Beyond “Food Jail” …er… Restrictive Diets

Beyond “Food Jail” er … Restrictive Diets


A lot of my patients are on restrictive diets. I walk them through the process, how to deal with the emotions, how to manage it with their busy chaotic lives, so they can allow their bodies to heal from inflammation, bacterial overgrowth, autoimmune disorders, etc. Most of the time these diets are meant to be temporary and therapeutic during treatment with a slow addition to widen the diet once treatment of the infection/inflammation/autoimmune has been accomplished. This way we can begin to see what the body can and cannot tolerate. It is often a non-linear journey.


Restrictive diets by nature are not very fun. Nobody wants to have a “NO!” in their life. It brings up all sorts of “stuff” for the person undergoing the diet restriction. I have blogged a ton on this and there is a massive amount of information and research out there about WHY the restriction is necessary for a time so I am not going to go into that very much in this particular post. You can look back to

The Why and How of Autoimmune Disease,

Hashimoto’s, Thyroid, Gluten and the Gut ,

When a Flare Happens ,

Why does gut health affect so many things?

and more. But reference any of the above blogposts I have written on Autoimmune, Inflammation, SIBO and you will get the picture.


There is understandably backlash over restrictive diets. There is a “you can eat anything as long as it is organic!” camp. A “go ahead and eat whole wheat bread and ice cream” backlash. Some of it quite vehement and skeptical. After all, who DOESN’T want to have their gluten-y cake and cow dairy ice cream and eat it too? These viewpoints will appeal to a lot of people. They will take what has been written and run with it, or abandon their healing journey entirely because, after all, it is easier to “eat whatever I want and take a pharmaceutical pill.” Because lifestyle changes and restrictive diets can be HARD!!!! The pharmaceutical approach may even manage their symptoms for a while, but will not actually bring them to health. And eventually it fails. Ask my diabetic patients who were told to “eat whatever you want and adjust your insulin” how they actually feel on 45 grams of carbs per MEAL and 75 units of insulin per DAY. They usually feel quite ill. Some people will certainly make that choice, but it is most likely leading them towards an early grave. This is just basic science!


Wouldn’t you like to know the truth? The truth is that yes, eating a restrictive diet ongoing for years can alter the gut bacteria (the microbiome) in a not so great way, so YES, after the restriction, under the guide of a practitioner, you will want to slowly, methodically add back in SOME of the foods to vary your diet. Depending upon your health condition that you are working to treat this may vary. I am not saying to go crazy and suddenly eat whatever you want. This approach often does not go so well and symptoms may flare, maybe not right away, but eventually. They almost always do. This is basic common sense and science.



You have to be cautious. If you have a gut health or autoimmune issue that you are using a dietary approach to treat, if you haven’t quite healed the gut lining and balanced the microbiome you may trigger a flare by suddenly going all out with whatever your inner child desires. Most of the therapeutic diets out there have a “hard-core” phase where you are, say, killing off the bacteria as in SIBO, where you do need to be a bit restricted in your diet. Once that is accomplished, the idea is to gradually introduce foods again, one by one (but only certain foods). It may be that certain foods, such as gluten in the gluten intolerant or celiac patients, need to be restricted. Some people are also genetically lactose intolerant so will never be able to freely eat dairy, even fermented dairy.


It is important to understand that.


Some of us have the gene which creates the enzymes to break down dairy products and lactose, and some of us do not.


Some of us will eventually be able to tolerate grains again with no ill effects and some of us will not.


We are all not meant to be able to eat everything. We did not evolve that way. Some of us have genetic roots in Scandinavia where they developed higher levels of lactase so they can easily break down cow dairy products. Many of us do not. Some of us carry the HLA DQ genes which predispose us to Celiac Disease. Many of us do not. We are all different. It is important to respect the differences and that someone’s food restrictions are a matter of them being out of pain and cognitively clear enough to function. Respect for others.


With breakthroughs in genomic testing, we are better able to understand who will be able to have some (organic) wheat and gluten and who really should not. We can see who is likely lactose intolerant and who is not. (Glyphosates and added hormones in our food supply are a whole issue unto themselves so always choose organic!)


We can even see who is more sensitive to pollutants, pesticides and herbicides and who is better able to detoxify.


Orthorexia is a real syndrome and I have worked with plenty of orthorexic patients in my practice. Some even consider ANY therapeutic diet which restricts certain foods as contributing to orthorexia, but I beg to differ.


We have compromised our food supply in the United States with toxic agricultural practices. People are getting sicker with chronic, inflammatory, autoimmune conditions not to mention increased rates of diabetes and obesity due to high sugar and carbohydrate intake. The United States has high levels of these conditions, but developing nations are also rapidly catching up due to multinational corporations exploiting these developing nations (easier to sell sugary soda than to supply clean drinking water to a community! With that you have skyrocketing rates of diabetes and obesity. The documentary “Globesity” really illustrates this!)


A return to health requires a return to a healthy diet and for a while, certain foods may need to be restricted.


The problem, I think, happens when someone becomes afraid to eat. When they are so sick, confused, and trying to figure out what is causing their belly to hurt and are trying certain diets. Many different diets.  That fear of food is real because they do not know what is going to make them feel bad! This can be misinterpreted as “Orthorexia”.


I tend to think of it more as “We haven’t nailed down the proper approach yet so I am afraid to eat anything”. That is the case with many people.


The other camp says “Food is meant to be enjoyed. You are missing out on the fullness of life if you aren’t eating bread”


But maybe the person is gaining their health and energy back. Life doesn’t feel very full when you feel terrible in your body.


