How Nutrition Can Support Individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

How Nutrition Can Support Individuals with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)

Mental Health Gut Article

Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) occurs as the result of a traumatic event such as a motor vehicle accident, physical or sexual assault, severe injury, abuse, military combat, and natural disasters, to list some of the most contributing factors. Approximately seven or eight out of every 100 people (7-8%) will develop PTSD in their lifetimes. (1)

PTSD symptoms can vary from person to person but frequently include the persistent reliving of the trauma, avoidance of any place that is a trauma-reminder, trouble sleeping, flash backs, mood changes, feeling on edge, and many others (2). PTSD can be debilitating and impacts an individual’s ability to socialize, work, and engage in day-to-day activities.

Interestingly, women are approximately twice as likely as men to develop PTSD despite the fact that more men than women experience trauma (60% and 51%, respectively) (3).

PTSD is a treatable condition, and many people with PTSD are able to successfully manage their symptoms after receiving effective treatment. However, if left untreated, PTSD can affect relationships and impact daily life making it difficult to work, study, eat, or sleep. It may also lead to suicidal thoughts.

Treatment for PTSD

Counselling, such as cognitive behavioral therapy and talk therapy, along with medications are the go-to approaches for PTSD. Unfortunately, the importance of nutrition is often overlooked as a therapeutic modality.

Diet and lifestyle changes can help manage PTSD symptoms by providing foods that calm the mind (down-regulating the nervous system) and avoiding foods that can over-stimulate the mind (up-regulate the nervous system). Similar nutrition strategies that support that those with depression, anxiety, stress management, and sleep will also generally be supportive for an individual with PTSD.

In this article, we’ll review four strategies that may help support individuals experiencing PTSD.

Top 4 Nutrition & Lifestyle Strategies to Support Individuals with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder

  1. Lifestyle Strategies for Managing PTSD

There are a number of strategies that can help better manage PTSD. First and foremost, it is important to learn about PTSD to help better understand your symptoms. Meditating, exercising, journaling, and attending a support group can all be helpful.

Additionally, removing unhealthy coping mechanisms such as drugs and alcohol is also key. Although drinking alcohol might feel that you are numbing the pain of PTSD, it is a depressant, and can fuel depression-like symptoms, which are already common among individuals that have PTSD.

  1. Increase GABA Levels to Manage PTSD Symptoms

Gamma aminobutyric acid (GABA) is a naturally occurring amino acid that works as a neurotransmitter in your brain. GABA is considered an inhibitory neurotransmitter because when GABA attaches to GABA-receptors in the brain, it produces a calming effect. This can help reduce (or inhibit) feelings of anxiety, stress, and fear. (4)

In the diet, GABA can only be found in fermented foods such as kimchi, miso, and tempeh and within green tea. In modern day, most people consume GABA in supplement form. According to a 2006 article, two studies found that participants who took a GABA supplement had increased feelings of relaxation during a stressful event than those who took a placebo or L-theanine, another popular calming supplement. (6)

GABA has been shown to increase when adhering to the popular high fat, low carb, ketogenic diet promoting a sense of calmness and relaxation. (5)

Some beneficial bacteria that have taken up residence in our guts can also increase GABA receptors in the brain. When there are more GABA receptors in the brain, more GABA is being put to good use! This is a positive thing, especially since a decrease in GABA receptors has been associated with mood disorders such as chronic depression. (6) To feed the good bacteria in the gut you need to eat a variety of fresh fruits and vegetables and avoid sugar (which will feed the bad bacteria preferentially). Taking a probiotic and consuming fermented food such as sauerkraut can both help to increase the good bacteria in our gut.

  1. Increase Intake Calcium and Magnesium to Reduce PTSD Symptoms

Calcium and magnesium are calming minerals. Deficiencies of calcium and magnesium are known to contribute to anxiety, difficulty sleeping, and feeling stressed and uptight – all symptoms that can commonly be experienced in someone that has PTSD.

