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Creamy Keto Soup

This recipe is a great base for most any type of creamed soup you enjoy. I used frozen spinach in my batch, but sautéed Brussels sprouts,  mushrooms, or asparagus would work just fine instead.


Creamy Keto Soup

32 oz heavy cream

1 1/2 cup water or broth

6 oz cream cheese

1 cup shredded white cheddar

1 tsp minced garlic or 1/8 tsp garlic powder

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp pepper

1/8 tsp cayenne pepper powder (optional)

Heat all ingredients in medium saucepan over low heat, stirring nearly constantly. Add additional seasonings to taste after about 20 minutes and all ingredients have melted and mixed well.

Add 1 – 1 1/2 cups of frozen chopped spinach or other veggie of choice. Most veggies will do best if sautéed or parboiled prior to adding to creamed mixture.

Heat thoroughly over low heat with frequent stirring; total cook time for my batch was about 45 minutes.  You can cook over low heat for a longer period of time, but remember that heavy cream will reduce down over time, creating a thicker Soup. Serve.
Makes approx 2 quarts of Soup, unless you cook it down to thicken it more. Keeps well for several days in the fridge. I also think it tastes even better the next day!!

This creamy soup base is totally awesome for cooler fall days! Let us see your version; post pics of your Creamy Keto Soup on our Facebook page.

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Measures of “Improving Health”

Recently, another health care provider mocked my use of the phrase, “improving the health of my patients”, saying that it’s vague and not measurable.
Her comments gave me pause, because the goal of every nurse I’ve ever met has been to help people improve their health. Ask any nurse why he or she became a nurse, and you will hear a variety of ways people say it. We nurses help people get well, better, or over a health obstacle. How is that measured?
First and foremost, there are many parameters used by health care providers to measure health. With diagnoses of diabetes and hypertension, we measure glucose and blood pressure, respectively. But we often have difficulty quantifying how people feel when they lower their glucose or blood pressure. When patients return for follow-up and I’m able to tell them their hemoglobin A1c dropped from 8.9 to 6.4 after weeks of diet changes and effort, people are thrilled. They grin from ear to ear. They clap. They shake a fist in the air. They “high five” me. Some even do a “happy dance.” What is measurable here? Yes, the glucose levels are numerical and easy to track. But how does anyone put a scale on happiness or joyfulness? Can the idea that diabetic complications no longer pose a looming hazard to health be measured? How is relief quantified when kidney damage has improved?


These feelings are not measurable, yet they are extremely evident in behaviors and attitude. Patients who work toward improving health exhibit gratefulness that good instruction is provided; is that gratitude measurable?
Measures are important in health care. Measurements of pulse or blood pressure provide vital information to us who render the care. I decided that some of you might be interested in knowing what measures we use for certain conditions so you can track your own progress over time.
With diabetes, one of the most important measures is glucose, of course; in addition, the hemoglobin A1c that tells us the average glucose levels over the past 90-100 days provides a good correlation to patient effort in managing the condition. While mainstream medicine will say that “good” diabetes control occurs when the A1c is around 7, many studies have shown that diabetic complications occur when the A1c runs higher than about 6.2 or so. Normal A1c levels run around 5 or less; why should people diagnosed with diabetes be forced to run glucose levels so high that we KNOW organ damage will occur? Is that going to help patients “improve their health”?
Elevated blood pressure is often associated with diabetes because high glucose levels cause thick, sticky blood; demanding that the heart pump thick, sticky blood to an overweight body will eventually result in high blood pressure. The heart will pump harder and with more force to move thick “syrupy” blood through tiny blood vessels, resulting in higher and higher blood pressure readings. When blood pressure increases, the heart muscle becomes compromised and weaker. Daily demands on the heart that continually exceed it’s designed capabilities can contribute to a multitude of vague symptoms which are not measurable, including headaches, fatigue, nausea, dizziness, or even mild swelling. While most of these symptoms have no quantifiable scale, patients will describe how much better they feel once blood pressure is lowered. While blood pressure is measurable, the feeling of lower and healthier blood pressure is described by patients as “improved health.”
If blood pressure remains untreated or poorly managed, heart failure and/or kidney damage begin to occur. Highly pressurized blood flow moving through the kidneys will damage the fragile vessels, reducing the filtering ability of the kidneys. Elevated glucose can also damage these tiny vessels, resulting in inflammatory responses by the body that are designed to patch and repair damage – but this natural response by the body can result in blood vessel blockages. Think scar tissue.