I will also say that things have gotten better for people on a restricted diet. There are a LOT of tasty options. In the past if someone wanted gluten free muffins, they had to grind the rice into flour in their own kitchen. This was very labor intensive and time consuming, but there were dedicated people willing to do anything for their and their family’s health. If someone who is gluten free wants bread, or someone who is Paleo wants an occasional cheat but needs to avoid gluten, there are some enterprising baking companies that do a pretty good job. In Boulder we are fortunate have “Kim and Jake’s” who make an amazing peasant bread that is completely gluten free because Jake has Celiac Disease. And there are lots of other companies popping up also! If you are wanting “ice cream” for a special treat but can’t have dairy, there are coconut, almond, cashew and rice versions of that frozen dessert that are pretty darned good!


The main thing to understand is that in most cases, except for an anaphylactic allergy or Celiac disease, the restrictive diet is meant to be temporary while the healing of the gut occurs and then there is a slow, careful, conscious reintroduction period with specific guidelines and methodology where the goal is to widen the diet a bit.


Because full on long term restriction can impede the health of the microbiome.  And it can make you want to throw the whole protocol out the window! Let’s just say that never ends well!


Here is an Otthorexia Checklist (from Baltimore Sun)

  • Constant worrying about the quality of food one is eating.
  • Feelings of superiority because of rigid dietary habits.
  • Extreme guilt after eating foods considered to be unhealthy or impure.
  • Feeling very competitive about food or criticizing the eating habits of others.
  • A feeling of being in control of one’s life when adhering strictly to a “pure” diet.

These are the main red flags I look for when considering if a patient of mine is heading into Orthorexia. A lot of what makes it a disorder is the emotional charge around the reasons for adhering to a restricted diet. Most of my patients working with a chronic illness do NOT have orthorexia. Most are trying their hardest to heal. They would much rather be eating an unrestricted diet but are doing so by necessity. It is a therapeutic track. I doubt that most of my patients feel any bit superior to their fellow humans by adhering to their diet. Only that they are working on getting healthier.

I work with many patients near and far with health issues who are following a restricted diet. If you would like to work one on one with me, either in person if you are local, or long distance through video or phone, I am accepting new patients. You can also opt to have a FREE 15 minute phone consult with me to see if you and I are a good fit for each other! To schedule any appointment, you can do this online at or by calling (303) 443-2206 M-F 9AM-5PM Mountain time to speak with my receptionist. I hope to hear from you soon! Be well!

What I learned about portion control from the Japanese

Many years ago when I was freshly out of college I worked as a Foreign Fisheries Observer in the Bering Sea off the coast of Alaska. This was in the early 1980’s and a great way for me to parlay my B.S. in Biology into a decent paying job (which was a rarity back then).   This particular job required me to live aboard foreign fishing vessels for months at a time, often as the only woman! I did 3 trips in all, 2 Japanese and one Soviet (this WAS the 1980’s so it wasn’t Russia then, but the U.S.S.R.).


I was taught as a child that the way to be a polite guest was to clean my plate. “Starving children in Europe” and other phrases like that to help me feel grateful and not too fussy about what was on my plate. I was a pretty picky eater as a young child which only was widened when I attended sleepaway camp and had to eat whatever I was given or there would be no eating at all. Plus I had worked up a pretty good appetite from being outdoors and active all day!


During my first trip I was assigned to work on  the Anyo Maru. It was a small Japanese fishing trawler and I was the only woman on board. The crew cheered when they first saw me. They were happy to see a woman on board. Something curious started happening at mealtimes. When I finshed my food, they would bring me more of the food I had finished. And the food was delicious! Sushi! Sashimi! I wasn’t too crazy for the fish head soup, but at least I knew it was freshly caught. Not wanting to be too “high maintenance”, I ate everything! I didn’t want to insult anyone so I just kept eating whatever they brought me! Soon enough I was gaining weight but I still didn’t want to hurt their feelings by not cleaning my plate so I kept on eating whatever they brought me!


After 2 months on the ship I had gained 15 lbs! After I came back on shore I resumed jogging and vigorous exercising to try to get the weight off. And slowly most it did come off. It also helped that my next ship was a Soviet vessel (The Zelinograd!) where let’s just say, the food was NOT so great (I became really tired very quickly of borscht, greasy noodles and fried fish day after day after day after day for 3 months!) so I often skipped eating.


My 3rd boat (the Yamato Maru) was once again going to be Japanese and I worried about overeating and gaining weight. Between trips I often would socialize with other observers and one day someone mentioned that you should ALWAYS leave some food left on your plate or the Japanese will think that you are still hungry and bring you MORE food! What????!!?!?!?




I decided to retrain myself to be perfectly OK with not finishing my meals and sometimes/often even throwing food away! This was HUGE for me. I am usually extremely mindful about not being wasteful but I had to loosen my grip in order to not be “waistful” ( see what I did there?)


Suddenly I had to constantly tune into my body and go with my intuition on how much I should be eating! When my belly started to feel full, I learned to stop eating.


The Japanese cook on the ships also typically brought many small bowls full of different things. Some miso soup, some rice, sashimi, some fish, some seaweed salad type thing, some pickled vegetables. So I would pick out a little of what I wanted here and there with my rice and sort of graze my meals. Always tuning into my belly and my body to determine when I should stop.


I learned to eat this way and kept at it even after I came back home. This was life-changing for me. Instead of having my mind and my eyes determine portion size, my belly and stomach sensations started determining portions.



My diet has evolved a lot since then as far as what I eat and what I do not eat (I was not gluten free then and I went back to being vegetarian/vegan for many years, then started eating animal protein again and kept it during the birthing/breastfeeding years and now I am mostly paleo) but I still tune into my body and let it tell me when I am finished eating. Even if I need to take a lot home from a restaurant. (Restaurant portions are always too large in the United States). I have kept that habit and I am grateful that I was able to have that learning experience around food and to retrain myself away from eating what I “should” so as not to insult someone, towards eating only what I really needed to feel good in my body




You can with a little mindfulness adopt this style of eating even if you don’t have the opportunity to go to Japan or to another country which typically eats in this fashion. If you are eating dinner with family, take smaller portions to start and tune into your belly as you chew and swallow every bite. Savor the taste and textureal complexities. Remember, eating should not be a race! If you are at a restaurant in the United States, go there knowing ahead of time that the portion sizes are going to be quite large and it is fine to share an entrée or to only eat part of it and take home the rest. This method is also a lot easier to adopt if your blood sugar and insulin is balanced because your hunger level is not artificially increased from consuming carbohydrates and sugar. Sugar and carbohydrates (as well as alcohol) can really throw some people out of balance and away from tuning into their bodies.


