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! 


5 Tips for Navigating Healthy Eating Around the Holidays

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


The season of indulgence is upon us! Between family gatherings, holiday parties for work, and the plethora of goodies available at the grocery store, it can be challenging to eat healthy around the holidays. The challenges of healthy holiday eating are further magnified for those navigating dietary restrictions, such as gluten and dairy intolerance. In this blog post, I’ll outline five tips that will help you eat healthy around the holidays, including those of you with special dietary needs. These tips will help you indulge responsibly in holiday foods so you can not only enjoy the holiday season but feel great throughout it!  

Make a list of dietary “non-negotiables.” 

Having some structure around eating is the first step towards having a healthy holiday season. Create some structure in your eating habits by making a list of dietary “non-negotiables,” aka healthy foods that you intend to include in your diet throughout the holiday season and those foods that you must strictly avoid due to a food allergy or intolerance. For example, if having a big salad every day at lunch keeps you feeling healthy and vibrant, make sure to eat one every day throughout the holiday season. On the other hand, if you have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS), then you should commit to avoiding gluten at holiday gatherings; consuming even small amounts of gluten “here and there” can cause significant problems for celiac and NCGS individuals and is not a matter to take lightly. Similarly, if dairy throws off your digestion and makes you inflamed, avoid it and instead use replacements such as full-fat coconut milk and almond milk in recipes. 

Fortunately, there are numerous holiday-friendly, gluten-free and dairy-free food alternatives available for the gluten- and dairy-sensitive among us. You’ll find some of these options in the “Holiday recipe resources for those on special diets” and “Pre-made indulgences for those on special diets” sections below. 

Be selective about indulgences.

Many of us associated the holiday season with our favorite comfort foods and sweets, some of which are less than healthy. However, if you indulge heavily in these foods at every gathering, then you may walk away from the holiday season with more than a few extra pounds and low energy. Throughout the holiday season, choose your food indulgences wisely. Treat yourself to the comfort foods and sweets that are most special to you, rather than every delectable treat that crosses your path! Personally, this means I will choose to indulge in the caramelized potatoes (potatoes cooked with LOTS of sugar and butter) and Citron Frommage (a rich lemon mousse) that my Grandma makes as part of our traditional Danish Christmas dinner, while abstaining from the countless other cookies and candies floating around the house. This strategy allows for culinary pleasures while also preventing you from going off the rails with your diet.

Furthermore, you can enhance your recovery from sugary, rich holiday indulgences by consuming plenty of fresh vegetables, clean protein, and healthy fats at your other meals. Also, make sure to drink plenty of water (preferably filtered) if you plan to indulge in alcohol. 

Create a healthy dinner plate at holiday gatherings.

It is entirely possible to eat nutritious foods at holiday gatherings, if you know what to look for! Rather than gorging on refined carbohydrates such as bread and other baked goods, load up your plate with the following nutrient-dense, satiating foods:

• Meat (sugar-glazed ham should be your last choice!)
• Salad – Bring your own dressing because most salad dressings contain inflammatory industrial seed oils such as canola and corn oil and added sugar. Alternately, you can just make a quick, simple dressing out of olive oil and balsamic vinegar. 
• Cooked vegetables – Broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, squash
• Sweet potatoes (sans marshmallows and added sugar)
• Raw veggies with dip 
• Deviled eggs
• Shrimp cocktail
• Salami and cheese
• Olives
• Mixed nuts 

If you focus on eating plenty of these foods commonly available at holiday gatherings, you may find you have fewer cravings (and less room in your stomach) for baked goods, candy, and other sugary treats.  

Bring healthy options for holiday parties.

If you know that the holiday parties you’re attending are going to be relatively devoid of healthy options, bring your own! There are plenty of recipes available for holiday dishes that are healthier than traditional versions, or that comply with special diets such as low-carb, gluten-free, and dairy-free diets. Two of the simple, healthy dishes I like to bring to holiday gatherings are roasted root vegetables and homemade gluten-free pumpkin bread. Don’t be shy about bringing your healthy homemade goodies to holiday get-togethers; you may find that your dishes are an unexpected hit! 

Manage stress!

For many people, the hectic nature of the holiday season triggers stress eating, or consuming food in response to feelings rather than hunger. Typically, stress causes people to eat more sweets and other calorically-dense but nutrient-poor foods. Instead of using food to calm your nerves, manage your stress with some tried-and-true stress-reduction practices by taking up meditation or yoga, fitting in a daily exercise session, taking a walk in nature, or settling in with a mug of tea and a good book. If you’re interested in meditation I recommend trying the Calm, Headspace, or Waking Up meditation apps. Finally, an important part of reducing holiday stress is to divvy up the work load including cooking, cleaning the house in preparation for guests, and wrapping gifts, rather than taking it all on yourself.   

Holiday recipe resources for those on special diets

If you need to follow a gluten-free, dairy-free or other type of special diet over the holiday season, have no fear! There are many recipes available that can fit your needs. Check out the following resources for ideas:

• Gluten-Free Baking for the Holidays 
• Danielle Walker’s Against All Grain Celebrations: A Year of Gluten-Free, Dairy-Free, and Paleo Recipes for Every Occasion
• Gluten-Free Holiday Recipes from Food & Wine 

Pre-made indulgences for those on special diets

Are you following a special diet but don’t want to make treats from scratch? This collection of innovative food companies has you covered! 

