5 Reasons to Consume this Every Day

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


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

What are Fermented Foods?


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

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

What it does to the food

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


How can eating fermented foods help me?


Optimize your Gut Health

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


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

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


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


Support your Immune System

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


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


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

Aid in weight loss

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


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


 Digestive/Bowel Issue Improvement

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


Improved mental health, mood control and behavior. 

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


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


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


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


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

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


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



What to add in



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

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

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


Add Alzheimer’s disease to the list of autoimmune diseases

Can probiotics shorten the duration of the common cold?

Changing gut bacteria through diet affects brain function UCLA study shows

Consumer labs

Dr. David Williams

Fermented foods gaining popularity as health benefits become more widely recognized

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

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

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

learn about the probiotic benefits of traditional fermented foods

Regulation of abdominal adiposity by probiotics

Sauerkraut could be the secret to curing social anxiety

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

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

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

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21 Reasons to avoid Energy drinks

21 Reasons to Avoid Energy drinks


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

Read on to find out!

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Can I substitute my morning smoothie with an energy drink?


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

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

Pros and cons of drinking energy drinks

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


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

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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Intermittent Fasting, Detox, Cleanses

Should you be trying it?


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

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

Here is my response:

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

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

Do I think that everyone should be trying these methods?

No, I don’t and here is why:

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


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

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

You actually are detoxing and cleansing.

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

How will you know?

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

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

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


Here is what will happen

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

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

Start Here:

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

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

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

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

You need to start with the diet!

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

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

What diet do I recommend? 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some meal examples:


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


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


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

Is it too expensive to eat healthy?

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

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

Does it take too much time to eat healthy?

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

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

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

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



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

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

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


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

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

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Mental health: Is it all in our heads?

Mental Health: Are we looking at it all wrong?

sad person

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stop guessing and start getting results. 

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


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

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

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Coconut Sugar vs. White Sugar: The Facts

Coconut Sugar versus White sugar

Which is the healthier option?

You May be surprised by my response



I read numerous nutrition articles, research articles and health books weekly if not daily.    Most of the information is very helpful and informative.

Usually it leads me to ask more questions which then lead me to more research. Along the way I stumble upon some blogs-some very good ones and some really bad ones. 

This blog post is created because of a blog I read on “Ways to Alter Recipes to make them Healthier” This was written by someone called “Dr. Donna” but no other information about her was provided. 

While the article had many errors (and a few good points) the comment that made me laugh was this:

“Commit to NO sugar in a recipe.  You can do this by using coconut sugar instead”

Hmmm, last time I checked coconut SUGAR is still sugar!

What concerns me is that her post has been viewed over 46,000 times in the past year since it was posted!  How many of those people now have chronic health conditions due to their “sugarless coconut sugar” eating. 

I’m sorry, what did she not understand in the wording “coconut sugar”

I admit that I use coconut sugar in some of my baked good recipes. BUT I would never mislead my guests or clients and say “here, try some of my no sugar added cookies!” 

The Facts

  • Some tout coconut sugar to have a lower glycemic index than regular processed/refined white sugar.  But if you look at the research, only a couple of studies have been done and on only a handful of people.  One study was done by a government that is one of the largest producers of coconut sugar in the world.
  • Studies vary saying coconut sugar has a glycemic index anywhere from 35 to 54.  (White sugar is around 60).  For me, I need to see more research. 
  • Coconut sugar is higher in some minerals as opposed to white sugar BUT….
  • In order to get the nutrient benefits from coconut sugar you would have to eat A LOT of it!  Eat whole foods instead. 
  • Regular table sugar is 50% fructose, 50% glucose.  You may see claims that coconut sugar is fructose free but in reality it is roughly 40% fructose.  Fructose gets processed by the liver and the excess get stored as fat.  Fructose contributes to heart disease, diabetes, obesity and in my opinion, mental health issues and systemic inflammation as well. 
  • Coconut sugar does contain some inulin which is a prebiotic fiber.  Again, how much do you need to consume to reap the benefits? Eat raw onion, raw garlic, raw asparagus and not overly ripe bananas for your prebiotic fiber instead!
  • Some coconut sugar products are not 100% coconut sugar but instead a blend with cane sugar.  Know your products or ask someone who does know which products to use!
  • If you are diabetic you should treat the consumption of coconut sugar the same as consuming refined white sugar. 
  • While it may be the better choice than white sugar, it can still impact your liver and blood sugar health.
  • If you opt for coconut sugar, use it in small, limited quantities, not part of your daily intake. 
  • It has the same amount of calories as white sugar.