I am thankful that I learned that lesson fairly early in my life so that I was able to avoid some of the overeating pitfalls that were already developing in my life. I grew up with some big eaters and later as a young adult lived with some more big eaters and it took some inner personal work to find my center so that I could learn what the proper portion size was for me instead of using my eyes and mind to determine what my portion size should be based upon what everyone around me was doing. I hope that you find this useful if you are struggling with your portion sizes.


My practice focuses on gut health! I would like to invite you to work one on one with me in person if you are local, or long distance through video or phone if you are not local. I am currently accepting new patients. You may also schedule a FREE 15 minute phone consult with me to see if you and I are a good fit for each other! To schedule any appointment, you can do this online at or by calling my office (303) 443-2206 M-F 8:30-5 Mountain time to speak with my receptionist. I hope to hear from you soon! Be well!




Restrictive Diets Can Trigger a Lot of Emotions!

Do you struggle with the emotions surrounding your health plan or restricted diet? Whether it is for weight loss or to heal and correct a health condition it can be extremely challenging to stick to the plan.   It is understandable that there may be associated feelings around this.


Mary felt anger and rage when her enjoyment of food was restricted. She was so surprised by her reaction and decided that it was time to dig deep to see where those feelings came from. While feelings are often complex and multifaceted, she remembered a time from early childhood. Whenever she misbehaved, as all children do sometimes, she was sent to her room without dinner and her parents behaved very coldly to her until they decided that they were finished punishing her. As she grew older, discipline turned to grounding and restriction. Anytime she had to restrict herself it brought up the angry child and rebellious adolescent big-time!


When she was recommended to go off of all sugar, bread and fermented foods for a period of time to heal her candida, suddenly Mary was PISSED! How DARE anyone tell her, a grown woman, what she can and cannot eat!!! Who does this doctor think she IS anyway??? In fact Mary hit the internet looking for evidence to refute her doctor’s diet restrictions! She actually ended up firing her first few doctors, yet her health issues persisted, because really, in order to heal she absolutely NEEDED to change her diet and lifestyle.


After the 4th or 5th doctor firing, and suffering with chronic vaginal yeast infections for quite a while longer, AND after she had exhausted all of the pharmaceutical options she showed up in my office. She told me she knew that she needed to address her rebellion around diet changes and began to work with a psychotherapist to further understand the origins of her issue. Once she became more conscious of her childhood wounds around restriction and discipline, she was better able to stick to the healing diet and her yeast infections diminished. The process was not linear, but once she got her inner adult to work out a deal with her inner adolescent, she was able to have some success.


The work around understanding the emotional relationship to food and health is complex and layered and rarely linear. In fact there were many twists and turns for Mary as she uncovered her connections to food and mood.


It is also fine if you don’t have your food thing all figured out. Several of my patients have come to me after trying several therapeutic diets because they aren’t yet finding the results that they had hoped for. This happens. Sometimes it takes a bit of a process to find what works for you AND it changes throughout your life.


“The truth shall set you free”.  Knowing where your feelings came from can allow you choice and awareness to change your patterns around food and eating. It takes time though. It is not a one time “Aha!”, usually more like a winding circular labrynth!


I have a practice that specializes in digestive health. I can work locally in Colorado or remotely. I work with people who live all around the world. If you are interested in working one on one with me, I offer a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to see if we are a good fit for each other. You can schedule that online here .  You can also call (303) 443-2206 to schedule M-F 9-5 Mountain time. If you want to jump right in, you can immediately schedule your initial visit. I hope to hear from you soon!

Therapeutic Diets: Which diet should I choose????

Therapeutic Diets: Which diet should I choose????


Are you confused about which therapeutic diet you should choose? You aren’t alone! With so many to choose from, it is no wonder that some people have a lot of trouble figuring out their diet and nutrition.


Kathryn  knew she wanted to change her diet to get healthier and maybe even lose a little weight, but she didn’t know how to go about it. She kept hearing about so many different diets and the more she read about it online, the more confused she became. While it is always best to work with a health practitioner such as a Naturopathic Doctor or a nutritionist when making a serious diet change so that you have all of the support you need, I wanted to break it down for you so that you have some idea which approach may be the best for your specific situation.




Many people seeking relief from chronic GI conditions will turn to diet modifications and a nutritional approach.   The bottom line is if you suffer from chronic health issues, you MUST address diet.  Gut bacteria can be modified and  nurtured through the diet, for better or for worse.  Most of these therapeutic diets restrict gluten,  grains and starches, at least for part of the diet, and at least for a time period .  There are many similarities and whichever one you choose to start with  will depend upon your individual goals, your  needs, your individual food intolerances and which one actually works the best for your body!


