How to Stay Healthy While Traveling Part 1

By Lindsay Christensen 

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics

We all know that travel is fun and exciting, but it can be stressful on the body. Hours spent in cramped airplanes, questionable food, and disrupted sleep schedules all take their toll on your health and can detract from the quality of your travel experience. Taking care of your health while you travel can make your experience far more enjoyable. In this blog, I’ll cover eight strategies for staying healthy while traveling, so you can enjoy your experience to the fullest! 

Combat the stress of airplane travel 

Airplanes make travel comfortable, speedy, and efficient, allowing us to travel nearly anywhere our hearts desire. However, airplane travel also comes with some significant drawbacks. Between the circadian rhythm disruption that occurs from rapidly crossing multiple time zones, the radiation emitted by TSA body scanners, and the unhealthy recirculating in airplane cabins, plane travel is hard on the body. 

Radiation during TSA screening 

Every day, TSA screens approximately 2.1 million passengers and crew at airports across the country. (1) Most of these passengers are screened using a full-body scanner. Half of these scanners use millimeter wave scanning, a form of non-ionizing radiation, while the other half of scanners use backscatter x-ray, a form of ionizing radiation. (2) While very few people stop to consider the health effects of these scanners (perhaps due to government claims that these scanners are “completely safe”), I’m here to tell you that they are not harmless. 

Millimeter wave scanning technology extremely high frequency (EHF) radiation, a form of radiation that has been found to damage DNA in scientific studies. The ionizing radiation emitted from backscatter x-ray body scanners is known to break chemical bonds in molecules and to be carcinogenic even in tiny doses. Furthermore, the TSA may not be telling the truth about the amount of radiation delivered per body scan. 

To avoid body scanner radiation at airports, you have two choices. The first choice is to opt out of the full body scan, meaning a TSA agent will pat you down instead of having you go through the scanner. However, this can require a lot of extra time, as TSA agents typically aren’t in a rush to help travelers who opt out of the scan. Furthermore, many airports are considering eliminating the “opt out” option. Your second choice is to apply for TSA Precheck. The TSA Precheck process involves getting a background check and, if approved, a special identification number that allows you to bypass the extensive screening process for a quick walk through a metal detector. You can learn more about TSA Precheck here: 

I personally use to opt for the pat-down each time I flew, but finally got TSA Precheck this past summer. It has made my airport experience a lot more convenient, and likely a lot safer due to the decreased radiation exposure! 

Cosmic rays and Wifi 

However, radiation exposure doesn’t end at the TSA checkpoint; we are also exposed to radiation on the airplane itself because flying brings us closer to cosmic rays from the sun with less protection from the atmosphere. In fact, radiation is considered an occupational hazard for pilots and flight crew, with pilots demonstrating increased chromosomal damage and risks of cancer. If your flight offers Wifi, then you are also being exposed to man-made EMFs throughout your flight; to learn more about the harmful effects of man-made EMFs, please see my blog series on EMFs. Click these links to read Part 1, Part 2Part 3, and Part 4.  

How to mitigate the harmful effects of air travel radiation

What can you do to protect yourself from the harmful effects of the ionizing and non-ionizing radiation that comes along with plane travel? 

The first strategy I recommend is to eat a diet that is especially rich in antioxidants prior to traveling. Dietary antioxidants, such as vitamins C and E, scavenge free radicals produced in the body in response to radiation. Astaxanthin, an antioxidant found in some microalgae, krill, and wild salmon that has a vivid orange hue, protects against ionizing radiation by inhibiting free radical production. (3) Interestingly, astaxanthin is 64 times more powerful than vitamin C and 14 times more powerful than vitamin E as an antioxidant! Chlorophyll, a compound found in green leafy vegetables, spirulina, and chlorella, also has antioxidant properties, protects against radiation, and even removes toxins from the body. 

It goes without saying that airplane food is basically the epitome of unhealthy food. It is frequently highly-processed and laden with refined sugars and industrial seed oils. To further protect your body against air travel radiation, avoid eating airplane food because it will only trigger more oxidative stress and further deplete your antioxidant reserves. 

Another way to reduce your exposure to radiation during travel is to fly at night. Flying at night significantly reduces radiation exposure because most of the sun’s cosmic rays are being blocked by the earth. (4

Circadian rhythm disruption

When we rapidly transition across multiple time zones over the course of an airplane flight, an asynchrony between the local time and our internal circadian rhythms is produced. This results in circadian rhythm disruption, more commonly referred to as “jet lag.” While jet lag is most often associated with sleep difficulties, it also affects the digestive system and brain, causing our bowel habits to take a turn for the worse and impairing our cognition. Fortunately, there are several steps you can take to combat the circadian rhythm disruption associated with air travel. 

  1. Several days before your trip, gradually adjust your sleep and wake times to the time zone of your destination. 
  2. Once on the plane, try not to sleep. When you arrive, resist the urge to take a nap and go to bed at your normal bedtime based on local time.
  3. Try melatonin. Taking a low dose of melatonin 2 hours before your desired bedtime will help sync your circadian rhythm to the new time zone. 
  4. First thing in the morning, expose yourself to bright, direct light, ideally sunlight, without sunglasses. Bright light helps sync our circadian rhythms. 
  5. A day or two before you fly back home, adjust your sleep and wake times to the time back at home. 

Airplane air

Airplane air is notoriously dirty. Research indicates that it is contaminated with vapors from engine fluids, hydraulic fluids, and de-icing fluid; inhalation of these vapors by pilots, flight crew, and frequent flyers is linked to neurological, neurobehavioral, and respiratory symptoms. (5) Airplane air also contains airborne bacteria and viruses that increase your odds of catching a cold or flu. To protect yourself from the dirty air on airplanes, try a small personal air purifying device such as the Air Tamer; it creates a personal bubble of clean air for you and may reduce your chances of getting sick. 

 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 Part 4

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


In Part 1part 2, and part 3 of this blog series, I explained what EMFs are, the problems with our current EMF safety standards, and the adverse effects man-made EMFs have on your health. In this fourth and final installment of the blog series, I’ll provide you with simple, actionable steps you can take to protect yourself from excessive EMF exposure. 

How to reduce your exposure to EMFs

While it is essentially impossible to avoid man-made EMFs completely, there are practical ways to reduce your exposure. 

Keep your laptop off your lap!

Many studies demonstrate adverse effects of working with a laptop (especially one connected to WiFi) directly on the lap. If you must work with your computer on your lap, I recommend investing in a DefenderShield. This device sits underneath your computer and shields your reproductive system from the heat and radiofrequency radiation emitted by laptops.   

Practice cell phone etiquette 

Practicing proper cell phone etiquette can reduce your exposure to radiofrequency radiation and protect your brain and reproductive systems from harm.

Step 1: Never talk with your cell phone against your head. Instead, talk on speakerphone or invest in a set of air tube earbuds, such as those made by DefenderShield, which connect to your phone and transmit sound to your ears via hollow silicone tubes; these minimize the transfer of EMF from your phone to your head. Also, consider getting a wired landline to use at home.

Step 2: Don’t keep your cell phone in your pocket or bra. Cell phones were never designed to be held immediately against the body for hours on end; in fact, the fine print in your smartphone clearly states that the phone should never be held against the body. However, if you like the convenience of keeping your cell phone in your pocket, consider buying a DefenderShield cell phone case. 

Step 3: Disable 4G/LTE on your smartphone unless you need extra download speed and put your cell phone in airplane mode whenever possible. This will further reduce the amount of radiofrequency radiation to which you’re exposed.  

Switch to ethernet 

Switching to ethernet at home is an excellent step towards significantly reducing your EMF exposure. Using an ethernet extension allows you to turn off your Wi-Fi and prevent your entire family from being exposed to its radiation 24/7. However, when you switch to ethernet, be sure to go into your computer settings and turn off Wi-Fi even if no devices are connected; if you skip this step, your router will continue to emit radiofrequency radiation regardless of whether you have devices connected to WiFi. 

To further reduce EMF radiation from your laptop or desktop computer, make sure your computer has a grounded three-prong plug on the charger. If the charger does not have a three-prong plug, you can buy an adaptor that does. 

Special note for Xfinity users: Xfinity has recently rolled out Xfinity xFi pods; these pods are essentially little routers that Xfinity wants you to put in every room of your house to extend your WiFi range. DO NOT purchase these pods! They will substantially increase the number of unhealthy EMFs in your home. 

Create a low-EMF sleep zone

Sleep is intended to be a time for your body to detoxify and restore itself; EMFs hamper that process by disrupting melatonin production and impairing deep sleep. Create a low-EMF sleep zone in your bedroom by removing all electronic devices (smartphones, TVs, digital clocks, etc.) from your room. If you use Wi-Fi, I also highly recommend turning off your router at night so that you aren’t blasting your body with EMF while you sleep.

If you want to reduce EMFs in your bedroom even more, you can shut down the circuit breakers to your bedroom at night. 

Optimize your home environment

If you suffer from chronic health issues or have young children, I recommend hiring a building biologist to assess your home’s EMF and dirty electricity burdens. After the assessment, the building biologist will offer solutions for remediating dirty electricity and reducing your EMF exposure. 

Keep your kids safe

Children are highly susceptible to the harmful effects of man-made EMFs, so I recommend limiting your children’s EMF exposure as much as possible. Reconsider whether you toddler or child really needs to play with an iPhone or iPad and find some sort of non-electronic form of entertainment instead. If your school-age child attends a school where every student has an iPad or laptop, think about whether this environment is really conducive to your child’s health; I know parents who have had their child switch schools after their academic performance declined precipitously at “techy” schools where children were reading and working on iPads all day. 

Make your child’s bedroom as low-EMF as possible by removing TVs, gaming consoles, and other devices to a separate area of the house. 

Nutrition for EMF protection

Eat more magnesium.

Calcium-channel blockers have been found to mitigate the harmful effects of man-made EMFs on voltage-gated calcium channels. However, you don’t need a pharmaceutical calcium-channel block to achieve this effect! Oral magnesium supplementation is a highly effective, natural calcium channel blocker. To protect your body against EMFs, I recommend you eat plenty of magnesium-rich foods and potentially supplement with 200-400 mg magnesium glycinate or magnesium threonate as well.

Magnesium-rich foods:

• Green leafy vegetables
• Pumpkin seeds 
• Almonds
• Cashews
• Legumes
• Asparagus
• Brussels sprouts
• Dark chocolate 

Eat foods that activate Nrf2

To mitigate the oxidative stress caused by EMFs, I recommend eating foods that trigger one of your body’s most important antioxidant pathways, the Nrf2 pathway. The Nrf2 pathway is stimulated by berries (blueberries, raspberries, blackberries), cacao, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli sprouts (see my previous blog series on broccoli sprouts for more information), turmeric, and dark green leafy vegetables. 

Eat vitamin C-rich foods 

Foods rich in vitamin C can also help mitigate the oxidative stress-inducing effects of EMFs. In fact, vitamin C supplementation has been found to have protective effects on the bodies of animals exposed to Wi-Fi! I recommend eating the following vitamin C-rich foods to optimize your vitamin C level:

• Citrus: Oranges, lemon, grapefruit
• Kiwi
• Broccoli and cauliflower
• Bell peppers
• Papaya
• Cantaloupe
• Strawberries 

The topic of EMFs can feel scary and overwhelming, but it is one that we all need to be aware of due to its far-reaching impacts on our health. Rather than throwing your hands in the air and leaving your health up to chance in this EMF-inundated world, consider taking the simple steps I’ve outlined above one-by-one. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to me here at The Pratt Clinics


EMF: The Health Danger Hiding in Plain Sight Part 3

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


In Parts 1 and part 2 of this blog series, I explained what EMFs are and the problems with our current EMF safety standards. Here in Part 3, I’ve broken down the research on the harmful health effects of man-made EMFs. If there’s anyone in your life who is doubtful about the health impacts of EMFs, show them this post! They may change their mind after giving it a read…

The health effects of EMFs

A growing body of research indicates that man-made EMFs have significant detrimental effects on the human body. While the health risks of EMFs have historically been studies in the context of their thermal effects, aka how much they heat up the brain and other tissues, they also have significant non-thermal effects. In this article, I will focus on the non-thermally-mediated health effects of EMFs.

Your body responds to EMFs because it is an excellent conductor of electricity. Man-made EMFs change the natural electrical currents in our bodies, altering the function of our cells and organs. One mechanism by which EMFs alter our natural electrical currents is by polarizing voltage-gated calcium channels, electrically-sensitive channels in the membranes of excitable cells such as muscle and brain cells. The polarization of these channels causes the hyperexcitation of cells, resulting in adverse muscular and neurological outcomes. 

EMFs also harm the body by causing DNA and protein damage and depleting antioxidant levels. These effects may result in cell death, reproductive problems, and cancer, among many other issues. 

18 health conditions linked to EMFs 

Antibiotic resistance and infections

Antibiotic resistance refers to the ability of a microbe to resist the effects of medication that, at one point, could successfully kill it. Currently, the CDC estimates that 70 percent of bacteria responsible for hospital-acquired infections are resistant to at least one antibiotic. While antibiotic resistance has been attributed to the overuse and misuse of antibiotics in humans and livestock, emerging research suggests that EMFs also play an important role! In fact, scientists have found that radiofrequency EMF in the range to which we are exposed daily promotes antibiotic resistance in Escherichia coli and Listeria monocytogenes, two important human pathogens.  

In addition to increasing bacterial resistance to antibiotics, EMFs may also activate latent infections. A study published in The Journal of Environmental Pathology, Toxicology, and Oncology found that EMFs at 50 Hz, the frequency emitted by many household appliances and electronic devices, activates latent Epstein Barr virus! 

If you work in a hospital where exposure to antibiotic-resistant bacteria is likely or have battled Epstein Barr virus in the past, then reducing your exposure to EMFs should be a priority.

Bone density

Your skeletal system may not be the first thing you think of when worrying about the health effects of EMFs. However, there is evidence that chronic exposure to man-made EMFs increases bone breakdown and reduces bone density. Over time, these processes may lead to the development of osteoporosis. 


Stress is a significant problem in our society, with 79 percent of Americans reporting that they feel stressed “sometimes or frequently” during their day. Interestingly, EMFs may be partly to blame for escalating stress levels! Animals exposed to EMFs from cell phones demonstrate increased cortisol, one of the body’s primary stress hormones. This may explain why people with electrohypersensitivity, high sensitivity to EMFs, often report feeling agitated in the presence of WiFi, cell phones, and other EMF-emitting devices.


Scientists have been investigating the relationship between man-made EMFs and cancer for decades. While industry-funded studies have tried to discredit this relationship, an overwhelming body of evidence indicates that EMF exposure does indeed increase the risk of certain cancers. In fact, EMFs emitted from cell phones, Bluetooth, WiFi and cell towers was declared a Class 2B “possible” carcinogen in 2011. Several researchers think this classification is too generous and think it should be reclassified as a Class 2A “probable” or Class 1 “definite” carcinogen. 

A recent study made headlines when it revealed that rats and mice exposed to cellphone radiation equivalent to the average human’s exposure experienced significant increases in the incidence of glioma (a type of brain cancer) and a rare tumor of the heart called a schwannoma. The conclusions of this study – that cell phone use increases the risk of brain cancer is supported by many other studies that have found similar relationships. 

Man-made EMFs may also increase the risk of female breast cancer. Scientists have even urged women with breast cancer susceptibility genes, such as the BRCA gene, to avoid using electronic devices at night because the combination of blue light and radiofrequency EMF disrupts circadian rhythms and amplifies the risk of cancer. 

Cardiovascular health

EMFs pose a threat to the health of your heart. Exposure to radiofrequency radiation in the range emitted by typical cell phones increases blood pressure by as much as 5 to 10 mm Hg; this spells trouble for people already struggling with prehypertension or hypertension. 

Since electrical potentials are used to govern the contractility of the heart, EMF exposure may also lead to abnormal heart rhythms, such as arrhythmias. 


Your liver and kidneys are your body’s primary organs of detoxification. EMFs reduce levels of essential detoxifying hormones in these organs, such as superoxide dismutase and glutathione peroxidase, and may thereby impair detoxification processes. 


EMFs inhibit the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. (14) When we combine this effect with the potential for EMFs to promote antibiotic-resistant infections (mentioned above), we run into some serious problems! If you struggle with digestive system issues such as dysbiosis or SIBO, you may want to pay extra attention to reducing your EMF exposure. 


Headaches are one of the most frequent symptoms of man-made EMF exposure mentioned in the scientific literature. Scientists have gone so far as to recommend that migraine headache sufferers “limit mobile phone use and instead, use the fixed-line telephone for their daily communications.” 

Heavy metals

Fascinatingly, EMFs appear to increase the toxicity of certain heavy metals! Wi-Fi exposure has been found to increase mercury release from dental amalgams; this vaporized mercury can then travel to the brain and other organs, where it wreaks havoc on our health. 

Impaired immunity

In one study, scientists exposed human lymphocytes, critical immune cells, to an EMF frequency in the range used for wireless devices. They found that the frequency “enlarged and deformed” the cells; over time, this may result in impaired immune function in the body.  


A growing body of evidence indicates that electromagnetic fields adversely impact metabolic health. One study published in Electromagnetic Biology and Medicine found that when Type 1 and 2 diabetics were exposed to dirty electricity, their blood sugar levels rose. Conversely, when these individuals were exposed to a “clean” electromagnetic environment, their insulin needs and plasma glucose levels, respectively, were significantly reduced! Exposure to radiofrequency EMF also raises hemoglobin A1c, a risk factor for diabetes. These findings suggest that avoiding dirty electricity and high-radiofrequency EMF environments may help people better manage their blood sugar and metabolic health. 

Neurological development and function  

Electromagnetic fields pose a severe risk to the brain. EMFs open the blood-brain barrier, the structure that protects the brain from toxins and pathogens, thus allowing harmful substances to enter the brain. They also promote neuronal hyperactivity, demyelination, and brain oxidative stress. These adverse physiological effects translate into increased risks of Alzheimer’s disease, impaired learning and memory, depression, and anxiety. 

Reproductive function

The impact of man-made EMFs on reproductive function has been extensively investigated. In males, EMFs impair testicular function and damage sperm at the cell membrane, mitochondrial, and DNA levels. In fact, using your laptop on your lap for just four hours can make 25% of your sperm completely nonviable! Heavy use of a cell phone also lowers sperm count and is associated with erectile dysfunction. Even if you don’t want to reproduce, you should still be concerned about these effects because sperm quality is closely linked to overall health.  

EMFs can also impair reproductive function in females. They increase the risk of miscarriage, damage the endometrium, and may trigger menorrhagia and symptoms of early menopause.


You may have heard that you should avoid blue light exposure from electronic devices before bed to optimize your sleep. Well, the same goes for EMF-emitting devices! Researchers have found that EMFs emitted from electronic devices significantly reduce melatonin, the body’s primary sleep-inducing hormone. They also prevent the body from getting deep, restorative REM sleep. Perhaps this is why, anecdotally, many people who sleep with their phones on their nightstands report restless sleep and insomnia! 

Thyroid function

While we don’t have much information available yet on this topic, preliminary research suggests that EMF exposure may decrease thyroid function.

Vision problems

While it is well-established that excessive blue light from electronic devices (laptops, smartphones, tablets, etc.) can damage the eyes, more recent research indicates that the electromagnetic fields emitted from such devices also have harmful effects on vision. 

In 2001, scientists found a link between cell phone use and eye cancer. (34) While the mechanisms by which EMFs harm the eyes are not well-understood, it is possible that they disrupt voltage-gated calcium channels in the eyes, ultimately causing vision disorders. (35) The eye is also highly sensitive to heat, so the heat emitted from a cell phone may also induce damage. 

Health effects in infants and children

Infants in utero and children are far more sensitive than adults to the adverse effects of EMFs due to their smaller body sizes, thinner skulls, and more conductive brain tissue. (36) In fact, infants and children have been found to absorb exponentially more microwave radiation than adults; this radiation alters their brain development and may increase their risk of behavioral problems, obesity, asthma, brain tumors, and childhood leukemia. Resting your iPad on your lap while pregnant and giving your baby or child a smartphone to play with is starting to sound like a not-so-great idea! 


Electrohypersensitivity (EHS) is a physiological condition in which individuals experience symptoms upon exposure to man-made electromagnetic fields. While EHS continues to be ridiculed or ignored in the United States, other countries, such as Sweden, have recognized it as a legitimate functional impairment for decades. 

The symptoms of EHS vary from one individual to another and also depend on the type and length of EMF exposure. According to EMF expert Nicholas Pineault, the most common symptoms of EHS are the following:

• Fatigue/weakness
• Sleep disturbance/insomnia
• Headaches/migraines
• Brain fog/difficulty concentrating
• Depression or anxiety
• Memory loss
• Visual disruptions/light sensitivity
• Skin problems
• Heart palpitations
• Dizziness

While there is no lab test specifically designed to assess electrohypersensitivity, several biomarkers of EHS have been suggested in the scientific literature, including elevated histamine and anti-myelin antibodies, decreased melatonin, and high oxidative stress. 

Stay tuned for Part 4 of this blog series, in which I’ll provide you with simple, actionable strategies for reducing your exposure to harmful EMFs! Any questions? Contact us at The Pratt Clinics.


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.


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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.