Bottom Line

Coconut sugar is still a sugar. It is a better option that GMO white processed sugar for the occasional baked good but don’t be misled. It is still sugar.  Use it as an occasional treat instead. 

Coconut is a great source for healthy fats but in the form of coconut oil. Fat gives food its flavor. I make banana bread that really does not have any added sugar!  What gives it a great taste is the coconut oil and the bananas provide all the sweetness that you need. 

Final Thoughts

There is so much information on the web and unfortunately much of it can do more harm than good. Always check the sources of the information provided and do further research. If you are still unsure, bring the information to a qualified professional in that subject area to get their take on the information. 

I always research products and information. Most product companies that stand behind their products and their words are more than happy to respond to you and share more information.  I email and call companies all the time! 

Sadly (for me, not for her!) there was nowhere to comment at the end of “Dr. Debbie’s” post to let her know of the error but I’m sure she is glad that I was unable to comment! 



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

Gunnars, K. (nd) Coconut Sugar-Healthy Sugar Alternative or a Big, Fat Lie? https://authoritynutrition.com/coconut-sugar/

Perlmutter, D. (nd) Coconut Palm Sugar-What’s the Skinny? http://www.drperlmutter.com/coconut-palm-sugar-whats-skinny/

Virgin, JJ. (8/18/14) Coconut Sugar: Healthier Sweetener of Another Pretty Name for Sugar? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jj-virgin/coconut-sugar-healthier-s_b_5669084.html


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

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

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12 Signs that you are Protein Deficient

12 Signs that you are Protein Deficient


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

What would happen if we did not consume protein?

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

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

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


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

Bottom Line: protein is more important than we think!

Signs that you are not getting enough protein in your diet


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

How much Protein do you need?

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

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

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


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

Protein Rich Foods


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


Do medications interact with protein?

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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B12: Could this be causing your depression?

B12: Could this be the answer to your depression?

steak kabob

As a nutritionist I look for root causes to mental health issues. The response that “It’s a chemical imbalance” does nothing to explain why someone is depressed. Nor does sitting on the couch of a professional for years do anything to help you if your root causes to depression are internal. 

Could your depression be caused by a vitamin deficiency?

Sometimes it could be as simple as a needed nutrient that your body is lacking.  The theory of an imbalance of serotonin in the brain may sound reasonable but it has never been proven. Yet many people, single mindedly, focus on this one possible cause. 

In reality there can be many root causes to depression.  B12 is just one of many that we will explore in this article. 

Why is B12 so important?

B12 plays a central role in the regulation of your neurotransmitters like your dopamine and serotonin.  The role that B12 plays with SAMe may have something to do with depression.  SAMe is found in every cell in the body and is also involved in the breakdown and production of your brain chemicals that are involved in regulating mood.  Not having enough B12 (or enough folate) can reduce your levels of SAMe. 

B12 also plays a role in mitochondrial health.  These power houses are responsible for each cells’ energy production which also plays a role in neurotransmitter signaling in the circuits that help to regulate mood.  So no B12 means poor mitochondrial health. 

Elevated cortisol levels which can be caused by chronic stress (from lifestyle, exercise and/or diet) can impact your moods as well.   High cortisol levels (your fight or flight hormone) can cause oxidative damage to your mitochondria and in turn affect your neurotransmitter signaling.  Nutrients including B12 along with folate, Omega 3’s , vitamin C, zinc and magnesium can protect your cells from this oxidative damage. 

B12 is part of the B complex family/What to supplement with

When looking to add more B12 into your diet it may be best to add in the B complex which includes niacin, folate and B6.  All of these can play a role in mood.  The best way to get your B12 is from organic grass fed meat products. Other sources include fish, cottage cheese and grass fed yogurt. 

However stress depletes our B vitamins so I typically recommend a B complex supplement. Remember training for an event and intense exercise is also stress on the body.  Lack of sleep is too.  

If you are a vegan or vegetarian then consider a B complex and an additional B12 supplement.  In a B complex look for your B6 in the P-5P form, your B12 as methylcobalamin and your Folate as methyl-folate.   Folic acid is synthetic.  Avoid it! Purchase a supplement that has 800 mcg. of folate and 400 mcg. of B12.

