10 Doubts You May Have About Seeking Holistic Help For Your Depression

Are You Still on the Fence About Using Holistic Nutrition For Your Depression?

10 Reasons Why You Need to Reconsider


Busting the Myths

Myth: You Should Wait as Long as Possible Until Your Health Gets Really Bad

The longer you wait, the longer you suffer.  The longer you wait, the more burden you place on your body and the more damage that can occur and thus the longer the healing process.  Take care of the problem now before it spirals out of control. 

Myth: The Only Reason to See a Holistic Professional Is to Address the Symptoms That You Are Having.

If you want to address only your myriad of symptoms, then see your western taught, traditional MD.  My philosophy is that these symptoms are shout outs from your body trying to get you to see the root cause.  The symptoms are not the issue, it’s what is beneath them that is the problem. I don’t believe in symptom management as a solution.  And what may seem like a different way of looking at things: I believe that depression is a symptom not the root cause.

Myth: One Holistic Professional Is as Good as Another

No, not really.  Here is where you will need to do some homework.  Staying up to date requires not only our original schooling and training but constantly staying aware of the new research and findings.  Also, does the person you are going to work with continue to get CEU’s, attend course work and seminars?  Do they offer a variety of testing instead of a one size fits all?  Do they focus on one area of health or do they focus on a laundry list of conditions? 

For instance, beyond my schooling I maintain CEU’s for my board certification and additional CEU’s for my nutritional professional membership.  I focus my seminars and training on depression because it really is difficult to know everything there is to know about nutrition.  Selecting a focus area allows me to have the resources and knowledge that you need to get better. 

If you see someone that “specializes” in depression and also 10 other conditions, how can they really know everything there is to know about each of these conditions. They can’t.  If you have depression, do you want to see someone who specializes in depression or specializes in many health conditions? 

Myth: Having the Right Labs Is All I need

I know I stated above about offering a variety of lab work, but you are more than just numbers on a sheet of paper. Yes, labs can offer us clues and tell us a lot about what is going on.  But I need to also hear from you what is going on.  Ask what kind of assessment the person does.  How long is the first appointment typically?  If it is short, then they cannot get the information they need from you.  Sometimes I don’t even need to do testing because I asked the right questions and got all the information I needed to see the whole picture, the whole process clearly. Other times, it is not so cut and dry and testing can be useful. Testing is just one piece not the whole piece!  Also, knowing which tests that you need can only happen after I listen to you and ask the right questions.  I don’t believe in having everyone go through the same testing process. It just is not necessary.  Your situation is unique, so why should you all get the same tests done?

I’ll Go See Whoever is The Cheapest or One That is Covered by My Insurance.

Cheap and quality often do not go hand in hand. If you have been suffering with depression, do you want the cheapest or someone who can help you get better? If a friend recommended someone one to you to help you with your depression would you want them to recommend the best to you or the cheapest?  

Cheap also may be a way to get you in the door and then you find out there are all these extra fees attached. 

As for insurance, holistic professionals most often are not covered by insurance.  Typically, those that are covered by insurance are part of western medicine and are not going to be addressing root causes and instead will do symptom management. 

As for me, I charge by the hour.  Testing is extra, and supplements are extra, but I always discuss it with you first. Every test has a different price and it just depends of what testing that you need (I don’t make profit from the tests so this way I’m not inclined to “push you” towards one test more than another).

Myth: I Have Tried Everything. You Cannot Help Me.

Don’t think you have run out of options and that nothing can be done. I understand where you are coming from.  I cannot tell you how many specialists I dragged my son to and I know, it wears you down when you don’t get results.  

Have the past health processionals looked at toxins, done lab testing, GI panels, asked you the right questions and really listened to you? Was the protocol tailored to you or just the same one that they give everybody? 

I learned a lot along the way, and continue to learn to help you so don’t give up.  

Myth: If Nutrition Could Help, My Doctor Would Have Told Me.

Your doctor is trained in medicine not in nutrition. She may have received one class (not one course) in nutrition, maybe!  Your doctor is not trained to look at root causes and probably is not even aware of the impact that root causes can have and how we can address this through food and supplements and herbs.  He is taught about medication, not food, herbs and supplements.  This is not an area your doctor is familiar with so no I would not expect him or her to tell about nutrition.

Myth: I Don’t Have Time to See You

Think about all the time you have waited in the doctor or therapist’s office. All the drive time to see them.  I schedule a certain way so that you never wait. I only see a few clients each day, I’m not rushing you out the door so I can see the next person.  You come see me and I am ready!  If it is a phone or online consult, I call you right at the time I said I would.  I understand your time is valuable and I do my very best to not keep you waiting.  Even many of my local clients prefer phone or online consults as this saves them more time and they don’t have to make the drive to see me.  I try to make it as convenient as possible for you.

Myth: It Is Expensive

That depends. By this time, if you were like me when my son had depression, you have already spent hundreds, if not thousands of dollars trying to feel better.  I don’t offer packages like many others do, say at $5000 to $7000 a pop.  My goal is to see you short term, give you the tools to feel better. I don’t want you to purchase a package and be with me for the next several years. You probably already do that with a therapist. You don’t need to be doing that with me too.

Myth: I Can Figure This Out on My Own, Online.

I know there is plenty of information online. Trust me, I know. This is the route I went with my son when no one could get him better. I don’t recommend it. My son was a guinea pig. Everything I read about depression and what could help him, I tried. Once I went back to school, his depression became so clear to me. It was upsetting to me, that I wasted so much time.  Had I known what I know now, he could have felt better quicker and avoided so much of what I had tried.

There is also a great deal of conflicting information on the web and it can be difficult to separate the fact from fiction and know what information you need and what you don’t need. 

I took a leave of absence from work and literally poured over information for hours and hours every day. I was lucky to have this time, but do you?  And if you are depressed you can’t do this. There is no way my son would have been able to pour through all the information and process it when he was that depressed, let alone put it into action. 

I stream line the process and we do it in steps. The steps we take all depend on you, your commitment and what you can handle at the time. 

Navigating through all that information online is not only going to take up all your time but it will also cost you a lot of money and plenty of money you did not need to spend.  I’m talking from experience here. 

Bottom Line: Don’t try to go this alone.  If you still are on the fence about this, give me a call for a free 15 minute phone consult and I can tell you two basic, simple steps you can take right away.  co

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Are You Ready To Get Rid Of Your Depression Once And For All?

Are You Ready to Start Feeling Better?

Answering these questions below can help you to decide if the time is right for you to seek holistic nutrition therapy to get rid of your depression once and for all.

  1. Do other professionals tell you everything looks normal on your lab work and the depression must be all in your head?
  2. Is your depression preventing you from doing what you enjoy doing?
  3. Are you wondering what is causing your depression?
  4. Are you looking for a more comprehensive approach (not just looking at your head, but taking the “whole” you into consideration)?
  5. Are you looking for someone who will guide you and support you along the way towards getting better?
  6. Are you ready to take responsibility for your own health?

If you said yes, then you are ready to use holistic nutritional therapy to get to the root of your problem and start to feel better.

Lets work together to create an individualized plan to get you enjoying life again.  I will get to the root causes of your depression and help you to feel better.  My goal is to help you, guide you and provide you with the skills so that you can stay healthy.  I want you to be independently healthy, not need me long term. You may have been seeing your therapist for years, but that is not my goal. I hope to have you only need my services short term.  


Sign up at Tru Foods Nutrition Services LLC   for the first two chapters of my book on “If Life Is So Good, Then Why Am I Still Depressed?” along with additional information to help you get started.  Then give me a call/text 303-522-0381, or email me karen@trufoodsnutrition.com

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Magnesium: Why You Need To Take This and Best Forms To Take


Here is Why You Need To Be Supplementing With This Mineral


Magnesium is known as the calming mineral.  I wish I knew this when I was younger.  I had such a poor diet, was on many medications and had anxiety.  Looking back now, I realize that adding magnesium rich foods and a magnesium supplement would have helped me a great deal.  Looking back, I know I was deficient in magnesium.  