• Thrive Tribe: Try Thrive Tribe’s limited-edition holiday Eggnog, Gingerbread, and Pumpkin Pie Cookies. These cookies are grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free, and delicious! While they aren’t available online, I have found them at Whole Foods and Sprouts grocery stores. 
• Eating Evolved: This innovative line has a delicious collection of pumpkin spice products, including pumpkin spice coconut butter, coconut butter cups, and chocolate spread. All of their products are Paleo, gluten-free, and dairy-free.
• Simple Mills: Simple Mills baking mixes are excellent alternatives for those following gluten- and dairy-free diets. They have a pumpkin muffin mix that, when combined with their organic vanilla frosting, makes for an amazing holiday treat. 
• Enjoy Life: Enjoy Life makes gluten-free and dairy-free chocolate chips for adding to cookies and other baked goods, as well as a limited-edition line of holiday chocolates. 
• Pamela’s Products: This company makes gluten-free baking mixes and this season, has a special line of holiday cookies. 
• Califia Farms: Califia Farms is known for their almond milk, but they also have an almond milk-based, dairy-free “Holiday Nog” as an alternative to eggnog for those avoiding dairy.  

While it is fun to indulge here and there, I believe having a dietary “game plan” will leave you feeling healthier and happier throughout the holiday season! If you have any thoughts or suggestions on this topic, please leave a comment for me in the comments section below! 

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


The Gut Microbiota-Neurobehavior Connection (Part 2)

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


In Part 1 of this blog series, I explained the importance of the gut-brain axis in the context of neurobehavioral disorders, depression, and anxiety. In this post, I’ll give you actionable advice for correcting gut dysbiosis and improving brain function. 

Testing for gut dysbiosis

Using tests to screen the gut microbiota can reveal bacterial imbalances that may be contributing to neurobehavioral and mental health problems. At The Pratt Clinics, there are two tests we like to run to screen for imbalances in the gut microbiota: The GI MAP and the organic acids test. 

The GI MAP uses a technique called PCR to detect the DNA of bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses in a stool sample. It also looks at immunologic markers of gut health. The organic acids test uses a blood and/or urine sample to detect metabolites that indicate nutrient deficiencies and the presence of pathogenic bacteria and yeasts. 

How to improve gut and brain health

To improve the symptoms of neurobehavioral disorders, depression, and anxiety, we must first start by improving gut health! There are many strategies we can use to improve gut health, including taking probiotics and prebiotics, supporting gallbladder function, incorporating antimicrobial botanicals, and making dietary changes that promote a healthy gut environment.


Restoring healthy levels of beneficial bacteria to the gut is essential for normalizing the gut-brain axis and neurobehaviors. Research has found that Lactobacillus acidophilus, L. rhamnosus, and Bifidobacterium longum improve behavior and GI dysfunction in children on the autism spectrum. Lactobacillus casei, L. helveticus, and Bifidobacterium longum have antidepressant effects, with the latter two demonstrating effects equivalent to the pharmaceutical antidepressant Diazepam. While no clinical trials have been conducted yet on the therapeutic efficacy of probiotics in ADHD, a study began in 2015 titled “Effects of a Probiotic Supplement on Symptoms of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder and Anxiety in Children” intends to investigate the topic. (25) I can’t wait to see the results! 


Prebiotics are indigestible carbohydrates found in plant foods that reach the colon intact, where they feed and promote the growth of beneficial gut bacteria. Two types of prebiotic fiber, fructo-oligosaccharides (FOS) and galacto-oligosaccharides (GOS) have demonstrated anti-anxiety and antidepressant effects. 

Many foods are natural sources of prebiotics. Here’s a brief list of some prebiotic foods to add to your diet:

Green (unripe) bananas 
Jerusalem artichoke
Dandelion greens
Tigernut flour
Cooked and cooled plantains 

Gallbladder health

The gallbladder, a small organ nestled below the liver, produces bile acids that emulsify dietary fats and is a primary route of excretion for fat-soluble toxins. Bile acids also influence the composition of the gut microbiota. Impaired gallbladder function thus hampers fat digestion, the absorption of fat-soluble nutrients, and detoxification. Getting the gallbladder working is a prerequisite for creating a healthy gut microbiota. You can improve gallbladder health with bitters, which are herbs that have a bitter flavor that stimulates bile flow. I suggest Quicksilver Scientific Bitters No. 9. Liposomal vitamin C, tocotrienols, and glutathione are also useful additions for facilitating detoxification. 


Antimicrobial botanicals can eliminate intestinal infections that disrupt the gut-brain axis. I recommend Biocidin, berberine, and curcumin for eliminating pathogenic intestinal bacteria, yeast, and parasites. 