While you may need B12 in your diet, a whole foods diet with variety is the best way to achieve balance with your vitamins and minerals.  However, in today’s society sadly it is difficult to get all the nutrients our bodies need from food alone. 

Our soil is depleted, much of our food is weeks old by the time it hits the store shelves and then factor in the processed food, the GMO’s, chronic low stomach acid and our style of rushed eating, and you have the perfect storm for nutrient deficiencies. 


Are your medications causing your B12 deficiency?

pills in hand

Proton Pump inhibitors and histamine 2 receptor antagonists are two classes of drugs that can cause a B12 deficiency. Ask yourself if your depression started or got worse after starting on these medications.  Other drugs that can cause a B12 deficiency include birth control pills and nitric oxide (laughing gas).

So what you may have thought as a brain imbalance may in reality be a nutrient imbalance. All our vitamins and minerals are meant to work in harmony.  This means that excess of any one nutrient can cause an imbalance with others. 

Other symptoms of a B12 deficiency (other than depression)

boy looking out train window

  • constant tiredness
  • pins and needles sensation
  • hair loss
  • numbness in hands/feet
  • palpitations
  • headaches
  • dizziness
  • tremors
  • sore tongue

Causes of B12 Deficiency

basket of veggies

This article does not touch on all the reasons why you may have low B12 so here are some others you may wish to explore further.

  • Vegan or vegetarian diet
  • Low stomach acid (many have low stomach acid not high and we need stomach acid to synthesize our B12). Proton Pumps lower your stomach acid. 
  • Medications
  • High homocysteine levels (B12 is needed for homocysteine metabolism.  B12 deficiency allows for the buildup of homocysteine. High homocysteine is a factor to consider when one has depression)
  • Not getting enough folate with your B12
  • Autoimmune condition
  • Leaky gut syndrome
  • Weight loss surgery
  • Eating disorder
  • Old age (as we age we lose our ability to absorb our B12, as we age we tend to have lower stomach acid levels)

Stay tuned for my next blog post on: B12 testing: Pros and cons of various tests

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, author of Tru Foods Depression Free Nutrition, Supplement and herb guide and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in addressing the root causes of your health issues with nutrition, supplements and herbs.  For more information, visit her website at www.trufoodsnutrition.com





Allen, L. How common is vitamin b-12 deficiency? Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 2009 Feb; 89(2): 693s-6s. doi:

   10.3945/ajcn.2008.26947a. Epub 2008 Dec. 30. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/19116323

Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2013) Therapeutic Nutrition.  CA: Bauman College

Haas, E. & Levin, B. (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition. The complete guide to diet and nutritional

   Medicine.  CA: Celestial Arts.

McTaggarat, L. A Beautiful Mind.  What Doctors won’t tell you.  August 2016 issue.




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Low cholesterol may be causing your depression and anxiety

Your blood work came back normal but you still feel like crap?

Why low cholesterol is not as healthy as you were led to believe.


You go to see the doctor because you have been feeling depressed, or have anxiety, aggression, low sex drive, memory issues, fatigue or you basically just don’t feel like yourself.

It can be good news to hear that your blood work is normal but yet a sinking feeling because you still don’t know why you are feeling the way you are.

As a nutrition consultant I cannot diagnose or treat based on your blood work however blood work can provide me with a great deal of information that a doctor may not see because he is not trained in nutrition just like I am not trained in medicine, surgery or drugs.

Today I am only going to address one marker on your blood work that may be affecting your mood, physical and mental health. And this one may surprise you!

Cholesterol: Why low cholesterol is not as good for your health as your think

Note: in this blog I am only addressing total cholesterol.

 Many people have low cholesterol either through diet or via medication.  This may seem like a great thing-your doctor tells you this is great. You eat low fat food products, limit the amount of meats, butter and eggs you consume and think you are doing all the right things however if this is the case why don’t you feel well? 

Yes, I said low cholesterol not elevated-I know you strive to get your numbers low but I am going to provide you with some information as to why you don’t want your numbers too low for overall health and wellbeing.

What do I mean by low? Anything below 160 mg/dl is considered too low based on research and studies.  I however think that even this can be too low for some and some may benefit from being in the 180-200 range. (Some studies show that cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dl are beneficial for some age groups)  But studies link cholesterol below 160 mg/dl with depression, aggression, premature aging, anxiety and low sex drive.

How can low cholesterol have this effect on your body?