In this photo below, notice that cholesterol is serving as the patch, relating the damage to the blood vessel. Cholesterol isNOT the cause of clots; it’s part of the damage control/repair team of the body. In summary, how do we measure “improved health”? How can we quantify patient comments when they express gratitude for how they feel? How can we count the number of clinic visits these patients will NOT have? How do we track hospitalizations that do NOT occur for these patients? What evidence do we see when ER visits are no longer the norm for people with “normal” glucose or blood pressure? We can’t. But these numbers ARE real. These people ARE changing their lives and IMPROVING HEALTH!

If you want to take charge of YOUR health, email us for more info at KetoNurses@gmail.com

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Tips & Tricks to Master LCHF 

Sometimes life impacts our food choices and our intake of processed foods increases, although they may be higher in fat or lower carb. Many times, I get messages, asking for our “approval” to consume off-plan foods like keto breads and ice creams. While some of these foods’ ingredients may be included on the LCHF food list, I strongly encourage people to consume the majority of your intake from real foods. Real meats. Real vegetables. Real fats. Eating from a bag, box or can/jar provides very few essential vitamins and minerals because many manufacturing methods contribute to decreased nutrients. Vegetables contain a lot of micronutrients and phytonutrients our bodies use daily; some have to be replaced regularly. Going days or weeks without any vegetables at all can contribute to a variety of vague symptoms, including increased fatigue, headache, & nausea. There are no magic vitamins in a bottle that can replace your veggies. Meats are strongly encouraged on LCHF as they also contain many essential nutrients, especially red meat – beef, venison, & other wild game. Red meat is about the only source of high quantities of b12 & iron – both of which are essential to our health. Chicken, turkey & pork contain only minuscule amounts of iron,if any at all. Iron is what gives meat its red color, thus the need for red meat. (Yes, vegetarians can eat LCHF, but must pay very special attention to the iron and b12 sources or risk poor health.) 

Do not fear red meat. Red meat has been falsely accused of causing health hazards. People survived eating red meat and its fat for centuries before the industrial revolution came along and packaged all our food. Manufacturing processes, including planting, harvesting, & packaging always decrease nutrient density – meaning everything that comes from a company and packaged, contains very little nutrition. Choose real bacon over turkey bacon. Choose 30% fat in burger meat. Choose real butter over margarine. Choose preservative-free foods when possible. 

Questions about bacon always surface… LOL Bacon IS best with fewest additives, or if you can find pork belly or side meat, it usually doesn’t have added sugars or preservatives; even so, most bacon is still way better for us than most anything in a bag or box. 

Baaaaacon!

Reading nutrition labels and ingredient lists is required reading for truly gaining control over health. Just because a nutrition label says 1.5 grams of carbs per serving doesn’t always mean it’s good for you. Look at ingredients –

Watch for hidden grains, sugars, and dextrin components. There are over

60 different terms that companies use to disguise sugar. Become aware of how companies sneak sugars and sweeteners into their packages. If the 1.5 grams of carbs come from wheat, and you’re sensitive to it, those carbs might send your glucose jumping! And then you’ll battle that glucose spike for hours or even days. Also, remember to check serving size. An example is a 20 ounce soda which is typically 2.5 servings; nutrient info then is NOT for the entire bottle.

Choose water over soda, sparkling drinks, and commercially prepared flavored waters – most of these items contain added sweeteners of one sort or the other and will almost always impact glucose level. Avoid ALL foods labeled as sugar-free and read labels extremely carefully. If it’s sugar free, the company has added SOMETHING to it to make it palatable and desirable. Manufacturers are catering to our “sweet tooth” by making foods sweeter and sweeter; heck, they are even modifying our fruit for maximal sweetness!!
Speaking of fruits… avoid them! In low carb nutrition, we recognize the horrible impact of fruits on our glucose levels. But most people who’ve followed the ADA way for many years are totally unaware that fruit has such an impact. They still believe fruits are good for us, but they aren’t. Only occasional berries – AFTER glucose normalization occurs – are allowed on our LCHF way of eating. If in doubt, perform your own experiment. Test before and after. For experts and such highly educated people to proclaim that fruits and grains are good for us over the past 50 years, is beyond my comprehension. They claim their diet is based on scientific data – tests – measurable numbers. But they’ve never run REAL tests! Their diet is based solely on hypothesis and conjecture. Our way of eating is based on 70+ scientific studies AND thousands of people who live LCHF every day.  
Read vitamin & supplement labels! Many contain cellulose, maltodextrin, corn syrup solids, and wheat as binders and fillers; these items will cause elevated glucose levels. Be very wary of any vitamin drink, protein shake, or miracle concoction that promises symptom relief or improved health. Most of these mixes are completely filled with difficult-to-pronounce chemicals, not foods. Even the “all-natural” ones are loaded with sugars. (Just a side note: cyanide & arsenic are natural.) Our bodies were meant to eat/chew food, not obtain empty calories from chemical concoctions. It’s important for the brain to perceive intake, and part of that process includes chewing. Drinking calories totally bypasses that signal to the brain, and so the body can still feel hungry and not satiated, even with hundreds of calories consumed. 