Calcium and PTSD

A calcium deficiency can cause irregular moods, heart palpitations, fatigue, anxiety attacks, and depressed thoughts – which are all symptoms that a person can experience when they have PTSD. A calcium deficiency, also known as hypocalcaemia, can masquerade as anxiety or exacerbate symptoms in those who already have anxiety. (7)

To increase intake of calcium rich foods, include sources such as dairy products like kefir (which contains probiotics as well), goat or feta cheese, and low-sugar yogurt, dark green vegetables including kale, arugula, spinach, and broccoli, nuts including almonds, and calcium-fortified breads and cereals.

Magnesium and PTSD

A magnesium deficiency can also lead to many symptoms that are consistent with PTSD such as cardiac arrhythmia, muscle tremors, fibrillation, as well as being tense and unable to relax. A lack of magnesium may lead to high blood pressure, startle reactions, hypersensitivity to noise, and repeated tapping of hands and feet. It is important to make sure that you are getting enough magnesium in the diet along with exploring supplementation. If you are going to supplement it is best to choose magnesium bisglycinate as this form is effective for calming the nervous system.

Foods high in magnesium include dark chocolate or cacao, nuts and seeds, tofu, legumes, and avocado.

  1. B-Vitamins Support A Healthy Stress-Response

When the body is under prolonged stress is tends to use up certain vitamins and minerals more readily. These tend to include calcium and magnesium (as identified above), vitamin C, and the B vitamins. The B vitamins, which include thiamine, niacin, B12 and folic acid, are often referred to as the ‘stress’ vitamins. There are many symptoms of B vitamin deficiency, and these include tension, irritability, difficulty managing stress, poor concentration, and anxiety – again, all symptoms that an individual with PTSD can experience.

B Vitamins are a crucial part of the process of manufacturing various neurotransmitters in the brain. Vitamin B6 is especially important, because not only is B6 essential for at least 100 enzymes, but it also helps the brain make the key neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin, GABA, norepinephrine, and glutamate. These neurotransmitters help a person to feel motivated, happy, calm, and energized.

You may want to explore taking a B-Complex and incorporating foods high in B vitamins such as avocado, pork, plain yoghurt, salmon, chicken, eggs, sunflower seeds, chickpeas and tofu.


PTSD can be debilitating and impact individuals every day lives and ability to function. While it is clear that counselling, medications, and making healthy lifestyle choices are all important aspects of treating PTSD, it’s also essential not to overlook the role of diet.

Consuming foods high in calcium, magnesium, and the B vitamins are beneficial to potentially improve PTSD symptoms. Supplementing to address deficiencies that could exacerbate or compound their PTSD may also be considered. Consuming fermented foods to support healthy gut flora, as well as drinking green tea can help raise GABA levels in the brain to promote a sense of calmness and relaxation.

This is not an exhaustive list of nutrition strategies for PTSD but can be a great starting point in helping to better manage your symptoms. 



  2. Tracy, N. (2021, December 15). PTSD Symptoms and Signs of PTSD, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2022, July 21 from
  5. Wang ZJ, Bergqvist C, Hunter JV, Jin D, Wang DJ, Wehrli S, Zimmerman RA. In vivo measurement of brain metabolites using two-dimensional double-quantum MR spectroscopy–exploration of GABA levels in a ketogenic diet. Magn Reson Med. 2003;49:615–619.
  7. to cause a reaction in sensitized individuals
Top 4 Nutrition Strategies Aggression and Defiant Behaviors in Children

Top 4 Nutrition Strategies Aggression and Defiant Behaviors in Children

Mental Health Gut Article

In this day in age, the prevalence of behavioral and mood problems in children have come an all-time high.

Numerous factors may contribute to a particular child’s struggles with anger, irritability, or aggression (behavior that can cause harm to oneself or another). One common trigger is frustration when a child cannot get what he or she wants, or is asked to do something that he or she might not feel like doing. For children, anger issues often accompany other neurological or mental health conditions including Autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, and Tourette’s syndrome. Frequent angry outbursts and aggressive behaviors can interfere with family life, with a child’s ability to make friends, and may negatively impact school performance.

