Nourishing & Healing The Body & Brain: Part 1

Nutrition plays a significant role in overall health but I don’t have to tell you how complicated and confusing it is. I know, I’ve tried every diet out there for myself and my family. I was obsessed for way too long and it I believe that obsession made things worse for my mind, body, and spirit. In a series of articles, I’m going to address all these things but this article is about nutrition because I do believe it is foundational.

My journey to healing and that of my loved ones first sparked my passion to go back to school to study nutritional therapy. Since embarking on this journey, I’ve had the honor to help and transform many others too. Some, very young children whose parents were at their wit’s ends, not getting help from conventional medicine and feeling like they were failing their children.

I can relate, I totally resonate with their despair. They tell me that food and nutrition was never addressed. The children come with anxiety, digestive distress, withdraw, sensory issues, over stimulation, social problems, attention and focus issues and more.  My mission: remove the stressors and heal the gut. When we do this, we see remarkable improvement in all these things.

It’s not easy, it takes commitment but parents are motivated to help their kids. The biggest challenge I have is to get parents to take care of themselves, which honestly needs to be the first priority so that they can truly help their children – I know, I was one of these parents. This, I will address this in another post though. There is hope though, please know, there is hope!

What causes these issues and challenges? I can’t know for sure but based on my education and experience, I can speculate it’s a combination of factors and stressors: a c-section at birth (so baby did not receive beneficial flora via mom’s vagina); antibiotics (kills both good and bad flora); inflammatory foods introduced too early; fire retardants in all the baby gear and baby mattress; chemicals in personal care products; toxins in the air and water and other environmental factors. Every year more and more chemicals are being introduced into our environment that have never been tested for human safety. Our bodies have a natural detoxification process but I’m certain we were never created to have to handle so many disruptions to our human biology. These toxins are disrupting hormones, our gut microbiome, and more. There is a direct line from our gut to our brain and now we know that our gut, can be damaged and permeable, which means, any toxins in our gut, like bad bacteria, can get into our bodies, and therefore our brains.

Micronutrient deficiency is epidemic and plays a major role in health challenges and disease as Mira and Dr. Jayson Calton delve deeply into in their books, Naked Calories and Micronutrient Miracle. The Calton’s have an amazing personal story which starts with Dr. Calton helping Mira completely reverse her advanced osteoporosis. The Calton’s later embarked on a 7 year, 135 country expedition, much like that of Dr. Weston A. Price did in the early 1900’s, to investigate the health and eating patterns of cultures around the world. They discovered that no matter what diet anyone followed, it is micronutrient deficiency that causes disease.

As a nutritional therapy practitioner, I see this with every client. I also see the connection of health of the body and brain and the health of the gut. When my clients are not well, I know that their gut is not well, and that they are deficient in nutrients, which causes an imbalance in minerals. It is not always about the food they are eating, environmental factors I stated earlier, medications, and a blow or concussion to the head are some examples of factors that affect gut health. Extreme emotional trauma, especially unresolved trauma can contribute to gut dysfunction as well.  That said, our modern diet of refined foods, industrial seed oils, factory farmed meats, and pesticides and herbicides are significant contributing factors to the degradation of our gut health.

Last year I was honored to study with Dr. Natasha Campbell-McBride, the author of Gut and Psychology Syndrome, a neurologist who after not getting answers about how to heal her son’s autism, set out to figure it out herself, which she did. Her son no longer has autism and she since opened a clinic in the U.K. and has trained hundreds of practitioners to carry on her work. She is responsible for the transformation of thousands that previously had no hope.

 Intestinal microbiome stock photo

Dr. Natasha Campbell- McBride found when she had families follow the protocol that she developed, The GAPS (Gut and Psychology) Diet, to support an autistic child in the family, that not only did the child get better, but entire families where healed of all sorts of issues from depression and anxiety to high blood pressure and heart disease.

The book, Brain Maker by Dr. David Permutter, also a neurologist, presents the exploding body of research that connects gut and brain health and in Brain Maker, Dr. Permutter shares many clinical stories of transformation and hope when his patients heal their guts.

In Why Isn’t My Brain Working?: A Revolutionary Understanding of Brain Decline and Effective Strategies to Recover Your Brain’s Health by Dr. Datis Kharrazian also connects gut and brain health.

