Statins and the Depression connection

Statins and the Depression Connection: Were you depressed before you went on a Statin Drug?

pills in hand

Stains appear to be correlated with the onset of depressive symptoms along with hostility, rage, suicidal ideation, suicide, and combativeness.
Dr. Graveline from states that statins interfere with the biochemistry of the dolichols which are metabolic pathways that are necessary to form our neuropeptides. Neuropeptides are considered messenger molecules that are the basis for our thoughts and emotions. Since statins inhibit dolichols, cell communication is also inhibited as well as neuro-hormone production.
There are numerous individual reports of those who experienced depressive symptoms once starting on a statin. For those wanting to report their symptoms a good place to do so is at in which all person reports are collected on not just depressive symptoms but any symptoms from statin usage.
If you are thinking of going on a statin (or any other medication for that matter) visit and here you will find people noting there symptoms from various drugs (you click on the drug you want to see symptoms for). On this site there are numerous negative reports of statin side effects.
Upon research, it has been reported that total cholesterol (TC) levels are consistently lower in more severely depressed and aggressive people. So is it the statin that is causing the depressive side effects or is it because the statin is bringing the TC levels too low? (Below 160 is when symptoms have been noted. I prefer to not have clients TC go below 180).
Other studies show that the type of statin you use may also impact what symptoms are expressed.
As a result, both may have an impact. There are numerous reports of those on statins and having cholesterol in the 200’s and reporting depressive symptoms while others have lower TC. Could the nutrient deficiencies that statins cause also have an impact on depression symptoms? Many factors related to the medication use may be creating the symptoms. The bottom line? Why are you on a statin medication and do you really need to be on this medication?
Yet on the other end of the spectrum, while all these people are reporting the symptoms they experience while on statins a study in 2014 from the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology reported that only a small minority of people report side effects and that just as many in the statin group as in the placebo group reported side effects.
In the end research does not support the advice that a low cholesterol level will prevent heart disease. Heart disease is a disease of systemic inflammation. We need to realize that cholesterol is not the enemy-we need cholesterol! It is a very critical biochemical needed for proper brain function along with sex hormone and vitamin D production.
If you are on a statin also be aware of the nutrient deficiencies it may create. Your omega 3 fatty acids, ubiquinol, vitamin D, vitamin E, and selenium levels may be impacted as well.
If you want to prevent heart disease you need to change your diet and lifestyle to reduce inflammation. Avoid sugar, refined and processed foods and eat whole foods as much as possible. Eat a rainbow of fruits and vegetables. Make vegetables and salads the biggest portion of your meals with moderate amounts of protein and only small amounts of starches. Pass up the French fries and deep fried foods and opt for your starchy carbs in the form of beets, carrots, sweet potato , small amounts of beans and legumes or non- gluten whole grains.
Supplements and herbs can be supportive as well, however making diet and a lifestyle change for heart health needs to come first. As I often say to my clients, you can take all high quality, expensive supplements in the world, but if you still eat “like crap” you will still feel like crap.
Bowden, J. & Sinatra, S. (2012) The Great cholesterol Myth. MA: Fair Wind Press.
Fingold, J. et. al. (3/18/14) What Proportion of Symptomatic side effects in patients taking statins are
genuinely caused by the drug? Systemic review of randomized, placebo controlled trials to aid individual patient choice. European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.
Graveline, D. (11/10) Depression and Statin Drug Use.
Kaplan, A. (11/30/10) Statins, cholesterol depletion-and mood disorders-what’s the missing link?

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate) and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in addressing root causes of your health condition instead of symptom management. If you would like to learn more about her services visit or email Karen at
The information in this article is not intended to diagnose, treat or cure as Karen is a nutritionist not a doctor. This article is for educational purposes only. I encourage you to do your own research if you are on a statin medication and to take control of your own health instead of leaving it in the hands of others.

