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!


The Why and How of Autoimmune Diseases

Maryanne was diagnosed with 3 different autoimmune diseases. Her fingers ached as she typed her very first email to me.   Even a computer search was difficult because she had also had a bout with Iritis (inflammation of the Iris) along with fatigue because her thyroid was chronically sluggish from Hashimoto’s thyroiditis.


When she finally arrived at my office she had been suffering for many years and was taking several prescription medications for her various symptoms.

So where did I focus? So much going on! So much to do! So much to heal!


From Multiple Sclerosis to Lupus to Rheumatoid Arthritis, to Hashimoto’s, I have seen so many cases of various autoimmune disorders in my practice. What they all have in common is that they all improve when gut health improves.

So how does one improve gut health? By reducing inflammation, balancing the gut flora and healing leaky gut. Also by eating a therapeutic diet that reduces inflammation and antibodies in the body. This also helps to calm the immune system so that the body stops attacking itself.


Many epidemiologists are wondering why suddenly we are seeing more gut health issues as well as an increased frequency of autoimmune disorders. These both seem to be a burgeoning epidemic! And they are related. The answer may be due to a combination of changes to agricultural practices and the food supply as well as environmental pollution and toxic chemical use. Glyphosates (Roundup) use has been implicated in the increase in Celiac Disease, which is a gateway for concurrent autoimmune disorders. GMO’s require heavier pesticide use in order to thrive so with increased growth of GMO crops we are also seeing more concentrations of these pesticides in our food supply. Also, we have changed the protein make-up through agricultural cross breeding and hybridization. Our crops may be more drought resistant and more fungus resistant, but perhaps this has rendered the proteins in wheat, corn , soy and canola ( frequently GMO in origin) indigestible for a larger percentage of the population..


People who have compromised detoxification pathways due to the MTHFR gene mutation, other inherited tendencies, or other conditions will be more sensitive to various pesticides, herbicides and GMO foods. Grains are often a large trigger for autoimmune diseases as well as Gut conditions. Some people have also had so much exposure to environmental toxins such as pesticides that without a concerted effort to detoxify, an autoimmune disorder is almost inevitable.  It may be useful to test whether you carry the MTHFR mutation ( a large percentage of the population does!)


After just a few short months working together on her health, Maryanne had remarkable improvement with all of her autoimmune diseases. She had less pain and inflammation and was able to work more productively with longer periods of concentration. Her vision improved and she had much less pain in her hands. Her energy levels came up to levels she hadn’t had in decades. Her weight began to regulate as her hormones balanced. She continues to enjoy the improvements in her health! She was able to significantly reduce the dosages of her prescription medications too! Some of the medications she was able to completely discontinue which made everyone, including the prescribing MD, very happy!


If you have an autoimmune disorder and would like to get to the root of the problem, a functional medicine approach is often the best choice. We can explore the root causes of your chronic health concerns and formulate a comprehensive plan to get your life back!

My practice focuses on gut health! 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. I hope to hear from you soon! Be well!


How to Recover from the “Stomach Flu” or Enterovirus

How to Recover from the “Stomach Flu” or Enterovirus

Carolyn’s entire family got hit very hard during winter break this year with the “stomach flu”, and just this week over 1/3 of a certain school district in Illinois were felled by this nasty bug. A friend reported on Facebook that her flight was delayed because a sick passenger needed to get off the plane.   The “Stomach Flu” is actually Enterovirus or norovirus, since it is after all, not really a flu per se. First her young toddler came home after a holiday party and began vomiting and having diarrhea, and the illness slowly but surely tore its way through her family of five.

While conventional medicine will tell you there is nothing you can do to speed recovery but “wait it out”, there are actually many things you can do to recover faster.

  1. The homeopathic remedies Veratrum album and Arsenicum album often help with this year’s version of the enterovirus, especially when vomiting is accompanied by diarrhea. I have found Veratrum album to be more indicated this year. It literally stopped my own son’s case of “tourista” in its tracks as he was feeling ill on our way to the airport on a recent trip we took. In the United States, where I live, homeopathic remedies can be found at many natural food stores.
  2. Bone broth. This is the time to make bone broth, and if you are too sick to make some yourself, you can have someone pick some up already made for you. I like Kettle and Fire brand, or if you are local to a broth shop, like Fresh Thymes in Boulder, you can pick up some fresh bone broth there.   Or you can order online here

To make your own bone broth, which is the most cost effective way to go, here are some great recipes.

Also I recently sampled a powdered version of bone broth that I found at the Natural Food Store. It definitely needed            a little more flavoring, but it does the job and may be easier to keep around your house for a while without having it go          bad.

          Bone broth is a very healing nutrient dense food. Bone broth contains easily digestible micronutrients and                 minerals to help tissues to repair properly. This is very important when you have just suffered an acute GI                                 inflammation from a viral infection. If you are still feeling nauseated, take small sips as tolerated. Bone broth is also             vital for chronic GI issue recovery, too.

  1. Activated charcoal – this product is easily found in your local natural food stores. Not only does it bind and absorb toxins from your gut, but it also slows down the accompanying diarrhea that often goes along with the enterovirus.
  2. Curing pills is also very useful during enterovirus. These are a Chinese herbal medicine blend and are also often stocked in a Natural Food Store. This is an old Chinese formula designed specifically to shut down nausea,vomiting and diarrhea. And it usually works!
  3. Berberine – berberine is a botanical compound from the plant Berberis aquifolium, or Barberry, which has antibacterial qualities. It also has been shown to help eliminate the symptoms of enterovirus
  4. For nausea, I usually recommend teas which contain mints and/or ginger. These herbs have been shown in scientific studies to alleviate the symptoms of nausea from organic causes (such as pregnancy and viral infections of the GI tract).

