5 Reasons to Consume this Every Day

Fermented Foods: 5 Reasons to Consume this food Group Every Day


I’m sure you have heard about fermented foods and are wondering if this is just a fad.  Here are some reasons why fermented foods should not be just a fad but a food group to keep in your diet daily.

What are Fermented Foods?


Bacteria and yeast are used as part of the fermentation process that gives these foods a nutritional boost.  The bacteria convert sugars and starches into lactic acid through a process called lacto-fermentation.  The yeast undergoes a process called ethanol fermentation. 

These yeasts and bacteria that undergo the fermentation process boosts the nutritional content of the food. 

What it does to the food

  • Provides beneficial bacteria that promote gut health
  • Provides beneficial enzymes
  • Increases the amount of B vitamins, biotin, and folate.
  • Increases the bioavailability of minerals.
  • Provides short chain fatty acids (which helps to improve your immune function)
  • Provides you with GABA, your calming neurotransmitter


How can eating fermented foods help me?


Optimize your Gut Health

Why this may not seem like a big deal, it is. Your immune system is in your gut and much of your serotonin is made in your gut. Your gut may be in bad shape from NSAIDS, antibiotics, unknown food allergies, the standard American diet and more. 


Ideally you want more “good” bacteria populating your gut as opposed to “bad” bacteria.  Fermented foods can help shift the balance since most people who consume the Standard American “crap food” diet have a disrupted microbiome. 

So, you can take all the supplements in the world, but if your gut is in bad shape, are you even absorbing and benefiting from these supplements or are you just wasting your money?


 A healthy gut can help to balance and support your endocrine system, immune system, digestive system, and nervous system.  So, as you can see, a healthy gut is critical to your well-being. 


Support your Immune System

The more beneficial bacteria you have, the stronger your immune system is to fight off colds, flu, allergies and more.  Almost 80% of your immune system is found in your gut, thus, it stands to reason that to maintain a strong immune system, one needs to support their gut health. 


Asthma and autoimmune conditions, among numerous other health issues, are all linked to having fewer good bacteria in your gut.  The less diverse your microbiota is, the greater association with many chronic health issues. 


Adding in probiotic rich fermented foods can also shorten the duration of a cold or upper respiratory infection. 

Aid in weight loss

Studies show that those with certain healthy bacteria in their gut can maintain a healthy weight while those with more negative strains have a greater incidence of gaining weight/difficulty losing weight.  Obese people have different gut bacteria than lean individuals. 


In a 2011 study, it was found that kimchee had a significant impact on weight and body fat of those who are overweight and obese in the study. In a 2010 study, obese people were assigned to drink fermented milk for 12 weeks. Those that drank the fermented milk had significant fat loss as compared to the control group. 


 Digestive/Bowel Issue Improvement

Those with IBS or IBD may have reduced symptoms of diarrhea and constipation when fermented foods are added into the daily diet.  Dr. David Williams states that to eliminate digestive issues, you need to improve the balance in the gut microbiome and one of the most effective ways of doing so is by adding in fermented foods.  Kefir in studies, has shown to improve symptoms of IBS and IBD.  Research has shown that anywhere from 50 to 75% of those who make this change (Adding in fermented foods) will notice a significant difference in their IBS symptoms. 


Improved mental health, mood control and behavior. 

The gut is considered your second brain.  A healthy gut therefore can mean a healthy brain.  Several probiotic strains have been shown to reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety in short term studies. For this reason, to get more variety of probiotic strains, it is best to not stick with the same fermented food to eat over and over. Mix it up; for instance, have kefir one day, kombucha the next, fermented vegetables the next day and so forth. 


Many of you know that GABA is your calming neurotransmitter. But did you know that fermented foods can supply you with GABA too?  Oral administration of fermented rice bran and other traditional fermented foods have been shown to increase GABA content significantly!  Whereas GABA in the oral form may have limited benefits due to absorption issues. 


Another study looking at 700 college students found that those who ate a variety of fermented foods has less negative emotions than before such as anxiety, fear, moodiness, worry, envy, frustration, and loneliness. 


It is possible that the fermented foods not only healed leaky gut but also provided some needed GABA. Even in psychiatry they are starting to recognize the benefits of fermented foods for mood disorders. 


Reduce the risk of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s.

Some scientists have recently begun to consider the possibility that Alzheimer’s Disease is in fact an autoimmune disease. And as many of you may know, having one autoimmune condition puts you at risk for more autoimmune conditions down the road.  For any autoimmune disease, the immune system must be supported. So, it would make sense that gut health needs to be addressed for AD.  If you want to support your brain than I suggest that you add in fermented foods. 


Along with the benefits above, fermented foods can also benefit those with Autism and help prevent H-Pylori.  You don’t need a whole lot of fermented foods daily. Start with small amounts until you know how your body will react and slowly build your way up to say 3 tablespoons of fermented vegetables or a cup of kefir per day. 



What to add in



Look for the product to say raw and fermented. These foods should be in the refrigerator section of the store. 

  • Sauerkraut or other fermented vegetables: eat these cold, don’t heat them up. Bubbies pickles is a great way to get introduced to fermented foods. 
  • Kimchee: this is a Korean version of fermented cabbage, carrots, onions and garlic.
  • Kefir: usually made from cow’s milk but is also made from goat milk or coconut milk. It has more of a drinkable texture than yogurt. I buy goat milk kefir and find that it is relatively thick and mix in some of my paleo granola and have this for breakfast.   If you suspect any issues with milk it is best to opt for the coconut kefir or the goat milk kefir. If you have asthma or chronic sinus congestion, avoid the kefir until issues resolve.  Opt for the other fermented choices instead.  
  • Tempeh: Indonesian type of “cake” with a nutty taste and chewy texture. A good vegan source of protein too. 
  • Kombucha: a fizzy fermented tea. Most stores carry a variety of flavors now.  Don’t go overboard on the kombucha however. Some people who drink kombucha in excess amounts (i.e.: several bottles per day) report symptoms of gas and bloating. 
  • Miso: a fermented soybean paste which can be used in soups and sauces. A miso broth soup is a great way to start a meal and very easy to make. 

Notice I did not sat yogurt. While some yogurts may contain some probiotics, many others are sugary processed foods in disguise.  Yogurt is also not going to pack as powerful of a punch as the above-mentioned foods. 


Add Alzheimer’s disease to the list of autoimmune diseases

Can probiotics shorten the duration of the common cold?

Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function UCLA study shows

Consumer labs

Dr. David Williams

Fermented foods gaining popularity as health benefits become more widely recognized

Fermented foods, microbiota, and mental health: ancient practice meets nutritional psychiatry

Fermented kimchi reduces body weight and improves metabolic parameters in overweight and obese patients

Impact of Kefir derived lactobacillus kefiri on the mucosal immune response and gut microbiota

learn about the probiotic benefits of traditional fermented foods

Regulation of abdominal adiposity by probiotics

Sauerkraut could be the secret to curing social anxiety

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate), author of the  book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in addressing root causes not symptom management.    For more information, visit her website at www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today!