Are you lacking in the master mineral that is involved in over 300 enzymatic processes in the body?  It is found mainly in your brain, muscles and bones.   This is why an Epsom salt bath  is so good for sore muscles and after a strenuous workout.  

Up to half of the American population is deficient in magnesium and they don’t know it.  In fact, new research published in the BMC Bioinformatics indicates that magnesium plays a much larger role in our health than we previously thought.  Every cell in the body requires magnesium! 

And most people are not aware that magnesium is critical for proper brain function.  

Magnesium deficiency accounts for a long list of symptoms and diseases which are often easily helped by adding in this valuable nutrient.  In fact, it can be very beneficial for those with ADD/ADHD, anxiety, autism and insomnia.  Think of magnesium as the mineral that relaxes your body and mind. 

What Depletes Magnesium

The odds are that you are depleted. Take a look at this list. 

I know for me, in the past, sugar, antibiotics, calcium supplements, my diet, all the diet soda I drank, sweating from exercise and above all, the stress in my life, was definitely taking a hit to my magnesium levels.  Oh and I had (still get from time to time) restless leg, which is often (not always) attributed to low magnesium levels.  

Magnesium is not one that can be easily tested via blood work. Only 1% of the body’s magnesium is stored in the blood. This is why I like Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis for looking at mineral levels such as magnesium or using tests such as Spectra cell Test which looks at mineral levels in the white blood cells.  

If you are like me, you probably have more than one on the list that is impacting your magnesium levels.  

·        Stress, on-going, chronic, 

·         sweating

·         Alcohol intake

·        Sugar intake

·        excess phosphorus (from soda)

·         antibiotics

·        coffee

·        too much calcium intake, mostly from an “only calcium” supplement

·        diuretics

·        birth control pills

·        proton pump inhibitor medications

·         old age

·        processed grains

·        excessive D2

·        the Standard American Diet and

·        soil depletion

Signs and Symptoms that May Indicate You Need More Magnesium


You have

·        depression

·         feel irritable often, tantrums in children 

·         ADHD, confusion 

·        autism

·        insomnia, difficulty falling to sleep (difficulty staying asleep is usually something different)

·        have restless leg or muscle twitching or twitches, muscle soreness, muscle tension, fibromyalgia

·        PMS, cramping, PMS cravings for chocolate

·        heart palpitations, heart disease, arrhythmia, or mitral valve prolapse or hypertension

·        have migraines/headaches frequently

·         acid reflux, GERD

·        sensitive to loud noises

·        fatigue, lethargy

·         asthma

·        constipation

·         excess stress

·        poor diet

·        kidney stones

·        diabetes/insulin resistance


Those Who Are at Greatest Risk of Magnesium Deficiency Include:



  • Crohn’s disease
  • Celiac disease
  • Other gastrointestinal Disorders
  • Alcoholics
  • Elderly
  • Medications That Can Deplete Magnesium

  • This is not an exhaustive list.  Check the medication that you are taking to see if it impairs your magnesium levels. 
    • Acid blockers such as Tagamet, Pepcid and Zantac to name a few
    • Antacids such as Mylanta, Tums, Milk of Magnesia and Alka-Seltzer
    • Antibiotics such as the Z-pak, Ceclor, Cipro, Septra and many others
    • Antiviral Agents such as Epivir and Rescriptor
    • Blood pressure drugs
    • Ace Inhibitors
    • Diuretics (loop, Thiazide diuretics, potassium sparing diuretics, sulfonamide diuretics)
    • Central Nervous System Stimulants such as Ritalin
    • Cholesterol Agents
    • Corticosteroids including inhaled corticosteroids
    • Hormone replacement therapy including oral contraceptives
    • Immunosuppressant
    • Anastrozole (used for breast cancer)
    • Raloxifene used for osteoporosis

Magnesium Rich Foods

  • Think green!  Magnesium is the central atom in chlorophyll molecule
  • Nuts, seeds
  • whole grains
  • Beans and legumes
  • Avocado
  • Dark chocolate
  • Banana
  • Leafy greens such as spinach
  • Sea veggies/algae
  • Broccoli
  • Baked potato with skin on
  • Pink salt

Magnesium Supplementation

When looking for a magnesium supplement, be sure to read the back label. 

  • Whole food supplementation is best (i.e.: food based supplements/multi vitamin/minerals)  Innate Response is a reputable Whole Foods Brand
  • Magnesium can be taken in pill or powder form or transdermal 
  • Chelated forms are best (i.e.: forms of magnesium that end in “ate”)

Citrate is a better form if constipation is an issue

  • This is best for those who are not moving their bowels on a more than once daily basis.  Start low with the dose.  Mag Calm is a great brand for Magnesium Citrate.

Another form that end in “ate” is  Magnesium Glycinate which will not have much effect on stools

Magnesium oxide is not well absorbed and acts more as a laxative so it could be beneficial to use short term for bowels but this is not the form you want for daily long term use.  

Magnesium chloride best form to use for those with kidney disease. 

Magnesium l threonate can raise magnesium levels in the brain.  This is my preferred form to supplement with if you need more cognitive support, have ADHD, anxiety or depression since it is able to cross the blood brain barrier.  

  • Take magnesium with B6 as they work together.
  • Take an Epson salt bath to relax you, for stress, for sore muscles, muscle spasms. Use 1-2 cups of the salt in the bath water. When you soak in an Epson salt bath, your body will absorb the amount of magnesium that you need.  

Magnesium Orotate is known to be good for heart health.  It has also been shown to be good for endurance athletes, improving stamina.  

My favorite for overall health: Transdermal magnesium lotions and sprays for magnesium absorption via skin

o   This is my favorite way to get magnesium. My preferred brand is Ease by www.activationproducts.com  and I have this in my office for clients and you can also order direct from the company. Other sprays typically will sting when you spray them on and this can be due to  poor quality. 

o   I like transdermal also because it does not need to be digested and is great if you have digestion/assimilation/absorption issues.  (you may not even know that you do!)  It is easier to use with children since they don’t have to take a drink or swallow a pill and most don’t mind you spraying it on them.  

o   Topically can be fast acting. It can be great for PMS, cramping, restless leg and muscle spasms. Spray on the area that is giving you the pain. 

Hint: Crave chocolate around your period?  Chocolate has magnesium and your body may be trying to tell you something!

How Much Magnesium Do You Need

The RDA for magnesium is 310 to 420 mg. per day and this amount can vary depending on your age and sex.  Many experts in the health field believe that the daily amount should be closer to 600 to 900 mg. per day.  Dr. Mercola states that magnesium intake should be closer to 1 to 2 grams per day.  He feels that this higher dose is warranted due to our EMF exposure and that the increased amount of magnesium should help to lower the damage that we get daily from EMF’s.

I am more in line with Dr. Mercola and not with the RDA guidelines. If you have ever heard me speak, I mention that the RDA for vitamin C is to prevent scurvy.  (the Vitamin C RDA is 75-90 mg. which in my opinion is too low).  Thus, my assumption is that the RDA for magnesium is also too low. RDA guidelines are there to provide you the amounts needed to prevent disease.

 These are not recommendations for optimal health! This is very important!


Bottom Line: Decide which form is best for you and your situation.  If you need more help deciding which type you should get or which brand or if you want testing done, give me a call.  In the end, we all need magnesium, even if you have the healthiest diet.  This is because of mono crops, lack of rotation of crops and depleting the soil of magnesium.  



Anderson, R. Awang, D. et. al. (2000) Professional Guide to Conditions, Herbs, and Supplements.

   MA: Integrative Medicine Communications

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

Haas, E. (2006) Staying Health with Nutrition. The Complete guide to Diet And Nutritional Medicine.

   CA: Celestial Arts






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Detox Workshop

Detox Workshop

Detox Workshop Coming Soon!

For those in the Colorado Front Range Area

WHY SHOULD YOU ATTEND THIS DETOX WORKSHOP: There are so many programs and products out there, that it gets confusing to know what it right and what is not. I’m sure you have invested a lot of time and money in various programs, diets and supplements hoping that this time it will work.