Hopefully, these tips will help y’all get a better grasp of how I eat and teach people to eat and how so many people are able to drastically reduce glucose levels and lose weight. If you are at a stall — your glucose just won’t fall any more, or your weight just isn’t budging — it may be time for re-evaluation of your intake; take a real look at the packaging you’re eating from. Look at all labels. Look at all ingredients. Look at serving sizes. Eat fresh or frozen veggies – without added sauces and such. Canned veggies can be ok – but always check labels.  
Record all intake and verify nutrient info in your app with google or label on package. The more accurate your info, the healthier your intake will be. Many apps are “editable” by users – meaning you could enter data that says your avocados only have 1 gram of carbs per avocado – very untrue. But if that’s what you select in your app, your numbers will not be accurate and it will show in your glucose level — but you will be posting about how frustrating it is to eat from the list but still have high glucose. 
If you’ve reached a stall, you should also re-evaluate your macros – the fats, proteins, & carbs – you’re consuming. There are many methods of identifying ideal weight, but this is the one I use. For the first 5 feet, one is allowed 100 pounds. For females, we’re allowed 5 pounds for every inch over 5′. Males are allowed 6 pounds for every inch over 5′. Divide your ideal weight by 2.2 and this will give you an approx protein need for you at your ideal weight. This is the number of grams of protein you’ll need in one day, and should be approx 15-25% of calories you consume daily. Divide this number of grams by the number of meals you typically have daily and then you’ll know how many grams of protein you’ll need in one meal; also remember that on average, there are approx 7 grams of protein in 1 ounce of meat. For instance, a 4 ounce filet would contain approx 28 grams of protein for one meal of your day. 

To determine your fat needs, double the number of fat grams per day. For example, if your protein needs are 56 grams per day, you should need approx 112 grams of fat in your meals daily, preferably evenly divided over all meals. 


For a female who is approximately 5′ 5″ tall, her protein needs would be approx 57 grams per day, and fat needs would be approx 114 grams per day. 20 grams of carbs would be the maximum allowed. Now, to calculate how much of this is CALORIC intake percentage, we have to convert grams into calories. Carbs provide 4 calories per gram, so for our female client here, that would be 20 x 4 = 80 calories. Protein also provides 4 calories per gram, so this lady would consume 57 x 4 = 228 calories of protein daily. Fats provide 9 calories per gram; 114 x 9= 1,026. Total these: 80 + 228 + 1026 = 1334 calories per day. Then, figure percent of caloric intake: 80/1334 = 6% of intake comes from carbohydrates. 228/1334= 17% of calorie intake is from protein. 1026/1334 = 77% of calories will come from fat. To calculate YOUR needs, follow this example carefully, & you will figure your grams and percentage of calories quite easily. 
If you use current weight or too high of an ideal weight to determine your macro needs, you’re likely to reach stalls and plateaus, becoming frustrated. If you’re very active, your protein needs will be a bit higher; if you’re pretty sedentary, your protein needs will be a bit less. 
I realize I’ve rambled on far too long, now. Sorry about that. I just wanted to share some of these tips because I see many of you struggling with these concepts and questions. 

 

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Teresa Reversed Her Diabetes!

 

I am VERY honored to introduce y’all to a very special friend of mine.  I have known Teresa since our children were in kindergarten together, about 25  years ago.  She recently reached out to KetoNurses, looking for something different.  Here is her story in her words.

Teresa Toten, July, 2017

 

My name is Teresa, and I live in rural Mississippi.  I am a wife, a mother of four boys, and a grandmother to four.  Over the years, I have worked and taken care of my family, but I really did not pay attention to my health.  My weight slowly continued to creep up on me; after the birth of my children, I never really did go back to my pre-pregnancy weight.  I accepted the “fluffiness” as my new norm.  I worked, I came home, and the cycle repeated itself daily for years, leaving little time for exercise.

 

I have worked as a legal assistant for almost 17 years, during which time most of my work surrounded workers’ compensation claims and social security disability claims.  Little did I know, that I would also be injured on the job.  On February 20th, 2015, I underwent a multi-level anterior cervical discectomy and fusion (ACDF).  Recovery was slow and painful; in addition, I suffered another injury just weeks after my ACDF surgery – this time to my sternoclavicular (shoulder) joint and collarbone.  The doctor felt that the best course of action would be to undergo steroid injections along with trigger point injections.  Over the course of the next two years, I underwent many of these injections with little to no relief.