Dietary changes

Eating habits profoundly affect the gut microbiota. The consumption of an ultra-processed diet high in refined grains, sugar, and industrial vegetable oils (such as canola, soybean, corn, and safflower oils) deprives beneficial gut bacteria of the fiber they need to survive, thus reducing their numbers, and induces gut inflammation; together, these factors impact the gut-brain axis and neurobehavior. In fact, the consumption of processed foods exacerbates autism, ADHD, depression, and anxiety. Conversely, the consumption of an unprocessed, nutrient-dense diet high in fiber supports a healthy gut microbiota and brain. Consider removing processed foods and any specific foods to which you or your child are sensitive, including gluten and dairy, to reduce gut inflammation and promote the development of a healthier gut microbiota. Try to buy organic produce as often as possible; exposure to glyphosate, a pervasive pesticide used in conventional agriculture, kills beneficial gut bacteria while sparing Clostridia, an overgrowth of which is linked to autism.

Final thoughts 

The gut microbiota plays a pivotal role in the development and progression of autism, ADHD, anxiety, and depression. By correcting gut dysbiosis and restoring a healthy gut microbiota with probiotics, prebiotics, antimicrobial botanicals, and dietary changes, it is possible to reduce, and even reverse the course, of neurobehavioral and mental health disorders! 

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

The Gut Microbiota-Neurobehavior Connection (Part 1)

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


Neurobehavioral and mental health disorders, including autism spectrum disorder (ASD), attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), depression, and anxiety are on the rise. At present, a shocking 1 in 59 U.S. children has autism, compared to 1 in 150 in 2000! 11 percent of U.S. school-aged children have ADHD, and an estimated 6.7 percent and 18.1 percent of American adults suffer from major depressive disorder and anxiety, respectively. What is to blame for soaring rates of neurobehavioral and mental illness? Emerging research points to the gut microbiota as a central factor in the development and pathogenesis of autism, ADHD, depression, and anxiety. However, by beneficially altering the gut microbiota, it is possible to change the course of these disorders, eliminate symptoms, and significantly improve quality of life!

The gut-brain axis

Have you ever been nervous about an upcoming event in your life, such as an exam or public speaking engagement, and felt “butterflies” in your stomach? This strange feeling is a simple but perfect example of the communication that occurs between your brain and gut via a structure called the “gut-brain axis.” 

The gut-brain axis is a bi-directional communication network between your central nervous system (CNS), which includes your brain and spinal cord, and the enteric nervous system (ENS) of your digestive tract. The gut microbiota, the community of microbes inhabiting the intestine, lives in close contact with the ENS. Gut microbes interact with intestinal cells to influence the release of hormones, neurotransmitters, and immune system molecules. These gut-derived molecules interact with the ENS, and, via the gut-brain axis, influence brain function. A healthy gut, with a balanced population of microbes, is thus a prerequisite for a healthy brain! When the gut microbiota is compromised by factors such as antibiotics and an unhealthy diet, the molecular signals sent from gut microbes and intestinal cells to the ENS and CNS changes, ultimately impairing brain function. Via the gut-brain axis, adverse changes in the gut microbiota contribute to changes in the brain and thus to neurobehavioral and mental health disorders. 

A healthy gut and brain begin in infancy

The development of a healthy gut-brain axis begins at birth. A mounting body of evidence indicates that the mode of delivery by which an infant is born significantly influences the development of the gut-brain axis. Infants born vaginally are first exposed to their mother’s vaginal microbiome, whereas infants born via C-section are first exposed to their mother’s skin microbiota and other microbes floating around the hospital. Research indicates that infants delivered vaginally have higher amounts of beneficial bacteria in their guts, which may shape a healthy gut-brain axis. Infants born via C-section, on the other hand, experience delayed bacterial colonization of their intestines, abnormalities in their gut microbiota, and an increased risk of autism and ADHD. 

The method by which a baby is fed also influences gut-brain axis development. Breastfeeding inoculates the infant gut with beneficial bacteria, such as Bifidobacteria, which produce GABA, a calming neurotransmitter. Breastmilk also contains indigestible sugars that fuel the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and stimulates the production of IgA, a molecule that shapes the immune system, in the infant gut. The beneficial effects of breastmilk on the gut microbiota may explain why breastfeeding is associated with positive neurodevelopmental outcomes, including increased resilience to stress during childhood and reduced risks of ADHD and autism. Infants fed formula, on the other hand, have higher levels of Clostridium difficile, an opportunistic bacteria that can become pathogenic if the gut lacks sufficient good bacteria. The dysbiosis induced by formula feeding may impair normal gut-brain axis development. (13) 

Antibiotics also have a huge influence on the gut-brain axis. Children treated with antibiotics during the first three years of their lives have gut microbiotas that are significantly less diverse than those of children who didn’t take antibiotics. Children on the autism spectrum typically have a history of significantly more antibiotic use than neurodevelopmentally normal children. 

How the gut microbiota affects neurobehavior 

How do gut microbes affect neurobehaviors, such as those displayed by individuals with autism, ADHD, depression, and anxiety? The answer has to do with gut microbiota metabolites. As I mentioned before, gut bacteria produce unique molecules as part of their metabolism, including ones similar to neurotransmitters. They also stimulate intestinal cells to produce hormones, neurotransmitters, and immune molecules. The release of metabolites triggered by gut bacteria sends signals to the enteric nervous system and brain via the gut-brain axis. These signals modulate brain function and behavior. 