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Brownies made with Black Beans

Black Bean Brownies

Gluten free, dairy free, soy free

A low sugar treat to take to summer picnics.  No one will ever know that you used black beans!

black bean brownie


  • 1 c. canned black beans (drained and rinsed)
  • ¼.c coconut oil
  • ¼ c. cacao powder
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • 3 T. honey
  • sea salt (dash)
  • 3 pasture raised eggs
  • ½ c. dark chocolate (I like Enjoy life brand)


  1. Preheat oven to 350.  Line an 8×8 pan with parchment paper
  2. Put all ingredients except the dark chocolate into a blender or food processor
  3. Blend in the dark chocolate
  4. Spread into the pan.
  5. Bake for 20-25 minutes. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, CNC, and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition, LLC believes in addressing root causes of health conditions with diet, supplements and herbs rather than symptom management.  To learn more about her services visit

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Medications than can cause Depression and Anxiety: An Updated List

Drugs/medications that can cause Depression or Anxiety


I have updated this list in the past month as it seems that they are finding more and more drugs connected to causing depression and anxiety symptoms. 

If you know of other medications that can cause depression and anxiety and are not listed here, please share with me! 


Drugs that can cause Depression

  • Accutane (for acne)
  • alcohol
  • anticonvulsants (used for seizures/ meds such as Celontin, Zarontin)
  • barbiturates (such as Phenobarbital/used for seizures and anxiety)
  • Benzodiapines (used for anxiety and insomnia/meds such as Ativan, Xanax, and valium)
  • Beta Blockers (used for heart health, HTN, migraines/meds such as Lopressor or Tenormin)
  • Calcium channel blockers (used for slowing heart rate, HTN, CHF/meds such as Cardizem, Tiazac, Procardia)
  • Interferon (For some cancers, hepatitis B and C)
  • Norplant (For birth control)
  • Opioids (used for pain/meds such as codeine, morphine, Demerol, OxyContin) Along with depression, these can cause hallucinations, nightmares, poor memory and tremors. 
  • Statins (used to lower cholesterol, CAD, heart attacks/meds such as Mevacor, Zocor, Lipitor)
  • Varenicline (used for smoking cessation)
  • Zovirax (used for shingles and herpes)
  • Heart burn medication called metoclopramide (Reglan).  Can cause depression along with confusion, hallucinations and anxiety
  • Antibiotics with the word flox in it (Ofloxacin), Floxin.  Used for routine infections such as UTI or upper respiratory infection.  Can cause depression, anxiety, paranoid thoughts, and hallucinations.  Causes toxic psychosis. 
  • Prednisone and other corticosteroids (for allergies, sinusitis,) For example, someone may be prescribed prednisone for a bad reaction to poison ivy.  Even short term dose (i.e.: a few days) can trigger anxiety, irritability, insomnia, depression, agitation, memory impairment and auditory and visual hallucinations.  It is called steroid psychosis. 
  • Anticholinergic drugs (i.e.: oxybutynin/Ditropan) used for bladder issues.  Can cause depression and cognitive loss.

Drugs that can cause anxiety

  • asthma medication, albuterol
  • blood pressure  medication methyldopa
  • oral contraceptives
  • amphetamines (Ritalin)
  • Steroids (cortisone, prednisone)
  • thyroid medicines
  • some antidepressants
  • caffeine
  • Excedrin
  • No Doz
  • Cough meds, decongestants such as Sudafed
  • Illegal drugs such as cocaine, crack, speed (amphetamine)
  • antibiotics (with the word flox in it-see more information under depression above)
  • Some heartburn medications (see depression list above for more information)

Karen Brennan, CNC, MSW, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate) , is the owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services.  She gets to the root of your health issues instead of symptom management and uses nutrition, herbs and supplement therapy.  Contact her at 303-522-0381, or visit her website at


Source: ; and Bauman College


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Sourdough bread and a live starter: why this bread is good for your health

Sourdough bread made with live starter

Why this is the only bread I will eat!

