Have You Tried “Everything” For Your Autoimmune Disease and Still No Results. Then Read This!

Autoimmune Disease and Your Immune System:

This is Important to Know if You Have an AI Condition

Why You Should Know About T Helper Cells if You Have an Autoimmune Condition

T helper cells are part of your immune system.  These cells are lymphocytes and lymphocytes are part of your white blood cells.  Their job is to recognize foreign invaders or as in the case of an autoimmune condition they mistakenly see self as the invader.  They respond to this invader by producing cytokines which are hormonal proteins that are responsible for the biological effects of the immune system.  Think of cytokines as chemical messengers that “make things happen”. 

You have two groups of T helper cells but both groups should work together in harmony.  It is normal for one side to become more active to eliminate a threat, but then should return to a balanced state once the threat is gone. This issue arises when one side remains more active than the other. 

In the case of an autoimmune condition, there is always a genetic component. However, just because you have the gene for a specific autoimmune condition, does not mean you will get it. The gene needs to be “turned on” by something, whether it is a food sensitivity, stress or other dietary factors, for example.

There are varying opinions as to if you can turn the gene off once it is turned on.  My own opinion is that I think in some cases the gene can be turned back off but in most cases, it is critical to support the immune system, restore balance and reduce inflammation so that you can put the AI disease into “remission”. 

Th 1 Pathway

This is your immediate response pathway. This is your body’s firsts line of defense against a pathogen.

If you are Th 1 dominant, this means that you are producing too many natural killer cells and cytotoxic T cells.  The cytotoxic T cells are also called killer T cells and can kill body cells that are infected with a virus or other agent. 

Typically, Th 1 cells are more active when there is a virus, bacteria or other microbe that is the invader.  Your Th1 cells should be more active during an acute illness and when there is acute inflammation.  However, when Th1 cells are in excess, they can give way to AI conditions and can create low Th2 levels. 

Some AI conditions that are associated with an overactive TH1 pathway include Type 1 diabetes, MS, Hashimotos, Grave’s Disease, Crohn’s Disease, Psoriasis, Sjogren’s Syndrome, Celiac Disease, Lichen Panus and RA. Please note that while an overactive TH1 pathway is more common in these conditions, it is not always the case and may not be for you! 

Th 2 Pathway

If you are producing too many B cells, the ones in charge of tagging the intruder so that it can be identified, then you are Th 2 dominant. 

Typically, you will see Th2 cells produced in excess in conditions such as asthma, eczema, rhinitis, allergies and in chronic inflammation.  Other conditions that are most often associated with an overactive Th 2 pathway include Lupus, Scleroderma, IBD, cancer, Ulcerative Colitis, and multiple chemical sensitivity.

When you have one pathway dominant, it means that the immune system is out of balance and this can lead to an AI condition if it has not done so already.  In the case of thyroid disease, Th1 and Th2 cytokines can affect thyroid function and not just the AI portion of the disease.  They can block the thyroid receptor sites and this will prevent the hormone from getting into the cells where you need it to start feeling better. 

It can be tricky to deduce which helper cells you have an issue with as both can be overactive or you can have both underactive as well. 

What Can Cause Your Immune System to Become Unbalanced

  • A diet of excessive refined carbs and sugar
  • An unknown food sensitivity
  • Excessive, ongoing stress (too much cortisol production suppressed the immune system)
  • Having a digestive disorder
  • Alcoholism
  • Exposed to heavy toxic metals (these suppress antibody production)
  • Pesticides and other toxic chemical ongoing exposure
  • Over use of NSAIDS
  • Too much exercise
  • Gut imbalances (poor microbiome health)
  • Too much fish oil supplementation-best to stay at 5 grams or below (depending on the health condition some people may need 2 grams to 4 grams per day)
  • Chronic Antibiotics
  • Cancer


Balancing Your T Helper Cells

The first step, according to Dr. Kharrazian in “Why do I still have thyroid symptoms when my lab tests are normal” is to support the T regulatory cells.  It is believed that the T regulatory cells may help to keep the other T cells under control, but it is not very clear how they do this.  T regulatory cells are thought to monitor the situation but can start behaving erratically and when this happens they may command the production of too many T helper cells and this process can ultimately destroy body tissue. 

The goal is to bring balance back to the T regulatory cells since their function is to maintain homeostasis of the immune system. 

Support Your T Regulatory Cells

Start here before moving on to addressing either pathway 1 or 2!