With aggressive and problematic behaviors and outbursts parents can become desperate and may look to physicians for medication to help control these. But by exploring other options such as nutrition, specific diets and supplementation first you may potentially help to avoid the need for medications and the adverse side effects that go along with this. This is not to imply that medications should be avoided as you need to do what’s best for your child, but it is important to explore all avenues and find out what works best.

Below, we review our top 4 nutrition strategies to explore in an attempt to significantly improve – or even resolve – your child’s aggressive or defiant behavior.

#1. Food Allergies, Food Intolerances, and Food Sensitivities

Food reactions, including allergies, intolerances, and sensitivities can be a contributory factor to aggressive and defiant behaviors. Although gluten and casein are two commonly discussed food-based triggers (especially with kids on the spectrum), an individual can be reactive to any food.

Blood work is one way to explore food allergies and sensitives, however, a food elimination diet is still considered the gold standard in determining a food reaction.

An important nutritional starting point for any child with Autism or ADD/ADHD is implementing a gluten and dairy-free diet. There must  be 100% compliance with this approach as it only takes a microscopic amounts of gluten or casein to cause a reaction in sensitized individuals.

To reduce feelings of overwhelm some individuals opt to explore eliminating one of the food groups first and then the other. With removal of the dairy protein casein, you can start to see results in behaviors within 1-3 weeks (providing that casein is an issue), and with gluten changes may be seen within 1-3 months (if gluten is an issue). It is important to track behaviors before removal of any foods, during elimination, and after reintroduction (if reintroduction is attempted). Research shows that parents noticed 55% improvements in behavior in their children who are autistic with removing one of the food groups, and 69% improvement with removing both gluten and casein simultaneously.

Another way to help determine if your child has a food intolerance is to identify what your child is addicted to or constantly craves. Children tend to be addicted to the foods that they have food reactions to because it creates an opioid-like response in their brain. With this natural high that they receive with a food addiction a child may tend to have a high pain tolerance level (due to the opioid-like response in the brain dampening pain experiences), inattention and spacey behavior, as well as aggression (to self and others), poor eye contact, as well as mood changes such as anxiety, depression and irritability.

Working with a health professional like a naturopathic doctor or nutritionist can be beneficial to help navigate the identification of potential food allergens, food intolerances, or food sensitivities as well as to assist with the implementation and tracking required during a therapeutic food elimination diet.

#2 Reduce Sugar

Sugar is hidden almost everywhere, disguised under many other names, and can even be found in many savory foods. Ketchup, crackers, pasta sauces, deli meat, and even peanut butter frequently contain large amounts of added sugar, and this is just to name a few. Sugar is significantly linked with aggressive behaviors and can cause a rapid rise of adrenaline, hyperactivity, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, and moodiness in children (1). In juvenile rehabilitation camps, when children were put on a low sugar diet, there was a whopping 44% drop in antisocial behaviour (2).

When you think of a daily standard western diet for children it can often begin with sugar-loaded cereals (often marketed as “healthy”) for breakfast; lunch meats, crackers, and treats in their school lunches; packaged after-school snacks like granola bars, fruit gummies, or cookies; packaged “kids foods” like chicken nuggets or macaroni and cheese for dinner; and then often ending the day with dessert. But, the majority of sugar is often consumed in sweetened beverages such as juice, pop, energy drinks, electrolyte drinks, and chocolate milk.

Not only does sugar consumption led to blood sugar imbalances that can result in negative behaviours, but it also impacts nutrient levels in the body. Sugar upsets many mineral relationships in the body including; causing chromium and copper deficiencies and interfering with absorption of calcium and magnesium, which are key minerals that help to calm the nervous system and reduce the stress and anxiety that may contribute to outbursts. (3)

Be aware of sugar intake in your food products and take the time to read labels. It is recommended that children should limit consumption to a maximum of 25 grams of added sugar per day, which is about the amount in a bowl of Honey Nut Cheerios and 3 Tbsp of ketchup. It is recommended that children consume no more than 8 oz of sugar-sweetened beverages per week.

For better sugar options check out our article on the best sugars to use.