Before I go on to tell you why you DON’T want low cholesterol I want to also recommend a book that can give you more information on cholesterol, cholesterol medications and much more. It is “The Great Cholesterol Myth” by J. Bowden and F. Sinatra.  This book however will focus more on the issue of heart disease which is not being addressed in this article. 

Here’s the thing-you need cholesterol for healthy brain function so stop trying to get it down so low Cholesterol is needed to make brain cells! Yes, you need cholesterol; it is not your enemy.

For instance, you need cholesterol to make your vitamin D. This is extremely important.   Vitamin D is actually a hormone, not a vitamin and it is made from cholesterol in the body.  So having low cholesterol may contribute to low D status.  Low D is also linked to depression so if you are also on a statin, this can contribute to low D status and thus contribute to feelings of depression.  Vitamin D3 supplementation is cheap-just be sure to take it with a meal that contains fat in order to get the greatest absorption rate. 

Cholesterol is not just found in your bloodstream. Cholesterol is present in every cell in your body where it helps to produce cell membranes, hormones, vitamin D and bile acids to help you digest your fats. It will improve the absorption of vitamins A, D, K and E.  It strengthens your cell walls.  It is vital for immune function. It is also important for neurological function, which is why low cholesterol is linked to memory loss. 

Think about this: if your cholesterol is too low you will have difficulty making your hormones. Low hormone levels can be associated with numerous physical and mental health issues.   Cholesterol is the building block for steroid hormones.  I think this is so important!  You cannot make estrogen, testosterone, cortisone and other vital hormones without cholesterol!

Your liver also needs to be functioning well in order for optimal cholesterol production. So as you can see, each health issue should not be treated as a separate entity but instead look at the body as everything is connected.

Again, having too low of levels of cholesterol in your body can increase your risk of suicide, depression, aggression, cancer and even Parkinson’s disease. Yes, it can do all that!  Cholesterol is there to help you not kill you! 

It is not the cholesterol per say that can be harmful for your body but is only detrimental when it is oxidized and contributes to inflammation. So for this reason, eat cholesterol rich foods such as organic grass fed meats and poultry, shellfish, fish, raw dairy, grass fed butter and pasture raised eggs and instead avoid the foods that will contribute to inflammation such as oxidized oils and highly processed high simple carb and high sugar foods.  This means avoid breads, donuts, pastries, cookies and so forth.  Cook with healthy fats such as coconut oil and tea seed oil and avoid vegetable, corn and safflower oils which will contribute to inflammation.

Enjoy foods in their natural state and reduce the amount of sugar in your diet instead of fearing cholesterol.

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Seasonal Allergies:

Find out what to do “off-season” and what to do right now for allergy symptom relief-the natural way!

person sneezing

It is that time of year when eyes start to itch; you have a runny nose or congestion, an itchy throat and are constantly sneezing. Do you rely on OTC anti-histamine products or just suffer through it? 

There are natural ways to relive your seasonal allergies. Read on for allergy relief!

Everyone is different so it may take a few tries before you find the right product that works for your body. After allergy season (and even during and before) it is best to start working on supporting your gut health and immune health so that you can reduce or eliminate your allergies come next season. 

Why you should avoid OTC allergy medication

A new study found that medications such as anticholinergics (of which Benadryl is classified) found an increase in brain atrophy, dysfunction, and cognitive decline in users, especially older adults. Don’t think that just because a medication is OTC that it is safe. 

An allergy medication that has been linked to increased suicide risk is Singular. This medication is also used to treat asthma attacks.  While this drug is by prescription only, many may take Sudafed as an OTC alternate for relief.  Sudafed has also been related to suicidal ideation in some.  If you do choose medication, please do your homework first or talk to a professional first about whether these meds are the safest option for you. 

Why has there been an increase in seasonal allergies?

  • Cleanliness, our lack of exposure to environmental microbes-do kids play in the dirt anymore? Look at all the anti-bacterial soap we buy and use. While having good hygiene is a plus, too much of a good thing can disrupt the normal immune development and will increase your risk for allergies.
  • Antibiotics
  • Birth by C-section
  • Not having pets in the home
  • formula feeding
  • Pollen counts continue to rise-blame it on air pollution. Many types of pollen such as ragweed are toxic. They contain enzymes that damage the lining of your nose and lungs when you breathe them in. This sets the stage for rising allergies.