  • Vitamin D: work with a health professional to determine the best dose for your AI condition and based on your blood work D levels. (My favorite brand is Bio Tech.
  • DHA/EPA: Higher than average doses may be warranted but not above 5 grams total. (for instance, high doses have been shown to be needed to optimize thyroid function within the cells) (My favorite brands are Nordic Naturals and Xymogen).
  • Glutathione: this is considered your “master antioxidant”
  • SOD (Superoxide Dismutase) which is an antioxidant

There are nutrients that can stimulate each pathway. It is best to get tested to know which pathway you have an issue with, but I know some people are willing to use trial and error. Be aware that if you end up over stimulating the wrong pathway, your symptoms of your health issue may flair up and this is an indication that you need to discontinue use of these nutrients. 

Dr. Kharrazian states, that while not always the most accurate tool, you can use coffee as a guide.  If drinking coffee or caffeine causes a flair up of your health condition, then you may be Th 2 dominant since coffee stimulates the Th 2 pathway, thus you need to support Th 1.  If coffee/caffeine makes you feel better and lessens your symptoms then you may be TH1 dominant and will need to support your Th 2 pathway. 

Below is a list of what to use to support your pathways. Always work with your health professional when adding these in and work with them to find the rights amounts for you. 

Try only one supplement at a time to know what is and isn’t working for you. 

Support Th 1 Pathway

(You want to stimulate this side if Th 2 is dominant)

  • Astragalus
  • Echinacea
  • Beta-glucan mushrooms
  • Maitake mushrooms
  • Glycyrrhiza from licorice (Avoid if you have high BP)
  • Lemon Balm
  • Ginseng


Support Th 2 Pathway

 (You want to stimulate this side if Th 1 is dominant)

  • Caffeine
  • Green Tea extract
  • Grape Seed extract
  • Pine Bark Extract
  • White Willow Bark
  • Lycopene
  • Resveratrol
  • Pycnogenol
  • Curcumin

Th1 and Th2 Modulating Compounds

These can be used if you are not sure which pathway needs to be addressed and like mentioned above, both pathways can be dominant or under active.  Use these to help balance Th1 and Th2. 

  • Probiotics (my favorite is Mega Spore)
  • Vitamin A (get from foods such as butter and eggs-pasture raised)
  • Vitamin E (look for mixed tocopherols or get from egg yolks, avocado, nuts and seeds)
  • Colostrum (this the mother’s first milk). It can be difficult to find a good quality brand for Colostrum but I like synertekcolustrum.com


If you have been working with your health professional and have not gotten results for your AI and are still suffering from symptoms then you may want to ask for the TH1 and TH2 Cytokine Test.  The other option is you can order this yourself (although pricey at $499) from truehealthlabs.com. 


This is a blood draw and results may take up to 6-8 weeks.  But it may be worth it if you have not achieved resolution for your autoimmune condition. 

Bottom Line

If you have changed your diet, know what foods you are sensitive to, have addressed various organ dysfunction such as the liver and the gut (organ’s targeted is based on individual assessment) and are still not seeing results or only minimal results, then it is time to start looking deeper.  It can get really confusion, such as which products are best to use, how often to take and how much-work with someone who can guide you so you don’t have to continue to suffer.  Most people can put their AI disorder into remission. 


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

Kharrazian, D.  (2010) Why Do I Still Have Thyroid Symptoms? When My lab Tests Are Normal.  CA:

   Elephant Press.

Sompayrae, L. Immunology: How the Immune System Works.  2nd Edition. CO: Blackwell 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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Your Liver and Detoxification What You Need to Know

Liver Detox: What You Need to Know 


The liver is the largest organ in your body.  A healthy liver can neutralize 99% of toxins on the first pass through. Yes, toxins can pass through the liver more than once.  If your liver becomes damaged the toxin levels can increase x10!

Your liver goes to work detoxing when you are asleep. If you have difficulty sleeping and wake up always around the same time at night it could mean that your liver is working harder than it should.  

Everyone talks about “doing a detox” or a “liver cleanse”.  Once you read this article you will realize that doing a short- term detox for the liver probably isn’t going to be very effective in the long run. Dietary changes and key nutrients are critical daily.  Your liver filters toxins that will end up as waste via the bowels or the urine but you also have other detox pathways that should be supported as well.  You need all of them to function properly. 

The Two Phases

A toxin is anything that creates harmful effects to your body.  Your liver disassembles toxins and does this in a two- stage process.  Most toxins are fat soluble and they need to be in a water- soluble state to be eliminated from the body.  It is important that both detox phases are working.  For instance, phase 1 may break these toxins down but if phase 2 cannot bind these toxins to other things to make then inert and then eliminate them then these broken-down toxins can be harmful. 