sourdough bread



Loving my Sourdough starter

sourgo with bubbles


I received a sourdough starter from my teacher at Sage Herbal School in Colorado Springs and I made my first loaf of bread.  I normally do not eat bread but I had to try this. Research shows that even those with celiac disease can eat bread made with gluten containing flour and sourdough starter with no damage to their microvilli. See the study here. What they found is that fermentation of the wheat flour with the sourdough lactobacilli and fugal proteases decreases the concentration of gluten in the bread here

My son has a delayed gluten allergy.  So naturally I am excited to see if this bread works for him. Typically his response to ingesting gluten is acid reflux and a burn in his throat, along with excess mucus production.  I just gave the first loaf to him so now we wait and see the results.  I will update this when we find out if he can tolerate the sourdough bread or not.  (You can use a whole wheat flour-actually any flour as long as it is not a sprouted grain. ) I also have made pizza dough using the recipe below. 

What I like also about the bread is that is does not have an overly sour taste as some sourdough breads do that you buy in the grocery store. 

Keep in mind that this homemade bread made with the starter is not the same as the bread you purchase in your local grocery store. I am also not saying all of those with celiac can eat this bread but instead you should do some research and decide for yourself to try it or not and see how you feel.  You know your body best. 

Benefits to eating bread made with a live sourdough starter

When you bake the bread with a living starter it will continue to provide you with probiotics in a nutritious and digestible form.  Look to get a starter from someone you know.  Then you can share your starter with others too. 

I currently have one starter that I am giving away but should have more to give away within a week or two.  If you want a sourdough starter you will need to email me and arrange for time to pick it up along with directions for bread that I will email to you.  This will be on a first come/first serve basis. 



Sour dough Bread Recipe Using a live starter


Your Sourdough starter


Feeding: you need to always use equal portions in a 1:1:1 ratio.  You can use less sourdough starter but no more than a ½ c. as it gets too active and will eat all the food and will not be bubbly.  Do not use more starter than ingredients.   

To your sourdough starter, add ½ c. flour and ½ c. water. Stir until well combined and seal with a lid.  Let it sit on your counter for 8-12 hours or until bubbly.  This can take a day or two.  If you are not using it to bake with right away, you can then place it in the fridge and feed it once per week. (if you have a cup of sourdough starter then add one cup flour and one cup water to it-always same amount or more flour and water than starter when “feeding” it)

The starter that is left in your jar should be fed once per week.  Even if you have only a few spoonful’s left of starter in your jar, still add ½ flour and ½ water to it each week, let it ferment on counter and then put back in your fridge. 

When it sits in your fridge and you are not using it-still feed it once per week.  Add in flour and water (always same amount or more flour and water than the starter) 

When in your fridge the alcohol may separate and come to the surface.  This is called hooch and can be dark in color.  It is harmless and you can either discard it or blend it back in.  This hooch is a by -product of the starter eating all the food. 



  • 1 c. of starter
  • 1 c. warm water
  • ¼ c. oil
  • ¼ c. honey
  • 4 c. flour
  • 2 t. salt (don’t add right away)


  1. If using mixer, process until all ingredients, except the salt, are mixed together.  If mixing by hand, stir until just mixed. 
  2. Let the dough rest for 10 minutes.  This resting allows the gluten strands to absorb the water and start to develop. It is a very important step for the right consistency for your dough.
  3. After the ten minutes are up, sprinkle in the salt.  Then turn on your mixer or mix by hand for 3 minutes. 
  4. Leave the dough in the mixing machine or bowl and put a cover on it. Let the dough sit in the bowl for 5 hours at room temperature (70 degrees)
  5. After the 5 hours, the dough should have doubled and is moist and sticky.  Stir the dough a couple times.  Pour the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. 
  6. Fold the edges to the middle all around. This helps to shape the dough.  Knead the dough into a ball shape.
  7. Put your dough into a glass or ceramic baking dish or pie dish and sprinkle with a bit of flour then cover with a damp cloth. 
  8. Allow the dough to proof for 2.5 hours or until doubled. 
  9. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Cut some slits into the dough and bake at 450 for 5 minutes.  After the five minutes, turn the oven to 425 and bake for 25 more minutes. 
  10. Cool on wire rack and enjoy!