June, 2017

In July, 2016, I noticed that I was losing weight without trying; my hair was thinning and falling out in clumps; my face was red and splotchy; my vision was rapidly blurring, and I just all-around did not feel good at all.  I assumed that I was having an issue with my thyroid as thyroid problems do run in my family.  So, in August, 2016, I decided to see a doctor about my concerns.  He ordered the usual rounds of blood work and said he’d get back to me within a few days with the results.  Two days passed, and I received a call from the doctor’s office and said I needed to come in immediately to discuss the results.  I just knew it was my thyroid but at least I had an answer.

 

Day 1 of Keto Nutrition, April, 2017

I went in to the appointment the next morning, and he asked me if anyone had ever talked to me about the big “D”.  I must have looked confused so he patted me on the knee and said that it was diabetes.  We discussed my family history of diabetes (grandmother was diabetic; mother was hypoglycemic).  We discussed my personal history, my eating habits, my lack of exercise, my weight (200 pounds) and my recent surgery and ongoing injections.  He was concerned that my workers’ compensation doctor had not disclosed to me the dangers of rising blood glucose levels while on the injections, and I had been getting them for two years. He told me that my A1C was 12.8.  He explained to me that my blood was telling him the average blood glucose over the last three months was around 375; he also told me that those numbers were not good at all.  He immediately started me on Metformin ER, 500 mg twice a day but also wanted to test my kidney function before beginning.  The results came in… kidneys were okay.  So, he started me out on a long acting one called Tresiba.  I started out at 10 units.  My numbers remained high.  The next week, he added 2 units.  My numbers continued to climb.  My fasting blood glucose levels remained above 200.  My afternoon glucose levels barely dropped.  Insulin dosage increased.  So, after months of trying to stabilize my blood glucose levels, he added Novolog at mealtime.  This addition of mealtime insulin helped my afternoon blood glucose numbers come down a bit, but not where they needed to be.  So, he increased my Metformin to 2000 mg a day.

 

May, 2017

I attended every class that this small town offered to help me learn to manage my diabetes.  I followed the ADA guidelines to the letter.  My numbers continued to rise even though I was eating the way a diabetic is instructed to do.  I just did not understand why I could not get a grasp on my health, and this diabetes was trying to take over my life.  I meticulously kept a log of what I would eat on a daily basis, making sure that I had the proper amounts of protein, carbs and vegetables per the ADA recommendations.  My numbers continued to rise.  Yes, I managed to lose a few pounds in the process but was still grossly overweight at 188 pounds.
So, in frustration and heartache, I reached out to a friend of mine here at KetoNurses for advice on lowering my numbers.  She sent me links to articles on the blog, and she added me to a Facebook group whose main goal is to educate people on methods to use nutrition to help lower glucose and reverse diabetes.  I mean, what did I have to lose besides 2000 mg of Metformin, 30 units of Tresiba, and 16 units of Novolog (per meal) three times a day.  I was ready to get my life back in order, take control of my health, and come off of the medication I was on.

 

So, in April 2017, my keto food list in hand, I made my way to the grocery store to start my new way of eating.  I loaded my cart with items from the meat department, and produce department.  I did not shop down the center aisles for anything.  There were no foods in packages, boxes or bags.  There were no cereals, pastas, rice or potatoes.  There were no fruits, candies, cakes or cookies.  The only thing in my cart was good, wholesome and keto approved foods  I was ready to tackle this way of eating.

On day 1, I took a full length photo of myself.  I weighed in at 188 pounds.  And, I ate.  And, I ate.  I cooked using bacon grease.  I added fat to my vegetables.  I made a cinnamon apple butter tea.  I tracked everything that I did.  I measured all of my food so that my logs were precise.  Day 2 was more of the same.  On or about the 4th or 5th day, keto flu kicked in.  My friend advised me to drink salted broth.  I did and I muddled through the aches and tiredness.  Weeks went by, and I continued to count, to log, to experiment with my foods and my fats.  I got the hang of it.  However, it was not until my first doctor’s appointment after I started this way of eating that the realization kicked in.

My doctor made note of my weight.  He made note of my leaner appearance.   But what really got his attention was my blood glucose numbers; they rapidly fell and stabilized.  So, he had me decrease my insulin dosages and instructed me how to decrease it on my own so that I could do it by myself.  This visit was the first positive appointment I had with him since my diagnosis in 2016.  I was impressed.  So, I continued this way of eating.  I began to notice that my pants were looser, my acne was disappearing, my face was losing its puffiness, my energy levels were increasing, and I just felt better.  I discontinued my Novolog (3 injections a day) and my numbers did not go back up.  I was consistently getting blood glucose readings in the 80’s and 90’s which were a far cry from the 250-300 I was used to seeing.  So, I cut back on my Tresiba.  My dose was 30 units and I am down to 14 units per day.  I also saw my doctor this past week, and he said that he was proud of me.  He said that with the way I am going, that I should be off of my medications (blood pressure meds included) within the next 6 months.