#3 Low-Phenol Diet

Low Phenol diets are particularly helpful for children that struggle with aggression, defiant behaviors, and mood instability such as irritability, frustration, anger, rage, sadness, anxiety, and inappropriate laughter. Low-phenol diets include removal of foods high in salicylates , glutamate and amines. It’s important to note that foods high in amines are correlated to defiant behaviors and foods high in glutamate have been linked to aggression and rage.

Foods high in amines that could be contributing to defiant behaviors include banana; yellow, aged, or blue cheese; chocolate/cocoa; fermented foods such as yoghurt, kefir, sauerkraut, tempeh, or soy sauce; bone broths; and meat or aged meat.

Foods high in glutamates that could be contributing to aggression and rage include foods that contain MSG or autolyzed yeast; soy sauce; parmesan cheese; marmite/vegemite; sauerkraut; bone broths, gelatin; and peas, corn and tomatoes.

The Failsafe diet is a diet the focuses on removal of these particular food groups as well as salicylates  that can help support behavior stability and reduced symptoms of aggression, irritability and outbursts. For more information on this specific diet please refer to our article on The Low-Salycilate Diet.

#4 Supplementation

Deficiencies in certain nutrients might also be impacting mood and contributing to aggressive or defiant behaviors.

A Jim Adams study (2001) looked at supplementation in children on the spectrum to determine if, in fact, supplements help to address mood and behaviors. Specifically, parents were surveyed to identify how much children’s symptoms improved during treatment, and the following was identified:

With Magnesium supplementation there was a improvement noted in children’s behavior, Vitamin B6 (30%) but B6 with magnesium was (49%), Calcium 36%, Zinc 54%, Vitamin B12 72%, folic acid 45%, vitamin B3 45%, Vitamin A 44%, Vitamin C 46%, Omega 3 fatty acids 59%, digestive enzymes 62%, and melatonin 66%. (4)

The symptom improvements noted after supplementing for 3 months included not only improving hyperactivity, temper tantrums, social ability and eye contact but also improvements in expressive language, recreational language, play, cognition, and digestion. (4)

John Adams concluded that “The data from this study strongly suggests that oral vitamin/mineral supplementation is beneficial in improving the nutritional and metabolic status of children with autism, and in reducing their symptoms.”


Aggressive or defiant behaviors and frequent temper tantrums in children can be stressful and challenging, and there are a number of underlying reasons why this can be occurring. Often children on the spectrum can struggle with breakdowns in certain biochemical pathways leading to the need to be on a low-phenol diet which looks at eliminating foods high in salicylates, glutamates, and amines. High sugar intake and blood sugars imbalance can be a key place to start as well as exploring potential food reactions. Getting blood work to determine if there are nutrient deficiencies might be another avenue to take.

It is important to explore the underlying cause of the behaviors, which are often multifactorial, but assessing biochemistry and nutrition status is very valuable. Seeking out a Naturopathic doctor and/or nutritionist to explore testing options and therapeutic diets is crucial in knowing what direction to take and ensuring changes are made safely and effectively. If your family would benefit from support relating to aggressive or defiant behaviours, please reach out. We’re here to help!


  1. Jones, T. W., et al. Enhanced Adrenomedullary Response and Increased Susceptibility to Neuroglygopenia: Mechanisms Underlying the Adverse Effect of Sugar Ingestion in Children. Journal of Pediatrics. Feb 1995;126:171-7.
  2. Schoenthaler, S. The Los Angeles Probation Department Diet-Behavior Program: Am Empirical Analysis of Six Institutional Settings. Int J Biosocial Res , 1983 5(2):88-89.
  3. Couzy, F., et al. “Nutritional Implications of the Interaction Minerals,” Progressive Food and Nutrition Science 17;1933:65-87
  4. Adams, J. B., Audhya, T., McDonough-Means, S., Rubin, R. A., Quig, D., Geis, E., & Lee, W. (2011).










Autism & the Low-Salicylate Diet

Autism & the Low-Salicylate Diet

Mental Health Gut Article

Phenol is a type of organic compound that can be found in food or can be man-made from petroleum products and used as additives in food and personal care items. They are used commercially as preservatives and can be used to enhance flavours. 