If you want a starter and live in the Castle Rock, CO area and want to pick one up for free then contact Karen, Tru Foods at 303-522-0381. 

Karen with Tru Foods Nutrition is a certified nutrition consultant who gets to the  root causes of your health conditions with nutrition, herbs and supplements.  Visit her website for more information. 

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Tru Foods Nutrition Granola is for sale under Cottage Law!


Tru Foods Granola

(Castle Rock, CO)
Raw, Paleo, gluten, soy and dairy free
11 oz. bags $8.50 (plus tax)

1 oz. single serving bag $1.00 (plus tax)

I will do customized orders (i.e.: almonds for walnuts, no dried fruit, etc..) for $2 extra per bag and 2 bag minimum order. 






Our Tru Foods Granola is finally ready to sell under the Cottage Law from Castle Rock, Colorado! I cannot sell it online as under the Cottage law it does need to be sold directly. If you would like purchase Tru Foods Granola, email or text the amount of bags you would like to purchase from us. I accept checks or cash for the Granola.

Check out my main page for places I will be speaking or will have a booth. I will have sample bags of Tru Foods Granola there!

Text/call: 303-522-0381
Send Tru Foods a picture of where you take your Tru Foods Granola and we will post it on our site. Do you take it on hiking or camping trips? Biking or endurance running? Or in your yogurt for breakfast? Let us know and send us a picture of you, your activity and the Tru Foods Granola.


“OMG…this stuff is amazing!”

“I am not going to share this”

“This is addictive”

“This is really good….Can I have 2 more bags?”

“I’m surprised I like this…usually I don’t like all your “health” food.  I shared this at work and everyone there liked it too.”  (that last comment was from my son.)

About Tru Foods Nutrition Granola

granola in hand


There are so many different granola brands on the market. Why is yours any better and why should I purchase yours?
I created my own granola after looking at all the brands in the stores, even in the health stores, and not being able to find one that met my criteria. The majority of these other brands are loaded with processed sugar and often in more than one form. I have not been able to find one that is raw and also Paleo friendly (meaning it does not contain oats.) As a result my granola meets the needs of the raw community, the Paleo community and those who are gluten, soy and dairy free.

Why do you purchase your nuts and seeds at Natural Grocers only?

I purchase the nuts and seeds in the refrigerator section of Natural Grocers. Storing them in the refrigerator extends their shelf life. Due to their high oil content, these fats can break down rather quickly. This is important because if nuts and seeds sit out too long the oils in them can go rancid. While turnover in large bins may be quick, I still don’t know how long those nuts and seeds have been sitting out exposed to the heat.

Why is it important to soak nuts and seeds?

Nuts contain anti-nutrients which are there so that they do not sprout too early. It is a natural mechanism so that they may survive until proper growing conditions are present. However, when we consume nuts and seeds that have not been soaked and dehydrated, it makes them difficult for us to digest and difficult for us to absorb the beneficial nutrients that they contain. By soaking our nuts and seeds we are removing phytic acid, tannins, neutralizing enzyme inhibitors, encouraging the production of beneficial enzymes, and increasing the amount of vitamins that are available, thus making them easier to digest. So ask yourself, are the nuts and seeds in the products you eat soaked?

Why is it better to dehydrate nuts and seeds at a low temperature?

Dehydrating foods below 115 degrees allows the food to retain its nutrients and digestive enzymes. I dehydrate my nuts and seeds at 113 degrees. When baking granola (and other foods) in the oven at high temperatures, they lose some of these nutrients and the digestive enzymes are destroyed.

Why do you use honey instead of other forms of sugar?