 Your liver’s two phases of detox can detox chemicals such as pesticides and herbicides, heavy metals, food additives, toxins from the GI tract, drugs/medications, metabolic waste products and used hormones and neurotransmitters. As you can see some of these toxins are endogenous and others are exogenous.

What Can Impact the Liver Detox Pathways

  • Stress! This alone can shut down detoxification
  • Aging: Decreases detox enzymes
  • Meds such as benzodiazepines, antihistamines and stomach acid secretion blocking drugs inhibit phase 1.
  • Grapefruit juice inhibits phase 1. (some medications should not be taken with grapefruit juice for this reason)
  • Heavy alcohol use/abuse
  • Long term medication use
  • Standard American Diet-a diet filled with hormones, antibiotics, rancid oils, excess sugar etc..
  • toxins from water, cleaning products, skin care products, plastics 
  • lack of fiber in the diet 

Signs Your Liver Isn’t Working the Way It Should


  • Sensitivity to chemicals, tobacco smoke, perfume, cleaning products
  • Pain between shoulder blades
  • Stomach upsets when eat greasy foods
  • Greasy, shiny stool or see oily droplets with stool
  • Motion sickness, morning sickness
  • Light or pale colored stools
  • Headaches over the eyes
  • Gallbladder attacks
  • Bitter taste in mouth after meals
  • Sick easily after drinking wine
  • Easily hung over
  • Pain under right side of rib cage
  • Varicose veins, hemorrhoids
  • Artificial sugar consumption esp. NutraSweet/aspartame
  • Chronic Fatigue or fibromyalgia

Phase 1 of Liver Detoxification

  • Phase 1 is called the Cytochrome P450 pathway. This is made up of a group of over 50 detox enzymes that are induced when there is exposure to a toxin.
  • These enzymes will then convert these toxins from fat soluble to water soluble.
  • Issues can arise if you have either an over active or under active phase 1.
  • If your phase 1 is underactive, your risk of liver disease increases
  • Phase 1 will always create some free radicals.

Signs You Have an Under Active Phase 1

You have an intolerance to caffeine, perfumes or environmental chemicals. For instance, you can’t tolerate more than a cup of coffee or you feel jittery. You are sensitive to chemical and perfume smells and they may give you a headache, skin rash or affect your breathing.  Some people who smoke may not be as affected as those with an underactive phase 1. These people who smoke may have lung issues much sooner than those with a healthy phase 1. Part of this is due to genetics, but diet and lifestyle also play a large role.

These are signs that you may have a weak phase 1, meaning that you are not fully breaking down your toxins.  Those with an underactive phase 1 may also have issues detoxifying alcohol. 

Signs You Have an Over Active Phase 1

These are the people that tell you they can drink caffeine all day and are not affected. They may even have coffee right before bed and can still go right to sleep.  These people tend to have an over active phase 1 and an underactive phase 2.


Foods to Eat to Get a Sluggish Phase 1 Moving

  • Cruciferous vegetable such as broccoli, Brussel Sprouts and cabbage.
  • Oranges, tangerines
  • Dill seed and caraway seed
  • Foods that contain B vitamins (or take a B complex), Vitamin C, Vitamin E, Iron and magnesium
  • glutathione (best source is grass fed why protein powder) which is a potent antioxidant
  • SOD (Superoxide dismutase) an antioxidant enzyme in the body but you can also consume foods rich in copper, zinc, and manganese to help boost SOD. These foods include crimini mushrooms, steel cut oats, green beans, white basmati rice, asparagus, sesame seeds, strawberries, and pineapple.
  • Flavonoids-think eat a rainbow of colorful fruit and veggies

If your phase 1 is over active, you can use calendula and turmeric to slow it down. 

Phase 2 of Liver Detoxification

This phase joins the toxins into pairs with a compound for it to be excreted by the body.  What it joins with depends on the pathway of which there are 6.  The methylation pathway, sulfation pathway, glucuronidation pathway, glutathione pathway, acetylation pathway and the amino acid pathway. 

Typically when problems occur in phase 2, it is underactive and it is not common for this phase to be overactive.

1. Methylation Pathway

This pathway detoxes estrogens, some neurotransmitters, histamine and some toxic metals. 

