Candida and Depression

"Sam" originally came to my office for severe depression. He fantasized about suicide but frankly did not have the energy to go through with it. 

I knew very soon into our interview that his gut was a mess. He awoke with a gurgling stomach and a run to the bathroom. He avoided eating to delay stomach upset (a common symptom that often looks like an eating disorder but really is symptom control). He endured near constant stomach cramping and self-medicated with sugar, candy, beer, and marijuana in the evenings.

Because candida lives on sugar it can cause severe sugar cravings. Combine that with low serotonin levels and cravings for sweets and simple carbs compare to the worst drug cravings possible. 

Sam's test results revealed that he had very high candida levels and two different strains. Everyone has some candida in their gut. It can overgrow for a variety of reasons, however, the most common reasons are 1) antibiotic use and, 2) the standard American diet - processed food, fast food, plenty of white flour and sugar. In men, the symptoms are slightly different than in women and can include:

  • Memory issues

  • Depression

  • Brain fog

  • Digestive issues

  • Toenail fungus

  • Rash

  • Increased food allergies and/or sensitivities

How can an overgrowth of yeast in the gut cause depression? The simple answer is that candida suppresses serotonin (our "everything's ok" neurotransmitter) and, one of its metabolites (acetaldehyde) binds with dopamine (our "I want to get out of bed" motivation neurotransmitter) causing lower levels of dopamine. 

Because Sam's symptoms were severe, I made sure that he had already been tested for any gut-related diseases (most people with gut symptoms that I see have already been tested for everything that Western medicine tests and have ruled out disease).  I then had him do a GI-Map stool test. Often candida is a symptom of another gut-related issue like parasites or worms and these must be ruled out prior to any recommendations. 

Lowering Sam's candida overgrowth by using anti-fungals, botanicals, and dietary changes has started him on a path to healing and getting his life back. He reported being "decently depressed" at our first follow-up after treatment. For him, this was a huge improvement. There is more work to do, including healing the gut, providing nutrients, and balancing neurotransmitters. 


My Favorite Smoothie

You might  love it or you might hate it, but I happen to love this smoothie that is part of Dr. Gundry's Plant Paradox three day cleanse. 

This is not an advertisement for the source of this recipe. However, I want to give credit where it is due and I have used Dr. Gundry's program with complicated clients with good results.

Since I do not like to recommend something I am unfamiliar with, my husband and I tried his program for ourselves. The three day cleanse is really just very clean eating to withdraw your body from sugar addiction and clean up your gut. By the way, if you feel terrible on any cleanse, you probably have a lot of cleaning up going on and need to change something about the way you have been eating. 

I actually felt good on his program, and realized that what I missed was some "reward" eating. This signifies low endorphins/dopamine. I know that I struggle with this and need to take my DLPA more often! Sometimes the carpenter's house is the last one to get remodeled.

This particular smoothie is something I have enjoyed long after trying the cleanse. There's something about it that my body craves and I usually have it a couple times a week when I am not traveling. 

It could be the fresh mint (so delicious!), or the lemon juice (which, although its acidic, balances your body's ph and actually lowers your gut ph), or the healthy fat from the avocado that keeps me full. This smoothie encourages good gut bacteria growth.

But please do not eat anything you hate. Food is supposed to be about nourishment, community, pleasure, and connection. Having recently returned from Italy, I can attest to this first hand! 

This is an encouragement for you to try new things and to see what works for you and your individualized body. And a way for me to share a fun recipe. All credit to The Plant Paradox, although I do suggest my own personal twist.

To your best (mental) health!

Green Smoothie

(adapted from The Plant Paradox by Dr. Steven Gundry)

1 cup chopped romaine lettuce

1/2 cup baby spinach

2 mint sprigs, with stem (original recipe says “1”-I like 2)

1/2 avocado

4 Tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice (I often go a little heavy on this too)

8 drops stevia extract (original recipe says 3 to 6)

2-3 ice cubes

1 cup water

Blend together for about 10 seconds. Enjoy!