My most recent A1C was done last week and the results are in…..  Last year it was 12.8…  Last week, it was 5.2.  What a tremendous drop!  My cholesterol was a little high at 205 but all other numbers were fantastic.  I enjoyed a great checkup, a great prognosis, a resounding “I’m proud of you” and a “keep up the great work” from my doctor.  He said to keep doing what I am doing, it obviously works. So, I will keto on and continue this way of eating.  It has saved my life, one buttery delicious morsel at a time.
As nurses, we recognize that diabetes has always been considered a progressive condition that always worsens, but we are here to offer another perspective and a totally different outcome for Type 2 Diabetes.  While diabetes may remain on your medical chart as a permanent diagnosis, it IS possible to reverse the condition to a point where complications are minimized or completely eliminated. 

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Grain-Free Fake Ziti

img_6217

After seeing an awesome segment on “Rachael”, I wanted to try making a low carb & grain-free Ziti. So I began with her simple recipe and tweaked it a bit.  Full of vitamins, nutrition, & healthy fats, it was an amazing dish to finish out the holidays with a bit of convenience and delicious twist of flavor.

KetoNurses Easy Fake-Ziti Recipe

2-3 tbsp olive oil or avocado oil

5-6 cloves of garlic (1 bulb is fine)

nutmeg, freshly ground (optional)

10-12 oz thawed, drained & chopped spinach (can use 1 lb.)

2 -3 medium-sized zuchinni, sliced thinly

16-24 oz full fat ricotta

16-24 oz grated parmagiano-reggiano

16 oz shredded fresh mozzarella

salt & pepper to taste

Start by turning oven on 350 degrees to preheat, & oil or butter your baking dish.   Heat 2 tbsp. oil in medium skillet over medium heat and stir in garlic.  Add drained spinach and break clumps of spinach up as you stir it into oil/garlic. Stir over medium heat for 1-2 minutes to heat thoroughly. Turn off heat.

Fold in the thinly sliced zucchini  & a bit of nutmeg. Salt & pepper to taste.   Fold in the ricotta & parm  & mix well.

Turn out into baking dish and cover with shredded/grated mozzarella. Bake smaller dish (8×8) for about 30 minutes; if using larger quantities, you will need a larger dish, approximately 9×13.  Larger pans will require longer cooking time.  I used the largest quantities & baked my ziti in a 9×13 pan, so baking time was about 45-50 minutes.  It is done when mozzarella begins to appear golden brown. Let stand out of oven for about 15 minutes prior to cutting & serving. It makes a great leftover dish later in the week or works well even as hor d’oeuvres when cut into small squares.

Options:  Brown a pound of fresh pork sausage or hamburger meat and add to mixture prior to baking. I did use ground beef in my version because my husband refused to eat it without some kind of meat.  LOL

This meal has it all! Loads of protein, iron, & vital nutrients for improving health can be found in the ingredients.  In addition, it’s a very filling meal, meaning you can eat smaller portions.  Served with a small green salad, it is a great meal for entertaining or even carrying to a pot-luck dinner.

Rachael recommended a nice white wine for accompanying her Ziti.  I’m not much of a wine chic, so I’ll take her word for it.

This Fake-Ziti is a very flexible base of ingredients & I hope to try a few other twists to it over the next few months!

I have really enjoyed learning to cook with zucchini as noodles in a wide variety of dishes; zuchinni makes a terrific substitute for grain-based noodles & contain significantly more nutrients than any processed noodle manufactured today.  Using “zoodles” as they are called, can also be a great way to get your kids to eat more veggies!

If you try our low carb Ziti, please share photos and let us know how you like it; find & follow our Facebook page – KetoNurses.

 

 

 

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Fiber – Useful or Harmful?

Fiber has been encouraged for many years in the hopes that it would improve gastrointestinal motility, and many products have been sold advocating such use. Fiber has been recommended by all sorts of health care providers, including doctors, nurses, nutritionists and therapists. Is fiber truly helpful, though? Recent independent studies indicate fiber may be contributing to more symptoms and problems than it’s helping.  As a bulking agent, fiber is used to literally, fill up the space inside the large intestine. The large intestine cannot absorb fiber, nor break it down any further as it moves through the gut. Fiber that enters the colon will absorb excess water, swelling to its maximal capability, filling every space it can occupy. Over days and even weeks of regular fiber use, more fiber enters the large intestine and swells even more, gently pushing swollen fibers forward through the intestines. This action is very slow and can take 2-3 weeks in an average adult. The slow motility means that taking a fiber supplement today will not contribute to today’s bowel movement – not even tomorrow’s. It is the combination of these 2 factors that make us now question the benefits of fiber supplementation: swelling of the fiber and slow motility through the system. With fiber supplementation, many patients report worsening constipation, bloating, abdominal pain, weight gain, gas, cramping, shortness of breath, obstruction and even diarrhea within days of beginning a supplement. While the theoretical goal of fiber supplementation is to slowly clean out the large intestine, the mechanism by which this system actually occurs is problematic and poses some serious health consequences.

