Food for Thought Part 2: Four Foods that Harm the Brain

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


In Part 1 of this 2-part blog series, I discussed ten foods that support optimal brain function. In this blog, I’ll cover four types of foods you’ll want to avoid to promote the health of your most precious asset, your brain.  

Four foods that harm brain function

Just as there are foods you should eat to support the health of your brain, there are several foods you should avoid due to their harmful effects on neurological health. 

The Standard American Diet harms the brain 

First and foremost, avoid eating the Standard American Diet (SAD), a dietary pattern characterized by high intakes of refined carbohydrates, sugar, processed and packaged foods, and vegetable oils. Numerous studies indicate that the SAD diet, also referred to as a “Western diet,” contributes to neuroinflammation, depression, and anxiety. (1, 2) 

Sugar-sweetened beverages and refined carbs

Sugar-sweetened beverages, including soda and fruit juice, don’t do the brain any favors! The consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs) is associated with ADHD in children, an increased risk of stroke and dementia in adults, impaired memory and learning, and aggression. (3, 4, 5, 6) Maternal consumption of sugar-sweetened beverages during pregnancy may reduce childhood cognitive scores in offspring; a high intake of sugar during childhood may further impair cognition. (7) Finally, a high intake of dietary sugars promotes the formation of advanced glycation end products (AGE), compounds that damage many organs in the body, including the brain. In fact, AGE production may contribute to the development of neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease. (8) 

Trans fats 

Trans fats are a type of unsaturated fat produced during food processing and are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and diabetes. More recent research indicates that trans fats also harm the brain. The consumption of trans fats causes a chain of oxidative damage in the brain that leads to impaired memory, irritability, and aggression. (9, 10) Some of the most common sources of trans fats in the average diet include baked goods (cakes, cookies, pies), breakfast sandwiches, margarine, microwave popcorn, doughnuts, fried fast foods, and frozen pizza. 

Fish high in mercury

While seafood is generally great for the brain due to its high omega-3 fatty acid content, I recommend avoiding seafood that is high in mercury because mercury has neurotoxic effects. Prenatal exposure to mercury is associated with impaired cognitive performance in childhood. Environmental mercury, from sources such as high-mercury seafood, dental amalgams, and industrial pollution, likely plays a role in the development of Alzheimer’s and other neurodegenerative diseases. (11, 12)  

To select seafood that is low in mercury, I recommend you use EWG’s Consumer’s Guide to Seafood. Wild Alaskan Salmon, sardines, mussels, rainbow trout, and Atlantic mackerel are the highest-rated seafood by EWG due to their high omega-3 content, low mercury content, and sustainability. 

Now, I’d like to hear from you! Do you eat to support your brain health? Would you consider trying some of the brain-boosting foods I’ve discussed in this article! If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me here at The Pratt Clinics.


Food for Thought Part 1: 10 Foods that Support Optimal Brain Function

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


A growing body of research indicates that dietary factors profoundly influence our brain function and mental health. In fact, the foods that you eat may ultimately determine your mood, cognitive abilities, and whether you remain sharp into old age or succumb to neurodegenerative diseases.  In this two-part blog series, I’ll discuss ten foods you should consume and four foods you should avoid to support optimal brain function throughout your life. 

A healthy diet = a healthy brain

The health of the American brain has declined precipitously over the past few decades. Currently, 5 million Americans are afflicted with Alzheimer’s disease, and 1 million have Parkinson’s disease. Another 40 million American adults suffer from anxiety and nearly 20 million struggles with depression. What can we do to stem the tide of this brain health epidemic? While many factors are contributing to this epidemic, including air pollution and chronic stress, accumulating evidence indicates that diet is one of the most influential factors shaping our brain health. 

The gut and brain are closely linked by a collection of nerves and signaling molecules referred to as the “gut-brain axis.” I previously mentioned the gut-brain axis in my blogs The Gut Microbiota-Neurobehavior Connection Part 1 and Part 2). In these articles, I discussed how problems that begin in the gut, such as bacterial dysbiosis, can trigger neurobehavioral problems via the gut-brain axis. The foods that we eat also influence our gut-brain axes, and ultimately, our brain health, because they interact with our intestinal tissues and microbiota. A robust body of evidence indicates that a diet of processed, refined foods initiates pathological processes in the gut, including dysbiosis and leaky gut. Dysbiosis and leaky gut, in turn, trigger neuroinflammation and decrease levels of BDNF, a molecule that mediates neuroplasticity and cognitive function. Based on this evidence, it is not surprising that the consumption of processed, refined foods is associated with an increased risk of depression, anxiety, and Alzheimer’s disease! 

A healthy diet, on the other hand, creates a healthy brain. In fact, eating a healthy diet is one of the simplest and most profound steps you can take to reduce your risk of neurological and mental health disorders. There are a handful of “brain foods” that are especially beneficial for optimizing neurological and mental health. In this blog, I’ll discuss ten of my favorite foods for building a healthy brain. 

10 foods for a healthy brain


Berries are tasty little nutritional powerhouses that significantly boost brain function. The antioxidants in berries cross the blood-brain barrier and, once in the brain, scavenge free radicals and chelate harmful metals. The reduction of free radicals and toxic metals in the brain attenuates neuroinflammation, an underlying cause of neurodegenerative diseases, depression, and anxiety. 

Berries also improve brain health by modifying the gut microbiota. Researchers recently found that anthocyanins, a class of polyphenols in blackberries (and other red, purple, and blue plants), quench neuroinflammation by reducing LPS, a toxic compound produced by gram-negative gut bacteria that harms the brain, and by selectively enhancing the growth of beneficial Lactobacillus, Enterococcus, and Bifidobacterium species, which send anti-inflammatory signals to the brain via the gut-brain axis. Blueberries also have potent effects on the brain – the consumption of blueberries has been found to improve mood and cognitive function in children and adolescents, and boosts memory in older adults. Finally, ellagic acid, a polyphenol in red raspberries, inhibits the accumulation of misfolded amyloid-beta protein in the brain, a hallmark of Alzheimer’s disease, and reduces neuronal death and brain oxidative stress in animal models of neurodegenerative disease. 

