Sport Products: What to Avoid and What to Use for Improving Energy, and Endurance

Sport Fuel Products: What to Use, What to Avoid

My son is playing hockey at college and I just learned that he gets pre-workout (energy) drinks and electrolyte drinks for free via a company that sells to athletes.

Once he said the name I remembered that when he was younger the coaches were “pushing” these MLM (multi- level marketing) products on all the parents and players to use.

What upsets me is that many believe that these products are of high quality. They are not unfortunately. There are many healthier products out there that can give you the same or better results without the negative consequences from added ingredients that these products have.

Without naming the brand or company, I am going to share what should not be in the sport products you are your child, teen or young adult athlete uses and why and what to use instead. I’ll tell you what I sent to my son to use in place of this MLM Sport Brand.

Workout Products:

What You Should Be Looking at On the Label

Bad Product 1: The Pre-Workout Product

This one has two significant downsides: 

1. Caffeine and its effect on adolescents, teens and college students:
We all know caffeine can help athletic performance and this has been shown in numerous studies. Heck, I’m sure you even need your daily dose of caffeine and that’s just to get your day started! This product has caffeine at 120 mg. per serving. One cup of coffee can contain in the range of 144 mg. to 333 mg. of caffeine. So not bad, in and of itself.

I even like some caffeine before a long run and it does have a positive effect on athletic performance. But we need to consider a couple things: how much caffeine is the person getting in their day in addition to the caffeine in this product and the form of caffeine. (read below, yes, the form matters greatly)

If you consume 300 mg. or more of caffeine per day it may be disturbing your sleep, contributing to anxiety and may increase your risk for heart disease. Since we are all biochemically different your detox of caffeine will differ from someone else’s ability to detox caffeine.

The odds are that this is not their only source of caffeine for the day. You would be surprised to know how many of these kids, teens and young adults consume energy drinks, caffeinated soda and energy shots on a regular basis. Studies on children who consume caffeine showed that the rate of depression and anxiety coincided with frequent caffeine consumption. I’m not even sure why children with endless amounts of energy even need caffeine.

Studies also show that taking as little as 100 mg. of caffeine can cause a significant decline in recall and reasoning, so while many high school and college students think it helps them during studying and test taking, research shows that it lowers academic performance.  Simple tasks such as assembly work may be enhanced but complex reasoning skills are decreased.

Bottom Line: When adding in a pre-workout sport drink, read the back label and note how much caffeine it contains and how much caffeine you are consuming outside of this drink. The 120 mg. provided in this product is not necessarily bad if you are not consuming a lot of caffeine outside of this product, but I still don’t approve this product because of the form of caffeine (read below).

If you are consuming a lot of caffeine in your day, you need to start asking why because if you NEED caffeine to get through the day, you have other issues and your body needs nutritional support.

If you have your 23 and me raw data, your CYP1A2 can tell you if genetically are a fast, slow or moderate metabolizer of caffeine. For instance, I am a fast metabolizer of caffeine and thus have high activity of this enzyme.  

2. It is synthetic caffeine and yes, this is VERY important!


Not all caffeine is the same. There is natural caffeine and synthetic caffeine. Synthetic caffeine is the cheapest form and therefore you see it in energy drinks, soda and sport drinks.

It is absorbed much faster through your digestive tract and therefore you get a quick spike in energy which may seem like a plus when you are ready to go play a sport,
BUT the downside is….
that you feel the crash all that much faster and harder too.

Caffeine in a natural state, such as in yerba mate or green tea, provides a balanced caffeine lift due to the presence of naturally occurring nutrients in the plant. Coffee and other teas will also provide this type of energy lift versus the high energy and then crash and fatigue feeling from a synthetic form.

In the synthetic form, you are more likely to notice negative side effects, such as difficulty sleeping, nervousness and heart palpations. Do you want that for your child?

Synthetic caffeine is not the same as caffeine from coffee beans or from herbs for another reason. It is typically exposed to harsh chemicals during production which means you, in the end, consume these chemicals unknowingly. Synthetic caffeine can also be produced in unregulated foreign labs and factories that do not keep record of handling procedures which means you may be getting more chemicals in that drink than you realize.

Natural caffeine such as in tea or organic coffee (don’t buy non-organic coffee as it is heavily sprayed crop) also contains antioxidants which has many health benefits.