We’ve known for a long time now, that some people who consume a high fiber diet often develop diverticulosis – or enlarged pockets along the large intestine. What we have not known or understood is why/how the enlargement occurs, but I would venture to say with this new research data available, that the most likely causes of diverticulosis would be chronic constipation and/or possible high fiber supplement use. Allowing stool to move too slowly through the gut contributes to build-up of wastes, blocking adequate absorption, filling the pockets and getting “stuck” in them. Over time, these static wastes are pushed further and further into those pockets, forcing them to stretch out of shape and become enlarged, even though some stool continues to pass right on by that stuck stool. No symptoms are typically felt or noticed. This problem can create serious illness and severe complication in the form of diverticulitis and obstruction – both of which can be life-threatening.

Moving on to other nutritional aspects of fiber takes us into the nutritional info of foods. Counting carbohydrates is a common nutrition plan for lowering glucose and reversing many chronic conditions. Many low carb experts often instruct people to subtract fiber grams from total grams of carbohydrates, because the fiber is not absorbed or converted into glucose. For example, 1 cup of almonds contains approximately 20 grams of carbohydrates and 11 of them make up the fiber content; some low carbers will say that eating 1 cup of almonds actually only contains 9 grams of net carbs, and thus you only have to count the 9 grams in your calculation of carbs consumed. However, many people with diabetes find that they will have a rise in glucose above and beyond the 9 grams of carbs in that cup of almonds. Why? Some low carb experts suggest that some of the insoluble fiber can impact glucose in many people; in addition, normal gut flora include a variety of healthy bacteria that ARE able to break down some of that insoluble fiber, possibly resulting in glucose release into the GI tract/bloodstream. In addition, some of these insoluble fibers are used as artificial sweeteners, like mannitol, xylitol, & erythritol; manufacturers are catching on to the “net carb” craze and are beginning to produce and label many processed foods using these sugar alcohols. However, there are a couple of problems here; one problem is the elevated glucose with use of these products. The other problem is because these sugar alcohols are insoluble and not easily digestible, they often trigger abdominal cramping and diarrhea in patients, which alters normal gut flora, resulting in even more damage to the gastrointestinal tract and overall health.


Gut flora? Hey, what is that? Well, our intestines are lined with millions of microscopic bacteria that aid in intestinal lining protection, digestion, absorption, and immunity. In fact, some experts now believe that more than 90% of our immune system lies within our intestines. Nearly all of our bodies’ healthy bacteria are located within the intestines, and the job of these bacteria is to break down fiber that your body wasn’t able to break down. During this bacterial digestion of fiber, short-chain fatty acids, like butyrate, are formed and are used to help maintain a feeling of fullness for a long time and maintain the health of the lining of the intestines.

Once the normal balance of healthy bacteria is altered, digestion and absorption are impaired, the lining of the gut is damaged, and inflammation develops. Inflammation within the gut can trigger a wide variety of symptoms and health conditions, including diarrhea, irritable bowel syndrome, leaky gut syndrome, obesity, diabetes, Crohn’s and more. If altered gut flora is contributing to poor digestion, absorption, and diarrhea, how will the body obtain nutrients? How will the large intestine properly push wastes on through the system? If the short-chain fatty acids are no longer produced by the healthy gut bacteria, we get hungry again and again – we eat more often, and we’re more likely to eat nutrient-poor fake foods. If the specific short-chain fatty acid, butyrate, is not available for increasing energy production and for cell replication, damage to the lining of the intestines may be serious, resulting in a variety of illnesses including cancer. Combine all these factors and significant intestinal conditions develop or worsen and health is impaired.


So what does all of this information mean? In summary, it means that fiber may be useful for digestion, but not as added supplements, tablets, or pills; rather, the body much prefers natural forms of fiber – low carb vegetables and pre-biotic vegetables – but because of likely glycemic impact, fiber grams should always be counted on a low carb nutrition plan. The only way to know for sure if these insoluble fibers impact your glucose is test. Use a glucometer to check blood sugar prior to eating insoluble fiber. At 1 hour increments, re-check glucose levels and watch the trend over 4-6 hours.