In 2 hours I am going to talk to you about what does not work, what others have been doing wrong and why they don’t work and may even have made your situation worse.

We will discuss the step by step plan to get your body working the way it was meant to. We are going to talk about digging deep to the cellular level which other programs typically don’t address. 

Even in detox you need to get to the root of the problem. A juice fast just isn’t going to cut it. Sure, you may lose some weight and have more energy…for a short period of time. Find out how to detox to recharge your cells! 

Bring your pens and a pad of paper to take notes!  I will provide snacks, beverages, show you what products, herbs and foods are best, and we will sample some. All information from the program will be emailed to those who attend after the workshop so that you won’t miss a thing!


WHO THIS IS FOR: If you are feeling fatigued, sluggish, just trying to get through your day, using coffee to function, can’t lose weight, have skin issues, feel blah, have bloating and gas or bowel concerns, feel stressed, overwhelmed, exhausted, anxious or depressed or have tried detoxes/cleanses in the past with little to no results then you should attend. 


WHEN: January 27th, Saturday 2:00-4:00 pm.


WHERE: Tru Foods location in Castle Rock, CO


What you will learn: You will learn what works, what doesn’t, what to stop wasting money on, why you haven’t been digging deep enough, what I do at the beginning of each new year, and much more. 


PRICE: $22 per person. Invite a friend and both will receive $5 off!


HOW TO REGISTER: email at trufoodsnutrition@yahoo.com, call or text to 303-522-0381 to let me know you will be attending.   I will provide the Castle Rock address and send you the invoice. Payment must be received prior to the workshop.


CANCELATION/WEATHER: If the weather is bad, it will be rescheduled for Feb 17th.  If less than 10 people sign up, I will need to cancel the workshop and will refund your money.  If you are unable to attend, you can use the payment towards consults, cooking workshop, pantry makeover or a shopping outing.




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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Should You Go “Gluten Free” If You Feel Fine

Should you go Gluten Free or Is It a Fad?

I have read many articles stating why we need to eat whole grains and then these articles go on to say we need to be eating wheat unless you are celiac or have a gluten sensitivity. They state that we miss out on vital nutrients if we don’t eat wheat and other gluten containing grains such as rye, barley and spelt.  

These articles are misleading and don’t do you any favors.

Should you go gluten free if you do not have celiac disease or a gluten sensitivity?  Read on and I will let you decide the answer to that question. 

Gluten, Wheat, Your Body

Nutrient Deficient and Processed

When articles supporting gluten and wheat talk about why you should consume it, they always say “Whole grains”. This is important.  Yes, whole grains contain important nutrients such as iron, B-6, folate, and magnesium. 

Who reading this eats wheat as a whole grain, that you can actually see?  Didn’t think so? 

No, you eat wheat and other gluten containing products in a highly refined and processed form. When you consume it in this form, such as in your bread, bagels, pizza and pasta, you are consuming the starchy part of the grain. The nutrient dense portion along with the protein and the fiber have been removed. 

What you are left with is a nutrient deficient starchy product that raises your blood sugar rapidly since now it does not have the fiber, nutrients and protein to slow down the process when it enters the blood stream. 

But wait, the package mentions all these vitamins!  Read the label closely. It will say “enriched with” or “fortified with”. To be clear, enrichment means that nutrients that have been lost in processing have been added back in.  Fortified means added nutrients that the food never contained in the first place. 

Why would they need to add these nutrients into the product if it is such a healthy product to begin with?  They add it back in(enrichment) because the product is so refined that is has been stripped of all its original nutrients.  And do you think they are adding nutrients back in, in a high quality and absorbable form?  No, they add back synthetic forms of these nutrients. For instance, they may add back in folic acid. This is the synthetic form of folate and not as absorbable. 

The argument that you need whole grains to reap the benefit of vital nutrients is false.  Instead, eliminate these processed, packaged foods from the diet (even GF options) and instead add in more whole foods. 

Whole grains are not the only source of B-6, magnesium, iron and folate to name a few.  You can get these mineral and vitamins from other, much healthier sources, such as fruits, vegetables, leafy greens, beans, legumes, quinoa, teff, steel cut oats, nuts and seeds and grass fed, organic or wild caught meats, poultry and fish. 

Nutrients found in its whole food form is the way mother nature intended us to absorb and utilize our nutrients.  For instance, in an apple you have vitamins, minerals, macronutrients, fiber and phytonutrients in this perfect form. You don’t get that from a processed and packaged product. 

 Trust me, your diet is not going to be deficient if you skip the bagels, donuts, crackers, pasta and bread! In fact, your body is going to thank you once that blood sugar stabilizes, and you replace the nutrient deficient, highly empty caloric foods with healthier options. 

Chemicals/Heavily Sprayed Crop

Wheat is not a GMO crop. Many people will state that wheat is a GMO crop, and this is not true. However, wheat, along with barley, oats and edible beans, is a heavily sprayed crop right before harvest.  Many of you avoid GMO foods because they are heavily sprayed, wheat does fall into this category. 

What you don’t see can still hurt you.  The glyphosate that is spayed on the wheat crop is now classified as a probable carcinogen according to the World Health Organization.  California also classifies glyphosate as a probable carcinogen. 

If that is not reason enough to avoid wheat, then also know that research is showing that glyphosate can act as an endocrine disruptor and it can kill gut bacteria and lead to leaky gut syndrome. 

While the glyphosate residue in your bread may be small, think of the toxic load on your body over time when you consume wheat daily for years and years.  Add on top of that all the other ways that you are exposed to toxins daily. Your body and your liver may have a difficult time keeping up to remove these toxins from your body.  You are going to read elsewhere that the amount of glyphosate residue in your food is safe, but they never look at this in addition to the other toxins you are exposed to such as from water, soil, air and other foods.  Studies only look at the burden of one product, one chemical.

Chlorpyrifos is a organophosphate insecticide that can disrupt brain development and cause brain damage, reduced IQ, neurological issues and aggressiveness in children. This chemical is used in crops such as wheat and corn and non-organic fruits and vegetables.  

For this reason, I think everyone should at the very least, reduce the amount of gluten containing foods they consume to reduce this toxin overload.   Not every farm sprays wheat and barley right before harvest. If you order flour from a direct source, ask them.


Blood Sugar Disruptor

Gluten containing products can cause your blood sugar to soar and then crash.  Gluten Free foods can be just as bad for your blood sugar as they are also made from refined carbohydrates.  To support a balanced blood sugar, minimize or greatly reduce the amount of processed and refined products that you eat.  When you eat foods or meals that are high in simple and refined carbs with little to none protein or healthy fats in the mix, then your blood sugar can surge from these carbs that convert to sugar once they enter the bloodstream.  Eat carbs in the form of whole beans and legumes, vegetables and fruit. 

Wheat contains amylopectin A, a complex carb.  Having two slices of bread can increase your blood sugar higher than it would if you ingested 6 tablespoons of sugar.  At the very least, take off the top of bottom to your sandwich or have one half a bagel rather than a whole one. 


Addictive and Increases Your Appetite

Yes, gluten containing products (mostly from wheat) are highly addictive!  It is right up there with processed sugar. Every time you consume gluten containing foods such as a bagel it lights up your dopamine receptor just like sugar and cocaine does. When you come down from your processed grain rush, guess what, yup, just like cocaine or sugar, you want more to get that dopamine rush again.

Obviously, you don’t get the same high as you see in a heroin or cocaine addict. The addiction is instead that it makes you hungry and hungry for more wheat, starchy refined gluten containing foods. This is due to a protein in wheat called gliadin (an opioid). It was altered back in the 1970’s to increase yield.  This shift in amino acids produced not only high yield but also a food that can increase your appetite!

If you” have to have” white flour products on a regular daily basis, consider the fact that you may be addicted to these foods. 

Are There Health Reasons Other for Avoiding Gluten?

Just because you do not have stomach issues, does not mean you do not have a reaction to gluten. Look at the list below to see some more common conditions that can be caused or exacerbated by gluten. 