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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21 Reasons to avoid Energy drinks

21 Reasons to Avoid Energy drinks


Many young adults (18-35 y/o range) can be seen walking around holding a can of pure caffeine and sugar.  More often than not these cans contain more than one serving and who really drinks only half a can?  What is this doing to your health and could it have long term consequences?

Read on to find out!

Here is why I think energy drinks are a bad idea. 

You want to work out but are tired and need some motivation and energy so you take an energy drink


  • This can be deadly, especially if you are under a great deal of stress or have high blood pressure.
  • The number of hospital visits related to energy drinks has doubled from 2007-2011. 
  • It can make your heart race, cause palpitations, and increase you blood pressure and even lead to seizures and heart attacks. 
  • You don’t need that much sugar before you work- out.  An energy drink serving can have up to 10 teaspoons of sugar (40 grams).  Opt for a natural source of sugar and energy instead-have a banana or handful or grapes.

Instead of coffee just drink an energy drink or energy shot, right?

Wrong!  One leading brand of energy drink shots tops out at 570 mg. of caffeine.  This is way too much caffeine for your body to handle, especially in one large gulp! 

This much caffeine can lead to severe adrenal depletion.  This sets you up for a vicious cycle of that leads to more fatigue which means you need more and more caffeine to get through the day. If you are this low on energy and need this much caffeine it is time to look at root causes instead of managing your symptoms. 

The amount of caffeine in common energy drinks is 5 times the amount in a cup of coffee and 10 times the amount in a serving of soda. 

However, if you do want to start reducing your caffeine intake, don’t go cold turkey.  You will end up with terrible withdrawal effects from your daily habit.  Instead wean off slowly such as pouring a little bit out of each can you drink and every few days pouring out a little more.  If you go cold turkey you will end up with terrible headaches and brain fog for several days. 

If you need this much caffeine, ask yourself why?  Usually if you are using caffeine as a crutch there is an underlying issue that needs to be addressed.  While a picture on one website for energy drinks would have you thinking it is normal for everyone to have a 3o’clock slump and need a pick me up, this is  not normal to need caffeine to get through each and every day. 

But the label says it has all these herbs and vitamins and amino acids in it so it must be healthy for me!

Sorry there is no nutritional value in a sugary, caffeinated beverage. Don’t be fooled by the marketing! Energy drinks are actually labeled as dietary supplements but they are anything but that.  It is estimated that sales of Energy drinks in the US have brought them a market worth 12.5 billion and sales of these harmful drinks continues to grow. 

There have been cases of teenagers dying from the effects of too much consumption and it caused them to go into cardiac arrest.  So ask yourself, it is worth it?

  Yes, I know it mentions all these herbs it contains.  Most likely the herbs are in very small quantities and not in the right forms to provide you with any benefit. If you are looking for the benefits of the herbs then work with a nutrition/herb professional who can provide you with the best herbs for you and in the right forms. Herbs can also interact with medications so always work with a professional when ingesting herbs. 

The same applies to the vitamin and amino acids. The odds are they are using very poor quality forms which are difficult for the body to absorb.  And if you are only absorbing a very small amount then the odds are the benefits from them are doing you no good. Get your supplements from natural food sources instead. 

Can I substitute my morning smoothie with an energy drink?


You can if you want to stay on the viscous cycle of being wired and tired all the time and continue to destroy your health over time. 

If your usual smoothie is loaded with fruit then it may be better than an energy drink but still not a great choice. Don’t start your day with sugar.  Instead make a protein veggie smoothie.  For instance, water, protein powder, ¼ of an avocado, ¼ of a frozen banana, large handfuls of dark leafy greens, tablespoon of hemp seeds and/or nut butter.  You want energy-give your body what it really needs. It does not need caffeine and sugar.  If you think it does, then your body is trying to tell you something! Listen to it. 

Pros and cons of drinking energy drinks

Pros: None I can think of. I wish they didn’t even exist. 


  1. Dangerous when combined with alcohol or stimulants such as ADHD meds (Adderall, Ritalin)
  2. There is little scientific evidence that their “proprietary formulas” give someone a physical and/or mental edge.
  3. Anxiety
  4. Headaches
  5. Heart attacks, strokes
  6. 8-11% of those who are caffeine dependent show signs of depression
  7. Seizures
  8. High blood pressure
  9. Diabetes
  10. No nutritional value-empty calories, takes place of nutrient dense foods
  11. Irritability
  12. The caffeine inhibits the activity of folate, B6 and B12
  13. It can cause death
  14. Nausea, diarrhea
  15. The acids in the drinks can lead to tooth destruction, damage enamel, cause stomach damage, osteoporosis and bone fractures
  16. If it contains artificial sugar: this can lead to overconsumption as your brain is waiting for the calories to come along with the sweet taste and leads you to crave more sugar. 
  17. Premature aging
  18. Disrupts your gut flora (this alone is a major concern for mental, physical and immune health!)
  19. leads to low serotonin levels  (mood issues, depression)
  20. Dehydration
  21. Reduces cortisol levels (which can cause weakness, fatigue, anxiety, heart palpitations, depression, unable to cope with stress)

So as you can see, that energy drink to help you get through the day is not helping you but rather hurting you.  Zero pros to drinking them, 21 cons to drinking them; the choice is yours. 



Andrews, R. (nd) All about energy drinks.  http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-energy-drinks.

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Foundations in Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutic Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Greenfield, B. (7/09) I don’t approve of Energy drinks.  https://www.bengreenfieldfitness.com/2009/07/i-dont-approve-of-energy-drinks-and-a-bonus-video/

Meier, B. (1/12/13) More Emergency Room visits linked to Energy Drinks.  http;//www.nytimes.com/2013/01/12/business/more-emergency-room-visits-linked-to-energy-drinks-report-says.html.  

Stone, I. (3/17/14) Link between emergency room visits and energy drinks.  http://www.topmastersinhealthcare.com/link-between-emergency-room-visits-and-energy-drinks/

Gaille, B. (nd) Energy Drink Industry Statistics and Trends.  http://brandongaille.com/26-energy-drink-statistics-and-trends/


Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate), author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in food first when addressing the root causes to your health conditions.  For more information, visit her website at www.trufoodsnutrition.com

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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Should you do a detox, cleanse or try intermittent fasting?

Intermittent Fasting, Detox, Cleanses

Should you be trying it?


I get asked frequently, “So, what do you think about cleansing, detox or intermittent eating?”

Without going into detail right now about what each one is….