Probiotics can be purchased over the counter and come in a variety of formulations; some come in single strains, while others come with a combination of healthy bacteria. Probiotic supplements contain active, live healthy bacteria, that are released during digestion to colonize the intestines. There are no specific recommendations or guidelines to take probiotics, although many people claim daily is optimal, while others say weekly is sufficient.

Another digestive aid is called a pre-biotic, certain vegetables or foods that actually serve as nutrition sources for the healthy bacteria within the gut. Pre-biotics include asparagus, sauerkraut, kefir, kumbucha, fresh garlic, leeks, and onions.

As mentioned previously, short chain fatty acids (SCFAs) are essential to our digestive system. While there are several SCFAs, butyrate is probably the most common and one of the most useful; butyrate is helpful at maintaining intestinal health and one of the best sources of butyrate is real butter.

What causes altered gut flora? Well, let’s start by taking a look at some causes. Smokers often have higher risks of GI conditions, including ulcers. Diabetes and the medicines used to treat it often cause terrible gut flora, especially metformin. Approximately 85% of people with reflux have been found to also have chronic constipation, and the medicines used to treat reflux significantly alter the pH and thus impair the ability of healthy bacteria to enjoy an optimal environment. Antibiotics are designed to kill off fast-growing bacteria, in order to treat infections, but the antibiotics have no idea that they are supposed to only kill the bacteria causing your sinus or skin infection; antibiotics are most commonly recognized for causing abdominal cramping and diarrhea – symptoms of gut flora imbalance. Simple little GI viruses or mild cases of food poisoning nearly completely empty the gut of healthy bacteria. As you can see, almost anything can alter the health of our intestinal tract.

So, what does all this mean? In general, it means that 1.) our guts may need some fiber in the form of non-starchy vegetables, 2.) healthy bacteria are necessary for optimal digestion, 3.) any GI upset can alter the normal gut flora,

causing a wide variety of GI symptoms, that alter health. 4.) Probiotics can be helpful at restoring normal gut flora, and a couple of weeks later, adding in prebiotics is often helpful at maintaining GI health.

One special note: recently, I’ve seen marketing of soil-based probiotics. I’d caution you to avoid using these probiotics, as humans weren’t meant to consume soil. Animals consume soil in small amounts when grazing and can use these types of bacteria in the gut, especially ruminants – like cows. But these probiotics can actually be harmful to humans.

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What is Vitamin D & Why Do I Need It?

vit d pathwayVitamin D is called a vitamin; it’s often called a hormone. It’s often called a vitamin that acts like a hormone.  So, which is it?  It’s actually all of the above.  Vitamin D is a fat-soluble agent with a chemical structure similar to a steroid.  Which makes sense, as Vitamin D is one of the major ingredients of all steroid-based hormones produced in our bodies. Our bodies were created and designed to absorb sunshine via skin and then a variety of chemical reactions would occur so our bodies actually made its own vitamin D.  However, since the skin cancer scare of the 1970s, the general population applies thick layers of sunscreen and we rarely remove enough clothing to bare our skin for this natural process to occur.  This long-term lack of sunshine on our skin is producing entire generations of significantly deficient people in our society.

What happens when we are low in vitamin D? How does a vitamin D deficiency affect people’s health? Because vitamin D is vital to numerous human processes, it can be quite complex to discuss its actions, roles, and benefits to our bodies.  We will attempt to explain vitamin D as simply as possible, describing the intricacies and complex utilization of vitamin D.

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The oldest known function of vitamin D is the role in bone growth and development; we’ve all seen photos of young children with rickets (legs bowing outward) because of a severe deficiency of vitamin D. Without adequate D in the bloodstream, bones cannot grow or develop properly.  For years, calcium was reported to be the “hero” of the skeleton.  People with weakening bones were urged to take high doses of calcium daily “to protect your bones” and prevent osteoporosis.  However, in recent years, that advice has been scaled back a bit; no longer is it general health advice to recommend calcium supplementation unless there is known osteoporosis or osteopenia.  Even where there is evidence, many providers won’t recommend it lightly; they take great care in explaining the risks/benefits and often encourage vitamin D in place of or at least along with the calcium.  So, just what does the vitamin D do for bones?  It’s most recognized benefit is that it aids absorption of calcium from the intestines; it’s the reason vitamin d is added to milk and other dairy products.  Milk/dairy products do NOT naturally contain vitamin D; it is added to promote calcium absorption into the bones for effective use in growth & development. Vitamin D helps keep bones strong and also helps prevent weak, brittle bones in the elderly.