Testing is available for gluten sensitivity. But doing a trial elimination of gluten for 30 days can help to see if any of your health issues improve. 

Going Gluten Free may help with the following conditions

  • Autism
  • Anxiety
  • Depression
  • ADHD
  • Skin Issues
  • Autoimmune conditions
  • IBS
  • Migraines/headaches
  • Obesity
  • Diabetes
  • Joint Pain/arthritis
  • Fatigue


What To Do If You Don’t Want To Give Up Gluten.  The 80/20 Rule

It is not easy to give up entirely for most people as gluten is in everything now.  If you are traveling, out to eat or at someone else’s house, it can be difficult to avoid it.  Therefore the 80/20 rule works best.

For instance, Monday through Friday you avoid gluten and on Saturday night you have pizza and on Sunday night you have pasta, or you only have one piece of toast at breakfast and no gluten the rest of the day. 

Once you stick with the 80/20 rule long enough, you will start to notice that when you avoid the refined processed foods you don’t feel as bloated or you notice you have more energy.  For many, you just “feel better” but can’t really pinpoint why.  Being prepared always helps. Keep gluten free snacks,such as nuts and seeds and whole foods protein bars in the car, in your purse, in your desk at work.  Travel with your own snacks such as protein bar options and bags of nuts and seeds.  When ordering your sandwich or burger, ask for a lettuce wrap. 

Don’t Replace with Gluten Free Products

When you take out the gluten containing processed foods, replace them with whole foods that will fill you up, give you energy and balance your blood sugar. These foods include more protein and fats and whole food carbs. 

Do not replace your gluten containing bread, pasta, bagels and cookies with gluten free options.  Yes, there are many gluten free options out there and they can be useful for on occasion but don’t make these a daily habit. These products contain a high amount of sugar and non- gluten starches, so they will raise your blood sugar just as much and leave you to crave more.  Reserve these for treats as part of your 80/20 rule. 

Bottom Line

If you consume wheat based refined products or even gluten free processed products such as cookies, donuts, bread, pasta and pastries, you are not eating them for their health benefits but for pure pleasure or because you are addicted. 

There is nothing wrong with that, but minimize this to 20% of your diet.  If you are not able to reduce the amount because it is so addictive for you, then you may need to remove processed gluten products long term until you break the vicious cycle. 

If you want to consume whole grains, then do so. This means the grain you can see such as in rice, quinoa, millet and teff.

Going off the gluten is not easy since it can be so addictive.  Seek the help of a holistic nutrition professional who can guide you and who knows some tricks in how to reduce cravings and the “flu like” symptoms when you remove it. 









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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Candida, Depression, Brain Fog, Weight Gain and More

Candida and Its Impact on Your Health


Most people are unaware that they have a candida issue.  Candida normally lives in harmony with other gut bacteria but if this balance gets disturbed this is when problems can occur and the candida yeast can proliferate.  It normally resides in the intestinal tract, mouth, esophagus, and genitals. However, it can lead to leaky gut and then it will enter the blood stream and make its way to any organ in the body. Thus, every organ in your body is at risk of damage. To make matters worse, candida emits over 70 different toxins into the body. 

Yeast prefers dark, warm places to grow and thrive such as in your nose, throat, mouth, and intestinal tract and genital area.  It thrives on sugar for growth and development. 

The body will always have some yeast but the goal is to rebalance the body and recolonize the good bacteria in our gut so that there is less of the candida yeast.  At normal levels, candida is harmless.

How an Overgrowth of Yeast Can Lead to Problems

Candida can cause Leaky Gut Syndrome, impacting gut health.  The overgrowth of yeast can take over, dominate the good bacteria in the gut and thus fungal dysbiosis occurs.  This yeast can change into a more invasive form that will secrete enzymes that break down the cell membrane thus causing a leaky gut.  To learn more about Leaky gut syndrome click http://trufoodsnutrition.com/5157-2/

Now that the gut is more permeable, toxins, can leak into the blood stream causing symptoms such as brain fog, fatigue and depression.  In addition to this, partially digested food particles can now leak into the blood stream, creating inflammation and possibly food sensitivities.  When the yeast crosses into the blood stream, an area that it does not belong in, the body can trigger the creation of antibodies by the immune system, leading to an autoimmune disease such as celiac disease or Hashimotos since these antibodies can cross react with the skin (psoriasis), joint tissue (rheumatoid arthritis) or even the brain (MS, Parkinson’s disease). While most people would never associate an overgrowth of yeast with an autoimmune disorder, it is something that does need to be taken into consideration. 

While yeast may have been your original issue, now you are faced with a host of ailments, many which your health professional cannot figure out or just gives you a medication for. 

Common Causes of Yeast Overgrowth

fast food burger

(for more information see my article on Candida and ADHD here )

  • Standard American Diet. This refined, highly processed and high sugar diet contributes to yeast overgrowth
  • Antibiotic usage. Even just one round of antibiotics can upset the balance in the gut. Don’t forget the added antibiotics from CAFO (confined animal factory operations) meat. 
  • Elevated hormone levels. This can be caused by medications such as prednisone, birth control pill, pregnancy and chronic stress.
  • Acid Suppressing medications such as Prilosec and Prevacid.
  • Alcohol: If you are a heavy drinker, you automatically consume too much sugar. While the alcohol excess is an issue in and of itself, the candida from the alcohol can make a bad situation worse.

Some of the More Common Candida Symptoms

Please note that many of these symptoms can also be symptoms due to other health issues. Always work with your holistic health professional to get to your root cause.

  • Fatigue
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Headaches/migraines
  • Depression and other mood disorders
  • Brain fog, forgetfulness
  • Bloating, gas
  • Diarrhea, constipation
  • Urinary frequency
  • Itchy bottom
  • Sore throat
  • Athletes foot
  • White coating on tongue
  • Cravings for sugar, refined high carb processed snacks
  • Cravings for alcohol
  • Painful cracks at corners of mouth
  • Acne
  • Bronchitis
  • Chronic sinus infections

Restoring Balance in the Gut


When addressing gut health and restoring balance, take into consideration other systems that have been affected due to the overgrowth of the candida. This includes (but not limited to) the adrenals, liver, blood sugar and immune system. 