There are different types of phenols including salicylates, glutamates and amines. These compounds can cause problems for anyone who has gut issues such as “leaky gut syndrome”. They are also especially problematic for children because they are naturally more sensitive to chemicals due to their less developed nerve myelin sheaths (the protective coating that surrounds our nerves to enable smooth communication between nerves).

In this article we’ll discuss salicylates specifically including what they are and when you might need to implement a low-salicylate diet with your child.

What Are Salicylates?

Salicylates are a natural pesticide found in plants. You will be surprised to know that foods high in salicylates can be found in many healthy fruits, vegetables and nuts including berries, apples, grapes, tomatoes, almonds, avocado, spinach and honey.

Why Would You Need to Implement a Low-Salicylate Diet?

For people that have difficulty with processing salicylates in the body a low-salicylate diet is needed.

Salicylates must be broken down in the body by a process called sulfation which occurs in the liver. Our body also uses a particular enzyme called phenol-sulpho-transferase (also known as PST) to help break down salicylates. So, when one or both of these detoxification pathways are impacted, salicylates cannot be cleared from the body, resulting in various adverse effects.

For people that have difficulty with sulfation or lack this enzyme they need to reduce their intake of foods high in salicylates in order to help to relieve the burden on various biochemical processes and structures in the body that may be compensating for the reduced ability to detoxify these plant compounds.

If salicylates remain in the body, they can cause numerous problems such as inflammation, poor digestion and can negatively impact the nervous system. Consuming salicylates without the adequate capacity to detoxify them can create leaky gut, bacterial imbalances in the gut, difficulties with overall detoxification, hormonal imbalances, blood-brain-barrier dysfunction, and can interfere with neurotransmitters leading to various cognitive and behavioral problems

Symptoms Related To Difficulty Processing Salicylates

As reported by Julie Matthews, award-winning author of Nourishing Hope for Autism, the signs and symptoms that an individual has difficulty processing salicylates include:

  • Aggression 

  • Cravings for high-salicylate foods

  • Dark circles under eyes

  • Defiant behaviour

  • Diarrhea

  • Difficulty falling asleep at night

  • Fatigue

  • Headaches

  • Hyperactivity

  • Impatience

  • Inappropriate laughter

  • Incontinence or bed wetting

  • Poor neuromuscular function

  • Red cheeks and/or ears

  • Respiratory issues

  • Self-injurious behaviour/head banging

  • Skin rashes

  • Sleep walking

In addition to observing symptom patterns, known sulfite reactions, as well as lab results completed by a naturopath doctor are other ways to confirm a problem with an individual’s ability to perform sulfation and process salicylates.

What is the Low Salicylate Diet?

There are actually 2 types of low salicylate diets: the Feingold diet and Failsafe diet. Both diets require the elimination of certain foods for 3-6 weeks and then systematic reintroduction to assess tolerance and whether that food is best avoided or if it is safe to begin including in the diet once again.

The Feingold Diet

The Feingold diet helps to address hyperactivity and avoids high salicylates. It includes a smaller list of foods to avoid and is easier to implement than the Failsafe diet. The Feingold diet requires a person to eliminate high salicylate foods for 4-6 weeks and then reintroduce the food back into the diet one by one and in small to medium amounts while tracking symptoms and potential reactions.

The Failsafe Diet

The Failsafe diet avoids salicylates as well as foods high in amines and glutamates. This diet is more comprehensive and accurate, but limits a lot more foods so is harder to implement. The Failsafe diet requires elimination of foods for at least 3 weeks and then adds in 6 salicylates every day for a week while tracking symptoms and potential reactions. After all the salicylate foods are introduced, amine containing foods are assessed next.

There are different ways health professionals will reintroduce foods back in based on an individual’s known body chemistry, their food addictions, their diet profile, and their behaviors. It can be overwhelming and somewhat intimidating when exploring a restrictive diet like this, so working with a clinician that is experienced with these diets may be the best approach to take. A qualified clinician can help you navigate the decision-making process about which therapeutic diet strategy is right for you, as well as assist with the implementation of a chosen dietary plan.