Here is my response:

I think if you do not know what you are doing, why you are doing it and the risks/side effects involved, then you can do more harm than good. 

For some people and at the right time they can be a useful tool as part of a healthy way of life. But most people want to start with a cleanse or a detox or dive right into intermittent eating and this I do not support. 

Do I think that everyone should be trying these methods?

No, I don’t and here is why:

If you are eating the Standard American Crap Food Diet, you don’t need to start with intermittent eating or fasting or cleansing. 


Three reasons why you should not start your dietary changes with a detox, cleanse or intermittent eating.

  1. Because you need to learn how to eat a healthy whole foods diet first! Start by making slow changes and when you have a whole foods diet as part of your routine for 6 months to a year then you can look at some other options to add in. 
  2. You need all the nutrient dense food you can get right now! If you have been consuming the standard American diet, it is likely that you have nutrient deficiencies. You do not want to add in intermittent fasting right away-intermittent eating is when you skip a meal, usually breakfast and do not break your fast until around the 14-16 hour mark.  Typically you are eating only in a small window of time.   How are you going to get the nutrients you need from food if you skip a meal or do a  juice cleanse? 
  3. If you have been eating an unhealthy processed diet, the odds are that you have some blood sugar issues.  If you skip a meal right now or do a detox or cleanse that is limited in protein, this can disrupt your blood sugar even more. 

You actually are detoxing and cleansing.

When you start to make changes from a crap food diet to one of whole foods, trust me you will be detoxing and cleansing your body.

How will you know?

Well, your stools will probably change and early on they may look a little funky and may have a strong or even foul order to them.

You may even notice a smell change to your sweat as you expel toxins in this manner.  If you have no heart health issues, hypertension or diabetes, infrared sauna may be a good add in at this time as long as your medical professional approves. 

Your body will start to remove toxins in the body once you give it real food.  At first you may feel like you have the flu; this is normal for a few days and even up to a week as your body expels the waste. 


Here is what will happen

  1. Toxins will start to be released from the tissue, typically fat tissue.
  2. The enzymes of the liver will help to convert those toxins from fat soluble to water soluble molecules.
  3. The liver will then attempt to neutralize those toxins but in order to do so it requires an abundance of vitamins, minerals, nutrients and antioxidants (see how important your diet is to detox?)
  4. Once these toxins are neutralized they will circulate through the blood into the kidneys and are released in your urine.  If they are not neutralized (say because you are continuing to eat the Standard American Crap Food Diet) the kidneys will not pick them up and they will continue to circulate and end up back in your fat tissue where they will continue to wreak havoc on your body. 

So as you can see, you don’t need a supplement, what you need is real food to detox, cleanse and feel better!

Start Here:

  • Start and end your day with 16 ounces of filtered water
  • Remove common culprits such as Teflon pans (throw them out please), fluoridated toothpaste (no, you do not need fluoride-more on that in a future blog) and make your own deodorant instead of using aluminum containing products (you can put raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar on cotton balls and dab on arm pits for a quick solution). 
  • Protein at every meal
  • Vegetables and/or salads every day ( lettuce and tomato on your sandwich does not count as meeting your vegetable needs)
  • Quality fat sources such as avocado, olive oil, coconut , raw nuts and seeds

Fruits, vegetables, quality fats and proteins, fiber from the fruits and veggies, and adequate amounts of water, maybe some gentle herbal teas-yup, that is all you need. Not a detox kit or skipping meals or tons of herbs.  Herbs can be supportive and I do like to add herbs in for various reasons, but again not until after the dietary transition has begun. 

Right now focus on food!  Many people just read up on detox herbs and supplements and try them without knowing the consequences and end up doing more harm than good. More is not necessarily better.  And some herbs or supplements may not be the right ones for you, especially if you have any chronic health issues or are on medications. 

In today’s society if it isn’t a pill for a quick fix, we tend to want the herb or supplement to help us lose weight and to give us more energy.  Sorry, there are no quick fixes in life. 

You need to start with the diet!

Once you have the diet down, work with a nutrition professional who can guide you to the next step. Do you want to lose weight?  Intermittent eating can help…when the time is right.  Do you still get headaches and have fatigue?  There are additional herbs and supplements that can be helpful but you won’t know you need them if you don’t address diet first.

Many people say “But I eat a healthy diet already”.  I say show me. Give me a detailed diet log.  Sadly, many are eating the wrong foods for their bodies.  Please work with someone or if you are reading information on the internet, check the source and do some homework first-after all this is your body we are talking about!

What diet do I recommend? 

Even before diet, I like to start with mindfulness. Ask yourself this: do you eat in front of the TV, the computer, while driving, while standing or walking?  Do you inhale your food rather than chew eat bite and enjoy your meals? If you this sounds like you then BEFORE you change your diet, practice mindfulness! 

As far as diet goes, it is individualized as we have different ethical views; different food likes and dislikes different cultural food preferences and religious guidelines. 

I like a diet that takes out the common allergens and inflammatory foods-so one that does not include pasteurized “cow” dairy, gluten, corn or soy (non-fermented).  Stick to a diet that does not include “invented foods” which is usually anything that is in a box or package and is a prepared meal or snack.  Just because it says it is “Organic macaroni and cheese” does not mean it is the best choice. 

Your diet should not consist of processed foods such as sugary foods, refined white flour products and so forth. 

However some of the guidelines above may be impractical for you due to ethical or religious beliefs.  This is when you need to work with someone to fine tune the diet. For instance you may be vegetarian, but eat donuts and bagels and pasta all day long. That may be vegetarian but it is a blood sugar and nutrient deficient nightmare of a diet! Just because you eat vegetarian, does mean you eat healthy!

What results should you expect with a healthy food “detox” plan?

  • By the third week (often sooner) increased energy and less fatigue
  • Less brain fog, more clarity
  • Easier bowel movements
  • Improved sleep
  • Weight loss
  • Clearer and more vibrant facial skin
  • Improved mood, better able to withstand stress
  • Stronger immune system

Here are some meal examples:


  • eggs, cooked in coconut oil or grass fed butter-blend in some spinach- with org. nitrate free bacon or sausage and sweet potato hash; add in some herbs such as garlic and cilantro
  • goat, sheep or coconut yogurt sprinkled with nuts and seeds
  • steel cut gluten free oats with apples, cinnamon, and almond butter
  • homemade breakfast bars
  • left overs
  • pancakes made with coconut and almond flour and side of eggs or bacon
  • green protein smoothies (limit the fruit) add in flax, chia or hemp seeds, bee pollen and more to give it a boost.
  • quinoa breakfast bowl with black beans and goat milk cheese and veggies


  • salad bowl-dark leafy greens, whatever veggies you have, sprouts and  a protein such as garbanzo beans, chicken, fish, eggs or steak, drizzled with homemade oil and vinegar dressing
  • tuna fish or egg salad on bed of lettuce with hummus and veggies and flax crackers and fermented pickles
  • mason jar to go meals-put veggies, protein and fats in a mason jar to take to work-drizzle with homemade dressings
  • soups-use a blender to make the night before-have with a salad
  • left overs
  • Teff, millet or quinoa bowl with veggies, homemade dressing (make large batches at a time) and fried eggs or salmon


  • combine a protein with veggies (try a medley instead of just one) and a side of carbs
  • lemon chicken, side salad, sweet potatoes and a tablespoon of fermented sauerkraut
  • shrimp stir fry with basmati white rice or cauliflower rice
  • marinated grass fed beef with roasted root vegetables and pea medley
  • crock pot- pot roast one dish meal
  • ground beef pasta sauce with bean pasta and side salad

Is it too expensive to eat healthy?