  • Vitamin C: Add in foods rich in this vitamin as it is critical for the immune system. It also assists with the detox process. Foods to include would include broccoli, cabbage, watercress, and citrus fruits to name a few. 
  • Essential Fatty Acids (EFA’s): Essential fatty acids are used in every cell in the human body. Because candida overgrowth leads to leaky gut syndrome and systemic inflammation, it is important to add in foods that are rich in Omega 3’s since they have been shown to reduce inflammation.  They can reduce the cause of the inflammation and reduce the inflammation that exists. Food sources include wild caught Alaskan Salmon, pasture raised eggs and grass- fed beef.
  • Probiotics: These are the friendly bacteria that live in your gut and help to break down your food. They are vital for a strong immune system. There is constantly new research on the importance of various healthy strains that reside in our gut. Healthy bacteria strains have been associated with maintaining a healthy weight, reduces risk of allergies, asthma, depression, anxiety and much more.  Thus, having a healthy gut is vital to all aspects of your health! Add fermented foods to your diet. These are rich in the good bacteria. Fermented foods include raw fermented sauerkraut and other vegetables, kimchee, miso, kombucha, kefir and raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar. 
  • Prebiotics: Think of these as the food for your probiotics. For your probiotics to thrive in the gut, they too need their healthy food! This comes from foods that contain resistant starch.  Resistant starches go through the stomach and the small intestine undigested and reach the colon where it feeds the friendly bacteria in your gut.  Think of resistant starches as food for your gut to keep it healthy.  Resistant starches, also called prebiotics, can come from foods such as raw garlic, raw onion, leeks and chicory root. You can also supplement with products such as FOS or inulin.  These can cause stomach upset, gas and bloating for some.  Another option is to purchase acacia gum which is the resin from the acacia tree.  It comes in a powder.  This is a powerful prebiotic source and one that typically does not cause any digestive complaints. 
  • Caprylic Acid: This is a very effective antifungal. It is one of three fatty acids that are found in coconut oil.  It can kill candida cells and can restore stomach acidity to normal levels.  It is best to combine Caprylic acid with other antifungals during your candida cleanse.  Add in unrefined organic coconut oil into your diet. 
  • Antifungal Herbs: Herbs that have antifungal properties include olive leaf, oregano, Pau D’Arco, allicin from garlic, and grape fruit seed extract. You can start off by adding in raw garlic to your diet. Chop your garlic and let it sit for several minutes to activate the allicin.  Then use it raw such as in your salad dressing.
  • Enzymes: Once candida enters the blood stream and reaches into other parts of the body, such as your sinus cavity, or worse your brain, it can be difficult to eradicate. The candida has a sticky biofilm to protect it from antifungal herbs and medications. Because of the biofilm, the candida can continue to grow and flourish and the biofilm protects the candida from your immune system.  There are enzymes that can break down the cell wall, degrading the biofilm.  These enzymes include cellulase and hemicellulase. Thus, the body can now activate an immune response against the candida overgrowth. 
  • Foods to Avoid: the white stuff-think stuff made with flour and sugar. High simple carb foods convert to sugar in the blood stream, so not only do you need to remove the donuts and cookies but the pasta and the bread too.  While beans and legumes and non- gluten grains are a healthy addition to the diet, it is best to avoid them early on when eliminating candida.  They are high in carbs and should kept to a minimum at the very least.  Avoid and limit foods and meals such as beans and rice, quinoa bowls and non- gluten pastas and breads too.  Keep dairy and gluten out of the candida diet
  • Foods to Add in: Think whole foods! Add in more vegetables and proteins and fats. Limit starchy carbs such as potatoes and squash.  Meals could look like chicken, beef or salmon with a large salad with avocado slices with roasted asparagus or sautéed broccoli or steamed carrots with grass fed butter or ghee with a spoonful of fermented sauerkraut. 


Add in nutritional yeast to make cheesy recipes. Add in lemons and limes for more flavor.  Use spices and herbs. Try nuts and seeds in recipes and use them as a great snack. 


If you need to sweeten things up a bit, try stevia or pure monk fruit (read label as many monk fruit products are mixed with other ingredients)


Bottom Line: If you think you have candida, a health professional can order tests, use assessment and questionnaires and do a thorough health intake to determine if candida is causing your symptoms.  You don’t need to suffer with candida. It does take some time to eradicate, so be patient! Hopefully within a few months you will start to see improvements.



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

Hoffman, D. (2003) Medical Herbalism. The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. VT: Healing

   Arts Press.

Levin, W & Gare, F. (2013) Beyond the Yeast Connection. CA: Basic Health Pub., Inc.

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

Murray, M, Pizzorno, J, & Pizzorno, L. (2005) The Encyclopedia of Healing Foods. NY: Atria Books. 

Nichols, T. & Faas, N. (2005) Optimal Digestive Health. VT: Healing Arts Press.



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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Probiotics Can Reduce Depression

Probiotics and Depression


Gut health is a popular subject lately and for good reason.  As Hippocrates said, “All disease begins in the Gut”.  We are only now beginning to understand how true this is, for our physical and mental health. 

Your gut is made up of bacteria.  We need to have a balance between the “good” and “bad” bacteria.  Research is indicating that having more good bacteria in our gut can impact our overall mood.  Using probiotics for depression remains controversial but data is showing that this can have a positive impact on our well-being. 

A study (1) done in 2016 showed that probiotic supplementation had a positive impact on those with depression who were under the age of 60.  (It did not show improvement in those over 65).  We need to face the fact that our brain and our gut is linked and if one is not working properly, the other is most likely not either.  A small study done in 2017 showed that probiotics reduced symptoms of depression and anxiety.  (2)

Probiotic’s may also be helpful for depression associated with bipolar. In a study published in the Journal of Psychiatric Research, they looked at the microbiome of those with bipolar and those without bipolar.  They found that those with bipolar had significantly different microbiomes than those without bipolar.  They had low levels of two strains that have been associated with overall health.  (4)

Studies show that probiotics should be considered an adjuvant to standard care for depression since it may reduce oxidative stress and thus may also lead to an increase in brain derived neurotropic factor (BDNF). (5) BDNF, a protein, is found abundantly in the brain and is found in both human serum and plasma.  Stress can reduce BDNF expression in the hippocampus. Recently BDNF has been shown to play a vital role in depression. This topic is still quite controversial and some research in this area differs. (6) There is a connection between low BDNF and depression but the verdict is still not in as to whether low BDNF is a contributing factor for depression.  At this time, we know we need to know more about BDNF and its role in depression. 

What to Take/What to Eat


Don’t stress out about the specific strains in your probiotics.  While we may see in the future, specific probiotic products made specifically for certain health issues such as depression, IBS, bipolar, anxiety or IBD, right now it is good to get a probiotic that contains a variety of strains.  You want diversity in your gut. 

While you may think you can swap out your antidepressant for a probiotic, this may not be the case.  Just taking a probiotic may not be enough to bring balance to the microbiome. (and please just don’t go off your medications. See my article on medication tapering here )

Just taking a supplement is usually not enough. It can be a good start but odds are, if you have depression, there is more you must do, including finding an individualized diet that is right for your body.

 The simplest way of doing this, is to slowly remove junk food categories from your diet. For instance, start by removing candy, and junk food that contains sugar such as donuts, pastries, and cookies.  Swap these out for healthier options such as avocado pudding, chia seed pudding, or nut butter with dark chocolate.  Then move on to another category such as salty snacks such as all the different chips and processed snacks.  Try not to replace with what may seem like healthier options (for instance, while Non-GMO corn chips are a better option, they still typically contain canola oil which is a refined, oxidized oil that contributes to systemic inflammation.  (depression can have inflammation as a root cause)

By removing the processed junk food from your diet, you will also be removing a bulk of GMO foods from your diet.  Glyphosate, the chemical that is sprayed on GMO crops has been shown to disrupt the gut and cause inflammation. By reducing the amount in your diet, you are improving gut health and reducing inflammation, both which are implicated in depression.  (3)

Probiotic Rich Foods


Adding in a variety of probiotic rich foods will be very supportive for your gut health.  Any type of food sensitivity should be addressed first by working with a nutrition professional and removing these foods since these will disrupt the gut causing leaky gut syndrome. 

Fermented foods will be rich in probiotics.  You can look up easy recipes to make your own but there are so many fermented products on the market now, that you don’t have to do this.  Look for raw fermented sauerkraut, Bubbies pickles, other fermented vegetables, raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar such as Braggs, kombucha, goat milk kefir, goat milk yogurt, kimchee, miso, tempeh.  Click here  for more information of fermented foods.



Look for a product that has a variety of strains. You can find most probiotics in the refrigerator section of your health food store. There are now also soil based and spore probiotics.  I personally use (and recommend for many of my clients) a spore based one such as megaspore.  You can mix and match. For instance, have some days with fermented foods and then days with supplementation.  You may need to work up to the probiotic dose as for some it can cause at first some digestive distress.  Even for those with sensitive stomachs, you may need to start off with fermented foods very slowly. You typically do not need a lot.  A dose of megaspore is typically 2 capsules per day and with probiotic foods, for most, 1-2 tablespoons per day of fermented veggies will suffice. 

Bottom Line

Adding in a quality probiotic supplement and probiotic rich foods is a good idea if you have depression. It is best to get tested for any food sensitivities first and to remove these foods from the diet.  Either way, dietary changes should be made instead of just adding in a couple of capsule of a probiotic daily If you want results.




  1. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/27509521
  2. https://fhs.mcmaster.ca/main/news/news_2017/tie_between_probiotic_and_depression.html
  3. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2017/06/22/probiotics-depression-aspx?
  4. https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/bacteria-mental-health-gut-bacteria-linked-bipolar-disorder/
  5. http://sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0306987704004967
  6. https://www.nature.com/aps/journal/v32/n1/aps2010184a.html


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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Medication Tapering What you Need to Do First

Tapering off Your Medications

What you Need to Do First


Many people are anxious to get off their cocktail of medications as they end up not liking the side effects and/or they don’t like the way the medications make them feel.  I have heard numerous times “I tried to come off my meds and I felt worse.  I guess I just need them.” 