SCD (Specific Carbohydrate Diet)

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet was designed by the late Elaine Gottschall  MSc to help people with GI and inflammatory disorders.  It restricts certain carbohydrates such as grains and sugars that are difficult to digest and allows easily digested carbohydrates from fruits and vegetables.  The following foods are allowed on the SCD:

  • Vegetables (except canned)
  • Legumes (except the ones noted below)
  • Unprocessed meats, poultry, fish, and eggs
  • Natural cheeses (except those listed below)
  • Homemade yogurt fermented at least 24 hours
  • Most fruits and juices without additives
  • Nuts, peanuts in the shell, natural peanut butter
  • Oils: olive, coconut, soybean, and corn
  • Weak tea and coffee
  • Unflavored gelatin
  • Mustard and vinegar

The following foods are not a part of the SCD diet:

  • Sugars: lactose, sucrose, high-fructose corn syrup, fructose, molasses, maltose, isomaltose, fructooligosaccharides, and any processed sugar
  • All canned vegetables
  • All grains: anything made from corn, wheat, wheat germ, barley, oats, rye, rice, buckwheat, soy, spelt, and amaranth
  • Some legumes: chickpeas, bean sprouts, soybeans, mung beans, fava beans, and garbanzo beans
  • Starchy vegetables: potatoes, yam, parsnips, seaweed products, agar, and carrageenan
  • Canned and processed meats
  • Dairy: milk, milk products, ice cream, whey powder, commercial yogurt, heavy cream, buttermilk, sour cream, and the following cheeses: ricotta, mozzarella, cottage cheese, cream cheese, feta, processed cheeses, and cheese spreads
  • Canola oil, commercial mayonnaise, commercial ketchup, margarine, baking powder, and balsamic vinegar
  • Candy, chocolate, carob

The Specific Carbohydrate Diet eliminates dairy (except for a homemade yogurt) , grains, and other starches.  This diet usually frowns on raw vegetables and tomatoes as these can be hard for someone with a compromised digestive system to breakdown without a lot of gas and bloating.  If someone is having severe GI issues, then steps are often made to eliminate the raw vegetables and especially tomatoes (cooked or raw). The SCD is different from the other therapeutic diets that I will mention in that it allows legumes. Many of the other diets do not allow legumes as for some people they can exacerbate a GI condition. For many people legumes are fine and the SCD may be a good choice for those who choose to be vegan.


SIBO Specific Food Guide

Allison Siebecker, ND, who practices in Oregon  and works a lot with SIBO patients has created this handy guide specifically for SIBO patients.  She utilizes the SCD a lot and has modified it specifically for SIBO.

Here is a link to her online dietary  resource with a handy graphic:



Biphasic Diet


Another version of a therapeutic SIBO  diet is the Biphasic Diet by Nirali Jacoby, ND, a Naturopathic Doctor who practices in  Australia.

Here is the link which also includes some recipes:  




The FODMAPS diet is based upon the idea that Fermentable Oligosaccharides, Disaccharides, Monosaccharides and Polyols (FODMAPs) are found in the foods we eat. FODMAPs are sugars that are poorly absorbed in the small intestine and reach the large intestine where they produce gas and attract water.


 The FODMAPS diet was created in Australia and is often used for IBS and SIBO. The main concept is that these sugars, or FODMAPS, feed gut bacteria and can increase gas, bloating, diarrhea and constipation.  My main source of what is and is not allowed in the FODMAPS diet is GESA, or the Gastroenterological Society of Australia.  You will find many iterations on the FODMAPS diet on the internet, but the main source is on the link!



I like this chart in particular because it breaks down the foods which contain the individual sugars such as excess fructose, fructans, lactose, Galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) and Polyols.  I find that some of my patients eventually can tolerate some of the sugars, but not others once they heal.  Some strains of the gut microbiota may be more susceptible to overgrowth from one of the sugars, but not others.  The concept is that if treatment is successful that the patient can eventually add in certain foods again, depending upon his or her response.

Long term restriction of carbohydrates can effect the bowel flora and the balance of the microbiome, so it is important to eventually incorporate prebiotics which often include fructans and GOS into the diet in order to keep the microbiome in a healthy balance for healthy functioning of  neurotransmitters, the immune system and other bodily systems that need to be considered.


I use a version of the FODMAPS diet for SIBO and IBS in my practice. This is especially important when it is important to keep bacterial overgrowth to a minimum and it is usually very effective.


The Paleo Diet


The Paleo diet is based upon what our early hunter-gatherer pre-agricultural ancestral humans would have eaten.  Anthropological studies have shown that very early humans, if they managed to escape starvation, bacterial infections or accidents, lived a fairly long lifespan free of the chronic degenerative diseases that modern humans suffer from.  Remote modern day hunter-gatherer tribes eating their native diets enjoy good health free of these disease. After they are introduced to our modern Western diet they often succumb to the same chronic degenerative diseases that the rest of the modern world suffers from. Here is my handout that I give to my patients who are embarking on the Paleo Diet.


What is the Paleolithic Diet?

The Paleolithic diet is the way humans ate over 10,000 years ago- a time period before farming and processed foods.  It was the hunter-gatherer method of obtaining food for survival. The diet is rich in fiber, protein and healthy fats. It is low in processed foods, is filling and contains an ample amount of vegetables. There is usually no need to count calories or carbohydrate grams. The diet is good for fat- loss, blood sugar control and digestive health.

What foods can I eat on the Paleolithic diet?

  •  Meat, poultry, eggs, and fish – Ideally, grass-fed animals and wild fish
  •  Nuts and seeds- raw, nut butters (no peanuts)
  •  Fruits- all except bananas
  •  Vegetables- all
  •  Healthy fats- Coconut Oil, Olive Oil, Palm Oil
  •  Herbs & Spices
  •  Honey, Maple Syrup, Stevia

What foods are not allowed on the Paleolithic diet?

  •  Wheat and gluten containing grains
  •  Corn, barely, oats, rice, rye
  •  Processed soy- soy milk, protein powders, imitation meat made from soy
  •  Legumes- beans, peas, peanuts
  •  Dairy
  •  Oils- corn, soybean, safflower, imitation butter
  •  Sugar- sodas, fruit juices, high fructose corn syrup, agave, table sugar, artificial sweeteners (aspartame and sucralose)



The strict  Paleo Diet includes grass fed or organic meats and wild caught fish, veggies, tubers,  fruits, nuts, seeds, eggs, and natural oils such as olive or coconut oil.   That is it basically.  The main mistake I see people on the Paleo Diet making is that they are eating huge portions of the meat and a little big of veggies and fruit.  The proper way to do the Paleo Diet is to eat smaller portions of meat with large portions of veggies and fruits.

For those who have severe Autoimmune Disease, there is a variation on the Paleo Diet which is known as the Autoimmune Paleo Diet or AIP for short.  