I believe nourishment of the body through food and nutritional therapy to support healing the gut, balancing minerals, and becoming micronutrients sufficient is one of the most important factors to overall brain and mental health. I believe this to be foundational to healing. Removing the stressors goes a long way in helping my clients heal.

So where does one start? What does one do? It seems overwhelming, I know!Forgive Youself stock photo

First of all, start by forgiving yourself. I made huge mistake beating myself up for many things, second guessing everything I did or did not do as a parent. I felt shame. Did I parent hard enough? Should I insisted on mercury free shots? Did I starve my son’s brain from a low fat diet? Did the baby swim lessons with over chlorinated pools and being forced underwater over stress his body and cause trauma to his brain? The fact is, we are all doing the best we can with the information we have. We are often given the wrong information. Let me repeat, we need to forgive ourselves, and love ourselves. Because what we say to ourselves, we subconsciously say to our children. Shame is destructive so please listen when I tell you to let go of the shame. Love yourself as you do your child, because to truly love another, we must love ourselves. You are worthy and your child needs you to do this.

Baby steps. Better than before. I love the concept, “better than before” based on Gretchen Rubin’s book of the same name, Better Than Before: Mastering the Habits of Our Everyday Lives. Let go of perfection. It’s impossible, paralyzing and isolating. (I recommend that book too!)

Get real about your challenges. Don’t hide them, share and seek out those that will support you. Read, Rising Strong by Brene’ Brown (or listen to her read it on audio – she’s the narrator and is a gifted storyteller). It’s one of the most powerful books I’ve read on the transformative power of being vulnerable, brave, honest, and real. If you find that those around you are not supportive, look for support elsewhere. You can still love those people but seek out those that “rise you up”.

Get real about your food. That is, begin to purge food that you would not feed a baby out of your house. Highly processed foods are void of useful nutrients and are mostly nutrient depleting. They are cheap and inflammatory to your body, and therefore your brain.

It’s not cheap to eat real food but you have to prioritize it if health is important to you. In the long run it can save what costs you in medical expenses, medications, missed work and the cost to you overall well being. Do you have luxury items that you can sacrifice? What is more important? Will you be able to actually enjoy your luxury items if you are sick?


I am on staff with the New York Times author, of Practical Paleo, Diane Sanfilippo. We are working on a free budget guide and in developing that guide, we’ve interview a number of people on extreme budgets, many on food stamps who have made a whole food diet work – because they had to –for their health. To be productive members of society. We hope to have this resource done soon but in the meantime, there will be a learning curve. It’s not easy. Do the best you can and be okay with that.

In a nutshell, you can get pretty much all you need at a farmer’s market (although I realize not everyone has access to one, unfortunately). Fresh, local produce, local pastured/grass-fed meat and eggs from humanely treated animals, wild caught seafood, nuts, seeds, fermented foods like kimchi and sauerkraut (for your probiotics), and local honey. Those are the most ideal foods in general but I guide clients to do the best they can. It’s impressive how resourceful a parent can be once they start to see some positive changes in their child.

In Portland we are lucky to have a number of markets where we can also get good healthy fats such as grass-fed butter, olive oil, coconut oil, and fats rendered from local happy pastured animals. These are not the meats and fats you need to be scared of. This is the type of food your ancestors ate before the diseases of our time set in, before industrialized food and before so many toxins were introduced into your environment, and so many chemicals were introduced into our food, skincare and bodycare products, our medications, water, home cleaning products, home gardening/landscaping, etc. In fact, consider what you are great great grandparents ate and try to replicate that the best you can.

I have clients eventually get to a place of an elimination diet. I have them remove gluten (gluten is not a necessary nutrient and it won’t harm you to remove it). I DON’T, however, recommend you replace it with refined gluten-free foods either. No. That’s what gets “going gluten-free” a bad wrap, because much of THOSE foods may indeed be worse.

I also have clients remove dairy. Diary might be tolerated if it’s local, grass-fed and flash pasteurized or raw, but milk from factory cows injected with hormones and antibiotics is sad and scary. Added hormones and antibiotics are disruptive to health. Sometimes clients can tolerate a little diary, especially fermented, such as yogurt,  but at first, we remove it. We are removing as many stressors as possible.