The caffeine that is found in synthetic form can provide a much more potent caffeine isolate compared to the caffeine found in a whole plant.

Think this: You want long lasting, sustained and focused energy. Choose caffeine from a natural source.

Bottom line: If you don’t mind chemicals and a crash of fatigue once the synthetic caffeine wears off than I guess go for it, but if you do, you have better, healthier and safer options out there. Remember when the ingredient label says “caffeine” without saying the source, know that it is cheap and synthetic.

3. Sucralose: No one needs or should consume artificial sweeteners and here is why:

Honestly this makes my blood boil. Why do we need these artificial sweeteners in our foods and why in products for athletes? Because they are trying to make it taste really, really sweet without adding more sugar!

This problem we have that everything must taste super sweet I am not even going to go into. Instead let’s focus on why your child, teen or young adult should avoid artificial sweetener like the plague.

The concerns with sucralose use include toxicity, DNA damage, gut damage, destroys beneficial bacteria, alters glucose and insulin and can lead to type 2 diabetes, and carcinogenic potential (when used in cooking such as with Splenda).

You have got to read labels. I cannot tell you how many people tell me what they are using is a healthy product and then I read the label and lo and behold, there is sucralose on the label. And yes, it is in your child’s sport drink. In fact, it is in thousands of products and therefore label reading is so important!

You probably know by now that drinking or eating something with sucralose is not going to help you lose weight. Most likely your athlete is not concerned with losing weight so probably doesn’t care one way or another that it is in his or her sport drink. But you should care!

While destroying gut health may not seem like a big deal to you, it should be. Sucralose has been found to kill as much as 50% of your microbiome. This opens you up to a world of problems; everything from intestinal permeability, autoimmune disease, poor immune function and mental health issue. Yes, all that can happen from not having a healthy gut.

You may have heard that sucralose passes through the digestive tract unchanged and therefore is safe to consume. New research has shown that it is metabolized in your gut. It works in the same manner as would hydrogenated oils.

By this I mean both are synthetic foods created in labs. Without going into the science, there is no enzyme to break down this sugar. That is because it is not a food provided by natural means. Our body doesn’t have an enzyme to break it down. Your body doesn’t even recognize it and doesn’t even know what to do with it!

Thus, they once thought it just passes through the digestive tract, but much like hydrogenated oil (we don’t have an enzyme to break down this synthetic fat) we can’t break it down. It doesn’t just pass through the body but instead circulates creating havoc in the body.

Research indicates that about 15% of the sucralose gets stored in the body. What happens when it gets stored in the body? Makers of Splenda and these products I’m sure would assure you that nothing happens. But you are smarter than that. Nothing synthetic just sits there and is safe.

What I prefer: I sent my son a product from Hammer Nutrition that I like (I don’t sell it, have no affiliation). It is called Fully Charged. It has very little caffeine at 15 milligrams and contains a blend of fruit, vegetables and herbs and beet juice powder. This product would be taken like this MLM product, adding a scoop to water about 15-20 minutes before the game or workout.

I also like, if the person still needs a little more energy support, is Energy by Now brand. (Again, no affiliation and I could sell this, but I do not). This has some natural caffeine from Guarana extract, green tea extract and yerba mate. It comes out to about 60 mg. of natural sourced caffeine.  

Thus, the two products used together before a game would come out to about 75 mg. of natural caffeine. This would 50 mg. less than what the other product has and also note that it is naturally sourced!

What I also like about the Energy by Now is that it has added adaptogens that help the body adapt to the stress of exercise.

A Red Bull will have 80 mg. of caffeine and a Rock Star will have 75 mg. of caffeine. While the differences in caffeine are not much I would not recommend these products.  I went looking on the web and on the Red Bull site to see the actual label on the can and it sent me in circles on their site and never gave me a breakdown of all the ingredients.  I don’t trust products like that as it has something to hide, in my opinion.  Plus, energy drinks are usually loaded with sugar and don’t contain the benefit of Adaptogenic herbs in the right forms and amounts since these products typically use cheap ingredients.  

If you want to know more about Energy Drinks and Guarana, read this article



Bottom Line: Without going into detail on each of the dangers of sucralose consumption, it is best just to know it is not good for your health and should be avoided. Don’t go to a product that has a different artificial sweetener such as with Acesulfame potassium or aspartame. Use sport products that are naturally sweetened with monk fruit, stevia or fruits. Be mindful of the amount of caffeine in your day.