The basic difference is that it removes nuts, seeds and eggs from the already restrictive Paleo Diet.  It can be useful to really control inflammation and antibody production in those who are severely autoimmune or in the midst of an autoimmune flare-up.  Because the AIP is even more restrictive than the plain old Paleo Diet,  a lot of creativity is needed to make this diet doable and not so restrictive. Here are a few links for AIP recipes:


The Ketogenic Diet


The ketogenic diet has been around for quite a while. It was originally used for children with epilepsy to control siezures and now is used for  a wide range of conditions such as weight loss, diabetes (diabesity), and even cancer. Research by Dr. Seyfried of Boston College has shown that it slows tumor growth since sugar and carbs feed cancer cells.


The ketogenic diet is based upon the idea that burning fat for fuel is preferable to burning sugar and carbs. The ketogenic diet has been shown to suppress inflammation and help the mind work clearer and supports increasing muscle mass. It is also an amazing way to lose weight when done under supervision.

There are many variations of the ketogenic diet out there. There are specific ones for epilepsy, cancer and other conditions. Some of the ketogenic diets are very “hard-core”.  I offer the Ultra Lite Food Plan for weight loss at my clinic, which is ketogenic in its function, and then there is the officially trademarked “Keto” plan which is a little bit different.


Here is some basic info on the ketogenic diet.

More information on the Ultra Lite Food Plan can be found here:



The GAPS Diet


The GAPS diet  (Gut And Psychology Syndrome) is often used to treat patients with autism, learning disabilities, psychological and behavioral conditions. It is based upon the premise that when your gut is wacky, you produce inflammatory Cytokines which affect the brain. Cytokines can contribute to and worsen brain fog, mood swings,  depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD and other conditions along the autism spectrum.  Many people have found that their conditions improve when following the GAPS protocol. The basis of the GAPS diet is paleo, again, but there is an intro period.  There is a lot of overlap and similarities with GAPS, Paleo, SCD, etc, because there are basic truths that in order to heal the gut lining you need to avoid carbs and grains and this will also help heal the gut lining, improve insulin metabolism, prevent diabetes and maybe even cancer. The GAPS diet is the work of Dr. Natasha McBride.  Here is her website for more specifics.

Kathryn was happy to receive some nutritional guidance from me. We ended up doing the Ultra Lite ketogenic diet together and she lost a few pounds, got rid of the chronic joint pain that was plaguing her ( a side benefint as she hadn’t mentioned it as a primary goal when we first met), and now has more energy and is sleeping better also.

I have a practice that specializes in digestive health. I can work locally in Colorado or remotely. I work with people who live all around the world. If you are interested in working one on one with me, I offer a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to see if we are a good fit for each other. You can schedule that online here .  You can also call (303) 443-2206 to schedule M-F 9-5 Mountain time. If you want to jump right in, you can immediately schedule your initial visit. I hope to hear from you soon




Healing GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)

Healing GERD (Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease)


Sally, 48, often felt a burning pain in her upper abdominal area after eating and received a diagnosis of GERD. After visiting  a gastroenterologist where she was told that it had nothing to do with her diet and she needed to be on a proton pump inhibitor indefinitely, (PPI), she scheduled an appointment with me. She felt there had to be a better way and she was correct!


GERD, or Gastroesophageal reflux disease, is a condition that causes pain and inflammation in the epigastrum, or the upper abdomen. It can occur during, or several hours after eating. GERD can cause severe pain and many GERD patients have mistakenly thought they were having a heart attack because the pain can radiate to the chest area. GERD can increase during pregnancy or from conditions such as a hiatal hernia. While GERD is not necessarly present with a peptic ulcer, many patients have symptoms of an ulcer so that is something that should be ruled out. In some people a bacteria called H. pylori has been found to be present in the digestive systems of people with GERD.


A holistic approach to treating GERD usually includes functional medicine testing such as Food Allergy Testing as well as stool and H. Pylori testing. Ruling out SIBO (Small Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth) which can sometimes have crossover and similar symptoms is also important. There are many different conditions that may cause the symptoms of GERD and having proper treatment is informed by doing the functional medicine testing so you can have an accurate diagnosis.


If for some reason you can’t get in to see a doctor soon enough, there are a few safe things that you can try that are simple enough and available over the counter. Deglycerinated licorice. Licorice root (Glycerrhyza glabra) which is not the candy, coats and soothes the mucous membranes of the stomach and the digestive tract, Not only can it be useful for pain relief, but it is also helpful for healing the mucous secreting cells of the stomach and the upper digestive tract. You can often find it in a chewable or a powder form and it is a well known herbal remedy for GERD, ulcers, gastritis and other conditions of the upper GI.


  1. Avoiding gluten. Gluten, for some reason, really does a number on the GI tract, including the lower GI tract in conditions such as Celiac disease and colitis. However, you may not have celiac, but be gluten sensitive, and still have digestive trouble (or other inflammation of your joints, brain fog, fatigue and other ills) and GERD is definitely one of the triggers. Gluten may not even come up on a food allergy panel because its reaction in the body is complex. Some researchers and clinicians even postulate that the glyphosates that are used as an herbicide for weed control (Roundup) are what is causing a lot of the health conditions that people are having with gluten. But we don’t really know yet what the real cause of the issues are. We do know that many people with GERD find relief once they remove gluten from their diet.
  2. Once you are able to do a food allergy test you may find that you have allergies to many other foods. Removing these foods and/or high FODMAP foods can also help lessen the symptoms of GERD.



GERD is usually what I call a “wastebasket diagnosis” (like IBS or Chronic Fatigue) and more of a description of the symptom picture rather than taking into account the cause of the condition. With Naturopathic and Functional medicine we determine the cause of your GERD symptoms and treat accordingly. This means that 2 cases with the same “GERD” diagnosis may be treated completely differently. I do not do “cookie-cutter” medicine as all of my treatments are individualized.