Leafy greens

Eat your greens! It turns out that a higher intake of leafy greens, such as spinach, chard, and lettuce, is associated with a reduced risk of cognitive decline in old age. In fact, a recent study found that older adults who consumed 1-2 servings of leafy greens per day experienced cognitive function equivalent to someone 11 years younger, compared to those who ate no leafy greens! (18) Nutrients and phytochemicals in leafy greens, such as lutein, vitamin K, folate, and vitamin E, may inhibit cognitive decline by combatting oxidative stress, mitochondrial dysfunction, and neuroinflammation and by optimizing methylation. Aim to eat at least one serving (1 cup) of raw leafy greens, such as spinach, kale, collards, and lettuce, per day to support your brain health. 

Cacao and dark chocolate

Now, this is a brain health intervention I can get behind – eating cacao and dark chocolate enhances brain function and may prevent cognitive decline in aging! (19) One fascinating study found that eating 48 grams of 70% cacao dark chocolate (approximately ¾ of a standard chocolate bar) increased gamma waves in the brain; gamma waves are associated with enhanced cognitive processing, neuroplasticity, learning, and memory. (20) In addition to strengthening normal cognitive functioning, cocoa flavanols may also counteract cognitive decline and sustain cognitive function in patients with dementia. Cocoa flavonoids promote healthy brain function by exerting antioxidant effects, increasing BDNF, and improving blood flow to the brain. 

Generally, experts agree that eating around 30-60 g (1-2 oz) of dark chocolate per day is best for brain health. I recommend seeking out organic chocolate that has a high cacao content (70% or higher) and lower sugar content since excessive sugar intake is harmful to the brain.

Olive oil

Olive oil has been lauded for its many health benefits, including its association with reduced risks of heart disease and diabetes. However, it turns out that olive oil is also beneficial for the brain! In an animal study, dietary supplementation with extra virgin olive oil alleviated behavioral deficits and reduced the accumulation of amyloid-beta peptide and phosphorylated tau protein, misfolded proteins implicated in Alzheimer’s disease. In addition to inhibiting neurodegeneration, olive oil also boosts learning and memory and has anti-anxiety effects. (25, 26) Dr. Pratt and I do not recommend cooking with olive oil because high heat can denature the fatty acids in the oil, negating its health benefits. Instead, cook with coconut oil, avocado oil, ghee, and butter, and save olive oil for topping dishes after cooking. 


Now that it’s well-established that eggs don’t contribute to heart disease (there has historically been much debate on this topic due to misinformation about the relationship between cholesterol, found in animal foods such as eggs, and heart disease) consider adding whole eggs to your diet to support your brain health! Eggs are rich in choline, a vitamin-like nutrient that has many crucial functions in the body, including brain structure and memory. In fact, the consumption of eggs by infants improves biomarkers of brain development! 


It’s no coincidence that walnuts look like little brains! Walnuts are superfoods that support brain function in several ways, including improving memory, boosting cognitive function, and reducing the risk and slowing the progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Just 13 grams (approximately one handful) of walnuts per day is all you need to experience the cognitive benefits of this bona fide brain food. Try sprinkling chopped walnuts on top of a salad or roasted root vegetables. 

Omega-3 fatty acids

There are two groups of fatty acids that are essential for humans – omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids. The term “essential” means our bodies cannot make these fatty acids, so we must include them in our diets. Omega-6 fatty acids are abundant in the standard American diet, primarily in the form of vegetable oils and meat and dairy products from grain-fed animals. Omega-3 fatty acids, on the other hand, are found primarily in seafood, walnuts, hemp seeds, flaxseeds, and chia seeds, and are essential for healthy brain function. A high intake of omega-6 at the expense of omega-3 creates an elevated omega-6/omega-3 ratio in the body, a phenomenon that is an established risk factor for dementia, cognitive decline, depression, and anxiety. 

There are three types of omega-3s involved in human physiology, including brain function: Alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA and EPA are abundant in the cell membranes of neurons, and facilitate healthy communication between brain cells. These two omega-3s are also essential for infant brain development, learning and behavior in children, cognitive function in people of all ages, and healthy brain aging in adults. 

The richest food source of DHA and EPA is seafood. In fact, the consumption of seafood and fish oil by pregnant women is associated with higher scores for their children on brain function and intelligence tests in early childhood. High seafood consumption is also associated with a reduced risk of depression and healthy brain aging. However, this doesn’t mean you should go out and eat a bunch of cheap sushi or farm-raised fish; unfortunately, farmed seafood is high in man-made toxins and heavy metals, making it a less than healthy option for your body and brain. If you choose to eat seafood, I recommend selecting only wild-caught seafood such as wild Alaskan salmon, Atlantic mackerel, and sardines. You can refer to the Environmental Working Group’s Consumer Guide to Safe Seafood to learn which types of seafood are best to eat, and which you should avoid.

If wild-caught seafood is outside your budget, consider supplementing with a high-quality fish oil and eating plenty of the omega-3 ALA because ALA can be converted into EPA and DHA in the body. The best sources of ALA are plant foods such as hemp seeds, chia seeds, freshly ground flax seed (always be sure to store your flaxseed in the fridge to prevent oxidation of its delicate fats), and walnuts. 

Grass-fed beef

Grass-fed beef may strike you as an odd food to include on a list of “brain foods.” However, this unsuspecting item is a nutritional powerhouse that contains a plethora of brain-supporting vitamins, minerals, and fatty acids. Grass-fed beef contains twice as much omega-3 fatty acids (predominantly in the form of ALA, a precursor to DHA and EPA) as grain-fed beef. These omega-3 fats are used to create the membranes of brain cells. It also contains highly bioavailable heme iron, a form of iron found only in animal foods. Iron deficiency impairs early life brain development and attention span, intelligence, behavior, and emotional regulation in children and adults. (34, 35) Grass-fed beef also contains the spectrum of B vitamins and zinc, which are needed for normal brain function. One fascinating study found that beef consumption improved growth, cognitive, and behavioral outcomes in children, suggesting that high-quality beef deserves a place in your repertoire of brain-boosting foods! (36) 

Tea and coffee

Good news for coffee and tea lovers – your favorite beverage may reduce your risk of cognitive decline later in life! Coffee consumption has been found to reduce the risk of dementia while tea consumption lowers the risk of Alzheimer’s disease and general cognitive decline. To the degree you can, choose organic coffee; conventionally-grown coffee beans are one of the most highly pesticide-sprayed crops, and pesticide residues don’t do your brain any favors.  