Bad Product #2: The Electrolyte Drink

It is a powder product that provides electrolytes for hydration after sports and during and after heavy sweating. This is a good thing.
Unfortunately, it also contains sucralose. In fact, all the powder products by this company contain sucralose even the  protein powders. I just don’t get it.

But if that wasn’t reason enough to avoid it, here is another one…

Maltodextrin, dextrose and fructose are the first three ingredients on the label and all are sugars. Yes, many athletes need to fuel and having some sugars after a sport is not necessarily a bad thing in small doses.

Dextrose and Maltodextrin have higher glycemic indexes than sucrose and while it can provide a quick energy boost during or after the game, it can result in low blood sugar.

What I prefer: I love Ultima. I have sent this product to my son and I use this on runs on hot days in the summer. It is a powder product just like this other brand and it is super easy to just add some to water.

I like this product because it lists the amount of all the electrolytes you are getting in the product. This other one only the amounts for sodium and potassium. Why?  

Ultima comes in several flavors, tastes good and has added nutrients. It is naturally sweet and there are no artificial sweeteners. Yeah!
It does not contain any sucrose, dextrose fructose or Maltodextrin. Need a little natural sugar with your electrolyte drink after a sport? Have a banana or orange slices.

Remember when your kids were young and parents bought fruit for the kids to have after their soccer games? Yup, that’s all you still really need; none of this added “crap”.

An alternative, are electrolyte tablets. They will dissolve if you keep them in your pocket while working out and you get sweaty so don’t do that. I put them in a small baggie and then put in my pocket. These are easy and great to take with water. There are several good brands out there.

Bottom Line: When buying an electrolyte drink to replace lost electrolytes after a sport or working out, choose products that list the amount of each electrolyte and one that does not contain added sugar or artificial sugar.

You must read labels. Get past the hype on the front of the package or what the “rep” is telling you. For instance, this product has many professional athletes on their website saying how great these products are. I really don’t care. They aren’t nutritionists, nor do they do the research, so they also don’t realize the damage that some of the ingredients in the products can do.

Just because a professional athlete is taking it, does not mean your child should. Do your own homework and research or ask a nutrition professional what they think of the product.

I’d love to hear what you or your youth, teen or adult athlete uses.  

Cherniske, S. (1998) Caffeine Blues. NY: Grand Central Publishing
Haas, E. (2006) Staying Healthy with Nutrition. The Complete Guide to Diet and Nutritional Medicine.
CA: Celestial Arts:

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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  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, 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

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

Want more information, like her fb page here

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

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Your Liver and Detoxification What You Need to Know

Liver Detox: What You Need to Know 


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

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

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

The Two Phases

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

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

What Can Impact the Liver Detox Pathways

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

Signs Your Liver Isn’t Working the Way It Should


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

Phase 1 of Liver Detoxification

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

Signs You Have an Under Active Phase 1

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

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

Signs You Have an Over Active Phase 1

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


Foods to Eat to Get a Sluggish Phase 1 Moving

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

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

Phase 2 of Liver Detoxification

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

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

1. Methylation Pathway

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

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

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

2. Sulfation Pathway

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

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

3. Glucuronidation Pathway

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

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

4. Glutathione Pathway (GSH)

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

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

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

5. Amino Acid Conjugation

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

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

6. Acetylation Pathway

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

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


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

Why Detoxification is So Important

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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



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

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

For more information visit

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

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

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.

Share this:Share on YummlyShare on FacebookTweet about this on TwitterShare on Google+Pin on PinterestShare on LinkedInShare on TumblrShare on VKShare on RedditEmail this to someonePrint this page

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 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

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 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 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 (
  • 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

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.


Arem, R. (1999) The Thyroid Solution. NY: Ballantine Books

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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What is Leaky Gut Syndrome and Your Mental Health

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome and Why You Should Know About it


This is a buzz word lately along with gut health and the microbiome. Why is this such as big deal?  Should you even be concerned, especially if you do not have any stomach digestive issues? 