Reintroducing foods

After a bout of the enterovirus, you want to slowly add in certain foods before you return to your normal diet. As much as I love bone broth, I also recognize that eventually you will want to supplement that with some real food. These are foods I recommend starting slowly with, as tolerated.

  1. Chicken or veggie soup – so this way you are adding in a few more culinary ingredients so that the broth has more nutritional value. I would stick with chicken and veggies ( no grains) in the beginning, or just veggies if you don’t eat meat. This will begin to add easily digested nutrients as well as bulk into the mix.
  2. Apple Sauce. This is a relatively easy to digest and absorb food, and it also contains soluble dietary fiber, which will help to bulk your stools out.
  3. Rice – after a bout of gastroenteritis, white rice (if you tolerate grains at all) will help solidify stools as well as being somewhat less allergenic than wheat as well as give you some physical energy since gastroenteritis can really leave you feeling drained.
  4. Toast. Due to the population I mainly work with, most of my community is gluten free. For those off gluten, a gluten free toast will do. If you are fine with gluten, any whole grain toast will do.
  5. Electrolytes. Remember, you lost a lot of electrolytes during that bout of illness. One of the main dangers of a bad bout of gastroenteritis is that one, especially children, can become dehydrated. This is why something like Recharge (a more natural Gatorade) or even Gatorade or Pedialyte is important for reabsorbing fluids and electrolytes which is vital to our physical health.
  6. Probiotics will also help replenish and balance the microbiome and gut flora which is vitally important after a diarrheal illness.

Prevention – Number one prevention is to keep your immune system healthy by staying well rested and nourished. Avoid sugar, caffeine, alcohol and other junk foods and get good sleep. Also if you are sick, stay home for at least 24 hours after symptoms dissipate to avoid spreading your illness. Wash your hands often, especially if you are in crowded public places much.

My practice focuses on gut health! 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. I hope to hear from you soon! Be well!

Taking the Plunge!

Healing is Risky!

Yep, that’s me! 

I waded through the cool water to the edge of the waterfall, the strong current rushing around  my ankles and calves as I peered over the edge.   One of our guides held me by the strap of my lifejacket and my red helmet was secured around my head.  I was about to slide down my first waterfall in the Dominican Republic.  Well, actually, my first waterfall ever!

How did I get here? Why on earth did I let my family talk me into this? These were the thoughts rushing through my mind as I was getting ready to make the jump.  But it was way  too late to turn back .  Behind me was a narrow slot canyon and ahead of me was that 30 foot waterfall!  Plus my sons were watching and I didn’t want them to think their mom was a wuss… so… I sat down, held my nose as the guide let go of my life jacket and I  took the plunge!

Often when we are about to make a big healing change, there is a fair amount of fear and anxiety involved. Because, after all, you are taking a risk! Fear of being vulnerable.  Fear of the unknown.  Fear of making the wrong decision.  Fear of failure…. The list goes on and on.  Even something simple like changing one’s diet for most people feels like a huge transition and not actually so simple.  Working with someone new can feel like a huge undertaking.   And for people who tend to “doctor hop”  the challenge and the new thing is to stay the course and listen to their practitioner’s advice.

This past year I have  undergone a lot of transformation in my worklife. I successfully  taught my first University level classes while maintaining my practice.  I have been writing more, ran my first webinars and am  slowly working on my book. And in a month I will be joining a new clinic! I last worked in a large group setting in 1999. I enjoyed working in a group setting back then, but it all  came to an abrupt and unexpected  end when the main MD  suddenly moved out of the clinic because  he was,  unbeknownst to us,  actually  bankrupt!  After that experience I decided to work in situations where I had total control  and so was a solo practitioner for many years.

Last fall an awesome opportunity presented itself to me, and so I am  taking the plunge and moving out of my one office comfort zone into an Integrative Sleep Clinic!  This process for me is exciting and a little scary! After all, I have been a one doc show for so long now, but my real wish was always  to be  part of an awesome collaborative team and I just knew intuitively that this was the right situation and it was time to take the plunge!

Jumping into those 7 waterfalls was symbolic of my own personal transformation.  Each time I jumped I had to trust that nothing bad would happen to my body.  That I would not injure myself or even die! And each time I hit the water and rose again to the surface to take my first breath I realized that I had made it! I did not die! I am still alive!

I suppose being born is a bit like this, though I  have no conscious memory.  Leaving the safety of the mother’s womb or the cocoon, to breathe on your own, to strange lights and strange sounds and learning to be embodied.

So yes, this past year has felt a bit like a gestation with a lot of work growing new cells  in preparation for even more growth in 2017!  So Happy New Years Everyone!

If you would like to work one on one with me to help with your  gut health, inflammatory,  autoimmune issues, or if you have worked with me in the past but it has been a while since we connected,   you can schedule an appointment online here or by calling my office at (303) 443-2206  M-F 8:30-5 Mountain Time to speak with my receptionist.  I also offer a FREE 15 minute phone consult so that we can both see if we are a good fit for each other. Be well and   I hope to hear from you soon!