Spices and herbs

Last but not least, the spices and herbs you use to add excitement to your food also deliver brain-boosting properties! Apigenin, a flavonoid found in parsley and thyme, promotes neuron growth and strengthens connections between brain cells. Cinnamon (my personal favorite) boosts the ability of the brain to utilize glucose, thus helping to combat brain insulin resistance, an important mechanism that contributes to neurodegenerative disease. 

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this blog series, in which I’ll discuss four types of foods you should avoid to optimize your brain health.If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me here at The Pratt Clinics.


EMFs: The Health Danger Hiding in Plain Sight

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


Our bodies interact with electromagnetic fields, physical fields produced by electrically-charged objects, continuously every day. While electronic technology has brought tremendous benefits, including enhanced communication and convenience, a growing body of research indicates that it also comes with some serious drawbacks – namely, adverse effects on our health. Read on to learn how electromagnetic fields (EMFs) produced by cell towers, smart meters, smartphones, and household wiring, just to name a few sources, detrimentally impacts our biology and what you can do to reduce your EMF exposure and protect your health. 

What are electromagnetic fields? 

We humans may be unable to see electromagnetic fields, but if we could, I suspect we’d be astounded! While electromagnetic fields occur in nature, the meteoric rise of electronic technologies over the past 150 years has exponentially increased our exposure to non-native EMFs, aka those with which humans did not evolve and thus represent a novel environmental pressure.

Electromagnetic fields (EMFs) are invisible fields of force that consist of electric and magnetic components and are produced by electrically-charged objects. (1) EMFs are organized on a spectrum based on their wavelength and frequency. Wavelength (measured in meters) refers to the distance between successive crests of an electromagnetic wave and frequency (measured in hertz) refers to the number of occurrences of an electromagnetic wave over a period of time. These two characteristics of EMFs can be viewed using a technique called spectroscopy. EMFs are organized on a spectrum based on their wavelength and frequency. There are many types of EMFs, ranging from those with a long wavelength and short frequency, such as EMF emitted from electrical outlets to those with a short wavelength and high frequency, such as X-rays and gamma-rays. 

As I mentioned above, EMFs do occur naturally on the Earth. In fact, the human body itself generates a weak electromagnetic field. However, emerging evidence indicates that man-made EMFs, such as those emitted by cell towers, smart meters, household wiring and appliances, and our beloved smartphones and iPads, interact adversely with our bodies, exerting unintended harmful effects on our health. 

The four types of EMFs that adversely affect our health

The kinds of EMFs that interact with our biology include radio frequency, magnetic fields, electric fields, and dirty electricity. While there are therapeutic applications of some of these EMFs – for example, certain types of magnetic and electric fields demonstrate promise in the treatment of cancer – an overwhelming body of evidence indicates that these EMFs also have the potential to cause serious physical harm. (2) 


Radiofrequency electromagnetic fields are produced by sources such as WiFi, cell phones, tablets, Bluetooth devices, smart meters, 5G technology, and microwave ovens.

Magnetic fields

Magnetic fields are produced by chargers for electronic devices, high-voltage power lines, electrical panels, homes with faulty wiring, and by electric currents running on gas or water pipes. 

Electric fields

Electric fields are produced by household wiring, ungrounded electronics, power strips, cords and chargers, lamps and lighting.  

Dirty electricity

“Dirty electricity” is a term used to describe the problems that occur when electrical power lines and wiring contain frequencies other than the standard 60 Hz electrical current that is standard in American buildings. These additional frequencies, which typically occur in the 300 Hz to 10 MHz range, radiate into your environment, where they interact with your body and cause adverse health effects. The typical causes of dirty electricity are CFL and LED light bulbs, solar panel inverters, dimmer switches, smart televisions, and chargers for electronics. 

Stay tuned for Part 2, in which I’ll discuss the problems with our current EMF safety standards! You may be surprised to hear that our smartphones, laptops, and other EMF-emitting devices have never been tested for long-term safety… This is one blog you won’t want to miss!  Any questions? Contact us at The Pratt Clinics.


Part 3: Treating Mold Illness

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


In Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series, I discussed sources of mold and mycotoxin exposure, the harmful effects of mycotoxins on your health, and how to test for mold exposure. In this third and final installment in the blog series, I’ll cover strategies for recovering from mold-induced illness. 

Clean up your living environment

The first step in recovering from mold illness is to clean up your living environment (or leave it) if it is contaminated with mold. If the mold problem in your living space is manageable, a qualified mold remediator can help you resolve the issue. I do not recommend attempting the remediation yourself unless you are a highly-trained remediator! Improper removal of mold can release more spores and harmful mycotoxins into your living environment, exacerbating (rather than alleviating) the problem.

If the mold problem in your environment is severe, moving may be the best option. This is typically the hardest, but most crucial step, in the recovery process. However, knowing that your health is on the line should be sufficient motivation to get out of the toxic, moldy environment and into a safe, clean one.

Even if your living environment is currently mold-free, there are steps you can take to prevent mold growth and mycotoxin contamination in the future. 

• Invest in a high-quality air purifier such as an IQ Air.
• Keep indoor humidity between 30 and 50 percent
• Ensure proper ventilation for showers, laundry, and cooking areas
• Make sure windows, roofs, and pipes are free of leaks 

Take binders

Binders are agents that bind mycotoxins in the gut and prevent them from being recirculated between the liver and intestine. Binders that are useful for removing mycotoxins include bentonite clay, activated charcoal, and chlorella. Since binders can interfere with the absorption of other medications and supplements, care must be taken when using them. I recommend working with a qualified healthcare provider who can guide you through the mycotoxin-binding process. 