While honey is still a sugar, it does have some benefits over other forms such as white sugar, brown sugar or agave syrup. Raw honey (heated above 115 degrees will destroy these beneficial properties) contains antioxidants, enzymes, minerals and vitamins. You can’t say that about white processed sugar. Agave syrup raises blood sugar more rapidly than people once thought and so does brown rice syrup. Brown Rice syrup also contains arsenic. As a result, there are numerous reasons for choosing honey as the sweetener of choice in this granola.

Why does it matter that this is a raw product?

When we cook our food we lose 30% of the nutrients and 100% of the enzymes in the food. Having a balance of raw foods in your diet (mixed in with cooked foods) can help to support the body with nutrient dense food that is not destroyed by high cooking temperatures.

Tru Foods Granola 11oz. $8.50 per bag
All nuts and seeds have been soaked and dehydrated.
Ingredients: raw cashews, raw walnuts, raw pumpkin seeds, organic shredded coconut, organic raisins, raw honey, extra virgin organic coconut oil, vanilla extract, cinnamon, Celtic sea salt, filtered water.
Serving size: 1/3 cup
Calories: 254
Protein: 6 g.
Fat: 19 g.
Carbs: 17 g.
Sugar: 9 g.


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Tru Foods E book Guide: 21 day Depression Free meal and supplement plan: sneak peek!

Sneak Peek at my E book: Tru Foods Nutrition 21 day Depression Free guide, meal and supplement plan. 

woman reading pic

I  have been working on a book on addressing root causes but it has been taking longer than expected and is ending up much longer than I ever imagined!

During this time my son lost another friend to suicide and I felt like I needed to do something-to get something out there to help others.  So while I am still working on the book I put this diet plan together for those that just want to do something to feel better instead of reading and understanding all the “whys”. 

The E book is almost completed but I am waiting for my web designer to be available so that I can put it up for sale on my website.  My weakness is my lack of computer skills!  I would much rather a professional set it up for sale on my site rather than me make a mess of it!  It will cost somewhere around $12.99 and has a lot of useful information and resources.  Here is a peak.  More sneak peaks to come so keep checking back to my blog!

Who this plan is for:

  • Anyone suffering with depression who is ready to make some dietary changes to feel better
  • For parents and families that are looking for die plan that can help their child/loved one. 
  • Anyone with depression related to known cause (i.e.: bullying, death of loved one, divorce, traumatic event, etc.….) you will learn how these types of known causes of your depression impact your body and what to do to support it nutritionally.  This does not mean to stop your therapy sessions that can help you address your exogenous causes of your depression. 
  • Anyone suffering from depression with no known cause (i.e.: life is good but you still feel depressed)
  • Anyone who also has ADD/ADHD, anxiety, racing mind, insomnia, fatigue or negative thought patterns
  • Anyone who also has some digestive and gut issues such as acid reflux, GERD, and asthma that is triggered by the acid reflux
  • Anyone who also has skin conditions such as eczema, rosacea, psoriasis or acne
  • Families looking to help their child/teenager living with them who has depression

What this plan is:

  • A healthy plan to get you feeling better with more energy, improved moods, less depression or none at all, anxiety reduction and overall positive sense of well-being.
  • A nutrient dense meal plan with supplement/herbal recommendations that are supportive for one with depression
  • Recipes provided that are nutrient dense and taste good too/even additional recipes so that you can make tweaks to the meal plan and adjust based on foods you like. 
  • Anti-inflammatory dietary plan
  • Blood sugar balancing dietary plan
  • Thyroid supportive
  • Anti-candida diet plan
  • Immune supportive
  • Microbiome supportive
  • low sugar, balanced macronutrients, micronutrient dense
  • Supports healthy cortisol levels
  • A dietary plan that eliminates the most common delayed food allergens and food sensitivity foods that can cause mental health issues. 
  • A 21 day plan that does not allow cheat days. (We will discuss when to add those in.  It is critical that you follow the plan for 21 days if you want to see improvements in your mental health. )

Who this plan may pose a challenge for:

  • This meal plan does contain red meats and poultry:  I will provide alternatives in this menu plan for those of you who do not eat meat.  If you are a vegetarian, you may want to try adding in humanely raised meat (or wild caught fish) at least a couple of times per week (see sources for humanely raised grass fed meats at the end).  If not, you will need to focus more on making sure your protein needs are met with legumes/beans and non- gluten grains.  If you eat eggs, add those in.  If your major protein source is from dairy you will need to avoid dairy for the 21 days for this plan to be effective with the exception of whey protein powder and heavy cream and grass fed butter.   A  B12 supplement will be necessary for you while on this 21 day depression free diet plan if avoiding meat/poultry.
  • Nut allergy: this meal plan does include nuts, nut flours, and recipes with nuts.  I do offer alternatives in some places but if you have an allergy to nuts (other than the legume peanut) this may be a challenging meal plan for you. If you have only a peanut allergy, then you are fine as there are neither peanuts nor peanut butter in this plan. 
  • Anyone who does not think they can stick to the plan for 21 days –if this sounds like you but you really want to start feeling better, please enlist someone that can help you to stick to this plan.  Is there someone that can motivate you to shop for ingredients, or to help you prep meals and so forth?  It is always good to have support.  Please ask- often times we don’t want to bother anyone with our problems but you will be surprised how people may jump to help you for the next 21 days.  
  • Families who are looking to change their child/teens diet for depression but not their own.  If you are looking to help your child who is suffering and you think that you only need to change his or her diet but not the one for the household then don’t do this diet plan. For this to work for a young family member the family must commit when in the house or out and about with your child or teen.  They will need all the support they can get.  You cannot expect her to follow this plan for 21 days while you sit next to her eating pizza and a diet coke. 
  • A whole foods, balanced meal plan to support neurotransmitter production. 

What this plan is not:

  • This is not a weight loss plan-although some may lose weight on it.  I do not include amounts of foods in most places in this plan. I cannot do so as I do not know your age, activity level and so forth.  Listen to your body and let it be the guide-it will tell you how much enough is. 
  • It is not meant as a replacement for your medical care. Rather share this information with your doctor and hopefully your medical provider will be supportive of the dietary changes that you are making to improve your health. 
  • This is not a cure: rather this is a way to bring back balance to your body. I am nutrition professional-as such I do not diagnose, cure or treat.   I cannot guarantee success since this plan does not address individual, biochemical individuality.  However, if you do follow this plan I do feel that since it addresses many underlying root causes of depression, positive results will be seen. 
  • Not an 80/20 plan. This is not a plan that you can go on for a day or two, then off for a few days and then back on or follow for breakfast and lunch but not for dinner and late night snacks.  If you choose to do so, you won’t get the desired results. Stick with it; you can do it-keep telling yourself it is only for 21 days!
  • It is not a cleanse or detox plan
  • It does not address Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), small intestinal bowel overgrowth (SIBO) or Inflammatory Bowel disease (IBD). This plan may help with your symptoms but often there are other supplements/herbs and other dietary needs for those with these conditions.  If you have depression and IBS, SIBO or IBD please contact me and we can create a tailored plan to meet both of your conditions. 
  • This is not a low carb plan. This is a moderate carb plan.  Going too low carb can deplete serotonin.
Keep checking back for more sneak peaks and alerts as to when the E book is available. 
Karen Brennan, MSW, NC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition (candidate) and owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in addressing root causes not symptom management with diet and supplement support. For more information, visit her website at
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Beet, Watercress and Walnut salad. Paleo and vegetarian friendly

Beet Salad with Walnuts and Watercress

Gluten free, dairy free, vegetarian, Paleo

Serves 4 to 6



  • 3 to 4 beets peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 1 bunch watercress chopped (can substitute kale or spinach)
  • 1 c. raw walnuts
  • 3 T. EVOO
  • 2 T. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T. local honey
  • 2 T. chopped basil
  • ¼ t. sea salt


  1. Place cubed beets into a steamer basket.  Steam for 15 to 20 minutes or until tender.  Place in bowl to cool.
  2. Place watercress into steamer basket and steam for about 5 minutes.  Place in bowl with beets
  3. Place walnuts into a small glass dish and roast in over at 350 for 10 minutes.  Don’t let them burn.  Place into same bowl.
  4. In small bowl whisk the EVOO through sea salt together.  Top w/ground pepper if desired. 