As a nutrition professional, I cannot tell you to go on or off medications since I do not diagnose, treat or cure. But that does not mean I cannot help you with your goal to go off or reduce your medications. 

Here is What You Need to Know Before You Taper Off Any Medication

basket of veggies

 You need to address root health causes first, not after you go off your medications. If you attempt to taper and still don’t know why you have the mental health symptoms that you do, then once you go off your meds you are left with not only the same feelings you had prior and the same unaddressed root causes, but may also now have nutrition deficiencies (some meds can cause nutrient depletion of certain vitamins or minerals) that can exacerbate your condition.


You need to support your body with a healthy diet (one that is best for you) first. This does not mean change your diet one week and then attempt to taper off medications the next week.  This does not mean to follow a generalized diet in some book.  Depending on your health issues and how long you have had them, you may need to restore balance to your body and be on a whole food, supportive diet for 6 months to a year before you should consider the taper process.  Your diet (and supplement) plan should be individualized based on your needs. 


You need to taper very, very slowly. By this I mean, you may need to use a razor blade to shave off portions of your medication instead of cutting it, so that you do the process gradually and slowly under the guidance of your prescribing doctor.  Yes, it does mean the taper process will take longer, but your odds of remaining off the medication instead of going back on will be greater.


When you are ready to taper under your doctor’s supervision, let your nutritional professional know ahead of time-she can create a supportive protocol for you during the taper process to help ease into the transition.

Why Changing the Diet First Is So Important in the Taper Process

Look at the chart below to see what the Standard American Diet is doing to your moods and what effect it has on your neurotransmitters.

fast food burger


What it Does
Skipping meals Lowers serotonin
Refined carbs Lowers serotonin and dopamine
Low protein diet Lowers all amino acids neurotransmitters (NT’s)
Low B complex status Lowers most NT’s
Low EFA status Lowers serotonin
Stimulant use Lowers serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine
Alcohol, metals, other toxins Lowers most NT’s
Artificial sweeteners Blocks production of serotonin
Glyphosate (Roundup sprayed on plants you eat) Disrupts gut microbiome (thus will affect serotonin production since over 80% made in gut)

The paper contains cadmium which damages the brain, also raises free radical status in body which is significant risk factor for dementia


Medications and Nutrient Depletion

pills in hand

Do your homework on the medications that you are taking. If the drug depletes certain nutrients make sure you are getting it from food and/or supplementation. Don’t forget to include the other medications that you are on such as antibiotics, acid blockers or cholesterol lowering drugs as all of these can effect nutrient status as well. 

For instance

Lithium (used to treat Bi-polar): Depletes folate and inositol

Prozac, and some other antidepressants such as Paxil and Zoloft (used to treat depression and anxiety): Depletes magnesium, CoQ10, B vitamins and melatonin. (These drugs may not deplete B vitamins but B’s are needed to make serotonin and dopamine and thus you should make sure you are getting adequate amounts)

Benzodiazepines (used for anxiety): Deplete melatonin, B12, Folate,

Antipsychotics: Some can deplete CoQ10, melatonin, B2, B6, B12, Folate,

Bottom Line: Work with a holistic nutrition professional to get to your root causes, address them, support your body and get it to a “good” place for you. Then have the taper discussing with your doctor.  Be patient.  Depending on how long you have been suffering, how long you have been on medications and how many you are on, this process can take months to years.  Be kind to yourself, give your body the time it needs to get through this process. 




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

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

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




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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Zinc Deficiency Signs and Symptoms and What to Take

Zinc deficiency and its Role in Mental Health


By now you are familiar with a deficiency in B12 here, Vitamin D here  or  low magnesium and how it can have an impact on mood and behavior such as its role in depression, anxiety and ADHD.  But you may not realize that over 2 people billion worldwide are deficient in zinc and this mineral deficiency also plays a role in your mental health. 

It has been shown that a zinc deficiency leads to changes in the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex of the brain.  A zinc deficiency also leads to excessive amounts of glutamate activity in the brain.  This leads to brain inflammation and excessive free radicals and oxidative stress. 

View the symptoms below to see if this sounds like you. With a zinc deficiency, you may not only exhibit anxiety or depression but there are other tell-tale signs such as lack of taste or a skin issue.  

Zinc Deficiency Symptoms


I did not go into detail on each of the symptoms but I did address some of the mental health issues associated with a zinc deficiency in more detail. 

  • Weak immune system: When you first come down with a cold, take zinc acetate lozenges to reduce the duration of the illness. I like and use Enhanced Zinc lozenges by Life Extension.
  • Acne/adult acne: Zinc has anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. Research has shown that those with acne have lower zinc levels. 
  • Eczema, psoriasis: Rats and mice deficient in zinc develop a skin condition that is similar to psoriasis.
  • Hypothyroidism: Zinc is a cofactor mineral needed for thyroid hormone function. With decreased zinc levels, the thyroid can become underactive.  It also plays a role in converting T4 to T3 and is needed to bind active thyroid hormone to DNA cells. 
  • Depression: While it is known that B vitamins can make an impact for those with depression, it is not as well known that a zinc deficiency can also affect one’s mental health. A study found that rats fed a zinc restricted diet had depression, poor motivation and withdrew from social behavior. Zinc is also involved in the pathway for the body’s production of neurotransmitters.  Zinc is also necessary for B6 to be converted into its active form which in turn plays a role in the conversion of tryptophan to serotonin.   
  • Loss of appetite
  • Loss of taste/impaired sense of taste: This along with the decrease in appetite can often be the first clue that brain inflammation related to a zinc deficiency is present.
  • ADHD: Zinc assists with the production and regulation of melatonin. Melatonin is an important factor in the pathophysiology of ADHD due to its modulation of dopamine. There have been numerous studies looking at zinc levels and the relationship to ADHD.  These studies have shown that those with ADHD have significantly lower zinc levels.  Four studies have shown positive results for zinc in the treatment of ADHD. 
  • Aggression issues
  • Brittle nails, white spots on nails
  • Body odor
  • Hair loss
  • Fatigue
  • Slow wound healing
  • Sensitive to strong smells/strong odors
  • Anxiety: too much copper and too little zinc
  • Adrenal fatigue: uses up a lot of zinc
  • Psychiatric disorders in the elderly (65 and older) such as dementia, psychotic disorders, bipolar. One study found a high prevalence of zinc deficiency in the patient group versus the Control group.

Who is at Risk

  • Vegans/vegetarians: These diets tend to be high in copper and low in zinc.
  • Elderly
  • Athletes who sweat a lot
  • Pregnant women
  • Those with chronic digestive disorders (i.e.: low HCL, Acid reflux, GERD, IBD, IBS)
  • Chronic stress
  • During trauma, surgery, burns (to aid in healing)
  • Those with cataracts, macular degeneration
  • Those with celiac disease
  • Those who consume a lot of grains (the Phytates content blocks zinc absorption)
  • Those who eat the SAD and don’t get enough of zinc rich foods.

What Causes you to Lose Zinc

person smoking

  • Those who sweat a lot/athlete
  • Sugar/SAD
  • Alcohol
  • Smoking
  • Too much copper in the diet
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Infection
  • Puberty
  • Nutrient deficient diet/vegetarian or vegan diet

Foods that Contain Zinc


Many of your vegetarian sources of zinc are only as nutrient rich as the soil that it is grown in.  Our soil is depleted which means your food has less nutrients.  Plants sources due to the phytic acid may also not be bioavailable as zinc sourced from non -vegetarian sources such as seafood and beef. 

  • Beef/red meats
  • Eggs
  • Seafood (crab, shrimp)
  • Legumes
  • Spinach
  • Oysters
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • Cooked split peas
  • Sesame butter
  • Lima beans
  • Pecans
  • Brazil nuts
  • Almonds
  • Walnuts

*Phytates in legumes and nuts may inhibit absorption. For this reason, soaking is always a good idea!