When Behaviors Become Addictions

Behavior Addictions - Is shopping, gaming, over-exercising, bulimia, gambling, internet-addiction, or porn a problem?

A colleague referred “Jim” to me because the couples' work he was doing with Jim and his wife was at a standstill.  The therapist felt he had reached an impass with the couple because Jiim’s issues were likely chemical.

Jim had struggled with porography for decades and had spent the last three years "white-knuckling" it - avoiding porn but then later substituting it with increased alcohol use.

If you are in an addiction your #1 relationship is with the addiction - no one else can compete.

You may argue with this statement and I say, if you do not believe it then get clean and see how your relationships change.  I have walked the journey with enough clients to promise you that you will agree with me.

Knowing this and saying this to Jim (or anyone locked in an addiction) doesn’t matter. 

I had to help him with the underlying root cause of what his body chemistry was lacking that made him crave the porn (and then the alcohol) in the first place. 

After doing an assessment with Jim I trialed the supplement DLPA (D-phenylalanine + L-phenylalanine).  DLPA works on endorphins and dopamine in the brain, the same way porn does (and other behavior addictions).  I used other supplements as well, and we discussed Jim’s diet and how to make a few small changes that would be helpful.

Within a couple weeks, Jim was telling me he was able to drink less and, much to his surprise, really didn’t think about porn at all.

I know it seems too simple, but it is very logical and scientific.  When any of our neurotransmitters are low, our body craves a way to balance them, even if it is temporary. This includes behaviors such as porn, bulimic behavior, shopping, gambling, over-exercising, internet addiction,  or gaming.  The problem is that none of these behaviors give us a lasting boost of endorphins or dopamine and the behavior must be repeated the next day in order to feel ok. 

And this is where addiction begins.

When behaviors force the flood of dopamine on the brain, the brain adapts by making less and becoming less responsive to its effects (tolerance) needing more time and more intensity to feel the same “high”.  The neural pathways connecting the reward circuit to the prefrontal cortex actually weaken.  The prefrontal cortex is responsible for taming impulses, making it even harder to stop the endorphin-flooding behaviors.

Dr. Kenneth Blum helped the scientific and medical community by discovering what he called the Reward Gene, which is a dopamine receptor gene.  Since his discovery there has been over 3000 studies showing the association of the Dopamine D2 receptor gene and addiction reward dependency disorders.

Douglas Gentile began studying video gaming in 1999 because he wanted to prove that there was no such thing as an addiction to gaming.  He was shocked by his own results!  To read his findings go to

I recently participated as one of the speakersin a tele-class for the Alliance for Addiction Solutions ( on this very topic.  

Of course, no one supplement stands alone.  It's important to insure that all the building blocks are present so the body can make its own dopamine.  It's also important to address  life style changes, tweak the diet, regulate blood sugar and incorporate other ways to increase dopamine naturally.  Yoga, breath exercise and any form of exercise all cause the release of dopamine naturally.  

Is addiction getting in the way of your life?  To learn more in a self-study method, take a look at my ecourses which explain neurotransmitters and the diet connection more in-depth.



Holidays and Addiction

Holidays and Addiction

I have always said that Holiday time is like adding a part-time job to our already busy lives.  We don’t want anyone to feel forgotten at Christmas, we all want to enjoy more intricately made meals, and we either are striving to be more in-the-moment with those we love, or we are dreading spending time with those we are mostly able to avoid at all other times of the year. Both create new stressors. 


Holidays usually involve more “partying” on some level, and for those who might be prone to addictions - including sugar here for everyone who thought this wasn’t going to apply to them- it’s especially difficult as addictions can be set off by Holiday fun. 

A Beautiful View from a Lousy Apartment

A Beautiful View from a Lousy Apartment

While living in temporary housing there is a lot to complain about. I don’t have my furniture, books, or most of my clothes. I am sitting and sleeping on rented furniture that isn’t very comfortable (and I try not to think about not knowing who else has rented it). My husband and I are sharing the smallest living space since we first got married 27 years ago