Karen Brennan of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC believes in addressing root causes through diet, lifestyle and supplements.  To learn more, visit her website at  







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I have a confession to make…


I have a confession to make……

As a nutrition professional you may not want to see me.  Here’s why.

I am not going to sugar coat, say only what you want to hear, and tippy toe around issues.  If you paid good money and have taken time out of your day to see me then I am not going to waste your time by beating around the bush.

 Some people may not like this. 

Do you want health results or do you only want to hear what you want to hear?  Do you cherry pick certain foods or supplements from a protocol tailored for you and then get frustrated because you didn’t get any results? 

If you can give me 90% to 100% commitment than you will get 110% commitment back from me.  This does not mean we dive right in to a complete change.  Rather we develop a plan for you that you can stick to and follow through with.  This means also communicating with me to let me know what’s not working so we can make adjustments and tweaks.  If you commit to getting your health back so you can live your life the way you want to, then I will support, guide and help you the entire way. 

What usually happens instead? 

Many people make the commitment to the first appointment.  We come up with a starting place, our initial plan, but many people do not follow through.  A starting place is just that, and so you won’t achieve desired results.  Desired health results are not going to be achieved overnight and they are not going to be achieved if you do not follow through.

This may sound harsh, I know.  I see too many people complaining about health issues and taking so many herbs and supplements and can’t figure out why they are not better.  Popping vitamins over pills is not the solution to your health woes.  Some may be warranted but taking your vitamin D with a low fat meal or taking some herbs with your big mac is not the answer.  Nor is the answer getting your health advice from coworkers or friends, unless they are health professionals. 

If you are sick and tired of feeling sick and tired and are ready to make a change, to commit, then give me a call. I don’t bite, although after reading this you may think I do.  I want to help you get back to healthy living.  I cannot do this if I am not honest with you, but I promise you I will do whatever I can to assist you, educate you and get you to where you want to be. 

I’m 110% committed, how about you?

Set up your appointment so that you can finally get back to enjoying life. 

Karen Brennan, MSW, NC, Board Certified in Holistic Nutrition ® (candidate) is the owner of Tru Foods Nutrition Services, LLC.  If you are ready to take back your health, give her a call. 303-522-0381


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16 herbs and supplements for allergy relief

Seasonal Allergies:

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

person sneezing

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

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

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

Why you should avoid OTC allergy medication

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

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

Why has there been an increase in seasonal allergies?

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

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

When is the best time to address allergy symptom relief?

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

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

What to add in year round to support your body

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


Symptom Relief

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

  • Butterbur: butterbur can relax smooth muscle spasms and inhibit inflammatory histamines. Take in standardized form for symptom relief. Studies show that those who take butterbur in standardized tablets or in extract form 3 times daily get the greatest relief of their symptoms.
  • Nettle: stinging nettle can provide dramatic relief from hay fever and stops a runny nose due to its anti-histamine properties. In capsules or tablets take 500 to 1,000 mg. 3 times per day. In some studies patients were given 600 mg. of freeze dried stinging nettle leaf at the onset of allergy season and then 300 mg. as needed with the average dose 3 times per day during the allergy season.


  • Serrapeptase: this is an enzyme that can help reduce swelling in the lungs and make breathing easier. It is helpful for congestion, runny nose and post nasal drip associated with allergies. It is marketed as a joint supplement due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Veganzyme is a trusted brand from This product contains Serrapeptase but other supportive enzymes as well such as bromelain which is also known to be effective for seasonal allergy symptoms. 


  • Quercetin: this can help prevent seasonal allergic reactions if started soon enough. Quercetin can also be found in onions and apples. Take in tablet form 125-250 mg. 3 times per day between meals for 6-8 weeks before the allergy season begins.