What to look for in a Supplement

Vegetarians may want to consider zinc supplementation due to the difficulty absorbing zinc from non- meat sources such as from plants, legumes, nuts and seeds.  According to the Institute of Medicine’s report, vegetarians require 50% greater intake of zinc given that the major source in the diet is grains and legumes which contain high amounts of phytic acid. 

It is best to choose a high- quality supplement that says zinc glycinate, zinc picolinate or amino acid chelated zinc.  For general health, take 15-20 mg of zinc per day and take it with food as otherwise it will cause an upset stomach.  Therapeutic doses are higher and depending on the need, range from 30-75 mg. per day.  This range is typically safe for several months or longer but use therapeutic dosing under the guidance of a professional. 

If you are using zinc for general health, it is best to take it within your multivitamin/mineral supplement since minerals are interconnected and balance amongst them is important.  If you are taking zinc for therapeutic reasons, be sure to look at how much is in your multi (and what form it is in) and then add in a supplement to get into the therapeutic range.

Zinc must be in balance with copper due to competition for receptor sites.  The ratio should be 15:1 of zinc to copper. The foods that contain more zinc in a bioavailable form and less copper are oysters, beef, lamb, crab, shrimp, sesame seeds and macadamia nuts.  Copper is much easier to get from the diet than zinc and you can find some supplements that are copper free. 

Many Americans are too high in copper and too low in zinc.  For instance, this unbalanced ratio has been linked to schizophrenia, anxiety, learning disabilities and autism.  Copper can come from copper IUD, copper pots, copper pipes, dental amalgams, pesticides and medications such as oral contraceptives. 

Copper is also stored in the liver so it is also beneficial to provide liver support such as with dark bitter greens, beets and lemon water. 

Bottom Line: If you are struggling with a mental health issue, hypothyroidism or a skin concern, look at your diet to see how much zinc you are getting from your foods. If you have digestive issues, take into consideration that this impacts the assimilation of your nutrients, including zinc.  In the end, zinc may help you but most likely your issue is multifaceted and zinc is playing a role but is not the only component of your health issue.  For instance, if you are a vegetarian, zinc may not be the only nutrient that you are deficient in. 


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

Hoffer, A, Walker, M. (1978) Orthomolecular Nutrition. Keats Publishing. 156-7.








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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How to Know if You Have Hypothyroidism

Your Thyroid: Did your Test Results Come Back Normal?

(But you still feel like crap)stressed person



An underactive thyroid is not always the easiest thing to pinpoint when you have so many symptoms that seem random to you.  And only more recently are doctors starting to recognize that an unbalanced thyroid can have an impact not only on your physical health but your mental health as well.  The symptoms of hypothyroidism can also look like symptoms of other health issues, thus getting the proper diagnosis can take a long time.  If you see your doctor and share your symptoms of stress, fatigue, anxiety or depression, she may place you on antidepressants.

This may occur even after the blood work with the TSH test done. 

Stress, depression, anxiety, tiredness, and other emotional and mental states can mask a thyroid imbalance.  Depression is now the number one mental illness (it used to be anxiety) but are we not looking deep enough to find out what may be causing the high rate of these mental health issues?  Not to say that hypothyroidism is at the root of all mental health issues but it should be looked at thoroughly and from a functional range standpoint before  it can be ruled out.

 If you had your thyroid tested you ideally want your TSH levels to be in the range from 1.8-2.8 mIU/L.  (others state that most feel better when their TSH is in the range of .8-2.5) 

Normal TSH lab results are considered in the range of .50-5.00. Some labs have updated this and set the upper limit to 3.0 mIU/L.  What if your levels fall into this range yet you have many of the low thyroid symptoms?  Hopefully your doctor did a complete panel to look also at your T4 and T3 ranges.  It is possible to have signs of hypothyroidism when your TSH  levels are within what is considered the “normal range”. 

The issue most often arises when your doctor only tests TSH and this is in the “normal” range. The worst part is when you hear the doctor say “Your blood work is great.  You are fine”.  Yet, you don’t feel fine.  Instead they tell you it is in your head and prescribe an antidepressant or anti-anxiety medication.

Reference ranges on lab work may differ from one lab to the next and from one geographic location to the next. Experts recommend testing 120-200 patient samples for establishment of a statistically significant reference interval.  What I don’t like about these ranges provided on standard blood work is that it is there to diagnose disease for the most part, not to prevent disease. The other issue I have is that these ranges are based on the patient samples. Look at the average American nowadays. Does the image of health come to your mind or one of an unhealthy overweight person?

Functional ranges look at a smaller range so that health issues can be addressed before it turns into a full -blown disease.  

Make sure all parts of the thyroid get tested. You can have normal TSH and still have low thyroid.  Your T4 converts into T3 which is the active form of thyroid hormone and this conversion happens in the liver and needs an enzyme group  and selenium to make this conversion. Some doctors test TSH and T4 and still all looks good. You want to see the T3 test results too!  Essentially you want all the pieces to the puzzle not just a few. 


Functions of the Thyroid

  • Supports hair and skin health
  • Supports bone density
  • Controls respiration rate
  • Supports conversion of beta-carotene to vitamin A
  • Maintains body temperature and tolerance to extreme heat or cold
  • Helps maintain muscle tautness
  • Controls metabolism-it controls the speed of every chemical reaction in all cells
  • Controls the rate at which cells burn fuel for energy
  • Supports mental acuity and memory
  • Supports serotonin synthesis
  • Sets heart rate tempo
  • Regulates cholesterol


  What Causes Hypothyroidism?

millet stalks

  • Most common cause is auto-antibodies such as in Hashimoto’s disease (an autoimmune condition)

o   Hashimoto’s is 7x more common in women, age of onset is usually 40-60 but 1-2% of school age children can be affected.

  • Genetics can play a role in autoimmune hypothyroid
  • Those with Hashimoto’s also have a prevalence for celiac disease
  • Thyroid cancer
  • Medications such as lithium, excess estrogen (i.e.: birth control pills), estrogen dominance
  • Cofactor deficiencies such as iodine, zinc, c, selenium, iron, vitamins A and B complex (can be caused from excessive dieting, anorexia)
  • Stress/elevated cortisol
  • Excess halogens (i.e.: chlorine/chloride, bromide, fluoride)
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Food sensitivity
  • Candida

The Difference Between Hypothyroidism and Hashimotos

Hashimoto’s is an autoimmune disease that effects the thyroid gland. The antibodies react against the proteins in your thyroid gland causing gradual destruction of the gland itself.  This makes it unable to produce the thyroid hormones your body needs.  It is essentially attacking self and seeing self wrongly as an invader. If your thyroid issue turns out to be Hashimotos than you have an autoimmune disease (AI).  All AI diseases need immune and gut support from a holistic perspective. 

With Hashimotos disease, you can have periods where your thyroid is functioning properly or even over active and you may have temporary hyperthyroid symptoms and then you return to hypothyroidism symptoms.  This cycling back and forth is common with Hashimotos. For instance, you may feel for a period, anxious, can’t sleep, have diarrhea, and weight loss and then followed by a period of depression, fatigue, constipation and weight gain.  Eventually, as the attack continues, the gland will over time have less ability to function.

Hypothyroidism is not a disease but is a condition.  It is a state of a sluggish thyroid.  With hypothyroidism, you have a problem with your gland. With Hashimotos you have a problem with your immune function. 