Sally and I worked together and discovered that her GERD was mainly caused by food sensitivities, and once we treated the root cause, and received support on changer her diet and treated the leaky gut, we were able to eliminate and heal her upper GI pain.


I have a practice that specializes in digestive health. I can work locally in Colorado or remotely. I work with people who live all around the world. If you are interested in working one on one with me, I offer a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to see if we are a good fit for each other. You can schedule that online here .  You can also call (303) 443-2206 to schedule M-F 9-5 Mountain time. If you want to jump right in, you can immediately schedule your initial visit. I hope to hear from you soon!


Lack of sleep affects gut health (and vice versa!)

Maria , 29, went through a very painful breakup 2 years ago and began having insomnia (trouble sleeping). Along with processing the grief through the loss of her relationship, she began to experience stomach pain and abdominal bloating. She had read that an imbalance in her gut could be contributing to her sleep issues, but she intuitively knew that for her it was the other way around. The sudden unexpected breakdown and the end of her relationship was the contributory factor to her gut health issues. And she is correct! Sleep and gut health inform and influence each other.



I have written before about gut health and the neurotransmitters produced as a result of that affects sleep, but did you know that a lack of sleep also affects gut health? Lack of sleep can influence cortisol secretion (the fight or flight hormone) and also influence insulin metabolism. Chronic stress, as I have written before, contributes to weight gain and the obesity epidemic is in part due to the availability of refined carbohydrates and increases in stress and lack of sleep.


Lack of sleep affects the composition of the gut flora. Gut flora affects neurotransmitter production as well, possibly contributing to increased levels of anxiety and depression. So it seems to be that alterations in the gut flora can cause a change in neurotransmitters which has an affect on sleep which further affects gut flora. A positive feedback loop of ill health!


Many of my patients report that they had no issues with anxiety or depression before they caught a stomach bug. Ever since the stomach bug they have felt unwell on a mental/emotional as well as a physical level. Conversely, many patients with anxiety, depression and sleeplessness also have concurrent digestive issues such as bloating, cramping, diarrhea, constipation and/or stomach pain.   Conversely when there is a lack of sleep perhaps due to anxiety or depression it will alter the composition of the gut flora.


Here are some scholarly research  studies on this.


Sleep, sleep deprivation and infectious disease: Studies in animals

 Sleep deprivation worsens inflammation and delays recovery in a mouse model of coliti

Sleep loss tied to changes in gut bacteria

This means that chronic insomnia and lack of sleep has a direct effect on inflammation and gut health as well as exacerbating autoimmune disorders due to an increase in cytokine levels when sleep levels are suboptimal. So while you are trying to find relief for your stomach pain, bloating, cramping, and other gut health issues, it is very important to make sure that your sleep is optimized!

I work at the Corca Sleep Center, an integrative sleep center. Along with working with gut health to improve sleep, we also work with sleep to improve gut health! The 2 go hand in hand and it is almost impossible to separate the 2 systems of the body, they are so intertwined!

 When Maria’s gut health improved after she and I worked together, her sleep also improved, which further encouraged her bloating, cramping and stomach pain to dissipate.

 If you are having sleep AND gut issues, my clinic may be a great fit for you whether you are local or live far away. This is especially true if you want to get off of the highly addictive prescription sleep aids or want to avoid them completely I can work with patients remotely in most places, and some patients even travel to Colorado to work with me and the sleep clinic where I work. If you are interested in working one on one with me, I offer a FREE 15 minute phone consultation to see if we are a good fit for each other. You can schedule that online here .  You can also call (303) 443-2206 to schedule M-F 9-5 Mountain time. If you want to jump right in, you can immediately schedule your initial visit. I hope to hear from you soon!

Why everything containing Folic Acid belongs in the trash!

Why you should throw EVERYTHING that contains Folic Acid in the trash!


Back in the 1990’s the discovery that folates could prevent neural tube defects in babies became the impetus for folic acid, an inexpensive form of folate, to be added to grain and cereal products as well as becoming a universal ingredient in prenatal vitamins and other dietary supplements. While this change did lessen the occurrence of neural tube defects, it also coincided with an increase in many health other conditions.


According to Dr. Ben Lynch, Director of the Seeking Health Educational Institute (website , over 44% of the population carries the MTHFR gene polymorphism, which can lead to having adverse reactions to plain old cheap folic acid. According to Dr. Lynch nobody should take folic acid because it is difficult to metabolize for almost everyone causing toxic byproducts from a complex array of biochemical reactions. These reactions can cause an increase in cancer risk and growth, autoimmune issues, and mood instability as well as a possible increase in birth defects in genetically susceptible individuals.


Dr. Lynch also has a theory (which is currently being researched ) that the increase rates of children born on the autism spectrum is connected to folic acid supplementation .   The spike in autism started to occur in the 1990’s when folic acid was added to many grain based items (breads and cereals) as well as ALL prenatal vitamins. Many if not most pregnant women in the developed world had extreme exposure to Folic Acid through universally prescribed prenatal vitamins. This has very important and severe repercussions as one can imagine!


So DITCH the folic acid, but not the folates! Healthy mixed dietary folates are a necessary nutrient in the diet and can be found in dark leafy green veggies such as kale, spinach, chard, and collard greens. This is the best way to get your folates. Through FOOD, not a supplement which may have been toxic to many people! Folates support the immune system, offer cellular protection, prevent neural tube defects, and help with serum lipid and inflammation control, whereas folic acid can increase cancer rates, can have a negative impact on neurotramsmitters affecting mood and mental/emotional stability as well as wreaks havoc on the immune system.


If you DO need more folates in your diet and need to supplement, make sure that you are using the bioactive form such as folinase, or L-5-Methylfolate. Even this form can have adverse effects if taken in too high a dose so be sure to work with a naturopathic doctor of Functional Medicine doc such as myself to make sure that you are dosing it properly and balancing it with the proper nutrients. Even taking too much L-5-methylfolate alone and out of balance with other targeted nutrients can cause mood instability and other issues. So ALWAYS work with a qualified practitioner!