It does cost a bit more in the beginning until you weed out all the crap. But then it will start to replace those fast food meals, cereals, snacks, juice, soda, energy drinks and so forth and it will balance out. 

Some say that it cost roughly 50 cents more per day per person so if you add that up for a family of four it could add up to an added $730 per year. But wait, you will be healthier, so less trips to the doctor and ER, possibly medication reduction or elimination and more. In the end it balances out. 

Does it take too much time to eat healthy?

I get it. We come home from work tired, we don’t want to cook.  Allow yourself a night or two per week to not cook. 

But make an effort to the other nights, whether that is putting meals in the crockpot before you leave for work or making a bunch of meals on the weekend and freezing them. Find what works for you.  I typically post on my fb page quick and simple recipes that are healthy. I don’t want to spend my day in the kitchen either! 

Once you start eating healthy you will notice more energy and more motivation.  Thus you will have the energy and motivation to prep healthy meals. 

Let me know your thoughts on this and if you are in the process of switching to healthier habits.  I would love to hear what is and isn’t working for you!



Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutic Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Dube, D. Detoxification. On Fitness Magazine. Vol 16, No. 1, 2015 www.onfitnessmag.com

Kresser, C.   (11/17/10) Intermittent fasting, cortisol and blood sugar.   http://chriskresser.com/intermittent-fasting-cortisol-and-blood-sugar/


Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate), author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in food first when addressing the root causes to your health conditions.  For more information, visit her website at www.trufoodsnutrition.com

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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Mental health: Is it all in our heads?

Mental Health: Are we looking at it all wrong?

sad person

I listen to many talks on mental health, some from the traditional western medicine community. Many of these people stress that mental health is an issue of the brain. 

I have a hard time accepting this theory.  In my opinion it is very narrow minded and not taking into account the individual person nor what is going on in the rest of the human body!

Even if you took only basic science courses in school, I’m sure you learned that everything in the body is connected.  So why do we look at depression, ADHD and anxiety as issues only related to the brain?  Shouldn’t we consider what is going on in the body as a whole?

When I look at these health issues here is how I address it

  • What’s missing from the body?
  • What’s entering the body that the body is reacting to?
  • Look to the gut
  • Look at systemic inflammation
  • Address the whole body
  • Address the individual person

This approach is not a quick fix but a life- long approach.  And guess what? The approach for you is going to be very different from the approach for someone else with the same mental health issues!

If you suffer with a mental health issue and are not getting the results you have hoped for and are ready to commit to feeling better, then please invest in your health and work with a qualified professional.  Interview the person to make sure this is the best choice for you!

I know from experience that there is so much information on the web and much of it wrong.  You may read that a supplement worked great for a person’s depression but why does it do nothing for yours?  Because we are all biochemically different and our root causes are different.

Stop guessing and start getting results. 

What do you think? Do you agree that mental health is not just a brain issue? I would love to hear your thoughts. 


Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate), author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in food first when addressing the root causes to your health conditions.  For more information, visit her website at www.trufoodsnutrition.com

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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12 Signs that you are Protein Deficient

12 Signs that you are Protein Deficient


While society would have us think we get more than enough protein in our diet, what I see as a nutrition professional is just the opposite.  Too many are still on the low fat bandwagon and thus are eating a high carb diet. Many start the day with zero grams of protein! 

What would happen if we did not consume protein?

The simple answer is that the body would not function normally without protein and its essential amino acids.  While we can survive just fine by consuming a low carb diet, the same cannot be said for a low protein diet.  Yet, many are doing this without realizing it. 

Most people consume some protein daily and if you miss a few days due to illness you will be fine. However a long term protein deficiency can produce some significant symptoms but it can take up to a year of protein deficiency before these symptoms start to shout out at you. By then you may not be able to connect the dots of your symptoms to an unintentional low protein diet. 

Here is why you need protein and what happens if you are deficient


  • Compromised immune system. Are you picking up every germ that floats by?  Is it taking you longer to recover? 
  • Protein deprived body will grow weaker over time
  • Slow to heal from injury: you need protein to rebuild and heal. 
  • Your hormones, neurotransmitters, hemoglobin and antibodies all need protein to function. 
  • Protein is part of your nails, hair, skin, muscles and joints. 
  • It helps to regulate the pH of your body tissues and fluid
  • You need it to transport nutrients
  • It can be used for energy if necessary.

Bottom Line: protein is more important than we think!

Signs that you are not getting enough protein in your diet


  • Nails: rub your finger across your nails. Do you feel ridges? This can indicate a protein deficiency.  The more ridges you feel and the deeper you feel them, the more deficient you may be.  Also look at the moon shape of the new incoming nail. Can you see it on all nails? If so this indicates adequate protein intake. What if you can see it on some but not all? This indicates some protein deficiency. 
  • Food Cravings: your diet may be instead high carb and low protein which can cause blood sugar spikes and drops which leads you to crave more carbs. Add in protein at each meal to balance out your blood sugar. 
  • Swelling of the feet and ankles: protein plays a role in keeping fluid from accumulating in the tissues especially the feet and ankles. 
  • Hair loss (can also be due to disrupted thyroid function)
  • Brain fog:  While there can be many root causes for brain fog it can also be caused by blood sugar dysregulation which is caused by too many carbs and sugar and too little protein to balance it out. 
  • Slow Wound healing
  • Low libido
  • Loss of muscle tone (are you working out but not seeing results?)
  • Irritability
  • Depression: are you getting the amino acids your neurotransmitters need to function properly?
  • frequent illness
  • Can’t losing weight no matter how hard you try: protein speeds up your metabolism.  You feel more satisfied after consuming a meal with moderate amounts of protein thus less over eating. 

How much Protein do you need?