Support your liver and gallbladde

Mycotoxins are circulated through the enterohepatic circulation, which refers to the circulation of substances between the liver and small intestine via bile. While bile production is insufficient, effective detoxification of mycotoxins cannot occur. You can support bile production and detoxification by taking bitter herbs such as those found in Quicksilver Scientific BitterX or Bitters #9. Alpha-lipoic acid, a precursor to glutathione (the body’s “master antioxidant”) and liposomal glutathione can further promote detoxification of mycotoxins. 

Take omega-3 fatty acids

Omega-3 fatty acids assist in mold illness recovery by reducing inflammation. I recommend consuming 2-3 servings of wild-caught, fatty cold-water fish per week, such as wild Alaskan salmon and mackerel. Supplemental omega-3 fatty acids may also be needed; in this case, I am a fan of Xymogen Omega MonoPure, which contains EPA and DHA, the omega-3 fatty acids with the strongest anti-inflammatory effects. 

Take probiotics

Certain species of probiotics bind mycotoxins in the GI tract and can thereby help detoxify the body of mycotoxins. Look for a high-quality probiotic containing Lactobacillus rhamnosus, Propionibacterium freudenreichii. Lactobacillus casei, and/or Lactobacillus rhamnosus.

Use a sauna

Sauna has been traditionally used by many cultures to facilitate detoxification and promote optimal health. Ochratoxin has been found in human sweat, suggesting that sauna therapy may be useful for lowering one’s mycotoxin load. I recommend using either a dry heat radiant sauna, such as a Finnish sauna, or a full-spectrum infrared sauna such as the Clearlight sauna. Humid saunas can be harder for mold-affected people to tolerate, in my experience. 

Eat a low-mold, anti-inflammatory diet

Mold-containing foods to avoid:

• All types of cheese
• Vinegar and foods preserved in vinegar: Salad dressings, mustard, olives, white vinegar
• Sour cream, sour milk, buttermilk, yogurt
• Alcoholic beverages: Beer, wine 
• Sourdough bread
• Sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables
• Preserved meats: Jerky, smoked meats, smoked fish, sausages, corned beef, ham, bacon
• All dried fruits (unless you dehydrate them yourself at home): Raisins, apricots, cranberries, figs, prunes
• Canned juice
• Canned tomatoes 

If you still want to include wine in your low-mold diet, I suggest trying Dry Farms Wines. The company meticulously tests their wines for mycotoxins as well as many other contaminants, including pesticides and gluten. For a low-mold source of coffee, I highly recommend Bulletproof Upgraded coffee. It is also meticulously tested for mold contamination and is guaranteed to be free of mycotoxins. 

Now that you’ve cut out a bunch of foods, what exactly can you eat on the low-mold diet? There are plenty of delicious, healthy foods that you can include on the low-mold diet. 

• Organic, pastured animal meats and poultry, and wild-caught fish: Choose grass-fed meat and pastured poultry because meat from grain-fed animals can be contaminated with mycotoxins that were present in animal feed.  
• Non-starchy vegetables: Broccoli, kale, cauliflower, kale, brussels sprouts, chard, onion, leek, garlic, asparagus
• Moderate amounts of starchy vegetables: Potato, sweet potato, turnip, rutabaga, parsnip, squash
• Low-sugar fruits: Apples, berries
• Raw or soaked/sprouted nuts and seeds (except peanuts, which are high in aflatoxin)
• Healthy fats: Olive oil, coconut oil, pastured organic tallow and lard, duck fat, ghee, butter

• Small amounts of gluten-free grains, if tolerated: Brown rice, wild rice, quinoa

In addition to the foods I just mentioned, you may also want to include some functional foods that have demonstrated protective effects against mold and mycotoxins. Cocoa (yes, the main ingredient in chocolate!) has been found to reduce free radical production induced by mycotoxin exposure. The polyphenol luteolin, found in fresh herbs such as oregano, sage, and thyme, inhibits the cytotoxic and DNA-damaging effects of mycotoxins. Finally, chlorogenic acid – found in apples, pears, sweet potatoes, and coffee – and caffeic acid – found in artichokes, apples, berries, pears, and wine (low-mold wine, of course) – also reduce the toxic effects of ochratoxin. Adding these foods to your diet may further fortify your body against the harmful effects of mold and mycotoxins. 

I’d love to hear from you. Has mold or mycotoxin exposure adversely affected your health? What strategies have you used to recover? Contact us at The Pratt Clinics.


Part 2: Mycotoxin Health Effects and How to Test for Mold

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


In Part 1 of this blog series, I discussed the routes by which people are exposed to mold and mycotoxins. In this post, I’ll explain the effects of mycotoxins on the body and how to test for mold and mycotoxin exposure.

How do mycotoxins affect the body?

Mycotoxins are generally quite toxic to humans and other animals. They adversely affect multiple body systems, including the respiratory tract, gut, liver, kidneys, brain, and immune system. 

Mycotoxins affect the lungs and sinuses

Some of the most commonly recognized symptoms of toxic mold exposure are respiratory ailments, including asthma, pneumonitis (inflammation of the alveoli of the lungs), and chronic fungal rhinosinusitis. Mycotoxins irritate the respiratory system by inducing a harmful immune response in respiratory tissues and by exerting toxic-irritant effects. If you are struggling with an unexplained chronic cough, chest tightness, or chronic nasal congestion, it may be time to investigate whether your living environment is a source of mold.  

Mycotoxins harm the gut

Recent research indicates that mycotoxins have a vast array of effects on the gut. While human gut microbes can bind and metabolize mycotoxins to a degree, they may not be able to keep up with continuous mycotoxin exposure. Furthermore, pre-existing gut dysbiosis impairs the body’s ability to eliminate mycotoxins and may cause a more severe response to environmental mold and mycotoxins. 