Benefits of the Low-Salicylate Diet

  • It can help dramatically improve behaviours
  • Can help improve many body systems such as neurological, digestion, detoxification, endocrine
  • Can help individuals with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) to reduce gut pain that has been caused by foods high in salicylates

Drawbacks of the Low-Salicylate Diet

  1. It can be confusing and more difficult to identify an intolerance when salicylates, amine and glutamates are all issues.
  2. It is restrictive.
  3. Long term implementation of the diet can result in nutrient deficiencies since it involves the elimination of many fruits and vegetables.


A low-salicylate diet such as Feingold or Failsafe can be an effective way to help manage and reduce symptoms caused by faulty sulfation or lack the PST enzyme which makes it difficult for a person to break down foods high in salicylates, such as berries, grapes, apples and almonds.

It is important to understand an individual’s biochemistry, history, and dietary habits to know what the optimal therapeutic diet approach. Please reach out to a health professional experienced in these diets and with you or your child’s current symptoms in order to find the most suitable and effective.


8 Ways to Boost Motivation, Naturally

8 Ways to Boost Motivation, Naturally

Detoxifying vegetables and fruits

Our ability to initiate, engage in, and complete activities is an important part of participating in life. Lack of motivation, also called adynamia, is common with injury to the frontal lobes that occurs after a traumatic brain injury (TBI). It is also one of the most debilitating parts of depression, and can last for months after the other symptoms of depression such as low mood, sleeping changes, eating changes, and apathy have improved.

Norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine are all neurotransmitters that communicate between nerves. These specific neurotransmitters help us with concentration, attention, drive, pleasure/reward, sexual functioning, interest, energy, and motivation. Deficiency or reduced levels of these neurotransmitters can contribute to challenges in ability to initiate and complete tasks.

So, if you have difficulty “getting going” and initiating activities or following through and finishing things you start… then you might be struggling with low levels of dopamine.

What is dopamine?

Dopamine has been called the “motivation molecule,” as it helps provide the drive and focus needed to “get stuff done”, helps us feel happy and alert, and also plays an important part in helping to get us up and moving in the morning (1).

Dopamine is also involved with the “pleasure system” of the brain and functions to create a feeling of enjoyment and a sense of reward in order to motivate performance. It also supports sleep, mood, attention, and learning.

People that suffer with low dopamine often experience hopelessness, feelings of worthlessness, and struggle to handle stress. (2)

How do we make dopamine?

To make dopamine, norepinephrine and epinephrine we need to certain proteins – specifically, the amino acids L-Tyrosine and L-Phenylalanine – as well as vitamin C and B6. Reduced levels of these amino acids or vitamins can increase the risk of experiencing a lack of motivation, low energy, poor concentration, and even depression.

Why dopamine levels may be low

There are a number of factors that can lead to lower than optimal dopamine levels, including:

  1. Chronic stress and adrenal exhaustion
  2. Low protein diets, especially with low intake of foods high in phenylalanine and tyrosine
  3. Low stomach acid and/or leaky gut (as this impairs the ability to absorb proteins and vitamins)
  4. Vitamin deficiencies including C, D, B3 and B6
  5. Mineral deficiencies including low magnesium, zinc, or iron
  6. Poor sleep
  7. Hypothyroidism
  8. Hypoglycemia or poor blood sugar balance

How To Boost Dopamine Levels with Diet and Lifestyle Factors

1. Eat enough protein

Increasing the amount of protein in your diet, especially tyrosine and phenylalanine, can increase dopamine levels in the brain (3,4). Research has shown that when phenylalanine and tyrosine are eliminated from the diet, dopamine levels can become depleted (5).

Both tyrosine and phenylalanine are naturally found in protein-rich foods like turkey, beef, eggs, soy and legumes.