That depends on a lot of factors such as your age, your weight, your activity level, your current health.  But here are some general guidelines:

  • 0.8 g/kg of body weight for a non-athletic adult.
  • Up to 1.7 g./kg. for performance athletes
  • OR take your ideal weight (not your actual weight as you don’t need protein to fuel excess fat) and multiply that by .5 for a moderate active person, by .8 for an athlete and by .3 if you sit behind a desk all day (sedentary)
  • OR another general guideline is to consume 15 grams of protein at each meal and half that amount at each snack for a total of 60 grams of protein per day for the average person. 

Which groups of people are at greater risk of protein deficiency?


  • Those on chemotherapy or recovering from chemotherapy
  • Infants and children (for example a baby up to 6 months of age needs 2.2g/kg of body weight and at 1-3 years of age the toddler would need 1.8g/kg of body weight.
  • Athletes: you need protein to repair, rebuild and maintain your muscle mass. 
  • Anyone recovering from illness, injury or surgery. Your protein needs will increase during the healing process.
  • The aging: they tend to not consume enough protein and digestion may be compromised due to lower amounts of stomach acid as we age.  The high protein amounts will assist with physical and mental alertness. 
  • Pregnant and nursing moms: protein is crucial for the baby’s growth especially during the second and third trimester.  It is also an important component of breast milk which will optimize the growth and development of the baby.  A pregnant or breastfeeding mom needs 50% more protein than a woman who is not pregnant or breast feeding!

Protein Rich Foods


  • Beef, pork, poultry, eggs, fish, shellfish
  • Whey protein powder (Undenatured, grass fed)
  • Plant based protein powders
  • Nuts, seeds (raw)
  • Beans
  • Whole grains (i.e.: quinoa  not processed flour products)
  • Dairy (raw, organic, grass fed) Try goat milk or sheep milk products!
  • Bee pollen, micro algae, brewer’s yeast
  • bone broth (org.)
  • beef jerky or beef sticks (avoid the processed ones)
  • Protein bars such as Epic bars
  • Canned tuna or canned sardines (I like Wild Planet brand)


Do medications interact with protein?

  • Those taking Allopurinol (xanthine oxidase inhibitor used to prevent gout and to lower blood levels of uric acid in certain people taking drugs for cancer) and on a low protein diet may excrete less of the drug resulting in a 3 fold increase in the time it takes to drug to be removed from the body. 
  • Oral corticosteroids can cause loss of body protein.  Your doctor may recommend a high protein diet while on this medication.  However if you have kidney disease should not consume too much protein


Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Foundations in Nutrition. CA: Bauman College

Gaby, A. (2006) A-Z guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions. NY: Three Rivers Press.

Markham, H. (6/22/16) You Asked: What happens if I don’t eat Enough Protein?    http://time.com/4374959/protein-health-benefits-nutrition/

Smith, M. (6/16) No-fuss Animal Protein.  www.betternutrition.com

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate), author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in food first when addressing the root causes to your health conditions.  For more information, visit her website at www.trufoodsnutrition.com

As a nutrition professional, Karen Brennan does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.

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Got Stress? Anxiety? 11 Herbs that can help!

Stressed? Anxiety?
Fast, Easy and Effective Ways to Reduce Stress and Anxiety

(I have updated this twice-it started out with 8 herbs and is now up to 11 different herbs to try for anxiety)

stressed person
Before I go into detail about the herbs that can help you to manage your stress and anxiety, I do want to point out that diet and lifestyle still need to be addressed.

For years I suffered from anxiety. (Back then it was just called “being very shy”). Thankfully back then doctors weren’t as quick to diagnose and medicate every mental health issue.

But what helped me, (and may help you) is balancing my blood sugar. Back then in my elementary school years, before school, I ate 2 chocolate pop tarts, only a few bites of my lunch usually and then a pretty healthy dinner. By the time I got to high school and college I stopped eating the pop tarts but can’t say my diet was much better.

It wasn’t until I started to eat balanced meals, whole foods and reduce the processed junk that my anxiety diminished. I can’t say I don’t have some situational anxiety from time to time but nothing like what I grew up with!

Use the herbs but while they are helping start making small changes to your diet too! If you need more dietary help for your stress and anxiety just give me a call!

Lifestyle Tips for Reducing Stress and Anxiety

basket of veggies
• Keep blood sugar balanced
• Start the day with a meal high in fat, with moderate protein and low amounts of whole food carbs. (i.e.: eggs, bacon, avocado, with sauté kale or spinach, or a green protein smoothie)

• Minimize or eliminate caffeine (try Teccino or dandy blend tea-taste just like coffee!)

Add in a B complex supplement. (stress depletes us of our B vitamins) Add in an extra B12 if you do not eat red meat
Add in a vitamin C with bioflavonoids, 1,000 mg. per day as stress will also deplete your vitamin C

Add in magnesium. I like magnesium l-threonate (crossed blood brain barrier), ReMag by Carolyn Dean, or Natural Calm magnesium powder to drink before bed time.

• Stress slows down your digestion making you absorb less nutrients so when stressed be sure to slow down, take 3 deep breaths before your meal and chew each bite of food 15-20 times.

• When stressed we tend to eat and work at the same time. Studies have shown that this actually reduces work performance. Take a brain break and eat away from your desk, get some fresh air and talk with a co- worker about something other than work. This will greatly reduce your stress load!

Herbs for Quick Stress relief

ginkgo flower picture
With herbs everyone reacts differently so some may love one herb for stress and another person may not get the same effect. It will be a try and see approach.

Purchase herbs for stress in tincture form (unless noted otherwise) and only get from reputable source such as Herb Pharm, Gaia Herbs or Rose Mountain Herbs or your local trusted herb shop. Try only one herb at a time so you know what is or isn’t working. Make sure the herbs you are using are certified organic.

Herbs in tincture form are more potent if made with alcohol. But if you have issues with alcohol it is still best to opt for the non-alcoholic tinctures. One dropper full of tincture has the alcohol amount that is equal to the amount of alcohol in one banana.
Always talk to your doctor before adding in any herbs as this is for educational purposes only since I am not aware of your medications, heath issues and more.

Gingko Biloba: Choose in extract/tincture form or gingkolide tablets. With tablets, take 160-180 mg. one time daily. It has been shown to be significantly more effective than a placebo for anxiety. It may reverse depression especially in older people on blood pressure medication. Do not use this herb if you have a racing mind at bed time. Also, avoid this herb if you are prone to migraines. I prefer this herb in tincture form. It is known as the herb for memory and concentration.

Kava: This is good to use if you have anxiety. Take 60-120 mg. daily and do not exceed 120 mg. daily. Do not use this herb for children. This herb is known to ground and center you, keeping you relaxed and alert. You can take this herb during the day as it will not make you drowsy. Kava is known to increase the dream state. It is a mood elevator. You can take 2 droppers full at bedtime or a heaping teaspoon in one cup water 2 times per day as a tea. You can mix your Kava with Valerian together at bedtime for improved sleep.