Repeated exposure to mycotoxins reduces beneficial gut bacteria and enhances the growth of pathogens. Ochratoxin reduces beneficial Lactobacillus reuteri and Bifidobacteria and increases enterotoxigenic E. coli and facultative anaerobes, some of which are pathogenic. Mycotoxins also increase susceptibility to gastrointestinal parasites. 

Mycotoxins also increase intestinal permeability, degrade intestinal villi (the sites of nutrient absorption in the intestine) and generate reactive oxygen species that are cytotoxic to intestinal cells. (8, 9, 10) Clearly, mycotoxins can do quite a number on the gut! 

Mycotoxins harm the brain 

Mycotoxins increase the permeability of the blood-brain barrier, damage the endothelial cells that line cerebral blood vessels, reduce neuronal mitochondrial function, and promote persistently high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines (immune system molecules) in the frontal brain region; these changes cause brain inflammation and impair brain function. Strikingly, neuropsychological testing has revealed that mold and mycotoxin exposure causes impairments in brain function similar to those seen in traumatic brain injury! It also impairs balance, reaction time, and color discrimination, decreases memory and executive functioning, stimulates “brain fog,” and may contribute to the development of autism and Alzheimer’s disease. 

Hormonal effects

Mycotoxins produced by Fusarium and Alternaria fungi have potent estrogenic effects; they compete with the hormone estrogen for binding locations on estrogen receptors, resulting in changes to the female reproductive system and infertility. 

Mycotoxins may provoke autoimmune disease 

Mold-exposed individuals demonstrate high levels of neural autoantibodies, indicating an increased risk of autoimmunity in the brain and nervous system. Mycotoxins may provoke the development of autoimmune disease by modulating the intestinal immune system. 

Mycotoxins are associated with chronic fatigue syndrome

A 2013 study found that of 112 patients with an established diagnosis of chronic fatigue syndrome, 93% of the patients tested positive for at least one mycotoxin in their urine. Health questionnaires indicated that 90% of the patients had current and/or past exposure to a water-damaged environment. 

Mycotoxins promote cancer growth

Mycotoxins are lipophilic (“fat-loving”) which means they can easily cross lipid-based cell membranes. Once inside cells, mycotoxins interact with nuclear DNA, causing mutations that increase the risk of cancer. The most carcinogenic mycotoxins appear to be aflatoxin, ochratoxin, and sterigmatocystin, a mycotoxin produced by Aspergillus. Cancer suppressor genes, such as P53, BRCA1, and BRCA2 are particularly affected by mycotoxins. Zearalenone and aflatoxin promote cell growth and cell-cycle progression in breast cancer cells and may thereby support breast cancer growth. Mycotoxin exposure is known to cause liver, urinary tract, and lung cancer and may cause intestinal and esophageal malignancies as well. 

Assessing your environment 

If you suspect you have mold illness, the first step is to test your home and work environments for mold. It is impossible to recover your health if you continue to expose yourself to a water-damaged, mold-filled environment. Hire a reputable mold inspection company and have them do an ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness Index) test in your home. This test uses mold-specific quantitative polymerase chain reaction (MSqPCR) to identify and quantify molds in indoor environments from samples of settled house dust. Some people choose to use another test called HERTSMI, but this test only looks at 5 molds, whereas ERMI looks at 36 molds. HERTSMI is more frequently used to determine if a building is safe for reentry after mold remediation. This helpful article provides a comprehensive list of questions to ask a mold inspector before booking an appointment, to make sure he or she is qualified for the job. 

Genetic testing for mold susceptibility

As I mentioned earlier, variations in the HLA-DR gene prevent the body from recognizing mycotoxins as “bad,” and thus predispose individuals to mold-induced illness. Approximately 25% of the population has a variant and is susceptible to mold illness. Identifying whether you are a carrier of the HLA-DR variation can be useful because your healthcare provider can use the information to create a more intensive treatment approach. 

Determine your body burden of mycotoxins

There are two tests available to assess your body’s mycotoxin burden: The Real Time Labs mycotoxin test and Great Plains Laboratory’s GPL-MycoTox. Both tests are urine tests. The Real Time Labs test screens for 15 different mycotoxins with a testing methodology called ELISA. ELISA is the only mycotoxin testing method approved by the USDA and FDA. The results of the test tell whether a mycotoxin is present or not or equivocal, with an amount expressed in parts per billion (ppb). ELISA is only testing method approved by USDA for mycotoxin testing

The GPL-MycoTox, on the other hand, screens for 11 different mycotoxins using a technique called mass spectrometry. GPL-MycoTox is less expensive than Real Time Labs test; however, mass spectrometry but cannot detect modified mycotoxins and is not approved by the USDA or FDA. 

No matter which test you use, you need to provoke mycotoxin release before collecting urine; this will provide a more accurate reflection of your body burden of mycotoxins than an unprovoked test. The best way to provoke mycotoxin release is by taking liposomal glutathione or using an infrared sauna at least a few hours before doing the urine collection. 

Stay tuned for Part 3 of this blog series, in which I’ll cover strategies for helping your body recover from mold and mycotoxin exposure.  

If you need more information or help with your overall health, contact us at The Pratt Clinics.


Part 1: All About Toxic Mold Illness

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


Part 1: All About Toxic Mold Illness 

Have you ever walked into a building and been hit by a strong musty odor? While many people find this smell to be disagreeable, few realize that it is a sign of a far more severe problem – indoor mold growth. Indoor mold growth has significant adverse effects on our health. In fact, the scientific and medical communities now understand that exposure to indoor molds can have toxic effects on the respiratory and gastrointestinal tracts, liver, kidneys, and brain. Illness induced by toxic mold exposure is frequently called “mold illness” or, more technically, chronic inflammatory response syndrome (CIRS). In this blog series, I’ll discuss the sources and health impacts of toxic mold exposure, how to assess your living and work space for mold growth, and strategies for healing your body if you’ve been exposed to harmful molds in your environment. 

What is mold illness? 