We also remove soy. Most soy in the U.S. is genetically modified. It’s not consumed as it traditionally used to be consumed in Japan, before they too started having a serious health crisis. It used to be consumed in small amounts and fermented (along with lots of seafood, broths, and other fermented foods). Fermented foods help promote good gut flora in your body. For me, I discovered soy stimulated an autoimmune condition, Raynaud’s Syndrome. As do legumes. Any time I just get a tiny exposure of soy, in about 4 days, my fingers begin to loose blood flow and numb. It’s like clockwork. I am not going to put my foot down on legumes for most people, but if a client has an autoimmune condition, then I’m going to suggest a trial of removal at some point if we need to.

Removing refined sugar, fruit juice, sodas and most candy (good quality dark chocolate is okay) is definitely recommended.

Below I’ve listed a suggested list of Yes/No lists to start with. It’s not all inclusive and I’ll likely be adding and subtracting to this post as I update. After you feel comfortable with change, then you can do more of an inflammatory elimination diet. This many even need to be taken a step further and require an autoimmune protocol. For that there are many resources which I will refer to in a later post.

For meal plans and suggested supplements and super foods to support certain health conditions, I recommend Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo and The Micronutrient Miracle by Mira and Dr. Jayson Calton. Diane Sanfilippo is also the creator of The 21-Day Sugar Detox. A program, which I love. I am the program manager of The Certified Coaches Program, a job which I love because I have the honor of mentoring other coaches. I love the program because it’s a 21-Day boot camp like program to get you started. There are 3 levels of entry so it’s not TOO hard for those that are new to eating a whole food diet. I run these programs both in-person and online. I really love to do corporate wellness too so if you would like me to come facilitate your group, please contact me. I can come visit you to let you know more.


BASIC YES (not inclusive of all yes foods, can combine ingredients) – as a FOUNDATION (not necessarily strict 24/7). Strict recommended when possible for deep healing. *Proceed with caution indicates inflammatory in many individuals with health challenges.

When possible, chose organic (see Clean 15/Dirty Dozen)


Local Pastured/Grass-fed Meats & Eggs

Wild Game

Wild caught seafood

* Proceed with caution: Grass-fed full-fat dairy


Fruit (1-2 pieces/day)

Veggies (non-starchy, plentiful – starchy such as potatoes, limit)


GRAINS (non-gluten) – minimal




Other gluten free whole grains

* Proceed with caution: organic/non-GMO corn


Proceed with caution: All


*Proceed with caution: limited fermented organic-non GMO miso


Coconut flour

Nut flours

Nut milks with not additives/fillers/sugar (just nuts/water)

All nuts/seeds

* Proceed with caution: peanuts/peanut butter


Natural Fats such as:

Olive oil

coconut oil,


Avocado oil

Sesame oil

Fat rendered from local, pastured/grass-fed animals

See Diane Sanfilippo’s excellent free Guide to Fats



Medium Chain Triglyceride Oil (MCT Oil) – my favorite is Calton Nutrition Skinny Fat

* Proceed with caution: grass-fed cream


Local crafted or homemade Mayo (no canola oil)


Frank’s Hot Sauce

Red Boat Fish Sauce

Coconut Aminos

Himalayan Sea Salt/Redmond’s Real Salt/Celtic Sea Sat (not processed salt)

Kimchi/Sauerkraut (fermented veggies)


Coconut milk (no additives/sugar)



Real Maple Syrup

Raw honey




Baking powder

Cocoa powder

Bone Broth (great for gut healing, recipe here)


Sparkling water (LaCroix is a decent transition for short term)





Coconut and Nut Milks no not sugar or additives

* Proceed with caution: Full fat Grass-fed Dairy



Gluten-free beer

Gluten-free spirits




HEROFUEL – a clean power bar for kids but I love it myself!