Eleuthero: This is an adaptogenic herb which has been shown to enhance mental performance, concentration and alertness. This is not an actual ginseng but is often called a ginseng because it works in a similar way. It is used for nervous breakdowns and depression. It is used to strengthen the entire system. Adaptogenic herbs help to build resilience to stress. Take any adaptogenic herb for 12 weeks only, then take a week or 2 off and then go back on or switch at that point to a different adaptogenic herb such as Rhodiola. Ashwagandha is also an adaptogenic herb and this one is better taken in the evening. Take only 1/8 of a teaspoon of eleuthero tincture.

Lemon Balm: This plant has anti-depressant effects along with calming, anti-anxiety effects as well. Use it to calm the nerves and to boost mood. Those with ADHD can also benefit from using this herb. Drink lemon balm tea one to three times daily. Use lemon balm tincture, 10-20 drops in water 3-5 times per day for depression, anxiety and tension headaches. Some people add fresh lemon balm leaves to their drinking water. Do not use if you have a hypothyroid condition.

Skullcap: This is good for nervousness, anxiety and stress. It is also useful for those of you with insomnia, especially if it is due to an overactive mind at bedtime. Take one half of a dropper full of tincture before bedtime.

Nettle leaves and seed: This is one of my favorites for body restoration. Nettles are a source of nutrients for all individuals. It is one of the most nourishing plants growing on the land. The leaves and seed offer a wide variety of nutrients. Take a dropper full of nettle leaf tincture 3 times per day or buy organic whole seeds, grind them up and eat 1-3 teaspoons per day.  (you can sprinkle the seeds into smoothies and salads). While this plant is not directly known for its anti-anxiety properties, it is nourishing and balancing and can support the body and give it what it needs during times of stress and anxiety. 

Motherwort: Do not take this herb if you have heavy menses. Otherwise, this is another good herb to use for anxiety. It is not a sedative so can be used during the day. A dose of 10-20 drops can safely be taken as often as every 10 minutes if needed to calm you down, say during a panic attack. Fresh tincture is best and best option as opposed to tea and capsules. Do not use this herb long term if you also have depression. It can relax you to the point of making you feel more depressed and unmotivated. Use it instead for episodic anxiety.

Valerian: This has a different feel to it, a different calming effect as oppose to Kava. It is helpful for anxiety and tension. This herb should be taken only at bedtime or when you know you are not going anywhere! Do not operate any heavy machinery or drive while taking valerian. For some it can give the opposite effect-instead of calming you down, it may increase your anxiety. For that reason, dose low. The same rule that applies to Motherwort applies to Valerian. Use on occasion to aid with sleep but don’t use it all the time during your depressive state. Most people do best using the tincture form instead of capsules. Take 400-900 mg per day of whole valerian or root extract.

Linden: It has been used to calm the nerves and promote rest.  The flowers and leaves are known to have a calming action on the nervous system.  Linden flower tea is very popular in Europe and used to calm the nerves and aid digestion as well. 

Tulsi Tea:  This is also called Holy Basil.  Choose an organic brand and drink 1 to 3 times per day during times of stress. I like the brand Organic India. 

Sage Leaf: Sage promotes a calming sensation to the brain and is good for those who tend to “overthink”.  If you tend to get sweaty palms or produce excess sweat during times of feeling anxious, sage can he helpful for that as well.  Take this in tincture form at one to three droppers per day. 


Balch, P. ( 2012)   Prescription for Herbal Healing.  2nd Edition.  NY: Avery Publishing

Gaby, A.(2006) The Natural Pharmacy. Revised and updated 3rd edition.  NY: Three Rivers Press

Gladstar, R. (2012) Medicinal Herbs. A beginners Guide.  CA: Story Publishing

Hoffman, D. (2003) Medical Herbalism.  VT: Healing Arts Press

Mars, B. (2007) The Desktop Guide to Herbal Medicine.  CA: Basic Health Publications

Pursell, JJ.  (2015) The Healing Apothecary.  OR: Timber Press. 

Skenderi, G. (2003) Herbal Vade Mecum. NJ: Herbacy Press


Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services LLC believes in supporting the body with food, herbs and supplements to get you feeling your best. For more information visit her site at www.trufoodsnutrition.com. She is the author of the E book Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition, Supplement and Herb Guide

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Mid terms, finals and Exams: 6 Herbs that can help with Focus, Memory and Concentration

Mid Terms and Finals: 6 Herbs that can Support Memory, Learning, Focus and Concentration

person studying


While a healthy diet rich in a variety of whole foods and one that supplies plenty of quality fats, protein and carbs from whole foods is ideal for brain health, we all know that is not always the case with our teens and young adult children who are in high school and college.

Below is a list of herbs and other nutrients that can support brain health during exams.   Either way, opt for one or two and see what works for you or your child. 

If you are pregnant or breast feeding do not take any herbal remedies.  If you are on any medications, consult with your doctor, herbalist, nutritionist or ND prior to taking any herbs or supplements as some can interact with medications. Always dose low and work your way up to higher dosage if needed. 

Do not try all of these.  Pick one or two that you feel addresses your needs. 

Mid- term and Finals Brain Boost

Herbs to Take to Help with Studying and Test Taking


  • Huperzine A: This is not an herb per se but is a compound that is found naturally in some plant species.  The most common plant that it is extracted from is the Chines Club moss.  Take 50-200 mcg. one time daily.   Used for memory, learning enhancement, alertness. This is also used for cognitive decline/dementia in the elderly.  You can take it with or without food. 
  • Bacopa monnieri: This plant that is found in warm wetlands has been shown to nourish the nervous system, boost brain function, and enhance memory and learning.  This herb may be even more effective when combined with Brahmi (Gotu kola) It can be helpful for memory, focus, clarity, mood, attention, learning and concentration.   Research on Bacopa’s memory enhancing effects is still ongoing but current studies are promising.   Studies used 300-450 mg. extract per day for 12 weeks. 
  • Brahmi (Centella asiatica): This  plant is also known as Gotu Kola and is a plant that is grown in tropical climates or in higher, cooler elevations of China or India.  Brahmi has been shown to  decongest the brain lymphatic system and can drain 3 pounds of toxins from the brain each year! When used with Bacopa, these two herbs can work together to boost brain function, memory and learning.  For studying use Bacopa and Brahmi together for enhanced brain effectiveness. Take 500 mg. 3 times per day after each meal. 
  • Vinpocetine: You may want to start stocking up on this product now as it may not be available to the public in the future.       Vinpocetine is a synthesized compound derived from an alkaloid found in the leaves of the Vinca minor plant or from Voacanga seeds.  It is said to increase blood flow to the brain and is used as a memory enhancement.  There have been no reports of adverse effects of taking Vinpocetine so my personal thoughts are that the FDA wants to take this off of the natural health food store shelves because they want to use it in new drugs they are bringing to market.  Take 10-20 mg daily and up to 60 mg. but this high dose is most often used for age related decline. 
  • Rosemary: Rosemary is used for poor memory and has a long history of memory enhancement.  One study showed that those who had been exposed to rosemary via aromatherapy had reduced anxiety, increased alertness and exhibited better performance on memory testing.  Rosemary is available in enteric coated capsules and a daily dose would be 4 to 6 grams. However, even smaller quantities may be sufficient. 
  • Ginkgo biloba: this is the worlds oldest living species of tree.  The leaves are used in herbal remedies.  It is used for age related decline and early onset Alzheimer’s but also shows promise for memory and concentration.  Oral doses taken by healthy volunteers showed that ginkgo is capable of improving cognitive function, mental sharpness, concentration and memory.  Most trials have shown amounts of 120 and 240 mg. of Ginkgo biloba extract used. If purchased in tincture form, start with one dropper per day and work up to 3 droppers per day as needed.   I have found Ginkgo to be dose dependent, meaning more is not always better.  Start out slowly.  If you suffer from migraines avoid this herb. 