The answer is yes, you should know how your gut health impacts many aspects of your health, not just physical but your mental health as well. It is a very common health issue today yet many people are unaware of it and traditional medical professionals do not address it typically, most likely because they have never been taught about it in medical school

What is Leaky Gut Syndrome? (LGS)

Leaky gut syndrome (LGS) and intestinal permeability mean the same thing.  When you have LGS, food particles that should normally be broken down into their parts (usually these are proteins) are instead passed through the gut lining in their unbroken down state.  They then travel through the blood stream and can wreak havoc in your body. While there they trigger an over stimulation of the immune system and allergic reactions. 

In a healthy gut, you would have tight junctions along the gut wall so that food gets digested and absorbed via the normal digestion process.  This gut lining can become inflamed (for many reasons-see list below) and these tight junctions can separate creating holes in this protective barrier.  The toxins are now passing through these tears in the intestinal wall.  Once they enter the blood stream they can trigger an immune response which is protective rather than a healing response. 

Think of LGS as intruders invading your home.  If the door stays open (LGS) the intruders will constantly enter with nothing to stop them. Thus, if your root causes for LGS are not addressed, that door will continue to stay open and more damage will be done to your home.  Over time then the issue become chronic. 

Once the issue becomes chronic, it places stress upon the liver. The liver attempts to clean up this toxic overload but the liver may now be overburdened and cannot keep up.  This burden will lead to even more consequences over time. 

Over time this leads to low grade infections within the body and can affect your gut health but can also affect your brain and your liver.  It can contribute to autoimmune disease, autism and allergies. It has been linked to MS, chronic fatigue syndrome, acne, eczema, psoriasis, and IBS to name a few. 

LGS Symptoms

  • Gas, bloating, diarrhea, constipation
  • ADHD
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Alzheimer’s disease
  • Autism
  • Bipolar
  • GERD
  • Poor immune functioning (get every cold that comes around or take a long time to recover form illness)
  • Brain fog, memory loss
  • Headaches
  • Excessive fatigue
  • Nutritional deficiencies (not absorbing your nutrients)
  • Allergies
  • Asthma
  • Skin issues (eczema, psoriasis, acne)
  • IBS
  • IBD
  • Other autoimmune conditions such as Hashimotos, celiac disease, fibromyalgia
  • Arthritis, inflamed joints, chronic pain
  • Changes in mood, weight, and appetite

What to Do if Have a Leaky Gut

The first thing to do if you know you have leaky gut is to identify what is causing it.

 Some causes of leaky gut include (not an exhaustible list):


  • Anorexia
  • Candida
  • Old age
  • Alcohol abuse
  • Chemo and radiation
  • Parasitic infection
  • GMO’s, pesticides, herbicides, glyphosate
  • Antibiotic use
  • Food allergies/food sensitivities
  • Standard American Diet
  • Diet high in refined sugar and processed, refined carbs
  • Gluten (today’s gluten is sprayed)
  • Pasteurized dairy
  • Meats from CAFO (confined animal factory operations)
  • Chronic elevated cortisol levels



When you Have Identified your Causes (often there is more than one) Then Follow a Step by Step Protocol:

  1. Remove the identifying causes from your diet (if you need to, work with a nutritional professional who can help you identify your root causes and possibly order testing such as IgG food allergy testing, Stool testing, Organic Acid tests, zonulin or lactulose tests ).
  2. Add in supportive foods for your body, such as leafy greens, fruits, vegetables, quality fats and proteins. Eat whole foods as much as possible. Hydrate with filtered water and organic herbal teas. 
  3. Add in herbs and supportive supplements to promote gut healing and liver detox (it is best to work under the guidance of a professional at this point as some herbs and supplements can interact with meds or may not be suitable for some health conditions)
  4. Add in prebiotic and probiotic rich foods such as kefir, kimchi, fermented vegetables, miso and tempeh, raw onions and garlic, asparagus and Jerusalem artichoke.

How to Avoid LGS

The best way to avoid LGS is to avoid the list of roots causes above. In addition to that, supporting your gut health and your immune health is key with prebiotic and probiotic rich foods daily and stick to a whole foods diet as much as you can (I like an 80/20 plan).

Uses herbs and supplements as needed on an individualized basis.  I don’t recommend specifics here because everyone has different needs and a different constitution and thus each plan should be targeted for your health needs instead of generalized. 


  3. Bauman, E. & Friedlander, J. (2014) Therapeutics in Nutrition. CA: Bauman College
  4. 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 owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit

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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Food Coloring and Dye Sensitivity in Your Child and the Association with Behavioral and Mental Health Issues

Food Coloring Sensitivity Symptoms: Could This Be Your Child?