In.Power Protein Powder by Calton Nutrition – pure and delicious grass-fed whey for protein shakes

BASIC NO (not all inclusive)


Commercial Dairy

Factory Farmed meat/eggs (avoid when possible – just do the best you can)

Farmed Seafood


Refined Sugar

Agave Nectar/High Fructose corn syrup

Sugar Substitutes


Chemical additives


Fruit Juice


Most Candy

Obvious junk food

GMO Corn


  • Rotisserie chickens (pasture-raised best, then organic, choose plain)

  • Bagged organic salad greens

  • Lettuce you can use to wrap

  • Cut veggies

  • Broccoli slaw

  • Coconut wraps

  • Frozen veggies

  • Prepared guacamole and salsa

  • Eggs (hardball half)

  • Canned salmon

  • Canned Sardines

  • Oysters

  • Ground meats

  • Good quality sausages/bacon (Teton Waters and Niman Ranch are usually okay, check for sugar/sweeteners to be sure)

  • Flying Fish seafood has some available in their freezers too, same with Natural Grocers

  • Chicken thighs

  • Avocados

  • Organic lunch meat


  • Chickens – cook and remove meat (I will do this to be done around lunch or dinner so that is taken care of too) – or remove meat from store bought rotisserie.

  • Make broth with bones from above (recipe here)

  • Brown ground meat

  • Sauté a melody of peppers, onions, and garlic to use to flavor my meals (optional)

  • I often boil 1/2 my eggs

  • Steam 2 bags of veggies not too soft for quick sauté/reheat

  • Soup prep – Saute a big bunch of veggies, puree some, then make quick soup with ground or chopped meat, veggies, and broth – add in butter for richness. Pumpkin and sweet potato makes it really hearty. I use my Tex Mex mix I shared in this recipe– as well as a bit of balsamic. Tomato sauce can also be a great add-in! Or for egg drop soup, just add egg to broth!

  • Egg Muffins for quick grab are easy, just sauté some meat (even leftover) and veggies, and in a separate bowl, whisk some eggs (number based on # of muffins), add meat/veggies mixture and spoon into muffin cups – cook at 375 for around 12-15 minutes.


  • Cuts of meat, ground meat, sausage or fish with veggies – use butter, olive oil or other fat and spice mixes you enjoy for flavor (we love Benessare Oils and Vinegars in Portland)

  • Salmon or egg salad (make like Tuna salad) with broccoli slaw (or veggies you chop), olive oil/balsamic, mustard, and kraut – you can eat in lettuce wraps or get coconut wraps – or red bell pepper strips, or something like cucumber. You can mix in sardines. Mayo if you make or get Primal Kitchen.

  • Eggs & veggies

  • Salad greens wrapped in Organic lunch meat


• hard boiled egg
• leftovers
• guacamole with veggies (precut veggies like jicama sticks & carrot chips are handy)
• veggies
• sauerkraut
• olives
• jerky (hard to find but I like Nick’s sticks, you can get online
• nuts
• nut butter
• nut butter with celery or apples
• seeds
• coconut flakes (toasted is yummy)
• canned sardines/canned oysters and other canned seafood
• kale chips
• pickles
• organic lunch meat/sausages
• whole milk yogurt, cheese (if tolerated)
• 100% cacao chocolate (with ghee or nutbutter)
• cacao nibs
• Banana or grapefruit with cinnamon
• soup
• coconut water
• Coconut milk smoothie/hot cocoa
• banana sautéed in healthy fat sprinkled with cinnamon
•Dark Chocolate with nut butter
•Blended frozen banana with coconut milk & cinnamon
• 8 oz. kombucha

HEROFUEL – a clean power bar for kids but I love it myself!

•Inka brand plantain chips

•Boulder Brand and Jackson’s Honest chips with coconut oil (treat)

•Mary’s Gone Crackers – no soy version



This is highly individual! For less active people and children, lower carbs, higher healthy/natural fats, for more active, more starchy carbs and fruit might be okay.

Start here, then adjust, I recommend increasing fat first, then protein if you are hungry between meals:

1 palm size well sourced, good quality animal protein

1 thumb size heathy natural fat as stated in the above template**

1/2 plate vegetables, mostly cooked, some raw

1/4-1/2 cup starchy carb (non-gluten grain or starchy vegetable such as potato or sweet potato)*

*Athletes and Pregnant/Nursing women should adjust for their individual energy needs.

**To support my brain health, I personally eat a very high natural fat very low carb diet – I am post menopausal and am working on a program with Calton Nutrition to ensure my health stays on track. Practitioners need their own practitioners!