All this sets the body up for lack of diversity in our microbes and contributes to allergies. When on antibiotics, especially repeated usage, this will disrupt the gut microbiome.  A birth by C-section means the baby did not get the healthy bacteria from its mother.  Studies show that those who have pets in the home or those who grow up on farms tend to have fewer incidences of allergies. Studies also show that if you have access to and drink raw milk your chance of seasonal allergies is also reduced. 

When is the best time to address allergy symptom relief?

Actually, it’s not when your symptoms appear every season, rather you should be addressing them by supporting your immune system year round.

As always, food first! If you take supplements and herbs but still eat like crap then you are wasting your efforts and money! 

What to add in year round to support your body

  • Address delayed food allergies/sensitivities:  Seasonal allergies may be related to delayed food allergies (see my blog post April 2016) or food sensitivities. Get tested or do food elimination diet.
  • Manage stress: stress can impact your immune system and your adrenal glands. Support the body with whole foods, mineral salts and adaptogens if adrenal fatigue is an issue for you. (for more on adrenal fatigue read Adrenal Fatigue by Dr. Wilson or go online and take the adrenal fatigue quiz)
  • Reduce/eliminate sugar: sugar lowers WBC count and reduces immune function. Opt for raw, local honey in small doses instead. (see note below on bee products and seasonal allergies)
  • Address gut health with Probiotics and Prebiotics: probiotics will help to populate the good bacteria in your gut. The prebiotics are essentially food for your good bacteria to help them thrive. Choose supplement form or add in raw garlic and onions, raw asparagus, kombucha, kefir, raw fermented vegetables such as sauerkraut, raw unfiltered apple cider vinegar and fermented soy
  • Vitamin C: while we get vitamin C from our whole foods such as fruits and vegetables the amount that we get from these foods has been greatly diminished over the past 80 years or so. Take vitamin C with bioflavonoids at 500-1,000 mg. daily. Children can take ¼-1/8 this amount depending on size.
  • Vitamin D: in studies with children with seasonal allergies, low vitamin D status was associated with higher risk of allergies, especially to birch, ragweed and oak. It is best to know your vitamin D levels before supplementing. Safe dose is 2,000 IU daily of D3. Avoid D2 as it is synthetic. If you choose products fortified with vitamin D, know that this too is vitamin D2, the synthetic form which is difficult for the body to absorb.
  • NAC: this stands for N-Acetyl-Cysteine. This is the precursor to glutathione, our master antioxidant which also helps to balance the immune system. Take NAC at 50-100 mg. 3 times daily.
  • Curcumin: this is a compound found in turmeric. This enhances the immune system and can be taken year round. It also reduces inflammation and thus may also be good for symptom relief. (I like a brand called Curamed by europharmausa.com and it can also be found in many natural health stores.)

Symptom Relief

You do not need to try all of these-pick a few and see what works for you. Always check with your doctor, ND, nutritionist or herbalist before adding in herbs if you are on any medications, are pregnant or breastfeeding or have chronic health conditions.  Some herbs can interact with medications while others are safe to take short term but not long term. It is best to work with someone knowledgeable in herbs for these reasons. 

  • Butterbur: butterbur can relax smooth muscle spasms and inhibit inflammatory histamines. Take in standardized form for symptom relief. Studies show that those who take butterbur in standardized tablets or in extract form 3 times daily get the greatest relief of their symptoms.
  • Nettle: stinging nettle can provide dramatic relief from hay fever and stops a runny nose due to its anti-histamine properties. In capsules or tablets take 500 to 1,000 mg. 3 times per day. In some studies patients were given 600 mg. of freeze dried stinging nettle leaf at the onset of allergy season and then 300 mg. as needed with the average dose 3 times per day during the allergy season.
  • Serrapeptase: this is an enzyme that can help reduce swelling in the lungs and make breathing easier. It is helpful for congestion, runny nose and post nasal drip associated with allergies. It is marketed as a joint supplement due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Veganzyme is a trusted brand from globalhealingcenter.com. This product contains Serrapeptase but other supportive enzymes as well such as bromelain which is also known to be effective for seasonal allergy symptoms. 
  • Quercetin: this can help prevent seasonal allergic reactions if started soon enough. Quercetin can also be found in onions and apples. Take in tablet form 125-250 mg. 3 times per day between meals for 6-8 weeks before the allergy season begins.

Some people prefer Source Naturals Activated Quercetin at 2 capsules 3 times per day.

Do not take quercetin if you are on the immune suppressing drug cyclosporine or the calcium channel blocker nifedipine.