Could your child’s physical, mental, behavioral and emotional symptoms be connected to food colorings and dyes added to processed foods that are a part of your diet.  Typically, these children start showing symptoms around age 1 when foods are being introduced into the diet. 

Years later and many medications later parents are struggling to figure out what is causing all these issues.

Food dyes and colorings has been a controversial subject since pediatrician, Dr. Benjamin Feingold published his findings in the 19070’s and noted the link between hyperactive behavior and dyes.  But scientists and the government are not in consensus. Some studies do not state that these dyes cause behavioral issues but do state that dyes may contribute to making ADHD symptoms worse.

In 2004, the results from 15 studies concluded there was a modest worsening of behavior when children with ADHD consumed foods with synthetic dyes.  Since then the European Union commissioned 2 studies to clarify the situation.  The results were convincing enough that the European Union passed a law requiring a warning on foods that contain one or more of the suspicious dyes. 

What did the U.S. do? They decided it is up to our government to decide when these dyes cause harmful effects.  Thus, our products carry no warning label for parents.  For some children, they may be extra sensitive to even very small amounts of dyes and colorings. 

As a parent, you know your child best. If 8 or more symptoms below sound like your child, try a 2- week elimination of all dyes and colorings from your child’s diet.  The worst thing that can happen is that your child will eat a healthy nutritious diet for 2 whole weeks minus many of the processed junk food on today’s shelves. 

Food Dyes

cereal fruit loop type

  • Red 40 (this has been associated with aggressiveness and impulsive behavior in children, hitting, biting, kicking, tantrums)
  • Yellow 5 (most often associated with insomnia, hyperactivity and learning disabilities)
  • Yellow 6
  • Red 3
  • Blue 1
  • Blue 2
  • Green 3
  • Annatto (a natural food coloring)
  • Carmine (a natural food coloring)

Signs Your Child’s Behavior Could Be Related to Dyes/Colorings

child holding ears

  • Hyperactivity (the H in ADHD)
  • ADD symptoms (inability to focus, inattention)
  • Sleep issues
  • Mood swings (can be in a span of one day, several hours…)
  • Violence, aggression (i.e.: in kids; spitting, biting, kicking, growling, tantrums that can last an hour or longer)
  • Lack of impulse control (disruptive, interrupts when someone is speaking, excessive talking, difficulty in transitioning from one task, one activity to another)
  • Headaches, stomachaches, vomiting
  • Bed wetting, well past toilet trained age
  • Skin ailments such as eczema, hives, unexplained rashes
  • Breathing issues such as asthma
  • Compulsive: picks at his or her skin, repeats certain actions, pulls out his or her own hair, or eyebrows.
  • Not consistent: for instance, you think it could be due to sugar, but one day he eats sugar and he is fine and another day he eats a sugary food and he is off the wall with his behavior. In this case, it may not be the sugar!
  • Headbanging as a toddler, typically started when foods were introduced into the diet when an infant or toddler. Headbanging typically stops around age 3 once the child is larger with more weight on his body to “handle” the amounts of dyes in foods.
  • Has a diagnosis of Sensory Processing Disorder
  • Sensitive to bright lights, loud noises.
  • Frequent bouts of crying
  • Sensitivity can continue into adulthood and can be a cause for anger, depression and aggression

If you identify with one to three or four items on this list, it may not be a dye/coloring root cause.  Still it cannot hurt to remove dyes and colorings from the diet for 2 weeks to note any changes.  Most children that have a dye/coloring reaction identify with 8 or more on this list. 

The Good News

Manufacturers are listening to parents. Many have removed or are in the planning stages of removing dyes from their products.  Kraft has removed dyes from some, not all, of their products.  General Mills has removed dyes from Trix and Yoplait go-gurts.  Chick-fil-A removed yellow #5 from its chicken soup, Frito lay has removed dyes from Lay’s seasoned and kettle cooked chips, Sun Chips and Tostitos, and Pepperidge Farm removed dyes from Goldfish Crackers.  Please note that Goldfish contain annatto which is a natural food coloring and some children are sensitive to this. 

What to Do If You Suspect a Food Dye/Coloring Reaction in Your Child?