An overgrowth of pathogenic bacteria and a lack of beneficial bacteria in the gut results in the transmission of skewed signals to the brain. These skewed signals may result in abnormal behaviors, an inability to focus, an impaired stress response, and depressed CNS function. 

Researchers have found relationships between certain neurobehavioral and mental health disorders and bacterial imbalances in the gut. Autistic children frequently demonstrate reduced levels of Prevotella, a beneficial bacterium associated with plant-rich diets, increased Clostridia and Candida, and decreased levels of helpful Bifidobacteria and Firmicutes. Clostridia overgrowth produces neurotoxins that negatively impact neurochemistry, including a compound called 4-cresol that interferes with the conversion of dopamine to norepinephrine, a neurotransmitter required for attention and focus. In fact, 4-cresol has been proposed as a diagnostic marker for autism. High levels of Candida prevent the absorption of carbohydrates and minerals in the gastrointestinal tract and cause a buildup of toxins that harm the brain, including ammonia and propionate.

Children with ADHD also exhibit gut microbiota abnormalities. A slight increase in Bifidobacteria has been observed that may alter the activity of an enzyme involved in dopamine synthesis. Altered dopamine activity decreases something called the “reward anticipation pathway,” a neurological pathway that regulates motivation and the initiation of effort. Interestingly, children with ADHD also have high rates of gastrointestinal issues compared to “normal” children, suggesting that gut dysfunction plays an important role in their behavior.

Anxiety and depression are both stimulated by endotoxins, which are toxins produced by pathogenic bacteria in the gut. In both human and animal studies, endotoxin induces anxious and repetitive behaviors, dysregulates the body’s stress response system, and promotes depression.

In Part 2 of this two-part blog series, I’ll discuss two tests that are useful for diagnosing gut dysbiosis and how you can correct gut dysbiosis and improve brain function with probiotics, prebiotics, botanicals, and dietary changes.

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


10 More Strategies That Will Help Your Body Adjust to the End of Daylight Savings Time: Part 2

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics



In part 1 of this two-part blog series, I discussed how gradually adjusting your bedtime, practicing good sleep hygiene, and exercising during the day can help regulate your circadian rhythms and ease the transition when daylight savings time ends. In this post, I’ll discuss the importance of sun exposure, meal timing, and nutrition for supporting the body when the time changes. 

Get sun exposure during the day

Most of us spend the majority of our day indoors, away from direct sunlight. This is problematic because sun exposure is one of the most important cues regulating our circadian rhythms. (5) Try to get daily sun exposure this fall and winter by taking a walk outdoors on your lunch break and by exercising outside on the weekends. Your circadian system will thank you for the much-needed sun exposure!  

Eat dinner well before bedtime 

Fascinating new research indicates that light isn’t the only factor affecting our circadian rhythms; when we eat our meals also matters! (6)(7)(8) Eating too close to bedtime interferes with the “rest and repair” processes that follow a circadian pattern and occur during sleep. To reduce your risk of sleep disruption when daylight savings time ends, aim to eat your dinner at least two hours before bedtime. 

Support your HPA axis

The HPA axis is the body’s central stress response system, formed by an intertwining of the central nervous system and endocrine system. It consists of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain and the adrenal glands, which sit atop the kidneys. Together, these organs coordinate the body’s response to positive and negative stressors from the environment. In many people, the end of daylight savings time stresses the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, causing symptoms such as fatigue, sleep disturbances, weak immunity, and brain fog. This condition has commonly been referred to as “adrenal fatigue” in the integrative health community, though research suggests that “HPA axis dysfunction” may be a more appropriate name. Fortunately, you can attenuate the symptoms of HPA axis dysfunction and keep your body healthy during the time change by optimizing your diet. Your nutritional goals should be to correct glycemic dysregulation, consume nutrients that quench the stress response, and avoid foods that trigger HPA axis hyperactivity.  

Correct glycemic dysregulation

Glycemic dysregulation is a potent HPA axis activator that increases the production of cortisol, the body’s primary stress hormone. (9) While many people turn to sugary comfort foods for a quick hit of energy when the shorter days of winter creep in, this creates a vicious cycle of hyper- and hypoglycemia that stresses the HPA axis. You can prevent these blood sugar swings by eating high-quality protein at each meal along with non-starchy vegetables; these foods balance blood sugar and are satiating. For non-starchy vegetables, try broccoli, cauliflower, kale, asparagus, spinach, and summer squash. For high-quality protein, focus on organic poultry, grass-fed meat, pastured eggs, and wild-caught seafood. Avoid refined carbohydrates, which trigger blood sugar swings that activate the HPA axis and stress response. (10) 

Eat your micronutrients! 