To support this pathway, opt of a methylated B complex product, along with foods such as eggs, beans, fish, onions, garlic, grass fed dairy and grass fed organic meat, leafy greens.  Also include adequate amounts of protein and magnesium.  (Majority of people will need to supplement with magnesium)

Having a poor functioning methylation pathway can lead to degenerative diseases such as dementia, cancer and CVD.

2. Sulfation Pathway

This pathway detoxes bile acids, some neurotransmitters, some medications and chemicals and some hormones such as estrogens, testosterone, and thyroid hormone. 

To support this pathway, consume egg yolks, onions, garlic, cruciferous vegetables and grass fed, organic dairy

3. Glucuronidation Pathway

This pathway detoxifies some common medications such as aspirin, acetaminophen (Tylenol), morphine and diazepam (Valium) as well as food additives and some hormones.  Fluoride, aspirin and a medication called Probenecid (used for Gout) can suppress this pathway.

Support this pathway by adding in SAMe and calcium D-Glucarate

4. Glutathione Pathway (GSH)

GSH is a powerful antioxidant found in the mitochondria of every cell and is a powerful detox agent.  In the liver it conjugates up to 60% of the toxins in the bile. High toxin levels and/or extensive fasting can deplete your GSH levels.  If you are deficient in zinc, selenium, B2 or B6, this can inhibit this pathway.

GSH will help to detoxify the body from some medications, nicotine, bacterial toxins, toxic metals, ethyl alcohol and more. 

Add in grass fed whey protein powder, sulfur rich foods such as egg yolks, onion, garlic and cruciferous vegetables, and vitamin C rich foods such as peppers and citrus.     

5. Amino Acid Conjugation

This pathway detoxes aspirin, nicotinic acid, plant fatty acids and Benzoate.  This pathway can be inhibited by a low protein diet.  This pathway may function poorly if you have alcohol related liver issues, hypothyroidism, chronic arthritis, excessive chemical exposure, hepatitis, or carcinomas. 

Support this pathway by increasing the amount of protein you consume. Ideally sources that contain glycine, taurine, glutamate and arginine. Grass fed Whey or bone broth are good options to add in. 

6. Acetylation Pathway

This pathway detoxes sulfa drugs, other medications, serotonin, histamine, choline, caffeine and tyramine. 

This pathway is dependent upon Vitamin C, Vitamin B12 and Vitamin B5.


How do you know which pathway you should address?  The odds are you may have more than one pathway that is being inhibited. It is important to add in the needed supplements and consume a whole food, healthy diet.  There are supplements that contain herbs, vitamins and minerals that support both phase 1 and phase 2. 

Why Detoxification is So Important

Your body is constantly detoxifying and ridding itself of harmful substances.  Your health is so dependent upon the effectiveness of these detox pathways. Just one phase or one pathway not functioning properly can lead to health issues. 

And it can lead to not only physical health issues but mental health ones as well. Your body can accumulate toxins in your fatty tissues for years. This isn’t just that belly or hip fat, but also the fat in your brain and endocrine glands.  Toxin accumulation can lead to brain dysfunction, hormonal imbalances, exhausted adrenal glands, early menopause and premature aging. 

While the body is a detox machine with its various pathways, modern life can place a burden on these pathways causing a toxic overload where the body cannot keep up.  Our bodies were not made to handle the constant attack of toxins coming at us daily from our food, water, air, soil, body and household products. 

The liver is a very important detoxification organ, but remember that it is not the only detox system that you have.  Other pathways include the respiratory system, gastrointestinal systems, urinary, skin and lymphatic system. 

Try to reduce the burden placed upon your liver (and other detox pathways for that matter)d.  Avoid eating and drinking out of plastics and don’t ever microwave food in plastic. Also, don’t put plastic containers in the dishwasher, and instead wash these by hand.  Switch over to a filtration water system for your home and take water with you when you are out and about.  Read labels so that you can avoid many food additives, chemicals, dyes and artificial sugars.  Purchase organic as much as you can and opt for grass fed meats and dairy.  Reduce or eliminate caffeine and alcohol. 

Because it can be expensive and difficult to know what supplements you need, I like a product called Detoxification Factors Phase 1 and Phase 2 by Integrative Therapeutics and this can be purchased via my online apothecary fullscript.com 

Bottom Line: You cannot avoid all the toxins that you are exposed to unless you want to live life  in a bubble, but you can reduce exposure by addressing the toxins you have control of. By getting adequate amounts of exercise and movement into your life, using relaxation and stress techniques, choosing safe products and eating a whole foods diet along with targeted supplementation, you will be supporting all your pathways by limiting the toxic burden placed upon them. 