Better yet, get the genetic test to see if you carry the MTHFr mutation and other SNPs which may cause wackiness in your biochemical pathways if you don’t take supplements in a proper balance for your unique biochemistry. MTHFr testing is also very important if you and your partner are planning to conceive. These tests are available at labs like Labcorp, but I usually recommend the 23andme genetic test or Strategene where you can analyze the raw data through special platforms that will show genetic markers!


If you would like to test whether you have the MTHFr mutation and determine the best supplement regimen for your individual needs, I am offering this service. This is useful whether you are currently working with me, have worked with me in the past but it has been a while since we have connected, or are brand new to my practice. If you have any questions, you can schedule a FREE 15 minute phone consult here at or go ahead and book your appointment with me to discuss your options. I am looking forward to hearing from you!

All about Cytokines!

What are Cytokines and what’s that have to do with me?

Stephanie, 47, spent most of her free time lying on the couch and spacing out. She knew that she should get up and be productive, but her mind and body weren’t supporting that right now. She was feeling incredibly fatigued and her mind just could not focus. All she could feel was guilt and shame for not finding the wherewithal to rouse herself to do all of those things on her list. She continued to ruminate on what a terrible person she was and how she would never amount to anything.

2 years ago Stephanie felt better. It was only after a stomach virus laid her low that the fatigue and brain fog symptoms began. It seemed odd to her that these symptoms came together. After all, what causes lassitude, brain fog and depression when it was just her stomach that had bothered her initially?

The answer to her question is Cytokines! Cytokines are chemical compounds that are produced along with inflammation. You probably recall how your mind felt woozy and foggy when you have experienced a fever. Most of us have at one point in our lives or another had a fever so you know that your brain felt groggy and thoughts perhaps weren’t clear. The same thing happens when your gut health goes wonky. When your gut has issues, it can cause inflammation throughout your entire body. (See these other blog posts of mine!) And when inflammation occurs, Cytokines are produced. Cytokines affect so many areas but they especially affect the brain. Many people I work with when they get “glutened” don’t notice gut symptoms right away or at all. What they do notice is a change in their mood. Perhaps more difficulty concentrating, memory issues, or more anxiety and depression. Or maybe they feel fatigued and just want to lie down and take a nap!

Cytokines have a strong effect upon neurotransmitters which can strongly influence mood. Once I help people calm their inflammatory reactions to certain foods and environmental stimuli they often feel calmer and happier as well because they are no longer triggering the wrong neurotransmitters. The main aim of treatment is to treat the inflammation. Stop the body’s inflammatory cascade and you help the brain too! How cool is that?

One of the main ways that I stop inflammation in the body is to treat the imbalances in the gut. Healing the gut is indispensible when your goal is to quell inflammation and it is also indispensable when you want to further heal mood and mental focus issues. The gut microbiome needs to be investigated and balanced, which can take a bit of time. Leaky gut needs to be healed and food allergies and sensitivities need to be identified and eliminated from the diet.

Stephanie and I worked together and identified and eliminated her food allergens from her diet. She had a major sensitivity to gluten (though not celiac disease) which caused her much lassitude. Concurrently we helped balance her gut flora while we got her on a fantastic leaky gut protocol!

Stephanie’s physical and mental energy slowly improved as well as her tolerance to some of her food allergens once we healed the leaky gut, which took almost a year of working together with diet changes and supplements.

If you would like help getting your Cytokine levels under control so that you are less inflamed, consider working one on one with me!  We can work one on one either in person if you are local, or long distance through video or phone, I am currently accepting new patients. You can also opt to have a FREE 15 minute phone consult with me to see if you and I are a good fit for each other! To schedule any appointment, you can do this online at or by calling my office (303) 443-2206 M-F 8:30-5 Mountain time to speak with my receptionist at the Corca Sleep Center. I hope to hear from you soon! Be well!

Unicorn Free Zone!

Why is the Starbucks Unicorn Frappacino even considered FOOD? I’m talking about that gooey blue, pink and purple shake drink that was so popular last week.  A  “Fun food” from a famous coffee company  which was marketed to kids and adults alike and saw huge sales.  I get the energy of celebration and fun that food offers, though if you have been following my work for any length of time, you probably know that I was appalled  that this sugary  junk food saw such huge popularity.  This article from Food Babe outlines what is in the Unicorn and why you should never drink it!  

With obesity, diabetes and cancer rates increasing exponentially, I just have to scratch my head on this one. Sure, the drink looked pretty and fun.  And those of us who are parents know that “Fun Factor” foods are kid magnets!

The great news is that some like-minded people came up with some alternative all natural version of it! Here are a few recipes you can try at home so that  your kids or the kid in you can enjoy a little bit of food fun without the toxic after effects.

Try this one instead! 

Or this one! 

Or even this one! 

Anything but the one from the coffee shop!

Now you and your kids can enjoy your all natural version of  this drink while building your health!

Are you needing holistic support for your health issues?  I would like to invite you to work one on one either in person if you are local, or long distance through video or phone, I am currently accepting new patients.  This is if we have worked together in the past but it has been a while since we have connected OR if you are brand new to my practice. You can also opt to have a FREE 15 minute phone consult with me to see if you and I are a good fit for each other! To schedule any appointment, you can do this online here or by calling my office (303) 443-2206 M-F 8:30-5 Mountain time to speak with my receptionist. Or schedule online here    I hope to hear from you soon! Be well!