2. Consume dopamine-boosting foods

  1. Raw cacao or minimally processed dark chocolate (2 pieces a day)
  2. Avocado
  3. Green leafy vegetables
  4. Beets
  5. Nuts & seeds
  6. Organic coffee or organic green tea (1 cup a day)

Although all these foods can be beneficial for dopamine levels, multiple studies have shown that the L-theanine found in green tea increases dopamine production, thus causing an antidepressant effect and enhancing cognitive function (6)

3. Take a probiotic

You may have heard the gut is sometimes called the “second brain“, that is because it contains a large number of nerve cells that produce many neurotransmitter signalling molecules, including dopamine (7,8). Certain species of bacteria that live in your gut are also capable of producing dopamine, which may impact mood and behaviour. Conversely harmful bacteria in the gut have been shown to decrease dopamine production. (9,10, 11, 12)

4. Yoga

There are so many health benefits of yoga one of them, surprisingly, is boosting dopamine and motivation. One three-month study found that performing one hour of yoga six days per week significantly increased dopamine levels (13).

5. Get a good night’s sleep

Sleep improves neurotransmitter production and receptor activity.  When we sleep, our brain flushes out the neurotransmitters, repairs receptor sites and regenerates neurotransmitters to be used the next day. Getting regular, high quality sleep may help keep your dopamine levels balanced and help you feel more alert and high-functioning during the day. (14)

When people are forced, or choose, to stay awake through the night, the availability of dopamine receptors in the brain is dramatically reduced by the next morning (15)

6. Listen to instrumental music

Listening to music can help boost dopamine levels. Research has found that listening to music increases activity in the reward and pleasure areas of the brain, which are rich with dopamine receptors (16).

A small study investigating the effects of music on dopamine found a 9% increase in brain dopamine levels when people listened to instrumental songs (17). At this stage, the science points to listing to instrumental music as opposed to music with lyrics.

7. Meditation

Research has found that meditation many of meditations benefits may be due to increased dopamine levels in the brain.

One study including eight experienced meditation teachers had a 64% increase in dopamine production after meditating for one hour, compared to when resting quietly (18). This might be a simple strategy to implement given that you just need to find a quiet place and be still. If dopamine is low, this is a nice, easy strategy to start with to help get yourself going again!

8. Get plenty of sunlight

Sun exposure may boost dopamine levels and improve mood. If we don’t get enough sunshine exposure, it can lead to reduced levels of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, including dopamine (19).

One study in 68 healthy adults found that those who received the most sunlight exposure in the previous 30 days had the highest density of dopamine receptors in the reward and movement regions of their brains (20).


Struggling to initiate and complete tasks can be quite debilitating, embarrassing, and impacts your ability to manage your day-to-day activities.

Dopamine is a key neurotransmitter to help create drive and motivation. To help boost your motivation make sure you eat enough good-quality lean protein, take a probiotic, engage in regular yoga and meditation, listen to instrumental music… and even better, get out and do some of this in the sunlight! Make sure you get a good night’s sleep and eat avocados, nuts/seeds, dark chocolate, beets, and sip on organic coffee or green tea. You may want to also invest in a B-complex supplement and a multivitamin containing magnesium, zinc, iron, vitamin C, and D.

By implementing these strategies you can help to kick-start your mojo and get going with life again. And if you need support walking through these strategies or others – we’re here to help!




SchoolBOX: Supporting Indigenous Children

SchoolBOX: Supporting Indigenous Children

Detoxifying vegetables and fruits

For those who don’t know me, I’m Kylie James, a Certified Nutritionist and the founder of Koru Nutrition. I was born and raised in New Zealand, and came to call Canada home just a little over 15 years ago. Over the last several years, I began learning more about Canada’s history, the legacy of residential schools, and the challenges still currently facing Indigenous communities all over our country.

As written in the Truth and Reconciliation Report (TRC), reconciliation is about:

 “…establishing and maintaining a mutually respectful relationship between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal peoples in this country. In order for that to happen, there has to be awareness of the past, an acknowledgement of the harm that has been inflicted, atonement for the causes, and action to change behaviour.”