The first thing to do is to start clearing out your home of all foods that contain dyes and colors. This is a big task as it will require you to read labels on everything. Dyes and coloring are added to foods you would not think of such as your jar of pickles.  Some more obvious foods include cereals, processed American cheese and colored beverages. It is not just in that rainbow-colored cupcake icing, m and m’s, skittles or starbursts but it can be hidden in salad dressings, crackers, chips, soups and much more.

Once you have cleaned out your pantry, then it is time to shop.  Go when you know you have the time to read labels and plan for more than an hour in the store. Once you get the hang of products that are safe and your child likes, the process will become easier. 

Your child can also react to food dyes in toothpaste, vitamins and medications!  Don’t forget to check these products too.

What ends up happening is that these children exceed the safety limit due to overconsumption of foods with dyes and colorings.

If you do not see any significant positive changes within the 2 weeks, this may not be the root cause.  If this symptom list still sounds like your child, you may want to then explore a preservative free diet and look for labels that contain sodium benzoate (to start) which has been linked to hyperactivity in children. 

Is It Impacting Your Child’s Gut Health?

Unfortunately, I cannot find any direct links or studies showing that a sensitivity to artificial dyes and colorings could impact gut health.  However, just because the information is not out there, does not mean it does not exist.  If food sensitivities, such as one to dairy or gluten can cause leaky gut syndrome then at this point I must believe that a dye sensitivity can do the same. 

What this means is that once you remove these suspected foods and have a routine with your new diet, the next step is to address gut healing.  I like to do this with a product called Restore along with fermented foods and other targeted supplements if necessary. 

What to Do Next

If removing artificial and natural colorings did not help, don’t give up. Slowly remove other additives, removing only one at a time such as:

  1. Benzoates (in juices, soft drinks, syrups, meds)
  2. Sorbates (in margarine, dips, cakes, fruit products)
  3. Sulphites (in dried fruits, fruit drinks, sausages and more)
  4. Nitrates (processed meat products)
  5. Propionates
  6. Flavor enhancers (MSG 621 and others in the 600 range)

For a more complete list of possible additives that your child may be reacting to, go to and use that as a good resource to guide you. 

Bottom Line: Your child does not have to suffer. Work with a holistic nutrition professional to help you figure out the root cause for your child’s behavioral, mental and emotional issues. 

Did removing dyes from your child’s diet make a difference? If so I would love to hear from you!



  8. Dorfman, K. (2013) Cure Your Child with Food. NY: Workman Publishing Group


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

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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Use These Herbs for Perimenopause and Menopausal Symptoms

11 Herbs for Menopause and Perimenopause



For me, while I am my time of transition, my menstrual migraines got worse, to the point I was losing one to two days per month wasting it in bed and in severe pain.  I now take an herbal blend with many of the herbs mentioned below and this has helped me immensely.  

Around the age of 40 women begin perimenopause and the transition to menopause.  During this time levels of estrogen, progesterone and the androgens fluctuate.  Your body will spend years gradually and naturally going through this process. This transition can last 5 to 10 years and for some up to 13 years.   Menopause typically occurs between the ages of 45-55.  During this time your periods may stop and then start again or may occur more frequently and may increase or decrease in intensity and flow. You are officially in menopause when your period has stopped for one full year.

Herbs to Ease Perimenopause/Menopause Symptoms


Note: Always check first with your health professional when adding in herbs to your regimen. Some herbs interact with meds and some are not safe to take with certain health conditions. 

Motherwort: This herb can be your ally in reducing irritability and anxiety that may occur during the transition time.  It can calm the heart during perimenopause heart palpitations.  If you have heavy bleeding during perimenopause, then don’t overdo the use of this herb.  It can aid in menopausal insomnia. Avoid this herb if you have low blood pressure.  Take in tea or in tincture.  50-80 drops 2-4 times per day in tincture form.  As a tea use 1 tsp. of dried herb.  Drink 4 oz. three times per day. 

Shatavari: This herb is a wonderful one to use during these times of transition. It is useful for hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, anxiety and memory loss.  It also is known to increase libido.  As a tincture, use 40-80 drops 3x per day.  As a tea use of dried root and consume up to 2 cups per day.  Avoid if you have diarrhea and bloating or add ginger and consume as a tea only. 