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





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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H2 Histamine Blockers Concerns and Deficiencies

Ranitidine: An H2 Histamine Blocker

(common name Zantac, Pepcid)

What You Need to Know First



Ranitidine is a member of the H-2 histamine blocker family of drugs. This medicine prevents the release of acid into the stomach.  It is used to treat stomach ulcers, GERD, erosive esophagitis, and Zollinger-Ellsion syndrome. 

This is available OTC and as a prescription medication. 

While proton pump inhibitor drugs (PPI’s) have been in the news more lately due to new side effect findings, it does not mean that Histamine blockers are free of concerns. They are both used to suppress gastric secretions but they differ in how they do this. 

While these drugs are used to suppress stomach acid, be aware that we need stomach acid.  An easy to read and informative book that I suggest you get to understand why stomach acid is vital to our overall health is “Why we need stomach acid” by Wright and Lenard. 

What H-2 Histamine Blockers May Deplete

  • Folate: Folate is needed by the body to utilize vitamin B12. Zantac and similar medications inhibit folate absorption.  Thus, taking this medication may cause a deficiency in folate and B12
  • Iron: Stomach acid may facilitate iron absorption. Beta blockers reduce stomach acid and are associated with decreased dietary absorption of iron.  People with ulcers may be deficient due to blood loss.  It is best to check iron levels on your blood work. 
  • B12: Stomach acid is needed to release B12 from food so that it can be absorbed by the body. Since beta blockers reduce stomach acid, your B12 levels will also be low.  B12 supplementation does not need stomach acid.
  • Magnesium: These drugs can block the active transport of magnesium in the intestines causing low magnesium and resulting in depression.
  • Other possible nutrient deficiencies include: vitamin A, vitamin D, calcium and zinc

What you Should ask Yourself Before Taking an H-2 Histamine Blocker (or a PPI)

  • These drugs reduce stomach acid. Do you know that elevated stomach acid is your issue?  For some it could be something else and low stomach acid can cause the same symptoms as high stomach acid. 
  • These drugs are meant to be taken only short term, 4-8 weeks, but most people take these meds long term, sometimes for years. Would you rather get to the root of your problem and address it?
  • Would life style and dietary changes be better (and safer with no side effects) be better than taking a drug?

What May Be Causing Your Stomach Issues

  • Hiatal Hernia
  • Hormones (yours and those from your food)
  • Eating too much, too quickly and too late
  • Relaxation of the esophageal sphincter
  • High or low stomach acid
  • Coffee, caffeine, carbonated drink, spicy foods
  • Gall bladder issues (which can also mean liver issues since bile is made in the liver and is stored in the gallbladder)

Natural Options


It is always best to work with a professional to address your root causes and find out what would be the best method of body balance and digestive relief but here are a few things you can try on your own in the meantime. 

  • Try drinking 1 tablespoon of Braggs Apple Cider Vinegar in 8 ounces of water before a meal. If this helps, you may have low stomach acid. If it makes it worse, try ½ teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water. If this resolves your issue, you may have high stomach acid.

o   If you have high stomach acid limit the amount of spicy foods you eat during gut healing (which includes coffee). 

o   As we age our stomach acid levels go down, thus older people tend to have low not high stomach acid. 

  • Add in digestive bitters before a meal. Bitter foods and herbs stimulate our bile and digestive juices to aid with meal digestion. 
  • Add in a digestive enzyme, a full spectrum one is best, so that is has the needed enzymes to break down your fats, sugar (carbs/starches), and proteins in the meal.
  • Chew DGL (licorice) before a meal
  • CHEW! Don’t inhale your food. Chew each bite 15-20 times.  This aids the digestive process.  It may seem simple but just this step alone can be very effective for some. 
  • Work with someone to determine if you have food intolerances. Or start by removing a food group for 2 to 4 weeks and see if the issue resolves. The main culprits include gluten, dairy, soy and corn.  

Bottom Line

Ask yourself if you want to address the cause or use symptom management. The choice is yours. 


  1. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/suzy-cohen-rph/acid-reflux-medication-_b_2522466.html
  2. Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Foundations in Nutrition. CA: Bauman College
  3. Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutics in Nutrition. CA: Bauman College
  4. Gaby, A. (2006) A-Z Guide to Drug-Herb-Vitamin Interactions. NY: Three Rivers Press
  5. Wright, J. & Lenard, L. (2001) Why Stomach Acid is Good For You. NY: M. Evanns


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 owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit  www.trufoodsnutrition.com

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