Mold illness is an inflammatory condition in the body caused by exposure to mold and mycotoxins. It is a subcategory of Chronic Inflammatory Response Syndrome (CIRS), an inflammatory illness first identified by Dr. Ritchie Shoemaker that is induced by exposure to water-damaged environments containing toxigenic organisms and their byproducts. While CIRS can be triggered by a variety of toxigenic microorganisms and byproducts, including fungi, bacteria, actinomycetes, mycobacteria, endotoxins, beta glucans, mycotoxins, and volatile organic compounds, fungi and mycotoxins are the primary culprits in mold illness.

What exactly are mycotoxins? Mycotoxins are natural products produced by fungi that evoke a toxic response when introduced to the body through food, inhalation, and skin exposure. While over 300 types of mycotoxins have been identified, I will repeatedly refer to a select few in this blog, including ochratoxin, aflatoxin, trichothecenes, zearalenone, fumonisins, gliotoxin, patulin, and citrinin. 

Why do some people get sick from mold and others don’t?

Curiously, some people are severely impacted by mold exposure while others either recover quickly or are not affected at all. Genetics and gut health are responsible for this disparity. A genetic variation in the HLA-DR gene predisposes approximately 25 percent of the population to mold-induced illness; the genetic variation makes affected individuals unable to produce antibodies in response to mycotoxins. As a result, mycotoxins cannot be deactivated and removed and are instead stored in the body, particularly in fat tissue. 

An individual’s gut health also affects his or her response to mold and mycotoxins. Pre-existing gut dysbiosis and inflammation reduce the body’s ability to withstand mycotoxins; therefore, individuals with gut issues are more likely to be adversely affected by mold and mycotoxins. 

Sources of mold exposure 

The majority of mold and mycotoxin exposure occurs through airborne exposure in water-damaged buildings and food ingestion. 

Water-damaged buildings 

In the U.S. alone, 43 percent of buildings have current water damage, and 85 percent have past water damage; these figures indicate that mold and mycotoxin exposure is likely far more common than we might expect. Damp wood fiberboard, wallpaper, carpet, ceiling tiles, gypsum wallboard, and A/C and heating ducts are prime locations for mold growth inside buildings. Types of toxic molds that grow in indoor environments include Cladosporium, Penicillium, Alternaria, Aspergillus, and Stachybotrys chartarum. These fungi produce a variety of toxins, including the following mycotoxins: 

• Ochratoxin: Ochratoxin exposure occurs via inhalation of mycotoxin-laden air in water-damaged buildings. 
• Trichothecenes: These mycotoxins are common in water-damaged buildings and are produced by the infamous “black mold,” Stachybotrys chartarum. 
• Sterigmatocystin: This mycotoxin is a precursor to aflatoxin and is produced by Aspergillus, Penicillium, and Bipolaris fungi. It is commonly found in building materials from water-damaged buildings. 
Fumonisins, gliotoxin, patulin, and citrine are immunosuppressive, carcinogenic, nephrotoxic (toxic to the kidneys), and neurotoxic mycotoxins that may be found in water-damaged buildings. 

Mold needn’t be visible to cause problems. It frequently grows inside walls and other well-hidden places. As I mentioned earlier, the telltale sign of indoor mold growth is a pungent, musty odor. However, this odor is more noticeable to some people than others, and its absence doesn’t necessarily mean that a building is mold-free. My rule of thumb is if your home or workplace has experienced water damage at any point, then it may be a source of toxic mold and warrants assessment by a qualified mold inspector. 


Mycotoxins aren’t found just in water-damaged buildings; they are also present in many foods. The most common mycotoxins that occur in food include aflatoxins, ochratoxins, fumonisins, patulin, zearalenone, and trichothecenes. A shocking 25 percent of the world’s crops, including grains, nuts, wine, spices, and coffee, accumulate mold and mycotoxins in the field and during harvesting, storage, and transportation. Corn is the crop most susceptible to mycotoxin contamination, whereas rice is the least. Mycotoxins in grain-based animal feed pose an additional concern, as their consumption by cattle, pigs, chickens, and other animals can lead to mycotoxin contamination in animal-derived products consumed by humans, such as meat, dairy products, and eggs. The mycotoxins most commonly found in food include:

• Aflatoxin: Aflatoxins are produced by Aspergillus fungi. They represent some of the most carcinogenic substances in the environment and commonly contaminate corn, wheat, rice, peanuts, sorghum, pistachios, almonds, tree nuts, figs, cottonseed, and spices. Milk from grain-fed cows can also be contaminated with aflatoxin. 
• Ochratoxin: Ochratoxins are produced by Aspergillus and Penicillium fungi. Ochratoxins are found in corn, wheat, barley, flour, coffee, rice, oats, rye, beans, wine, grape juice, and raisins. Like aflatoxin, they can also contaminate animal feed and, subsequently, meat and milk. Coffee and wine are considered the primary contributors to human ochratoxin intake. 
• Zearalenone: Zearalenone is an estrogenic (mimics the hormone estrogen) mycotoxin that frequently contaminates corn, wheat, barley, sorghum, and rye. 
• Fumonisins: Fumonisins contaminate approximately 80% of all harvested corn in the United States. However, due to their unique chemical structure, there is little to no carryover of fumonisins from cattle fed fumonisin-containing feed into meat or milk. 

Unfortunately, food processing doesn’t neutralize mycotoxins, as most are thermally stable during boiling, baking, frying, roasting, and even pasteurization. People with mold illness may need to follow a low-mold diet to accelerate their recovery. Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3, in which I’ll discuss the health effects of mycotoxins, how to test for mold, and what you can do to promote recovery from mold-induced illness. 

If you need more information or help with your overall health, contact us at The Pratt Clinics.


14 Reasons to Add Broccoli Sprouts to Your Diet (PART 3)

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


If you’ve read Part 1 and Part 2 of this blog series, then you already know that broccoli sprouts offer an abundance of health benefits. In this final post, I’d like to share six more health benefits of broccoli sprouts and provide you with information about how to grow your own sprouts at home. 

Alleviates asthma and lung inflammation

Sulforaphane may be a useful preventive agent and treatment modality for respiratory diseases. It relieves bronchoconstriction in asthma by upregulating Nrf2, a molecule that regulates the body’s production of antioxidants and protects against oxidative stress and inflammation, two factors that contribute to the pathogenesis of asthma. Sulforaphane also protects alveolar epithelial cells, the cells that compose our lungs, from cigarette smoke and air pollution-induced injury.

Protects skin from UV damage

Fascinating research indicates that sulforaphane acts like an internal “sunscreen!” It protects skin from UVA radiation, a type of radiation that extends deep into the dermis of the skin and can lead to premature skin aging, wrinkling, and suppression of the immune system. Sulforaphane induces these skin-protective effects by upregulating Nrf2, which as I previously mentioned, is a potent regulator of antioxidant pathways in the body. 

Anti-cancer activity

Perhaps one of the most exciting applications of broccoli sprouts and sulforaphane is in the prevention and treatment of cancer. Sulforaphane modulates biochemical signaling pathways that induce apoptosis (programmed death) of cancer cells and inhibits metastasis and angiogenesis, the spread of cancer cells and the development of new blood vessels for facilitating cancer growth, respectively. It has anti-cancer activities against cervical, breast, bladder, renal cell carcinoma, lung, colon, and prostate cancer. Sulforaphane also potentiates the effects of the chemotherapy agents cisplatin and doxorubicin while simultaneously reducing their toxicity. This means sulforaphane may be used in conjunction with conventional cancer treatments.

Improves heart health

Sulforaphane promotes a healthy heart and circulatory system! It reduces blood pressure, inhibits platelet aggregation in blood vessels, improves endothelial function, and protects against atherosclerosis. It also lowers low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, the form of cholesterol that is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease when elevated. 

Combats obesity

Chronic inflammation is an underlying cause of obesity; conversely, correcting inflammation can facilitate weight loss and normalize the metabolic disturbances associated with obesity, including insulin resistance and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease. A recent study found that glucoraphanin, the precursor to sulforaphane, mitigates obesity through several mechanisms: It increases mitochondrial biogenesis in fat tissue, thereby increasing metabolic function; improves glucose tolerance and insulin sensitivity; and decreases levels of a pro-inflammatory bacterium (Desulfovibrionaceae) associated with metabolic dysfunction.

Promotes bone health

Osteoporosis is increasingly being recognized as an inflammatory disease influenced by epigenetic factors such as diet and lifestyle choices. Research indicates that sulforaphane epigenetically modifies bone homeostasis and may thus be a useful intervention for preventing and treating osteoporosis. In animal studies, sulforaphane stimulates the activity of osteoblasts, the bone-building cells of the body, and decreases the activity of osteoclasts, the bone-degrading cells in our bodies, by activating the Nrf2 anti-inflammatory pathway. These changes result in higher bone volume, a feature inversely associated with osteoporosis. 

How to grow your own broccoli sprouts 

The health benefits of broccoli sprouts appear to hinge on the regular consumption of them; in other words, broccoli sprouts are not a “quick fix” treatment but rather something you should incorporate into your daily life. While there are several broccoli sprout/sulforaphane supplements on the market, growing your own broccoli sprouts at home is far more economical and can also be quite fun! There are just a few supplies you’ll need to get started growing your own sprouts:

• Ball glass jars (quart size)
• Sprouting lids (these jar lids have a mesh top, rather than solid metal, that allows the sprouts to breathe)
• Sprouting stands (these will enable you to invert the jars as the sprouts are growing so water can drain out) 
• Organic broccoli seeds
• Filtered water

You can find these supplies at


• Add two tablespoons of broccoli seeds, such as Food to Live Organic Broccoli Seeds, to a wide-mouthed glass quart jar. Cover with a few inches of filtered water and cap with the sprouting lid. Store in a warm, dark place overnight.
• 8 hours later, drain off the water and rinse with fresh water. Drain the fresh water.
• Place the sprouting jar upside down at a 45-degree angle on a sprouting jar stand. Place in sunlight. 
• Rinse and drain the sprouts every 8 hours for approximately 5 days, or until the leaves are dark green. 
• Once the sprouts are dark green, they are ready to eat! I recommend tossing them into salads and wraps. You can store the sprouts in a mason jar with a standard lid in the fridge.

The exact dosage of broccoli sprouts needed to obtain health benefits is not definitive. However, I did a little math based on the results of several studies (I’ll spare you the details!) and have determined that you likely need to eat around 100 g per day of broccoli sprouts per day to experience therapeutic benefits. To ensure that you are getting the right amount of broccoli sprouts, I suggest buying a small food scale for measuring the sprouts. 

Eating broccoli sprouts is a safe, effective, nontoxic, low-cost way to boost your health and reduce your risk of many health conditions. I hope this article has convinced you to give broccoli sprouts a try! If you have ever tried broccoli sprouts before or are considering trying them, let me know in the comments below. I’d love to hear your thoughts

Broc Sprouts Close-up

14 Reasons to Add Broccoli Sprouts to Your Diet (PART 2)

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


In Part 1 of this blog series, I discussed the benefits of sulforaphane in the treatment of neurological and neuropsychiatric conditions, including autism, traumatic brain injury, neurodegenerative diseases, depression, and anxiety.

In Part 2, I cover the effects of sulforaphane on detoxification, pathogenic bacteria, and the immune system. 

Promotes detoxification

The plethora of environmental toxins to which we are exposed daily means we could all use some extra assistance with detoxification! Fortunately, broccoli sprouts and sulforaphane can help. Sulforaphane induces phase 2 liver detoxification, the stage of liver detox that converts toxic metabolites into less-toxic compounds, which are then excreted by the body. It dramatically increases glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant and detoxifier, and promotes the rapid and sustained detoxification of environmental pollutants, such as benzene and acrolein. Finally, sulforaphane also decreases the liver enzymes ALT, ALP, and gamma-GTP, indicating that it reduces stress on the liver and restores healthy liver function. 

Antibacterial effects

Sulforaphane has antimicrobial effects against a wide range of human pathogens. It inhibits the growth of both normal and antibiotic-resistant strains of Helicobacter pylori, a bacterium that infects the stomach and contributes to the development of peptic ulcers. Sulforaphane also eradicates E. coli, another gastrointestinal pathogen; Pseudomonas aeruginosa, a nosocomial pathogen found in hospitals; and Staphylococcus aureus, a bacterium implicated in a vast range of illnesses such as skin infections, pneumonia, and toxic shock syndrome. (6) The antimicrobial effects of sulforaphane appear to be related to its inhibitory effects on bacterial signaling, referred to as “quorum sensing;” essentially, it prevents bacteria from communicating with each other and altering their gene expression so that they can no longer evade the host immune system.  

Alleviates autoimmunity

Currently, 50 million Americans suffer from an autoimmune disease. Unfortunately, the conventional treatments for autoimmune (AI) diseases are primarily palliative and limited to drugs and surgery. There is a pressing need for novel treatments that correct the underlying causes of AI disease. Excitingly, sulforaphane has demonstrated promising effects in the alleviation of autoimmunity! It suppresses pro-inflammatory cytokines and autoreactive immune cells that precipitate autoimmune attacks. While clinical trials in humans are lacking, this research suggests that sulforaphane beneficially alters the autoimmune disease process, making broccoli sprouts one food I would recommend to just about anyone with an autoimmune disease! 

Boosts the immune system 

Sulforaphane doesn’t just alleviate autoimmunity; it also strengthens the immune system, when necessary. Research indicates that sulforaphane stimulates the activity of natural killer cells to clear the body of the influenza virus. It also boosts T helper 1 immunity and reverses the decrease in immunity that occurs with aging. 

In Part 3, the final blog in this series, I’ll cover six more unique health benefits of broccoli sprouts and provide information on how you can grow your own organic broccoli sprouts at home. Stay tuned! 

Broc Sprouts

14 Reasons to Add Broccoli Sprouts to Your Diet (PART 1)

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


We all know that we need to “eat our vegetables” to stay healthy. Leafy greens, beets, carrots, peppers, onions, and garlic all have health benefits, but there is one vegetable that rises above all the rest regarding its health-promoting properties: Broccoli sprouts! Read on to learn about the numerous health benefits of broccoli sprouts and how to grow your own organic broccoli sprouts at home. 

What are broccoli sprouts?

Broccoli sprouts are young (typically three-to-four-day old) broccoli plants that look like alfalfa sprouts but have the sharp taste of radishes. They are a rich source of glucoraphanin, a precursor to the powerful phytochemical sulforaphane. While glucoraphanin is found to a degree in all cruciferous vegetables, it is most abundant in broccoli sprouts. In fact, three-day-old broccoli sprouts contain 10-100 times more glucoraphanin than full-grown broccoli! Glucoraphanin is converted into sulforaphane by the enzyme myrosinase, which is released when broccoli sprouts are “injured,” usually by chopping, blending, or chewing. Broccoli sprout supplements containing glucoraphanin typically contain myrosinase as well to ensure that the ingested glucoraphanin is converted into sulforaphane. 

While broccoli sprouts contain many other beneficial compounds besides sulforaphane, my focus in this blog series will be on sulforaphane because it has been intensely studied and offers numerous health benefits.   

The health benefits of broccoli sprouts and sulforaphane 

Reduces autism symptoms

Sulforaphane readily crosses the blood-brain barrier, the semipermeable border that separates circulating blood from the brain and accumulates in the central nervous system. Once in the brain, sulforaphane induces the activity of enzymes that have neuroprotective effects. (3) In fact, several studies indicate that it improves symptoms of autism, an increasingly prevalent neurodevelopmental disorder. 

A small clinical trial found that supplementation with sulforaphane-rich broccoli sprout extract improved social interaction, abnormal behavior, and verbal communication in young men with moderate- to severe autism. (4) Broccoli sprout extract improves these characteristics of autism because it reverses biochemical abnormalities that underlie the disease process, including oxidative stress, decreased antioxidant levels, depressed glutathione synthesis, reduced mitochondrial function, increased lipid peroxidation, and neuroinflammation. A similar study found that broccoli seed extract significantly improved social responsiveness in autistic children and improved urinary metabolites associated with the autism disease process. (5) Together, these findings suggest that broccoli sprouts may be a useful natural treatment for individuals on the autism spectrum. 

Promotes the healing of TBI

Traumatic brain injury (TBI) is a form of brain dysfunction caused by an outside force such as a violent blow to the head. The damage causes oxidative stress, depletion of antioxidants, and brain inflammation. Sulforaphane, with its ability to cross the blood-brain barrier, promotes healing of TBI by upregulating antioxidant pathways and preventing neurotoxicity. 

Should kids and athletes involved in contact sports eat broccoli sprouts prophylactically? Based on this research, probably!  

Inhibits neurodegenerative disease

The prevalence of Alzheimer’s disease and Parkinson’s disease is rapidly rising in the U.S. Unfortunately, conventional treatment options for these diseases do little to address the underlying causes and often have serious adverse effects. Fortunately, studies suggest that sulforaphane may be a useful intervention for these neurodegenerative diseases because it corrects underlying aspects of the diseases process, rather than merely alleviating symptoms. In an animal model of Parkinson’s disease, sulforaphane has been found to inhibit the loss of dopaminergic neurons; dopaminergic neuron death is a crucial feature of Parkinson’s disease that promotes devastating motor and non-motor symptoms. Sulforaphane also protects against amyloid-beta-induced neuronal death in Alzheimer’s disease, thus helping to preserve brain function. 

Alleviates depression and anxiety

The beneficial effects of sulforaphane on the brain are not limited to autism, TBI, and neurodegenerative diseases; sulforaphane also improves depression and anxiety! Sulforaphane exerts antidepressant effects by inducing the anti-inflammatory Nrf2 pathway, by inhibiting the body’s stress response, and by reducing stress-provoked inflammation.

Stay tuned for Parts 2 and 3, in which I’ll discuss many more unique health benefits of broccoli sprouts and sulforaphane and share how you can grow your own broccoli sprouts at home!