The body requires a spectrum of micronutrients, which include vitamins and minerals, to support a healthy stress response. These micronutrients can be found in a variety of foods. Pumpkin seeds are rich in zinc, magnesium, vitamin E, and B vitamins, which support neurotransmitter and hormone production and quench the stress response. Beef liver is also rich in B vitamins and bioavailable minerals that fortify the body against stress. Liver is an unfamiliar food to many people, but it can be quite delicious! Try cooking it up with thyme, garlic, and leeks or make a delicious stuffed meatloaf. Vitamin C is crucial for adrenal gland function; it can be found in many fruits and vegetables, including citrus fruits, kiwi, guava, papaya, brussels sprouts, and broccoli. Finally, magnesium is a crucial cofactor in many biochemical processes in the body, including the activity of the HPA axis. You can find magnesium in swiss chard, avocados, dark chocolate, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, cashews, and almonds.

Don’t be afraid of salt

For many years, dietary salt has been blamed for many health problems, including high blood pressure, heart disease, and stroke. Health authorities have told us to reduce our salt consumption to protect ourselves from these problems. However, salt is not as harmful as we’ve been led to believe! Salt intake supports electrolyte balance and hydration, which are frequently impaired by chronic stress. The salt cravings experienced by people with adrenal fatigue/HPA axis dysfunction speak to the importance of this mineral for fortifying our bodies during stressful times. Rather than refined salt, which contains additives such as anticaking agents, choose sea salt, Redmond Real Salt, or pink Himalayan salt. 

Eat plenty of healthy fats 

Healthy fats play a crucial role in supporting the HPA axis. Ghee, clarified butter made by skimming milk solids out of melted butter, is rich in dietary cholesterol, which our bodies need to build adrenal hormones. Ghee can be used as an oil when roasting vegetables and incorporated into healthy baked goods. The omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA, found in seafood and fish oils, decrease HPA axis reactivity, thereby reducing the stress response and improving wellbeing. (11)(12) You can support your HPA axis with omega-3’s by eating wild-caught seafood 3-4 times per week (be sure to choose low-mercury seafood) or by taking a high-quality fish oil supplement. 

Don’t go overboard on caffeine 

Excessive caffeine intake, especially in the afternoon and evening, disrupts your sleep cycle and stresses the HPA axis. To help your body adjust to the time change, limit your caffeine intake to the morning so that you don’t compromise your sleep at night.

Adaptogenic herbs

Adaptogens are plants that help the body adapt to stress. They can do wonders for helping the body adjust to changing seasons, including the end of daylight savings time. Ashwagandha, Holy basil, and Rhodiola Rosea are a few popular adaptogens that can be found at your local vitamin shop or health food store.

Reduce your stress 

A high stress level can make the end of daylight savings time even harder on the body. Regularly participating in stress-reduction practices such as meditation and yoga, spending time in nature, journaling, and keeping a gratitude list can all help reduce your stress level and keep you healthy as the seasons change. 

The end of daylight savings time can be stressful on the body, but the good news is we can mediate the stressful effects by taking care of our circadian rhythms! Practicing good sleep hygiene, exercising and getting sunlight during the day, avoiding late-night eating, consuming a nutritious diet, and reducing your stress levels will not only help you make a smoother transition when daylight savings time comes to an end but will also set you up for a healthy, happy winter!

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


Six Strategies That Will Help Your Body Adjust to the End of Daylight Savings Time: Part 1

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


Part 1

In the United States, daylight savings time comes to an end on Sunday, November 4th. While many people are excited at the prospect of gaining an hour of sleep, the time change also has a significant drawback – it disrupts our circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythm disruption causes sleep difficulties, promotes daytime fatigue, and stresses the body; these effects make us more prone to the “winter blues,” colds, and even the flu. However, by taking simple steps to optimize your circadian rhythm, you can help your body adjust to the end of daylight savings time and stay healthy throughout the winter season! In this two-part blog series, I’ll discuss six dietary and lifestyle strategies that promote a healthy circadian rhythm and will help you stay well when we set the clocks back on November 4th.  

What are circadian rhythms? 

To understand why the end of daylight savings time takes a toll on our bodies, it helps first to understand circadian rhythms. Circadian rhythms are the set of biochemical processes in our bodies that follow an approximately 24-hour cycle and regulate many aspects of our behavior and physiology, including our sleep/wake cycles, hormone release, digestion, metabolism, and immunity. (1) Circadian rhythms are produced by genes and proteins referred to as “body clocks” that are distributed throughout the body. The “master” body clock is located in the brain in a structure called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN). SCN function is entrained by the light/dark cycle that occurs naturally in our environment with the rising and setting of the sun. When light and dark cues from our environment shift, such as at the beginning and end of daylight savings time, the SCN becomes confused, and our circadian rhythms are thrown off-kilter. Subsequently, the physiological processes regulated by our circadian rhythms are disrupted; this disruption results in restlessness at night, poor sleep, fatigue, drowsiness, and mood changes during the day. This is not a fun way to enter the winter season! 

Interestingly, research indicates that it takes our circadian rhythms up to three weeks to adjust to the beginning and end of daylight savings time. This finding suggests that we can prepare our bodies for the end of daylight savings time in advance by optimizing our circadian rhythms in the weeks preceding the time change. Several dietary and lifestyle strategies can help us accomplish this.

