostasis, or balance.

When inflammation does not properly resolve and when the trigger is constant, the result is chronic, low-grade inflammation. This silent inflammation essentially resets the body’s point of balance — creating suboptimal normal, resulting in suboptimal function in the body. It is this long-term, suboptimal function that leads to heart disease and other chronic diseases.

Silent inflammation is the initial trigger of atherosclerosis, or the buildup of plaque, that is the hallmark feature of coronary heart disease. Silent inflammation leads to, and is worsened by, the major risk factors of heart disease, and in a chaotic array of vicious cycles each feeding into the next, the imbalances triggered by silent inflammation trigger and worsen heart disease.

Get To the Heart of the Matter

If silent inflammation is the common denominator leading to and worsening the risk factors of heart disease and heart disease itself, the question becomes: What causes silent inflammation? Rather than treating silent inflammation with medication, we instead seek to understand the underlying causes.

There are a number of causes of silent inflammation. One of the most important is poor diet. The Standard American Diet (SAD) is high in inflammation-promoting foods: processed, refined grains and sugars, chemicals and additives, and unhealthy fats; and low in the anti-inflammatory foods: vegetables and fruits, fiber, healthy fats, lean proteins, nuts, and seeds. SAD is exceedingly high in omega-6 fats, which is found in many vegetable oils, and exceedingly low in omega-3 fats, found in fish, flaxseeds, chia seed, and walnuts.

Excess omega-6 consumption and insufficient omega-3 intake increases inflammation. That is why it is important to increase your intake of omega-3 fats. The omega-3s found in certain fish and in fish oil supplements decrease inflammation and prevent the development of heart disease when taken in the right amounts.

Sugar consumption in the Standard American Diet is way out of control. The average American eats 37 teaspoons of sugar daily, yet we only need 8 to 10 to maintain healthy blood sugar levels. What’s more, if you consider the contribution from carbohydrates on blood sugar levels (after all, carbohydrates break down into sugar in the digestive tract), then an average American could easily consume 87 teaspoons of sugar in one day. High sugar intake is a major trigger for silent inflammation.

Low fiber intake is another main cause of silent inflammation. I recommend 35 grams of fiber daily for a healthy heart and healthy digestion, yet the average American only eats 10 to 12 grams daily. The best high-fiber foods are vegetables and fruits, because they pack plenty of fiber, but also because they are nutrient dense, rich in antioxidant phytonutrients, and anti-inflammatory effects.

The Gut Connection

Aside from diet, which is where everyone must begin, we must also consider one cause of inflammation that is not often mentioned. In fact, it’s a taboo subject in general, but it just so happens to be my favorite topic — digestion. After all, they don’t call me the “Diva of Digestion” for nothing.

Your digestive tract is about 30 feet long, and acts as the interface between your environment and your bodily systems. Poor digestion affects every system of the body, which is why it’s so important to begin your health journey by building digestive health. A number of digestive factors can lead to silent inflammation, which I have overviewed below.

Digestive Imbalance

The digestive tract is home to about 100 trillion bacteria — 10 times the number of cells that make up your entire body! Ideally, the balance of these bacteria favors the beneficial (probiotic) bacteria and neutral (commensal) bacteria, and minimizes the potentially harmful (pathogenic) bacteria.

Unfortunately, there are many factors that increase an imbalance in the gut bacteria. These include the mode of delivery at birth (vaginal is optimal; Cesarean birth creates imbalance), lack of breastfeeding during infancy, stress, poor diet, antibiotic overuse, stomach acid suppression (with acid-suppressing medications), constipation, and other digestive conditions.

The gut bacteria are found throughout the digestive tract and are particularly prolific in the intestines — where up to 80 percent of the immune system also resides. When there is an imbalance in the gut bacteria, also known as the gut microbiota, the immune system reacts by creating inflammation.

Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities involve a reaction by the body against certain foods we eat. Normally, when food passes though the digestive system, it is recognized as a friendly passerby; the immune system leaves it alone. With food sensitivities the immune system reacts to certain foods as if they were foreign invaders. This process triggers inflammation.

Sometimes the response is stronger and felt immediately, other times the response creates an underlying silent inflammation that might not create overt digestive symptoms, but ones that build over time and manifest in different areas of the body. Gluten sensitivity is the perfect example of this process. Many people have underlying food sensitivities and don’t know it.

Poor Digestion

Incomplete digestion of food is a trigger of inflammation. Incomplete digestion may be the result of many factors: poor diet, poor chewing, insufficient digestive enzyme secretion, or insufficient stomach acid production. All these processes contribute to the incomplete breakdown of foods into smaller, absorbable parts. The result is poor nutrient absorption and inflammation due to the recognition of undigested food particles as foreign by the immune system.

How to Achieve Optimal Digestion

You can correct digestive imbalances that lead to inflammation and chronic disease with one easy formula: The H.O.P.E. Formula — High fiber, Omega-3 oils, Probiotics, and Enzymes.

High fiber. Consume at least 35 grams of fiber daily by eating a healthy diet full of vegetables and fruits, and adding a fiber supplement to achieve your goal. A high-fiber diet supports regular elimination, healthy blood sugar levels, and heart health.

Omega-3 Oils. Eat more fat — healthy fat, that is. Omega-3 fats from fish are well known to help prevent heart disease and quell inflammation. I recommend 3 grams of Omega-3s daily from fish like salmon and sardines along with a daily fish oil supplement to help you reach your goal.

Probiotics. Balance your gut, heal your body. Replenish your digestive tract with beneficial bacteria, or probiotics, that help fortify your Gut Protection System (your body’s own GPS), build digestive health, and support a healthy immune system for the proper inflammation response.

Enzymes. Unlock nutrients with digestive enzymes. If you don’t have enough digestive enzymes to unlock the nutrients naturally present in a healthy diet, what good is the healthy diet? Take plant-based digestive enzymes with every meal to help counteract poor eating habits and unlock the nutrients from food so that your body can absorb them.

By incorporating The H.O.P.E. Formula into your lifestyle, along with a healthy diet, you’ll enjoy improved digestion and discover you can achieve vibrant health.

All of these topics are addressed in my new public television special on PBS, Heart of Perfect Health: The Startling Truths About Heart Disease And The Power You Hold To Stop It. Additionally, my recent book, Heart of Perfect Health, will be offered exclusively to those who pledge with their local Public Television stations.

Take control of your health — you will be empowered to change the very path you travel — and this path leads to the heart of perfect health. See you there!

Yours in great health,

Brenda Watson

Brenda Watson, C.N.C., is a New York Times best-selling author and a renowned medical researcher. With 20 years of experience on healthy-living measures, she is teaching others how to achieve optimal health. For more information on her upcoming PBS special that airs nationwide in February and March of 2013, visit