Sleep, Stress and the Gut

Sleep, Stress and the Gut


 Are you losing Sleep? We live a very stressful time in the world these days. Lots of people are coming in for sleep and gut issues related to stress.  At the time of this writing, there is a lot of scary upheaval shaking many of us to our core . There is a lot of fear, anger, and anxiety floating around and it is hard to avoid.   It has been a challenge for me personally to figure out how to balance my usual nature of tranquility and optimism with the disturbing stories I am exposed to lately. It is also a challenge to stay engaged while also taking healing space for myself. As a Healer, I know that before I can be of service to anyone else, I need to root into my spiritual and self care tools to keep myself clear and balanced.   Meditation, yoga, getting out in nature and physical exercise has been a key part of my sanity. And allowing myself to have social time with my friends has also been crucial to my sense of wellbeing.


It is more difficult to heal when one is in survival or trauma mode. A lot of what is going on in the world right now seems to be pulling people outside of their healing process and into engaging in the world in some way. This is, of course, an important step to take, but it also seems for real self reflection to occur one needs to have a quiet internal space so that healing can really deeply occur. This includes sleep. It is hard to go deep into one’s own process when stress levels are elevated and sleep is elusive.

When there is a constant state of crisis going on in the world and outward activity of all sorts is required, we usually tend to neglect our bodies. We lose sleep, our cortisol levels skyrocket, our gut health is disrupted, decisions are made from the survival and fear center rather than from the heart center. Decisions made from that place are often fear-based and may not pan out well in the long term.

Many in my community are coming in a crisis and trauma state for acute issues, and putting the slower chronic issues on the backburner for now. A crisis state triggers the Sympathetic nervous system which is known as the “fight or flight” state, while the “rest and relaxation” state uses the Parasympathetic nervous system.

One of the first places I see the flares happening is with sleep. People are having more difficulty sleeping right now. I think this is because a lot of people have their Sympathetic nervous system in a state of high arousal at the moment. Sleep and stress are related since as cortisol levels become elevated under duress, sleep often goes out the window. Elevated cortisol triggers the fight or flight response. The fight or flight response keeps you on high alert in case you have to respond to a crisis. Sleep is challenged.  Often the first sign that all is not well in Dodge City is issues with sleeping. Whether that includes falling asleep, staying asleep throughout the night or early morning waking, when stress is increased, sleep suffers.


What to do if cortisol is elevated due to stress? What if I cannot do anything right now to change the reality of the situation? This is where mindfulness and stress management techniques can be critical for health. Meditation, yoga, breathing exercises, nature breaks are all important.


There are also many targeted non- drug supplements that can decrease cortisol levels so that help you sleep through the night without promoting sedation. Functional medicine testing can help me determine how far on the spectrum your stress or lack of sleep has affected you and how to remediate that. Not all supplements are equal and different stages of your condition require differing approaches.

Sleep issues can also be a result of poor gut health.

The gut is also known as the “Second Brain” Much great information has been written about this such as the GAPS Diet, Grain Brain, etc. When the Gut is out of balance due to disruptions in the microbiome (the bacteria that live inside our gut), or from Leaky Gut Syndrome (more about that here), Inflammation occur in the body. Inflammation triggers Cytokine production from the white blood cells. Cytokines are also produced when one has a fever, and you know how wonky your brain feels when you are feverish.   So imagine how a low level of inflammation produced by an imbalanced gut affects your neurotransmitters. This affects the brain as well as cognition. When cognition is affected, sleep and your REM cycles will also be affected.

Scientists have found that gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and GABA, all of which play a key role in mood (many antidepressants increase levels of these same compounds)

Getting proper sleep is extremely important to ones health as lack of sleep exacerbates psychiatric imbalances (anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, mood disorders), depresses the immune system and increases the risk of mistakes and accidents while driving. Overall, lack of sleep impairs performance much in the same way that having a few alcoholic drinks impairs cognitive and motor performance. Of course sometimes poor sleep cannot be avoided as when caring for a newborn , but then the mothers who are breastfeeding get the added protection of oxytocin which helps offset the lack of sleep one gets when caring for a baby.

  1. Manage your stress.If life is throwing a lot of challenges your way be sure to find healthy ways to de-stress. Yoga, meditation, exercise, massage therapy are often helpful tools to keep your neurotransmitters firing optimally. Which brings me to …
  2. GABA , gamma amino butyric acid is a neurotransmitter that is naturally secreted by the brain.GABA has a sedating effect on the body and is available in supplement form. This can be taken at bedtime but be sure to check with your practitioner for proper dosages.
  3. Warm milk and turkey contain the amino acid tryptophan which increases seratonin production.Seratonin is a mood elevator as well as a relaxer. Unfortunately tryptophan is no longer available in the United States as a supplement but its precursor 5-HTP is widely available.
  4. Avoid reading the news or watching TV or movies before bed.This can also stimulate the brain in ways that are not conducive to sleep.
  5. Peri-menopausal women who are experiencing sleep difficulty should also look at their relative estrogen/progesterone balance.Women with too much relative estrogen and not enough relative progesterone often experience sleep problems, especially right before their periods. Natural progesterone is more effective and has less side effects so consider a visit to check in about your hormone levels.
  6. Try and keep your bedroom exclusively for sleeping and sex.Reading, TV watching, working, computing in the bedroom can make it difficult to feel like you are retreating when you do everything else in the same room. An uncluttered soothing atmosphere can also improve sleep.
  7. A healthy diet lower in carbs and higher in proteins may also help to balance blood sugar and neurotransmitters as well as a lifestyle that includes regular exercise is also conducive to better sleep.
  8. If you must work the night shift, please keep it to a minimum and try to find a better job as the nighttime is the most active time for the liver which aids in cellular repair and detoxification.Patients of mine who work the night shift almost always find that their health worsens even if they get their sleep during the day.
  9. Sleep well my friends. Nighty -night!!!!

  Having trouble sleeping? I would like to invite you to work one on one either in person if you are local, or long distance through video or phone, I am currently accepting new patients. You can also opt to have a FREE 15 minute phone consult with me to see if you and I are a good fit for each other! To schedule any appointment, you can do this online at or by calling my office (303) 443-2206 M-F 8:30-5 Mountain time to speak with my receptionist at the Corca Sleep Center. I hope to hear from you soon! Be well!