How Do I Know if I Have Low Thyroid/Hypothyroidism?

person sleeping

Symptoms Include:

  • Loss out outer 1/3 of eyebrow
  • Yellow bumps on eyelid
  • Chronic constipation
  • Depression, moodiness
  • Fatigue/chronic
  • Excess hair loss/thinning hair
  • Weight gain/slow metabolism
  • Cold hands and feet
  • PMS
  • Cry easily
  • Dry flaky skin
  • Nervousness
  • Slow heart rate and/or heart palpitations
  • Muscle weakness
  • Feel better post exercise
  • Can’t breathe deeply enough
  • Poor memory/brain fog
  • Low body temperature
  • Excessive sleeping
  • Trouble getting up in the morning
  • Increased number of infections
  • Dizziness/vertigo
  • Lack of sweating when exercising
  • High cholesterol
  • Rheumatoid Arthritis
  • Digestive issues (GERD, acid reflux, upset stomach, bloat, gas )
  • low libido, low sexual desire, erectile dysfunction, sexual dysfunction, low sexual arousal 

If you suspect low thyroid, see you doctor and ask for a hormone panel that looks at not just your thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) but your T4 and Free T3 and an antibody test as well to look for autoimmune hypothyroid. If your doctor does not want to do a complete thyroid panel you can get the test done yourself from  www.directlabs.com. Here you can order the free T’s, TSH and antibody panel for $159.  Most holistic nutritionists and ND’s can interpret and explain the results to you.  (note: testing is available in most states but not all)


Thyroid Dysfunction Causes

glass of water

Insulin imbalance: This can happen when you are eating a diet filled with processed, refined carbs and sugar along with weight gain.  This poor blood sugar control can also contribute to dysbiosis which is when the gut microbiome is out of balance.  This impaired gut health can lead to poor immune function, can stress the adrenals, slows your body’s natural detox process and can lead to hormonal imbalances.  These health issues can also contribute to poor thyroid function.

Stress: Not just one stressful event, but the daily chronic stress can place a burden on the adrenal glands and can alter the brains communication with the thyroid.  Stress can slow the conversion of T4 to the active form, T3, can slow the detox process of the liver, and can contribute to leaky gut syndrome.  This can lead to immune dysfunction which contributes to an increased risk of Hashimoto’s, an autoimmune thyroid condition. 

If you have adrenal fatigue, your thyroid gland can eventually wear out and lead to sluggish thyroid function. 

Gut infection: It is possible that correcting a gut infection such as H pylori can have a positive impact on the thyroid, especially for those with Hashimotos.  There is not a lot of research in this area but a study of ten patients did show this to be effective.  In order to heal a gut infection one must support gut health first with diet and nutrition and then address the gut infection.  If you address the infection first without supporting your body it is possible that it will be difficult to rid the body of the infection. 

Toxins: Research is showing that toxins may be responsible for changes in thyroid function.  This research focused on flame retardant chemicals.  Living in a home with a high amount of flame retardant chemicals has been shown to be linked to an increased rate of thyroid cancer.

Fluoride: A British study found a strong correlation between the areas where fluoride content was highest with a higher risk of developing hypothyroidism.  It was found that areas that had fluoride levels above .3 milligrams per liter (mg/L), the risk rose by 30%.  In the US the minimum standards for drinking water fluoridation are set at .7 mg/L. This means that if you live in the US your risk of hypothyroidism may be even greater.  If you want to know if fluoride has been added to your water, get a water report at http://www.ofmpub.epa.gov

Support Your Thyroid with Nutrition

balanced meal

  • Go gluten free: based on surveys many have found that a gluten free diet is one of most helpful interventions when dealing with hypothyroidism. Check your thyroid medications to make sure they are gluten free as most are but some are not! Visit glutenfreedrugs.com to check your medications.
  • Go Casein Free: Some people also find they do better without dairy in the diet as well. Dairy sensitivity testing is an option or remove dairy for several weeks and note how you feel.  Check packaging for hidden dairy.  Go to enterolab.com for stool testing 
  • Check your gut health: gut disorders such as celiac and h-pylori can interfere with the absorption of thyroid medications. If you want to know more about the gut and thyroid connection read “Hashimoto’s- the root cause” by Dr. Wentz.
  • Balance your blood sugar: Include protein and fat with every meal, eat every two to three hours at first and then as blood sugar balances you can go longer without eating; avoid fruit juice and processed foods; eat within one hour of wakening; don’t fast and if you eat carbs add some protein and fat to them.
  • Get your adrenals checked for adrenal fatigue: Questionnaires are available online, read Adrenal Fatigue by Dr. Wilson or take an adrenal salivary index test from direct labs. (Most doctors will mention this saliva at home test) Support your adrenals by reducing caffeine, add in relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation, include Adaptogenic herbs, get plenty of rest and balance blood sugar!
  • Include iodine rich foods for thyroid support such as sea vegetables and sea food, shellfish, iodized salt (switch out table salt for Himalayan or Celtic sea salt). Iodine’s main function is the synthesis of thyroid hormones. (note: test first, if you have Hashimoto’s you may not need iodine and may want to avoid iodine supplementation)
  • Water Filtration System: Fluoride in the water can block the uptake of iodine. Purchase one that also removes chlorine. The one that I use is the Berkey (www.berkeyfilters.com)
  • Tyrosine which can be found in cottage cheese, beef top sirloin, turkey and eggs
  • B complex: to get more of your B’s in the diet include nutritional yeast, organ meats, fish, poultry, eggs, nuts seeds, mushrooms and avocado and leafy greens (animal products are the only natural source of B12)
  • Selenium: low selenium correlates with low thyroid. Add in brazil nuts, crimini mushrooms, garlic, beef, fish, seafood, turkey and chicken (celiac malabsorption can cause selenium deficiency)
  • Zinc: pumpkin seeds, seafood, meat, eggs, lamb, peas,
  • Essential Fatty Acids: salmon, sardines, mackerel, canned white tuna, chia seeds, walnuts, pastured eggs, flax oil,
  • Ashwagandha: This Adaptogenic herb is known to help you adapt to stress and can help to balance hormones, including the thyroid. It can be useful to balance cortisol, promote insulin sensitivity, and stabilize your mood.
  • Guggul: This herb may enhance the conversion of T4 to T3.  
  • Vitamin A: butter, egg yolk, whole milk, shrimp
  • Vitamin D3: cod liver oil, seafood, eggs, liver, shiitake mushrooms, oysters, salmon, sardines, herring,
  • Vitamin C: yellow bell peppers, strawberries, oranges, limes, broccoli, kale, snow peas, watermelon, cabbage and white potato
  • Iron: iron supplementation is not recommended for postmenopausal women or adult males as too much iron can be toxic. Iron is a competitive nutrient competing with 10 other vitamins and minerals and thus iron should be taken away from your multivitamin/mineral.  Iron rich foods include liver, oysters, mussels, beef, fish, poultry, kidney beans, lentils, potato with the skin on, cashew nuts and tofu.
  • Thyroid Supplementation: use natural whole thyroid products as you need all parts of the thyroid, not just T4 and/or T3. If you have Hashimoto’s then start with a T3/T4 medication and then while supporting the body,  switch to a natural whole thyroid supplement-the reason being that for some the whole thyroid product may initially cause more antibody production. 
  • Eat balanced meals throughout the day, add color, variety to your plate, eat whole living foods!
  • AVOID: Bromine. This is found in pesticides, plastics, commercial baked goods, soft drinks and fire retardants. Bromine may play a role in poor iodine uptake and may lead to iodine insufficiency.
  • AVOID: processed soy products. Avoid sulfa drugs or antihistamines unless necessary. 

A Word of Caution: Please note that a holistic nutritionist will address hypothyroidism and Hashimotos differently. For instance, you may need to reduce goitrogenic foods in the raw state for hypothyroidism but not for Hashimoto’s. For AI, you will need to support the immune system.  Work with a professional who can help you feel better.  If your test results do determine low thyroid, it is still very important to rule out an AI thyroid condition! 


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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Balch, P.  (2012) Prescription for Herbal Healing. NY: Penguin Group

Bauman, E., & Friedlander, J. Therapeutic Nutrition. Part 1.  Pengrove, CA: Bauman    


Gaby, A. (2006) The Natural Pharmacy. NY: Three Rivers Press

Hoffman, D. (2003) Medical Herbalism. The Science and Practie of Herbal Medicine. VT: Healing Arts Press

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

Marz, F. (1999) Medical Nutrition. OR: Omni Press






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