  • Ginger: reduces allergic inflammation. Take capsules, 1,000 mg. 3-4 times daily between meals for 6-8 weeks before the allergy season begins. 
  • Horseradish: this will relieve sinus congestion and helps to deter future allergy attacks. If you can handle it, eat ½-1 teaspoon daily until symptoms subside. 
  • Rooibos: many know rooibos tea as very antioxidant rich herb with the green rooibos being higher in antioxidants than the red but either way both are still good sources of antioxidants. Rooibos also acts as an antihistamine and is also helpful if you have food allergies. Drink one cup of the tea 1-3 times per during allergy season but it is also good to drink all year round. This tea is caffeine free and can withstand long brewing times and does not get bitter with reuse.
  • Chamomile: this can reduce the intensity and duration of allergic reactions due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Drink one cup of tea 2-3 times per day. Chamomile is relaxing for the nervous system so you may want to save one cup for before bedtime.Chamomile is considered a very safe herb, however those who are allergic to ragweed may be allergic to chamomile-use with caution the very first time you try it. Teas are less potent than in tincture form. 
  • Scutellaria (skullcap): It is used for allergies, hay fever and other respiratory conditions. It contains chemicals that may prevent histamine from provoking hay fever attacks. One of the compounds interferes with a complex set of hormonal reactions that constrict the bronchial tubes during asthma attacks. This also relieves headaches that are associated with hay fever. Take in capsule form 1,000-2,000 mg. 3 times per day. Do not confuse this herb with American skullcap as the two herbs are not interchangeable. You want the Asian form and may have to get it via online. Do not purchase one that also contains germander, an herb that can cause liver damage. Do not use if you have chronic diarrhea. 
  • Bee pollen: this must be local! Please talk to your doctor first since you may react to the pollen if you have seasonal allergies. When starting out with local bee pollen take only one pellet at first to make sure you do not react. With each new batch of pollen you purchase, do this test first. If no reaction, then start with 1/8 of a teaspoon daily, gradually working your way up to 1 teaspoon per day. This should be started several months before the beginning of hay fever season. Bee pollen is rich in B vitamins and other nutrients and if no reaction you can eat this daily, year round. You can add it to cold dishes such as smoothies, yogurt or chia seed pudding or just eat your dose daily off the spoon! Bee pollen is like a natural allergy shot-giving you small doses of the pollens you are allergic too and building your immune system over time. Find local farms for your pollen.
  • Green Tea: the xanthines in green tea help relax bronchial spasms and can be effective for allergy symptom relief (and asthma too). Drink 1 cup in the morning (due to caffeine content) daily during allergy season.
  • Diamine Oxidase: This is an enzyme that is responsible for histamine breakdown. For some, the root cause of the allergy symptoms may be due to histamine intolerance. This can be from excess histamine or from a deficiency of the enzyme that breaks it down. Histamine can act as a neurotransmitter and also regulates the production of stomach acid. You need some histamine but you don’t want it too elevated (or too low for that matter). Restore gut balance to resolve the histamine issue but take this enzyme to assist with high histamine levels. Take in supplement form. This enzyme also requires vitamin B6 to function properly.You can also try a low histamine diet. This would include limiting or advoiding foods such as fermented foods, aged cheese, citrus, fish, shellfish, avocado, spinach, cocoa, and left- over meat to name a few. 


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

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Hoffmann, D. Medical Herbalism. (2003) The Science and Practice of Herbal Medicine. Vermont:

   Healing  Arts Press.

Kresser, C. (4/28/16) Got Allergies? Your Microbes could be responsible. www.chriskresser.com

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Mercola, J. (5/12/16) Suicides are surging. www.articles.mercola.com

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

Tweed, V. ( April 2016) Seasonal Allergies? Get Natural Relief. Better Nutrition, Vol. 78.  No. 4.

Wood, R. (2010) The New Whole Foods Encyclopedia. Penguin Books




This information is for educational purposes only.  Always seek out the care of your health professional. 

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




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

Bowden, J. & Sinatra, F. (2012) The Great Cholesterol Myth. MA: Fair winds press.

Ji, S. (9/5/12) How low cholesterol can harm your health. Retrieved from greenmedinfo.com

Mercola, J. (11/17/11) The Cholesterol Myth that could be harming your health. Retrieved from huffingtonpost.com

Mercola, J. (7/15/08) Why low cholesterol is not good for you. Retrieved from articles.mercola.com


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