In addition to bone health, vitamin D is recognized for its effects in the brain; it has been called “the depression vitamin” among health care professionals for many years because it is a vital component of neurotransmitters in the brain. Three major neurotransmitters in the brain requiring adequate amounts of vitamin D include serotonin, oxytocin, and vasopressin; serotonin is a neurotransmitter vital for transmitting nerve impulses. Serotonin is also important for mood regulation; pain perception; gastrointestinal function, including perception of hunger and satiety; and other physical functions. Oxytocin is released from the brain when it is needed for a variety of body needs, including labor & delivery at the end of pregnancy, during sexual arousal, and it is often referred to as “the love hormone” because of its impact on emotional relationships. Vasopressin is an anti-diuretic hormone that regulates fluid balance within the body and bloodstream. It works to prevent excess fluid loss and helps maintain homeostasis (normal internal chemistry) by maintaining the concentration of dissolved particles, such as salts and glucose, in the blood. Reviewing all 3 of these neurotransmitters and their major functions is vital to understand brain chemistry; can you see how a shortage of vitamin D would impact nearly all normal body functions and even our relationships, moods, and emotions?

Vitamin D’s impact on glucose has only recently been identified; multiple studies show conflicting data as this area is new to research. However, knowing that vitamin D is an essential ingredient of vasopressin, and that vasopressin helps maintain healthy glucose concentrations, does it not then make perfectly logical sense that a shortage of vitamin D will result indirectly or directly in elevated glucose levels?

In addition, a recent study shows that fasting glucose levels, insulin levels and insulin resistance all improved with vitamin D supplementation. Additionally, this study suggests that pro-inflammatory cytokines that are thought to contribute to insulin resistance were down-regulated with this vitamin D supplementation. Translation: with high carb/high sugar intakes, we are finding significantly elevated levels of inflammatory markers, like cytokines, that are more linked to heart disease, heart attacks and strokes than we ever imagined. Vitamin D supplementation appears to reduce that inflammation as part of the body’s normal healing/tissue repair processes.

However, let’s review again: former advice to take calcium for bone health came with advice to also take vitamin D to aid absorption of the calcium. Just as calcium needs vitamin D for absorption & effective utilization, so vitamin D needs some help. Magnesium and vitamin K2 are necessary for the absorption and use of vitamin D. Recent studies have shown even the very high doses of vitamin D prescribed by health care providers (50,000 IUs) as a weekly regimen barely raised vitamin D levels at all after 4-6 weeks, the usual recommended time frame for dosing. Once study participants added a magnesium and/or vitamin K supplement to their regular dosing regimen, vitamin D levels immediately began to rise. These studies are why we typically recommend vitamin D, magnesium, and vitamin K2 to most people with insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes.

Recently some reports are suggesting that vitamin D is integral to our immune system; some experts and studies are recommending to add or increase vitamin D supplementation during a variety of illnesses, including colds, flu, respiratory illness, asthma, and more.

What about doses of these supplements? There are limited studies and recommendations because this field is so new and mainstream medical providers are hesitant to make recommendations to patients without a large body of support. The Endocrine Society has stated that a deficiency of vitamin D exists when lab levels fall below 20 ng/mL; however, many reputable experts and organizations say that level should be 40 or even 50 ng/mL. Because of limited evidence, it’s difficult to specify a particular dose. Even more recently, various mainstream medical organizations like the Endocrine Society have stated that health care providers should not draw a vitamin D level on patients anymore, because we’re all deficient anyway, & the test is very expensive; most insurances won’t cover the costs either. So how are we supposed to know what dose to take? Well, the current recommendations for dosing are not clear and without a known vitamin D level, finding your perfect dose may be tricky, but many people find that 1,000 – 2,000 IUs daily is a good maintenance dose; some people just beginning to supplement find that taking 5,000 IUs daily for a few weeks is very helpful at reducing many vague symptoms that they often never connected to poor nutritional status. You can ask for the blood test to be done; you should also ask for the pricing of the test prior to having it drawn so you’re aware of the likely expense. Manufacturers of supplements are meeting the market demand by producing combinations of D, magnesium, vitamin K, and/or iodine for patient convenience.

One warning of NOTE: vitamin K2 is vitally important in blood clotting; if you are taking a blood thinner or have been told you SHOULD take a blood thinner, including aspirin, you should discuss adding this supplement with your provider BEFORE taking it. While vital for normal body processes, vitamin K can contribute to increased clotting within blood vessels; clots are known contributors to heart attacks and strokes.  

In conclusion, the general consensus on Vitamin D includes:

  1. Each increase of 4 ng/mL of vitamin D in the blood is associated with a 4% lower risk of type 2 diabetes.
  2. There is a significant and inverse relationship between blood levels of vitamin D and the risk of type 2 diabetes among a wide range of vitamin D levels and among a wide variety of populations, so that it is difficult to specify “normal” lab reference values and recommended daily dosing. Translation: The lower your vitamin D level is, the higher the risk of development of type 2 diabetes.

For further information about Vitamin D, it is recommended to ask your regular health care provider.