Passion Flower: This herb has many uses and it is useful for menopausal mood swings.  It can aid in reducing panic attacks, calms irritability and helps with stress relief.  If you can’t turn your mind off at night, use passion flower.  Use in tea blend or take 60-80 drops of tincture 3 times per day.  Avoid with bipolar, schizophrenia and manic phases.  Do not use with MAOI’s.

Sage: This is beneficial for stimulating memory and is useful for the brain fog that is sometimes associated with perimenopause.   It is also good for excessive sweating which means it can be supportive for those with night sweats during perimenopause. It is also used for anxiety, hot flashes and fatigue associated with menopausal symptoms. Take in tincture 30-60 drops 2-3 times per day or use 1 tsp. in a tea blend 3 times per day. 

Fennel: While you may be familiar with fennel for digestive issues, fennel is used to offer hormonal support as well.  One of its main components appears to have natural hormone like actions.  It can be useful for bloating, menstrual pain and hot flashes.  As a tea use 1-2 tsp in one cup hot water. 

Skullcap: This herb is considered a brain tonic and is useful for ADD, poor memory and mental fatigue. It is also useful for PMS, menstrual pain/cramps, menopausal depression and mood swings, hot flashes and irritation.  Use in a tea blend or take ½ t. of tincture as needed.  Avoid with bipolar, schizophrenia and manic phases. 

Kudzu root: This herb is beneficial for PMS and peri menopausal symptoms such as acne, hot flashes, night sweats, and mood swings.  Take in tincture form of 60 drops 2-3 times per day. 

Lemon Balm: Use this herb for menstrual cramping and depression associated with perimenopause.  This is considered a very safe herb and safe for children as well. However, if you have low thyroid issues it is best to minimize the amount of lemon balm you consume as it can lower thyroid function. 

Hops: This herb is used for menstrual cramping. This is best used in tea or tincture. It also has a sedative effect.  As a tincture, take 30-60 drops 2-3 times per day.  Avoid with usage of sedative medication.  Do not use if you have depression. 

Black Cohosh: This herb has been popularized for use for hot flashes yet it also has many other beneficial uses. This herb can also be useful for those with depression.  Avoid use of this herb if you have liver disease.  Take 20-40 drops of tincture per day. 

Chaste Tree Berry: Some of you may be familiar with Chaste Tree (Vitex) for hormonal support, however a word of caution-it is very easy to overdo it with this herb. Taking too much may increase progesterone levels and thus increase your symptoms.  If using this herb, take only one capsule per day in the morning or 15 drops of tincture in the morning.  Avoid usage if you are taking antipsychotic medications. 

Pycnogenol:  (actually it is 12 with the addition of this one but Pycnogenol supplement is not an herb per se rather an extract) This is a branded, registered trade form of  French maritime pine bark extract and has a number of uses.  It can be useful for endometriosis, painful periods, menopausal symptoms and can reduce fine lines and wrinkles (at 100 mg. per day).  A recent study builds upon evidence from previous studies showing that it can reduce elevated cardiovascular risk factors that are often related to perimenopause such as increased triglycerides, elevated blood pressure and blood sugar.  Those participating in the study also had reduced hot flashes, reduction of night sweats and mood improvement. 

Going Beyond Herbs to Reduce Symptoms

basket of veggies

For some of you with mild symptoms, an herb or two may do the trick.  For those of you that continue to struggle with symptoms your body may need more support than just a few herbs.  Addressing and identifying imbalances in the body will be key for you, such as addressing blood sugar, adrenals, thyroid, digestion and/or other areas to restore balance.  Dietary changes along with targeted supplementation may be needed depending on your current diet and symptoms.

For instance, some of you may enter perimenopause sooner than others due to poor health or due to your diet. 

Estrogen dominance becomes an issue along with its side effects during perimenopause for some due to low progesterone levels.  The key is to find out what is the issue for you and then address it. 

The bottom line is yes, there is something you can do instead of having to put up with these symptoms for years!




Blankenship, V. (2016) Sage Herbal Foundations Program. Colorado Springs, CO. (notes from)

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

Cech, R. (2016) Making Plant Medicine.  Oregon: Herbal Reads

Crow, D. (2016) Medicinal Plants & Spiritual Evolution Intensive.  Online Program (notes from)

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

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

Winston, D. & Maimes, S. (2007) Adaptogens: Herbs for Strength, Stamina and Stress Relief.  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 owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC. 

For more information visit

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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