When Purchasing Herbs Know this!


Many products when tested contain little if any of the actual herb or do not contain the correct part of the herb or the correct constituents.  If you buy your herbal products from a discount store (many of them that I will not name personally) know that you are probably wasting your money. When purchasing herbs it is best to use reputable and trusted companies. Some that I like (I have no affiliation with any of these companies) include www.bayanbotanicals.com, Gaia herbs, and Herb Pharm.   You can find some of these brands locally but others you may have to order online. 

A Word of Caution!


Everyone thinks more is better. This is not always the case with herbs.  Many are dose dependent.  Follow the guidelines here and always start low and slow and work your way up to a dose that works for you.  Each body reacts differently to herbs based on your body’s needs.  Start using one to two herbs prior to exam time so that you have a plan in place already to help you. 

This information is provided for educational purposes only and is not meant to be used to treat, diagnose or cure.

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate) is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit her site at  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Get her Food Swap Guide here to get started on your health journey today! Want more information, then like here fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.









Other Sources

Balch, P. (2012) Prescription for Herbal Healing.  2nd Edition. NY: Avery

Gaby, A. (2006) The Natural Pharmacy. Revised and Updated 3rd Edition. NY: Three Rivers Press. 

Hoffman, D. (2003) Medical Herbalism.  VT: Healing Arts Press. 




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7 Herbs and 6 Supplements to Help You With Your Anxiety

Anxiety: 7 Herbs and 6 Supplements to Calm the Mind




It is normal to have anxiety in certain situations from time to time such as with public speaking or when on a job interview.  It becomes a concern when it starts to interfere with your everyday activities and relationships with other people.  While there can be many root causes for anxiety, while you are trying to find out what those root causes are and begin to address them, herbs and supplements can offer a welcome support. 

If a supplement helps you, you need to ask why?  Are you deficient in this nutrient and again, why are you deficient?  Work with a holistic professional to help you get to the very root of the anxiety. 

Herbs are a bit different.  Herbs can be thought of as helping the body to return to a place of homeostasis. The herb does not necessarily do the work for you, but supports the part of the body that was not functioning properly and helps that body system get back to doing it’s job. 

There are numerous natural remedies you can try to ease your anxiety.  Always let your doctors know about your supplements and especially if you are on any medications and/or are pregnant.  Speak with your practitioner before adding in any new supplements as they may interact with your medications. 

Don’t try everything on this list at one time!  Try one supplement or herb to see how your body reacts to it.  Give it time such as a month and if you do not see any results then discontinue usage and try something else. Not everything will work for you.  So if it works for your friend, it doesn’t mean it will work for you-remember our root causes are different. 


7 Herbs to Ease Anxiety

While there are many more herbs than the 7 listed here, these are well known and effective herbs that should not be difficult to find.

(this is a picture of lemon balm below. While not talked about here, it is another great herb for anxiety and depression)



Ginkgo Biloba: it has shown to be significantly more effective than a placebo for reducing anxiety. It can be useful if you aniety is combined iwht depresion and if you also have concentration issues.  Speak to your doctor prior to use if you are on blood thinners.  If you are prone to headaches, this can make them worse or increase frequency. Dose: 240 mg. to 480 mg of Ginkgo extract for 4 weeks. 

California Poppy:  use this at low doses for anxiety as at high doses it is best for pain and insomnia.  If using at high doses, do not drive due to its sedating effect.  California poppy can have an enhanced effect when used in combination with passionflower, chamomile and lemon balm.  Dose: .5-1 ml. of tincture 4 times per day.

Kava: many studies document the benefits of this herb for mild to moderate anxiety. It is not sedating.  Do not take if you have liver disease.  It is rapidly absorbed and thus can take effect quickly.  That being said, it may take using it a few times to get the full benefit from Kava.  Kava can also be used 30- 60 minutes before bedtime if you have difficulty sleeping due to a racing and anioius mind. Dose: 3-5 ml of tincture 3 times per day. Some people also like to use Kava root in a tea.  I think it tastes awful but that’s me….Or use in dried root at 200 mg.

Passion flower: this has been shown to be as effective as an anxiolytic drug for general anxiety disorder.  It is known to be useful for nervous tenstion, and when you feel restlessness and stress and anziety from overwork and feeling of being overwhelmed. It should be noted that because it is a gently herb, this one is best combined with other herbs for anxiety (even though I said to try one at a time!).   It is synergistic with Kava and might be best to use Passion flower in combination with Kava.  Dose:  3-5 ml. in tincture 3 times per day. You can use 1 teaspoon in hot water for a tea three times daily or use in whole herb extract capsules.  This herb is safe to take up to three times daily as needed.  It is a gentle herb so can be one to use with young children and the elderly. 

Valerian: this will help to decrease restlessness and can improve sleep. This herb is best used when getting ready for bed and to slow down a racing and anxious mind. Do not use this her when driinvg.  All herbs work differently for different people. I say this becauses I know some people who love valerian to help with sleep.  For others, it can keep them up all night!   Dose: 400-900 mg. per day of whole valerian.  This is often combined with lemon balm for an increased affect. 

Rhodiola: this promotes calmness.  Rhodiola is considered an adaptogen which helps the body to adapt to stress of daily life.  It also optimizes the immune system and hormonal balance. Dose: 500 mg. in a.m. on empty stomach of 3% standardized extract. 