IMPORTANT (to facilitate optimal digestion)

Give thanks, have gratitude before meals

Take a deep breath and get out of “fight or flight” mode before eating and don’t talk about stressful things during meals.

Eat while sitting only, do not eat while driving or watching TV.

Eat a small amount of fermented foods with each meal.


All the Things We Never Knew: Chasing the Chaos of Mental Illness by Sheila Hamilton

Brain Maker by David Permutter, MD

Eat Naked by Margaret Floyd

Eat The Yolks by Liz Wolf

Good Calories Bad Calories by Gary Taubes

Gut and Psychology Syndrome by Natasha Campbell-McBride, MD

Naked Calories by Mira and Dr. Jayson Calton

Practical Paleo by Diane Sanfilippo

Rich Food Poor Food by Mira and Dr. Jayson Calton

Rising Strong by Brené Brown

The 21-Day Sugar Detox by Diane Sanfilippo

The Micronutrient Miracle by Mira and Dr. Jayson Calton


Ann Childers, MD  Lake Oswego – listen to a recent lecture she presented and replayed on Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb with Jimmy Moore podcast.

Please leave me comments and ask questions. I’m sending you hugs and well wishes. I’ve been through hard times so I know what it’s like. There is hope!

You are Beautiful, you are worthy! xo – Holly Morello, NTP

 This post was originally published on Nov 8, 2015 

I love to post about nutrition and nourishing the mind, body, and spirit. So please follow me on my Facebook Page, Nourishing Excellence by Holly Morello and my Instagram and Twitter Accounts: @NourishingHolly. If you are in Portland, I facilitate the Portland Paleo Primal Network Facebook Page and Group. It’s not strictly “Paleo” but a place where you can learn about local whole food and holistic living resources.
Note: I sometimes have links in my blog posts about products and services and I love and trust. As a thank you, some (not all) of these companies pay me a small affiliate fee. It’s not much but you should know! 🙂

Disclaimer:  The information contained herein is not to be construed as medical advice and is not intended to diagnose, treat, or cure any medical condition.  These statements made have not be approved by the FDA, nor should they be taken as a substitute for medical advice from a licensed physician.

By |2017-10-03T19:25:14-08:00October 2nd, 2017|Mindset, Nutrition and Lifestyle|2 Comments

About the Author:

I am a Portland, Oregon based Certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner, writer, wife, & mom of 3 amazing spirited sons. My passion is to inspire hope and to help you and/or your loved ones overcome mental, emotional & behavioral challenges such as anxiety, ADD/ADHD, Asperger’s, and depression – as well as neurological dysfunctions such as sensory processing disorder and the associated health conditions that come with these challenges. In collaboration with your medical team, I support these issues through therapeutic diet and lifestyle programs so that you and your family can live purposeful, happy lives. I work with individuals and families both in-person and remotely, conduct group 21-Day Sugar Detox Classes (because getting control of sugar should be foundational to any healing protocol), and am available for media interviews and content contribution. Lastly, I've been a wrestling mom for 10 years now and have worked tirelessly, mastering an optimal performance and weight management plan for high school athletes. I’m happy to speak to groups and organizations who are interested in the topics I am most passionate about.


  1. Amanda Babineau March 13, 2018 at 5:41 pm - Reply

    Hello, I am a Wellness Mental Health Therapist and love the information you have here! Why do you say no to legumes?

    • Holly Morello March 13, 2018 at 9:21 pm - Reply

      Hi Amanda! Thank you so much for reading! Legumes are not a hard no, but I do recommend proceeding with caution. The reason being is that legumes are mostly touted as a good source of protein when indeed, they are mostly absorbed as a carbohydrate. When there is dysfunction in the body, there is almost always dysfunction in the gut, which means digestion is compromised. Legumes are harder for many with digestive issues to properly digest due to the anti-nutrient constituents. I mostly ask people to a trial removal and when re-introducing, to start with soaked and sprouted, which are easier to digest. I personally love sprouted lentils but for me they trigger Raynaud’s Syndrome. They are a good source of fiber but so are lots of other plant foods! Here’s a really great article by Amy Meyers, MD: I hope that helps!

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