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

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

  • Ginger: reduces allergic inflammation. Take capsules, 1,000 mg. 3-4 times daily between meals for 6-8 weeks before the allergy season begins. 
  • Horseradish: this will relieve sinus congestion and helps to deter future allergy attacks. If you can handle it, eat ½-1 teaspoon daily until symptoms subside. 


  • Rooibos: many know rooibos tea as very antioxidant rich herb with the green rooibos being higher in antioxidants than the red but either way both are still good sources of antioxidants. Rooibos also acts as an antihistamine and is also helpful if you have food allergies. Drink one cup of the tea 1-3 times per during allergy season but it is also good to drink all year round. This tea is caffeine free and can withstand long brewing times and does not get bitter with reuse.


  • Chamomile: this can reduce the intensity and duration of allergic reactions due to its anti-inflammatory properties. Drink one cup of tea 2-3 times per day. Chamomile is relaxing for the nervous system so you may want to save one cup for before bedtime.Chamomile is considered a very safe herb, however those who are allergic to ragweed may be allergic to chamomile-use with caution the very first time you try it. Teas are less potent than in tincture form. 


  • Scutellaria (skullcap): It is used for allergies, hay fever and other respiratory conditions. It contains chemicals that may prevent histamine from provoking hay fever attacks. One of the compounds interferes with a complex set of hormonal reactions that constrict the bronchial tubes during asthma attacks. This also relieves headaches that are associated with hay fever. Take in capsule form 1,000-2,000 mg. 3 times per day. Do not confuse this herb with American skullcap as the two herbs are not interchangeable. You want the Asian form and may have to get it via online. Do not purchase one that also contains germander, an herb that can cause liver damage. Do not use if you have chronic diarrhea. 


  • Bee pollen: this must be local! Please talk to your doctor first since you may react to the pollen if you have seasonal allergies. When starting out with local bee pollen take only one pellet at first to make sure you do not react. With each new batch of pollen you purchase, do this test first. If no reaction, then start with 1/8 of a teaspoon daily, gradually working your way up to 1 teaspoon per day. This should be started several months before the beginning of hay fever season. Bee pollen is rich in B vitamins and other nutrients and if no reaction you can eat this daily, year round. You can add it to cold dishes such as smoothies, yogurt or chia seed pudding or just eat your dose daily off the spoon! Bee pollen is like a natural allergy shot-giving you small doses of the pollens you are allergic too and building your immune system over time. Find local farms for your pollen.


  • Green Tea: the xanthines in green tea help relax bronchial spasms and can be effective for allergy symptom relief (and asthma too). Drink 1 cup in the morning (due to caffeine content) daily during allergy season.


  • Diamine Oxidase: This is an enzyme that is responsible for histamine breakdown. For some, the root cause of the allergy symptoms may be due to histamine intolerance. This can be from excess histamine or from a deficiency of the enzyme that breaks it down. Histamine can act as a neurotransmitter and also regulates the production of stomach acid. You need some histamine but you don’t want it too elevated (or too low for that matter). Restore gut balance to resolve the histamine issue but take this enzyme to assist with high histamine levels. Take in supplement form. This enzyme also requires vitamin B6 to function properly.You can also try a low histamine diet. This would include limiting or advoiding foods such as fermented foods, aged cheese, citrus, fish, shellfish, avocado, spinach, cocoa, and left- over meat to name a few. 


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

Galland, L & Galland, J. The Allergy Solution: Unlock the Surprising Hidden Truth behind Why your Sick

   and How to Get Well.

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

   Healing  Arts Press.

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

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

Mercola, J. (5/12/16) Suicides are surging.

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

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

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

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




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

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

person studying


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

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

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

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

Mid- term and Finals Brain Boost

Herbs to Take to Help with Studying and Test Taking


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

When Purchasing Herbs Know this!


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

A Word of Caution!


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

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

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

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

For more information visit her site at

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

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




Other Sources

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

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

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




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