Ashwagandha: this is another herb in the Adaptogenic herb family.   Taking 450 mg. in the morning can aid with energy, alertness and help you adapt to stress and anxiety.  Taking another 450 mg. before bedtime can aid for a restful night sleep.  For some, it may take a month before you notice the benefit so be patient because this is a wonderful Adaptogenic herb for anxiety and for supporting the adrenals during times of stress. 

Note:  If you have issues with alcohol, avoid tinctures and get in capsule/dried herb form instead.  It may be best to avoid Kava if you are a heavy drinker. 


6 Vitamins/Minerals to Help with Anxiety

fish oil supplement


Magnesium: a deficiency is associated with anxiety.  The average U.S. diet only provides 40% of our magnesium needs.  Because of our depleted soil, even the best eaters can be deficient in this master mineral.  Dose: I  like magnesium l threonate as this has the ability to raise magnesium levels in the brain.  The bottle may also be labeled as Magtein.  Follow directions on the bottle.  In addition to that, continue to eat magnesium rich foods such as pumpkin seeds, spinach, black beans, avocado and almonds

B Vitamins: these offer stress support and can improve anxiety.  Take a B complex to get all the B vitamins that you need. Stress and anxiety will use up your B vitamins so it is best to supplement this in addition to getting your B vitamins from food sources.  Dose: Depending on the brand and amount of B’s in the product, take two capsules per day and if under a great deal of stress take 2 capsules 2 times per day.  It is water soluble so you can’t over do it on the B vitamins.  If you are a vegan or vegetarian, you may also benefit from additional B12 support as B12 is only bioavailable for us via meat, poultry and fish. Work with someone who can recommend a good B vitamin for you that has the B vitamins in bio-available forms. Many B supplements have cheap forms that you may not absorb. So while it may say it is providing you with over 100% of the daily value, you may be only absorbing a very small fraction of that. Combine this with gut related issues and you may just be wasting your money. I personally like Thorne or Emerald Labs brand.

Probiotics: many animal studies demonstrate the benefit for anxiety.  Probiotics will help to replenish the good bacteria in the microbiome. Having a healthy microbiome is critical for mental well being.  It has been shown that our neurotransmitters originate in the gut and travel to the brain via the vagus nerve.  So if you want your GABA (your calming neurotransmitter) to be at optimal levels, you need to support your gut health.  Dose: In order to get the full benefits choose a multi strain probiotic and take one that has 20-50 billion organism.  Best results when taken with food. I personally like Mega Spore and use this one personally and with my clients.  Add in fermented foods as well.

Omega 3 Fats:  low DHA intake is associated with anxiety.  Studies show that low Omega 3 intake is associated with higher rates of anxiety, depression and other mood disorders. In countries where higher amounts of fatty fish is consumed, there are lower rates of depression and anxiety.  Dose: 1-2 g. per day of a fish or krill oil with high DHA.  Do not dose fish oil over 5 grams. Work with a professional who can guide you as to how long you need to stay at a therapeutic dose and when you can reduce the gram amount. For more info on DHA/EPA go to http://trufoodsnutrition.com/5095-2/

Lactium: this supplement contains a peptide similar to protein that is naturally found in dairy products.  Studies have shown that it can reduce stress induced anxiety. It does this by supporting the GABA receptors in the brain. It can also be useful if the anxiety impacts your sleep. Dose: From lactium.com, it advises to start with 150 mg per day for one month.  Use 300 mg. for 2 weeks for faster action during a particular period of anxiety and stress.  Use 600 mg. per day as needed, say for example, one day before an exam and on the exam day for immediate action.  Lactium can be difficult to find.  In the US you can try using the Life Extension Brand.  For outside the US, go to www.lactium.com to find products in other countries.

GABA: there is some debate over the use of GABA. Some say that if GABA is effective for your anxiety then it means you have a leaky BBB (blood brain barrier). Until I have more research, I recommend Source Naturals GABA Calm.  Your local health food store should carry this brand.  Ideally you want to support your gut health so that your own body can produce the GABA that you need but in the short term, you may benefit from a GABA supplement.  Food sources to support GABA include green tea, fermented foods, almonds, broccoli, spinach, oats and walnuts. 

Other Tips to Help Ease Anxiety


  • Avoid or greatly reduce the amount of caffeine you consume (reduce slowly to avoid headaches) Try green tea instead. This has less caffeine but also has stress reducing L Theanine in it.
  • Eliminate sugars, refined carbs
  • Eat more protein and healthy fats
  • Eat high fiber non-starchy vegetables
  • IBS and low blood sugar are associated with panic attacks
  • There is a connection between a healthy digestive tract and anxiety-fix digestive issues to support a calm mind
  • Include fermented foods in your diet
  • Anxiety can be associated with a copper/zinc balance with copper being too high and zinc levels being too low. (ask your nutritionist to do a zinc tally test with you)
  • For herbal support you can start out by trying teas that include a variety of the herbs mentioned above. Look for teas that say calm mind, stress reduction etc.…Sleepy time teas also contain some of these herbs as they help to calm the mind to help you sleep. (even though you may want to try one herb at a time to see how you react, many herbs that are used for anxiety have a synergistic  effect and can work well together).  I create blends for my clients and I have been told my “calm blend” has worked better than medications!
  • For situational anxiety such as during test taking or public speaking, Rescue Remedy may be helpful. It comes in a spray, lozenge or gum.

Bottom Line

If you do not address root causes, these are not much better than medications as symptom management (except not addictive and none of the side effects). If your anxiety is interfering with your life, work with someone who can help you.  There are many root causes for anxiety, such as low blood sugar, food sensitivities, thyroid issues, head injuries, systemic inflammation, contraceptive use and much more.  In addition to that, there are other compatible supportive therapies such as EMDR (if related to something that happened in your past), EFT (aka tapping), nuero-feedback or nuero-sculpting to name a few. 



Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutic Nutrition.  Pengrove, CA: Bauman College. 

Bongiorno, P. (2015) Put the Anxiety behind you.  CA: Canari Press

Challem, J. (2007) The Food-Mood Solution.  NJ: John Wiley & Sons, Inc.

Haas, E. & Levin, B.(2006)  Staying Healthy with Nutrition. CA: Celestial Arts

Mars, B.(2007) The Desktop Guide To Herbal Medicine. CA: Basic Health Publications

Walsh, W. (2014) Nutrient Power.  NY, NY: Sky Horse Publishing




If you are sick and tired of feeling sick, tired, fatigued, depressed, anxious and more and have given up hope then Karen’s simple, effective, individualized and sustainable approach may be what you need. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition and Herbalist is the author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition Guide; How Food Supplements and herbs can be used to lift your mood and If Life is So Good, Then Why AM I Still Depressed? Discover the root cause for your depression and learn what to do to feel better and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

Want more information, like her fb page here

As a nutrition professional, Karen does not treat, cure nor diagnose. This information is for educational purposes only.


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