At Koru Nutrition, it is important to us to work toward establishing a mutually respectful and beneficial relationship with the Indigenous Peoples of this land. The more I learned, the more I felt compelled to give back in some way. By sponsoring the SchooBOX school lunch program on the reserve in the Wabauskang First Nation, we have taken one small step towards eliminating the gap that exists between the health of Indigenous people in Canada and settler populations. 

What is SchoolBOX?

SchoolBOX is a not-for-profit charity that helps to break down educational barriers for children and youth in Nicaragua and those in the Wabauskang First Nation in Northern Ontario. SchoolBOX helps to build learning centres, curate book collections for local libraries, deliver technology, and provide lunches to give children the opportunity for a solid education and a bright future. 

How did SchoolBOX get started?

SchoolBOX started in 2006 when founder, Tom Affleck, was in Nicaragua. He described the inspiration for SchoolBox as starting with a small gesture and a simple statement: “[Tom] gave two young girls a notebook and a pencil. One of their fathers, seeing this simple gift smiled broadly and said ‘Now that you have a notebook and a pencil you can go to school this year.’” 

In 2007 SchoolBOX registered as a Canadian Charity. From this point they started fundraising and building libraries, providing school supplies, and helped to develop sports programs in Nicaragua. 

SchoolBOX North– First Nations

The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Education identified that there was a large gap between the education available on reserves and in settler cities in Canada. They determined that there needed to be steps taken to help bridge that gap. 

SchoolBOX has taken that call to action and believe that Indigenous children should have the right to culturally appropriate books written by Indigenous authors. They also provide nutritious lunches, prepared by Marshall Moore (pictured above), an Anishinaabe chef trained at the Seven Generations Institute in Kenora. By providing school lunches, SchoolBOX is helping to ensure that children on the Wabauskang reserve have access to the nutrition they require to support their learning and health. 

How did SchoolBOX North get its start?

SchoolBOX started bringing Indigenous youth down to Nicaragua as part of the Indigenous Youth and Empowerment Program (IYES). The program was designed to help assist with building Nicaraguan schools while enabling the Indigenous youth to share and learn about each others’ cultures.

During the process, it became apparent that building schools and assisting children to attend school was also lacking on reserves in Canada because some Indigenous children on reserves had to travel hours just to get to school.

The statistics may be shocking to many: half of the Indigenous children living on reserves in Canada, are living in poverty (Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, 2019), and only 1 in 4 graduate high school in 4 years (Auditor General 2018); statistics unparalleled by other disadvantaged groups in Canada.

Terri Meekis (Director of SchoolBOX) began her journey with SchoolBOX in 2012 when she ventured to Nicaragua with the IYES program. After returning to Nicaragua in 2017 with her daughter, they spoke about how their community at home in Ontario did not have a school or library. Since then, she has helped to spearhead the SchoolBOX North program and has been instrumental in establishing a First Nations Public Library in her community, a library and school workspace in Niisaachewan Anishinaabe Nation, and the lunch program in Wabauskang First Nation.

Koru Nutrition Supports the SchoolBOX Lunch Program

Koru Nutrition is passionate about supporting communities where children may not be receiving the necessary and appropriate nutrition to support their growing needs and their ability to learn in the classroom. As a result, Koru Nutrition makes a monthly donation to the SchoolBox North lunch program.

The results of the 2021 lunch program survey in SchoolBOX North found that 100% of kids who responded found the program helped them to attend school more and helped to improve their mental health. 86% found the lunches helped them to better pay attention in class and 71% noticed their grades improved. 100% of respondents want to participate again next year.

In Northern Ontario since 2017 SchoolBOX North has provided:

  • 6,225 school lunches to kids
  • 1,874 books to build 3 Indigenous library collections
  • 2 on reserve learning centres with major renovations

We are so happy to be a part of the SchoolBOX community and to support their important efforts. We hope that other Canadians take time to reflect on the recommendations in the Truth and Reconciliation Commission’s final report and make an ongoing effort to take the necessary steps toward reconciliation.

If you want to provide your support to SchoolBox North, you can donate here:  

You can also check out their website for volunteer opportunities: