The Body’s Connection to Mental Illness

The Body’s Connection to Mental Illness

There was a Scandinavian study where they changed the diet of hospitalized schizophrenic patients. They focused on whole foods and avoiding gluten. Amazingly 50% of those patients were later discharged with no signs or symptoms of their mental illness. This is truly astounding. 

Why are we not doing this more? I cynically counter that there isn’t much money in getting people to eat right and much more money in medications and hospitalizations. It is frustrating because it is so simple, even in a complex disease like schizophrenia. 

Are you struggling with mental health? Keep it simple. Focus on your diet with no processed foods and minimize your gluten and dairy. It is worth a shot, for sure!

Vitamins for Mental Health

Mood can be addressed with a number of supplements while focusing on a healthy diet and getting enough sleep.   Here are some of my favorites.


The gut proves again that it is the beginning of healing.  Probiotics are very specific, and I would recommend ProbioMood by Pure Encapsulations.  Researched strains that show improved mood are important, and all probiotics are not created equal.

Vitamin D3

Our mood has been unequivocally associated with Vitamin D3 levels.  Getting our levels above 50 ng/dL is essential for good mental health.  Doing this with a trusted source is important, as very few over-the-counter supplements do this right, as such a minute amount is required and easy to get wrong.

Fish Oil (EPA/DHA)

Fish oil works on a lot of important processes in the body but maybe none as important as brain health and mood.  Getting the right kind is important.  It is suspected that a large majority of Americans are deficient in this essential nutrient for mood.


This is one of my all-time favorites when addressing mood with trace mineral amounts like 5-20 mg a day.  Lithium has numerous positive effects, but the brain and mood effects are amazing, as my blog points out.  This is a no-brainer for most people and has been helpful even with people on anti-depressants.

Amino Acids

These are the precursors of our feel-good neurotransmitters, serotonin, and dopamine.  5-HTP is a direct amino acid precursor to serotonin and bypasses a genetic issue in a lot of people that prevents tryptophan from converting to serotonin.  Take 5- HTP with a meal.  L-Tyrosine helps make dopamine which improves energy, focus, and mood.  Take L-Tyrosine away from meals.


A randomized controlled trial published in PLoS ONE in 2017 reported that magnesium supplementation improved symptoms of mild-to-moderate depression in adults, in a similar range as what is seen with the use of antidepressant medications.  Although a small study, it will only help per my clinical experience and I use PowerMag, 2-3 a day.


Having activated folate and other B-vitamins is essential as the body can immediately use them in the essential process of making neurotransmitters.   I do this with a good multivitamin, like PureGenomics Ultramulti, which has lithium, vitamin D3 (4000 IU),  and magnesium as well.  

Addressing past trauma through counseling, sleep, diet, stress, and exercise is also essential as you cannot supplement your way out of a poor lifestyle, but it can help to give you more leverage to improve your mood.

Are your gut issues making you sad?

Are your gut issues making you sad?

Growing evidence points to a link between depression and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). Abdominal discomfort, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and constipation are some of the symptoms of IBS, a common gastrointestinal illness. According to studies, those who have IBS are more likely than the general population to struggle with anxiety and depression.

IBS and depression may be related for various reasons, as follows:

Modified gut-brain connection:

The gut-brain axis, a complex communication network encompassing the gastrointestinal tract, enteric nervous system, and central nervous system, connects the gut and the brain. IBS symptoms and mood disorders, like depression and anxiety, may be brought on by disruptions in this connection. Common issues causing this disruption are unbalanced gut bacteria and low-grade inflammation.

Unbalanced gut microbiota

The billions of bacteria and other microorganisms that comprise the gut microbiota are essential for maintaining digestive health and controlling immune responses. According to research, gut microbiota abnormalities can affect mood and mental health, causing IBS and contributing to the condition. Stress, antibiotics, and processed foods cause imbalances.

Researchers believe chronic low-grade inflammation to be present in certain IBS patients and, in my experience, all IBS patients. Increased levels of inflammatory markers have been discovered in persons with major depressive disorder. It would make sense, as inflammation blocks the production of our feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin, through inflammatory molecules, cytokines, and, guess where cytokines mainly originate, the gut.

IBS and depression have a complicated association, and not everyone with IBS will also experience depression. However, I have found most people with depression have gut issues of some kind. To heal the gut is an excellent first step in your health journey. Some necessary steps are as follows:

  • Eliminate inflammatory foods like gluten, dairy, and processed foods.
  • The next step is to support your microbiome with a good spore probiotic, Sporific, and increase dietary fiber (food for your good bacteria).
  • Finally, heal your gut with a supplement like Glutaprotect and SBI Protect. 

Don’t forget everything is connected in your body, especially your gut and brain!

Is your home silently making you sick?

Is your home silently making you sick?

Living in Colorado and its arid climate, most of my patients never consider that their home may be harboring a deadly healthy disruptor, mold, and mold’s health-disrupting toxins. Despite some very reasonable arguments from my patients that there is no way that they could have mold, I persist in ruling this out because mold toxins are notorious immune system disruptors and lead to everything from multiple sclerosis to cancer if they are present, including more common things like chronic fatigue and persistent depression. Even here in Colorado, it is rampant, as I have found it over and over in my chronically ill patients, and by addressing the source of mold, those same patients have started to heal.  

Keep a very open mind to this as a hidden health disruptor. Testing is vital, and many mold companies use air testing, and those tests notoriously miss mold toxins. Hence, an excellent place to start is an ERMI (Environmental Relative Mold Index) test to perform in your home, which you can order online, or get a blood test at, where they will mail the kit to you to see if you are currently being exposed. If you are being exposed to mold, having the right company discover where that mold is vital by using moisture sensors to find the areas in the home with mold and remediate is critical. 

What to do if you know you have mold is essential. Your home’s typical air filter will not address the toxins that make you sick, as mold toxins are tiny. Start with an air filter like IQ Air and put it in your bedroom. Eat many cruciferous vegetables for improved detox, and drink a lot of water. Phosphatidylcholine helps your liver make bile which binds toxins and lets you get rid of them through your stool. There are also binders that can help, taken away from meals and other supplements, which will keep the toxins in the GI tract to be excreted.

 Keep a very open mind when it comes to mold and the insidious role it plays in health. The more humid the climate you live in, the more of an issue it is likely to be. Knowing the answer to the air quality you’re breathing and whether it is full of mold toxins is essential to staying healthy.  

Sugar – The Original Crack

When I was in my 20’s, and I heard my sister-in-law mention that she was going off sugar, and it was the hardest thing she had ever done. She talked about the withdrawal, and physical symptoms like it was a drug withdrawal. I thought this was a little dramatic because in my 20’s I knew everything. Now I’m 50, and I realize how right she was and how dumb I am, to be honest. However, being a dumbass makes me more willing to understand what I don’t know.

Sugar and its effects

There are many papers on the role of sugar and its effects on the brain. One of the best articles I found shows that sugar triggers dopamine production in the same area of the brain as drugs do in rats.  Dopamine is the neurotransmitter that is best thought of as “the reward chemical.” Gambling=dopamine.  Sex=dopamine.  Drugs and alcohol=dopamine. Video games=dopamine.

This paper shows that it is common to have a cross addiction to alcohol and amphetamines with sugar sensitization. So, sugar is a drug.

Another question you might have is, “Why are we made this way?” With all the sugar surrounding us, it doesn’t seem fair. Before toaster pastries and wine came along, as early humans, we had to forage and hunt for meals, and when winter was coming, we took calories where we could get them.  If we came across sugar, whether in honey or fruit, we got the signal to eat and eat a lot through the reward of a dopamine hit. The necessary thing for the forager was that sugar also packed on fat to help get through the long hard winter. The signal to eat, and eat a lot, gave us an evolutionary advantage.  

Now, the average American eats 100-150 lbs of sugar a year because it overflows into every part of their diet. We have entered the land of chronic diseases of overconsumption like diabetes, heart disease, and cancer. Men should eat about 25 lbs of sugar per year based on weight, and women about 16 lbs per year. That means about 35 grams a day for men and 20-25 grams for women. Men, drink one 12oz. soda (38g), and you are done. Women, have one brand name yogurt (26g), and you are done…. and unsatisfied. Our processed foods are sabotaging us, so be very aware of hidden sources driving our addictions.

Now that we can quit thinking of sugar cravings as a moral weakness, we can apply some interventions that give our willpower a much-needed helping hand. It is crucial, especially following the holidays when the sugar gremlin is turned loose to eat all the sugar-laden foods.

Here are two things to focus on:

Improve Dopamine levels

  1. Exercise is not sexy, but 10-15 mins of moderate to intense exercise stoke the dopamine fire.
  2. Sleep– also not sexy. When we don’t get enough sleep, our dopamine requirement goes up because our number of dopamine receptors goes down. Think about the last time you didn’t get enough sleep? You probably couldn’t get enough ice cream. Don’t underestimate the importance of enough sleep in fighting your cravings.
  3. Supplement support– a little sexier. Increasing dopamine is easy with supplements. You can help dopamine stay around longer with things like Rhodiola Rosea (1 twice a day).  You can also increase dopamine production with DopaPlus (1 twice a day between meals). These supplements work and will help you avoid sugar cravings along with the next intervention.

Kill the yeast!

Yeast or Candida Albicans (and others) live in our digestive tract, and a certain amount of them are good, when they overgrow, they become detrimental to our health and lead to fatigue, brain fog, and, most of all, sugar cravings.

  1. Starve them– Start cutting back on sugar as this is yeast’s favorite fuel source, and less yeast equals fewer cravings. There is no research saying, “you have yeast, then you have sugar cravings,” but from what I see in my office, this is 100% true. The only problem is that it is hard to cut back on sugar when you have yeast, so enter something to help.
  2. Candida Balance– This is a supplement that does a phenomenal job of leveling the yeast playing field. This is my go-to when I have been in the cookie cupboard and can’t stop.  1-2 capsules twice a day does an herbal number on the yeast and their protective biofilms. I can feel the cravings dissipate within 24 hours. You need to take at least one bottle if you have been struggling with sugar for some time and keep some handy when you fall off the wagon during holidays or special occasions.

Whitney Houston said, “Crack is whack.” What she should’ve said is, “Sugar is a booger.”

Addiction to sugar and its associated diseases, heart disease, cancer and diabetes, have killed many more people (1.35 million) per year than crack (70K).

The Long Hard Ride

I was cleaning out my house for the last time (it took me three trips from Ohio to Colorado to get completely moved) when I found a gift from my wife from years ago. It was a wedding gift: a leather-covered flask and on the front was the quote “For the long hard ride.” When she gave me this, we were riding horses in Kentucky every weekend, sometimes 25 miles a day. And when in Kentucky, do as the Kentuckians do and drink your Vitamin B (Bourbon). Life took us away from riding, 4 kids tend to do that, but this memento from my wife reminds me of some lessons from those days of horseback riding.


Lesson 1: No fear. 

The worst thing you could be on a horse is fearful. Because they know it, as they are very intuitive animals, and take their cues from the rider. This is counterproductive, as you lose control, and then bad things happen. It is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The same goes for now. When we are full of fear, we do not see the opportunities available to us, and we miss that which can improve our lives. Living in fear creates the sense of “not enough,” and there goes happiness. Meditation, yoga, and prayer are wonderful ways to center ourselves and live in abundance, where we are right now, at this moment. Give it up, let it go, and let in all the amazing great things that want to come into your life. The ride will go much smoother.


Lesson 2: A little goes a long way. 

I had occasionally overindulged with the aforementioned Vitamin “B” while riding. I went from enjoying myself to a miserable time, pretty damn quick. As we are at home the question “why not?” is often asked when it comes to things that are mood-altering. Harmless enough, right? Well, here and there, sure, it can be enjoyable and relaxing in small doses. The problem is large doses disrupt your sleep, you may become depressed, and you create a cycle involving said substances. To get out of the weirdness we are living in, the cycle may leave you constantly trying to crawl out of your self-induced mood changes. I encourage you to enjoy the long ride by not overdoing it early on, as it can make a long trip much longer.


Lesson 3: Be prepared. 

Early on, I bought saddlebags for all the things that can go wrong on the trail. I packed them with about everything I might need when I was going to be 10-15 miles from camp. Well, folks, we are a long way from camp right now. We need to be prepared. Whether it’s getting enough sleep, supplements to support immune responses, or eating right, these things will get us through like nothing else in our “saddlebags.” You can see my blog here on these things, but it’s important to realize that this has to be a lifestyle choice for the long term.    


Lesson 4: Get in a rhythm. 

This will be a long hard ride indeed if you don’t get into a rhythm. We rode gaited horses, if we were not in sync with the gait, man, it hurt the next day. Well, daily life is the same way. I decided after 2 weeks of flopping around like a fish and seeing how long it took till my body funk drove me to the shower, that I had to create normalcy in my life again. Now, it’s get up, meditate, drink my coffee, get a shower, answer emails, do things like writing my e-book that is halfway finished, or other projects I never got around to, like straightening the garage, go for a walk help make supper and have a family dinner. This has done wonders for my mood and outlook. A schedule helps. Going to sleep at night is much easier when you feel like you didn’t Netflix your way through the day.


Lesson 5: Maintenance for your horse. 

A lame horse is not good for a long ride, of course. They require maintenance. If you just thought you could pull it out of the stall and go, it’s probably not going to go well. When we get hit with this virus, we need to be prepared and all the things mentioned in Lesson 3 apply here. We can’t take Zinc and Vitamin D for a month or two and expect it to do the trick. The same goes for diet, sleep, and stress reduction. It is a long-term commitment, just like I made to my animal so that he could do what I asked of him. Your body is the same way.


I wish it wasn’t going to be a long hard ride, but until we get enough testing and tracking of people who are infected, this virus may be around longer than we like. This is not to discourage you, but to encourage you to not be a sprinter in this race, but to create abundance so that you find joy and contentment, no matter the circumstances. It helps on the “long hard ride.”

Eating the Fear Away

Fear, unfounded or not, is debilitating. I am gaining a new appreciation for fear with my recent reading of an article in Nature magazine. In this article, I found that my previous thinking of this as a purely psychological problem is probably not 100% accurate. As I will explore, our fear and the neural connections that say “when this happens, this is going to happen” is more associated with our bacteria living in our gut, than some faulty processing of this emotion. Truly a groundbreaking insight, at least in rats, but I think we can say it should apply to humans as well.


Let’s talk about my fear. It is heights. I hate them and I even freak out 5 feet from ledges. To take up indoor rock climbing was my attempt to overcome my fear, and I did that for over 12 months with the thought that if exposed enough, my fear would dissipate. Well, after 12 months, despite all the logical self-talk, “You are tied to a rope with a knot that will not come loose, and there is no way to fall,” I still hung to the wall like a cat being forced into the water. I did not enjoy it. 

Fast forward 3 years: I’m climbing again and I am in love with the sport and have no fear of the same heights that had crippled my brain. Have I become so psychologically sound that this was no longer an issue? No, my wife can attest to this. So, what was it? Well, in this article I am going to discuss what gave me some insight into the shift.

The experiment was genius, except for the part about shocking rats. They took 2 groups of rats, one of which had been treated with antibiotics which impaired the bacteria in their gut, and the other group had normal gut flora. They then rang a bell and shocked them until they got both groups accustomed to hearing a bell and becoming fearful of a shock. Then, in the next phase of the experiment, they rang a bell and there was no shock delivered. The scientists monitored their vitals to see how long it would take their fear response to become “extinct” or when the rats heard a bell, they didn’t poop their cage worrying about getting the bejesus shocked out of them. 

The rats that had received antibiotics never got over the bell triggering a fear response. The rats with normal gut flora/bacteria were able to get over the fear of being shocked and didn’t live in fear of the sound of the bell. This is fascinating if the study just stopped there, but it went further to explain the reason.  

The study showed that the right bacteria in the gut releases metabolites/chemicals that instruct the brain that it is ok to “prune” these brain connections that are causing the fear response. If you have the right bacteria releasing the right chemicals, then you can remove the brain connections of cause and effect, i.e. hearing a bell and thinking you are going to get the hell shocked out of you. This is huge! Our bacteria, when our gut is healthy, helps us get over our fears. Amazing insights. The phrase, “You are what you eat” takes on a whole new meaning and it definitely did for me.  

My research over the last 2 years has shown that fiber is much better for your gut flora than taking selected probiotics (probiotics are helpful, but are limited depending on what each specific bacteria you are taking in the probiotic does–they have very specific functions). I like the fiber approach because it helps all of your bacteria.  

Back to my fear of heights. I have been eating much more salad and fibrous foods over the last 3 years and I think that is why I no longer have the fear of heights I did before. Eating right to help your brain heal is the key lesson here and eating right is lots of fiber in the form of vegetables and fruits. If you need some support with your bacteria besides just diet, try Poly-Prebiotic powder to increase your fiber. Your brain and your bacteria will thank you for it.

Zip It and Sleep Better

Or I should say, tape it and sleep better. I am about to tell you about one of the most amazing sleep secrets that costs pennies a day (Infomercial sounding? Yep, but not selling anything but good ole tape) and may save your adrenal glands. The secret is lip taping at bedtime.  

The science here is amazing and is based on the work of Dr. Butekyo. He was a doctor working in the ICU who noted that patients that slept with their mouths closed, lived much longer than those who slept with their mouth open. 

There is some complex physiologic process going on here that justify this increased longevity, but suffice it to say, breathing through your nose, creates more nitric oxide, which improves lung and heart function. It also prevents a tremendous amount of sleep apnea and oxygen deprivation. I have been utilizing this technique since the conference I attended by the guru of Butekyo Breathing, and my sleep has never been better. I actually proved this when I monitored my sleep with my Oura ring with and without tape and my sleep scores without tape were much worse. Especially my NREM and REM sleep scores, so I did not get as much restorative, deep sleep as I need.

What is involved with taping?  Well, you can go the cheapest route and use 3M Transpore tape and tape the lips shut which may involve trial periods while awake. This is an issue if you’ve been a long-term mouth breather. Once you’re used to wearing it (most people tolerate it without having to do the longer and longer trial periods) you then wear this before you fall asleep and take it off when you awake. Too good to be true? I thought so too, but let me tell you, this is a life changer for improved sleep. If you like your tape fancy, and I do (I am so Zsa Zsa), you can also use to order amazing tape in the shape of lips that I reuse 2-3 times before throwing away.  

Are there other applications for nose breathing even when not asleep? Yes, and I would highly recommend learning more about nasal breathing for asthma, stress, anxiety, and much improved athletic performance. is a great place to start if you want to dig further. If you want more information and techniques for lip taping for sleep, here is a good article I found. Also, check out this YouTube video called “Mindfulness Buteyko” which helps calm the mind and teaches soft breathing techniques. 


To your much-improved sleep,

Nathan Morris MD

Shout Out to the Castaways!

Shout Out to the Castaways!

What keeps me going? Why have I not finished the “Longmire” series on Netflix? Well, it’s because of the “castaway” patients. Those patients who have not conformed to what we expect to find using “standard” medicine.

It’s for those patients that defy traditional diagnosis, and typical response to treatment, and are ultimately marked as mentally ill and given anti-depressants. You know who you are. You are talked down too or being patronized because there is no way standard medicine doesn’t have it all figured out.

It’s for the patients that have seen more specialists than they have fingers and toes. I just talked to another patient that I had referred to a specialist for an issue that was definitely outside my wheelhouse, and I wanted an answer to an abnormal lab. The patient never got the question answered and were referred in the process to 4 other specialists who have ordered over 10 additional procedures ordered (most of which had been done in the recent past). They actually became angry with her when she refused! I guess that they didn’t know the adage she did, “to keep repeating the same tests and expecting different results is the definition of insanity.”  I am so sorry that the experience is not unique, but is the norm anymore.

It’s for the patient who thinks that there will never be a solution to their problem despite knowing there is a bigger picture that is just not being seen by all the specialists who have compartmentalized every problem and cannot see the forest for the trees. The bigger picture, that is quite discernible with just listening, escapes the medical profession which is rewarded for volume and testing.

It’s for the patients who have stuck with me for years in hopes that I gain enough new knowledge to address their unique issues. Those who wait on me to connect the dots. I truly thank you, the patients who have believed in me and our therapeutic relationship when I felt like a failure. Your tenacity was infectious and often that patience has paid off with me having that “ah hah” moment. Your faith in me and my burning desire to heal and not lose to ignorance is a huge motivator to become more than I am as a healer.

Thank you to all of you for making me a better doctor. It’s not our successes as a doctor that defines us, but our “failures,” how we respond, and what we do to overcome our limitations in understanding. I am batting better than ever because of you. I will never bat a thousand which is unrealistic I realize, but I am batting a hell of a lot better than average because of each of my patient’s uniqueness and trust that I give a damn and I am always going to be working to understand you as an individual with your own story. “Longmire” can wait. I am learning too much with the “castaways”!

Dr. Nathan Morris, MD

How Did We Forget our ABC’s?

How Did We Forget our ABC’s?

There are few things worse than seeing your baby struggle with bright red cheeks, oozing wounds, and scratching themself bloody. Watching their skin flake off and leave piles where they sat is horrible. The sleepless nights and tortured cries are gut-wrenching. 

As a parent and a clinician that sees this on a weekly basis, my heart goes out to the parents who are watching their little ones suffer. I’ve been there myself having had eczema and with little ones that had it too, so I can relate to the experience of the parents and the kiddos suffering through it. 

Thankfully, you can solve the eczema puzzle with the right steps. The key is identifying the underlying root causes and treating them appropriately. 

In adults, the underlying causes are many ranging from genetic predispositions, stress/trauma, and toxicity, to dietary factors, hormone and nutrient imbalances, and a disrupted microbiome- especially in the gut. Inflammatory conditions like eczema arise when the environmental factors mentioned collide with genetics (dig deeper into this subject in another article I wrote).   

The GREAT news is that eczema in little ones is much easier to resolve since they don’t have decades of stress, trauma, and environmental exposures that make it trickier in adults! Plus, their little bodies have an incredible capacity to heal.  

Taking a Thorough History to learn more about your baby’s eczema

The first step in this process is taking a thorough history to uncover predisposing factors. Some of the issues we commonly see in little ones with eczema are:

  •  C-section birth or birth complications/ interventions 
  •  Mom had Group B Strep, UTI, or yeast infection during pregnancy 
  •  Stress for Mom during pregnancy
  •  Mom having known GI issues that were not resolved prior to pregnancy.
  •  Family history of the allergic triad (allergies, asthma, and eczema), 
  •  Nursing or feeding troubles, colic, or early food allergies (rejection of solids or food   avoidance can be a sign something is off with the gut)
  •  Seasonal skin flares indicating an allergic component
  •  History of mother or baby living in a moldy environment or near high chemical or pollutant concentrations such as farms, golf courses, airports, highways, industry, etc.
  •  Baby or child having constipation, diarrhea or loose stools, gas, burping or bloating

Having a thorough history allows us to see the big picture of what the likely causes are and what tests we need to order. I always order a comprehensive stool analysis so gut imbalances like dysbiosis can be identified, as well as the bacteria, fungi, and parasites that may be causing it. GI health markers are also helpful in determining inflammation, immune activation, and digestive function. 

Additional Testing for an accurate diagnosis and treatment

Additional testing is sometimes necessary and could involve: 

  • serum labs to assess the immune system or allergens 
  • organic acids to assess fungi/mold and harmful bacteria
  • food allergy or sensitivity testing or other specialized testing 
  • we can also do genetic analysis if the child or parent has completed a 23andMe.  

Regarding testing, it’s important to note that you should wait until you see a qualified provider to decide which tests are needed. If you order them on your own, you may order the wrong ones and end up having to spend extra money unnecessarily on the right ones. In my practice, the only tests we order are ones that directly inform the course of treatment. 

Once the test results are received and reviewed, a treatment plan specific to the needs of the patient is made. The bulk of treatment in little ones is generally focused on balancing the immune system, replacing nutrients, and supporting proper gut and digestive function. 

Skin healing typically begins during the first 1-2 months and is often almost resolved by 3-4 months. Total treatment time for babies is generally around 4-6 months total and sometimes a little longer in older children. 

Our goal is not only for your child to find relief and have soft, smooth skin, but also to give parents the tools to support their kiddos if skin issues crop up again. 

Dr. Stephanie Davis