6 Tips for adjusting to the end of DST 

Adjust your bedtime and practice good sleep hygiene

To prepare for the end of daylight savings time (DST), consider going to bed a little later each night in the week preceding the time change. Once DST ends, your previous bedtime, 10 pm, for example, will become the new 9 pm. If you can make yourself stay up later for several nights before the end of DST, your body will be better able to adjust to a later bedtime once the time change occurs. 

If you have kids, gradually push back their bedtime in the days leading up to the end of DST. Begin by pushing it back 15 minutes, then 30 minutes, 45 minutes, etc. until you have pushed it back an hour. This will help their bodies adjust better to the time change and keep their circadian rhythms functioning optimally. 

In addition to adjusting your bedtime, try to practice good sleep hygiene. The term “sleep hygiene” refers to regular habits and practices that promote restful, rejuvenating sleep. Good sleep hygiene helps you maintain a healthy sleep/wake cycle and a normal circadian rhythm. The most important principle of sleep hygiene is to sleep in a completely dark room free of artificial light pollution from electronic devices. Light from devices such as your iPhone, iPad, digital alarm clock, and night lights depresses the brain’s production of melatonin, a sleep-inducing hormone that regulates circadian rhythms. Conversely, avoidance of these light sources in the bedroom optimizes melatonin production and sleep quality. In addition to keeping your room dark, try to keep it cool at around 65 degrees Fahrenheit; cooler temperatures signal to your circadian system that it’s time for bed and have been found to promote more restful sleep.

Don’t overindulge in naps

When darkness suddenly hits at 4 pm once we turn the clocks back, many people experience afternoon drowsiness. The urge to nap can be hard to resist. However, napping can further disrupt your sleep schedule and throw off your circadian rhythm by making it harder to fall asleep at night. Rather than napping, aim to get 7-8 hours of high-quality sleep every night so that you wake up refreshed and with enough energy to sustain you throughout the day. 

Exercise during the day, not the evening

Regular exercise is a crucial part of a healthy lifestyle. However, exercise should ideally be performed during the day because evening exercise activates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS), the branch of our nervous system responsible for the “fight or flight” response. Excessive activity of the SNS before bed makes it difficult to fall asleep, throwing off your sleep cycle and circadian rhythm.

Please read Part 2 for more great tips. If you have any questions contact me at The Pratt Clinics.


Histamine Intolerance Part 3: Treatment of Histamine Intolerance

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


Now that I’ve discussed the underlying causes of histamine intolerance, let’s dig into treatment options! Usually, a combination of dietary, nutritional, and lifestyle interventions can make a significant difference in symptoms when it comes to histamine intolerance. I recommend starting with dietary changes. 

Eat a low-histamine diet 

The first step in correcting histamine intolerance is to follow a low-histamine diet for at least six weeks; this will give your body sufficient time to clear excess histamine and dampen inflammation. Here are my guidelines for a low-histamine diet: 

High-histamine foods to avoid:

Microbiologically-produced foods: Yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, mature cheese, sauerkraut, kimchi, pickles, kombucha, soy sauce, fish sauce, black tea, coffee, chocolate
Processed, smoked, and fermented meats: Sausage, pepperoni, salami
Alcohol: Red wine, white wine, champagne, cider, beer
Yeasty foods: Bread 
Spinach, tomatoes, citrus fruits, strawberries, kiwi, pineapple, avocado
Peanuts, cashews, walnuts 
Canned, smoked, or fermented seafood
Eggs (are only problematic for some histamine-intolerant people)

Focus on eating the following low-histamine foods: 

Organic meats and poultry, fresh fish 
Vegetables: Squash, leafy greens, cruciferous vegetables, carrots, onions, shallots, sweet potatoes, turnips, zucchini
Fruits: Apples, nectarines, berries, watermelon
Fats: olive oil, coconut oil, ghee, coconut butter
Gluten-free grains: Quinoa, rice, buckwheat
Legumes: Chickpeas, lentils, kidney beans (ideally, these should be fresh rather than canned)

The key to eating a low-histamine diet is to choose fresh foods. Even leftovers can be problematic for some people because the longer cooked food sits in the fridge, the more opportunity there is for bacteria to grow in the food and produce histamine as a byproduct. 

In addition to eating fresh foods, add foods and herbs with natural antihistamine properties to your diet. Here’s a list of my favorite natural antihistamine foods:

Watercress (1) 
Apples (2)  
Pomegranate (3) 
Ginger (4)  
Pea sprouts (5)  
Onion (6)  
Garlic (7)  
Thyme (8)  
Tarragon (9) 
Black cumin seed oil (10) 

Repair leaky gut and correct gut dysbiosis

The treatment of leaky gut and intestinal dysbiosis with probiotics and antimicrobials can be a game-changer in the mission to resolve histamine intolerance. I recommend ProBiota HistaminX, a probiotic that supports histamine degradation because it contains histamine-degrading bacteria. It is well-tolerated by histamine-sensitive individuals. Soil-based microorganisms, which are often histamine neutral or histamine degrading, are also beneficial because they can reduce bacterial overgrowth and repair leaky gut. 

Optimize methylation and gene expression

As I mentioned in Part 1, methylation is a crucial pathway for breaking down histamine. Correcting deficiencies of nutrients involved in methylation can help optimize gene expression and enhance histamine degradation. The nutrients needed to optimize methylation in your body will depend on your unique genetic profile. However, there are a few nutritional rules of thumb that can help ensure you are getting enough methylation-supportive nutrients in your diet.

Eat dark leafy greens: These are a rich source of methylfolate, which is a crucial cofactor in the methylation cycle. Folate is also found in legumes, such as chickpeas and lentils, and beef liver.

Eat B12-rich foods: Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal foods such as red meat, chicken, turkey, and seafood. The two exceptions are purple laver, a type of seaweed, and wild mushroom such as chanterelle, black trumpet, and shiitake mushrooms, which contain active B12 compounds. 

Eat choline-rich foods: Choline is a vitamin-like essential nutrient that is converted into betaine in the body. Betaine is a key part of the methylation cycle. The foods richest in choline are egg yolks and beef liver. Nuts and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower) also contain choline, but you need to eat at least 200 g to get the same amount of choline as 1 egg yolk. 

Diversify your protein intake: Animal proteins such as poultry, red meat, fish, eggs, and dairy supply methionine. an amino acid needed for the methylation cycle. 

Eating the foods discussed above will provide you with all the nutrients needed for methylation. However, if you want to learn how to support your unique genetic snps, consider speaking with Dr. Pratt who specializes in the topic.

Clean up your environment

Make sure your living and work environments are clean and free of allergens and other inflammatory substances, such as mold. If you know your home has sustained water damage or suspect a mold problem, I first recommend doing an ERMI (Environmental Relative Moldiness) test. You can order the test through Mycometrics. 

Some other steps you can take to clean up your environment include putting dust mite covers on pillows and mattresses, getting your air ducts cleaned, and investing in a high-quality air purifier such as an IQ Air machine. 

Take natural antihistamines 

There are a variety of natural substances that can help ease the symptoms of histamine intolerance without the side effects associated with pharmaceutical antihistamines. 

• DAO enzymes such as those found in Histamine Block, are especially helpful for preventing and reducing food-induced histamine reactions. 
• Quercetin is a phytonutrient found in fruits, vegetables, and herbs that is a potent anti-inflammatory and natural antihistamine. (11)  
• Vitamin C destroys the ring-shaped structure of the histamine molecule, and thus serves as a natural antihistamine. (12) I recommend taking vitamin C as a supplement and getting it in your diet from low-histamine fruits and vegetables such as kiwi, raspberries, blueberries, watermelon, broccoli, kale, and cauliflower. 
• Stinging nettle is an herb that has anti-inflammatory and antihistamine properties. (13) 
• Moringa stabilizes mast cells (immune cells that release histamine). (14) 
• Holy Basil is a mast cell stabilizer and antihistamine. (15) 
• Cat’s Claw modulates the immune system and may help quench the inflammatory response that contributes to histamine intolerance.

Histamine Intolerance may seem a little overwhelming and confusing. That is why The Pratt Clinics are always here to help. Please contact us with any questions or to schedule an appointment.


Constituents in Watercress : Inhibitors of Histamine Release from RBL-2H3 Cells Induced by Antigen Stimulation.
Inhibitory Effects of Apple Polyphenol on Induced Histamine Release from RBL-2H3 Cells and Rat Mast Cells.
Polyphenol-rich pomegranate fruit extract (POMx) suppresses PMACI-induced expression of pro-inflammatory cytokines by inhibiting the activation of MAP Kinases and NF-κB in human KU812 cells.
Antiallergic Potential on RBL-2H3 Cells of Some Phenolic Constituents of Zingiber officinale (Ginger).
Pea Seedling Histaminase as a Novel Therapeutic Approach to Anaphylactic and Inflammatory Disorders. 
Anti-Allergic Effects of Herbal Product from Allium cepa (Bulb). 
Inhibitory Action of Allicin on Degranulation of Mast Cells Produced by Compound 48/80, Histamine Liberator from Ascaris, Lecithinase A, and Antigen.
Coumarin and Flavone Derivatives from Estragon and Thyme as Inhibitors of Chemical Mediator Release from RBL-2H3 Cells. 
Coumarin and Flavone Derivatives from Estragon and Thyme as Inhibitors of Chemical Mediator Release from RBL-2H3 Cells.
The antioxidative and antihistaminic effect of Nigella sativa and its major constituent, thymoquinone on ethanol-induced gastric mucosal damage. 
Quercetin, Inflammation and Immunity.
Antihistamine effects and complications of supplemental vitamin C. 
Nettle extract (Urtica dioica) affects key receptors and enzymes associated with allergic rhinitis. 
Investigation into the mechanism of action of Moringa oleifera for its anti-asthmatic activity. 
Pharmacological Basis For Antianaphylactic, Antihistaminic And Mast Cell Stabilization Activity Of Ocimum Sanctum. 


Histamine Intolerance Part 2: What Causes Histamine Intolerance?

By Lindsay Christensen

Nutritionist @ The Pratt Clinics


Symptoms of histamine intolerance are caused by histamine production exceeding histamine breakdown in the body. A variety of factors can either cause people to produce too much histamine or have trouble neutralizing and removing it from the body. These factors include genetic variations, leaky gut and dysbiosis, chronic infections, a high-histamine or inflammatory diet, and allergens in the environment. 

Genetic Contributors to Histamine Intolerance

DNA, the “blueprint” for your body, is composed of building blocks called nucleotides. Sometimes, our DNA contains “typos” that lead to variations in the DNA sequence at particular locations; these variations are referred to as single-nucleotide polymorphisms, or SNPs. SNPS can generate biological variation between people. There are even some SNPs that produce variations in an individual’s ability to break down histamine. If you have SNPs in any of the genes listed below, you may be predisposed to histamine intolerance.  

MTHFR: The MTHFR gene provides the instructions for making an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. This enzyme mediates a process called methylation. One of the functions of methylation is to reduce intracellular concentrations of histamine. SNPs in the MTHFR gene may cause methylation deficiency and promote histamine intolerance.  
DAO: The DAO gene codes for the production of an enzyme called diamine oxidase (abbreviated DAO). DAO breaks down extracellular histamine produced by gut bacteria and ingested via food. SNPs in DAO impair the breakdown of extracellular histamine and increase the likelihood of histamine intolerance. 
MAO: This gene provides the instructions for making monoamine oxidase, an enzyme that breaks down tyramines (substances naturally found in some foods, especially fermented foods), histamine, and catecholamines, which are the body’s primary stress hormones. SNPs in MAO can decrease the activity of monoamine oxidase, increasing levels of tyramine, histamine, and catecholamines. 
HNMT: The HNMT gene codes for the production of histamine N-methyltransferase, an enzyme that reduces intracellular histamine, particularly in the central nervous system. HNMT SNPs may promote elevated levels of histamine in the body. 

If you’ve undergone genetic testing, discovered you have one or more of these SNPs, and struggle with histamine intolerance, have no fear! While genes may load the gun, environment pulls the trigger, and there are many things you can do to positively change your environment (both internal and external) to alleviate histamine intolerance. Stay tuned for Part 3 of this blog series, in which I’ll discuss how to correct histamine intolerance through diet, nutritional supplements, and other lifestyle changes. 

Leaky gut and Dysbiosis

Two of the most important causes of histamine intolerance are leaky gut and dysbiosis. Leaky gut is a condition that occurs when the proteins holding adjacent intestinal cells together become damaged, resulting in “holes” or “cracks” between the cells. These intracellular spaces allow undigested food proteins and bacterial toxins to leak from the intestine into the systemic circulation, provoking inflammation. This inflammation may lead to excessive production of histamine, and thus to histamine intolerance.

Dysbiosis, an imbalance between good and bad bacteria in the gut, can also cause histamine intolerance. There are both histamine-producing and histamine-degrading bacteria in the gut; when these bacterial populations are in balance, histamine production doesn’t exceed histamine degradation. However, if the gut microbiome is imbalanced and there are many histamine-producing bacteria (or parasites and yeast), excess histamine accumulates, and histamine intolerance may occur. Histamine-degrading bacteria include Bifidobacterium infantis, Bifidobacterium longum, and Lactobacillus plantarum. Streptococcus thermophiles, Lactobacillus rhamnosus, and soil-based microorganisms may be either histamine-degrading or neutral and thus safe for those with histamine intolerance. Histamine-producing bacteria that you’ll want to avoid include most species of Lactobacilli, including Lactobacillus casei, L. reuteri, and L. bulgaricus. 

Chronic Infection

As I mentioned before, histamine is produced by the immune system when it wants to target and eliminate pathogens. Chronic infections trigger an extended release of histamine and may, over time, contribute to histamine intolerance. Some pathogenic microorganisms can also produce histamine or block methylation, which is an important pathway for removing histamine from the body. 


Eating lots of food that are naturally high in histamine is a common trigger for histamine intolerance. But how does histamine appear in foods? Histamine in foods is derived from the amino acid histidine. When bacteria present in food act on histidine, they end up producing histamine. This means the most common dietary sources of histamine are foods that contain bacteria, such as fermented and cured foods. Leftovers are also a common source of histamine because, after cooking and cooling, bacteria proliferate in the food and convert histidine into histamine. Fortunately, following a low-histamine diet can do wonders for people with histamine intolerance. Stay tuned for my dietary guidelines for a low-histamine diet! 


Environmental allergens such as pollen, mold, mildew, and dust mites may contribute to the development of histamine intolerance. If your living or work environment has ever sustained water damage and you struggle with histamine intolerance, I suggest doing an ERMI test to detect the presence of potential allergenic, inflammatory molds and other biotoxins. These substances are an often-overlooked but significant trigger in histamine intolerance. 

As always, contact me if you would like to discuss or have any questions. 

Stay tuned for Part 3, in which I’ll discuss how to correct the underlying causes of histamine intolerance so that you can achieve relief from this frustrating condition.