diabetes, diet, gluten-free, Grain free, Guidelines, hormone, immune system, insulin, insulin resistant, keto, ketogenic, lifestyle, low carb, NAFLD, nurse, nurse practitioner, paleo, PCOS, Recipes, steroid, supplement, vitamin, vitamin D

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.

diabetes, diet, gluten-free, Grain free, insulin, insulin resistant, keto, ketogenic, lifestyle, low carb, NAFLD, nurse, nurse practitioner, paleo, PCOS, Recipes, Uncategorized

Bac’n Brussel Sprouts

16 oz washed and quartered Brussel sprouts

6-8 slices of bacon

3-4 Tbsp butter

Salt, pepper, & garlic to taste


In skillet, fry bacon until to your liking. I like my bacon really crispy. Remove cooked bacon from pan and allow to cool for a few minutes. Add butter to bacon grease in pan. Add hopped Brussel sprouts to grease & butter. Sprinkle with seasonings to your preference.
Stir fry for about 12-15 minutes or until largest sprouts are softening. Smaller pieces will appear quite soft and pierce easily. You want a good mixture of soft to barely soft. With about 2-3 minutes left, add in broken bacon pieces and keep stirring until done.
Serve immediately.
This dish can be made using smaller or larger quantities, depending on size of your family or event. It even keeps well; I take it for lunch often!

gluten-free, Grain free, Guidelines, insulin resistant, keto, ketogenic, low carb, NAFLD, nurse practitioner, paleo, PCOS, Recipes

KetoNurses’ Grain-Free Fake Ziti

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KetoNurses’ Easy Fake Ziti

I recently saw a segment on “Rachael” the featured a White Ziti and I was intrigued immediately! I decided to tweak the ingredients just a bit in order to make a grain-free, low carb Ziti.

KetoNurses Grain-Free Fake Ziti Recipe

2-3 Tbsp olive or avocado oil

5-6 cloves of garlic (1 bulb works)

10-16 ounces thawed chopped spinach

ground nutmeg (optional)

salt & pepper to taste

2-3 zuchinni, sliced thinly

16-24 ounces ricotta

16-24 ounces grated parmiagiano-reggiano

16 ounces shredded mozzarella

Start by coating the baking dish with butter or oil and preheat oven at 350 degrees. Set baking dish aside while combining ingredients. Heat oil over medium heat, stirring in garlic, spinach, & nutmeg. Heat and stir for about 2 minutes, or until heated thoroughly. Salt & pepper to taste.

Add sliced zuchinni, ricotta, & parm.  Mix well and turn out into greased baking dish.  Top with grated/shredded mozzarella and bake in oven until some of the top begins to brown.  Using smaller quantities allows for smaller dish & less baking time; an 8×8 dish will be done in about 30 minutes, whereas a 9×13 dish will require about 50 minutes.

Options:  Brown 8-16 ounces of ground beef or pork sausage and add to heated mixture. I made my version with a pound of ground beef because my hubby refused to eat it without meat.  LOL

This dish is a very flexible base and I hope to try developing a few other options over the next few months.  It offers a power pack of nutrients including iron, protein & multiple vitamins essential for good health.

I have really enjoyed learning to use “zoodles” in place of grain-based noodles; using zuchinni in place of typical noodles also significantly improves nutrient content, & that is vital for improving health.  Zoodles are also a fun way to get kids to eat more vegetables!!

Fake-Ziti is quick and easy to make, and can be made ahead and saved in serving size portions for use later in the week.  Smaller portions also make terrific appetizers for pot lucks or parties.

Add a colorful salad and serve – so quick and easy to provide a highly nutrition meal for your family.

Rachael recommended a nice white wine to accompany her Ziti; I’m not much of a wine chic, so I’ll just have to take her word for it.  LOL

Please share your photos and experiences making our Ziti on our KetoNurses Facebook page or tag me on Instagram; I’m KetoNurseJen.

Happy Low Carbing!

diabetes, diet, gluten-free, Grain free, keto, ketogenic, lifestyle, low carb, paleo, Recipes

Husband’s Delight Low Carb Dessert

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Husband’s Delight Low Carb Dessert

LAYER 1:

1 ¼ cup almond flour

1 stick (4 oz) real butter, melted

½ cup finely chopped nuts, optional

Mix well and press into 9×9 baking dish or deep dish pie pan. Bake for 15 minutes at 350 degrees. Crust edges should just be slightly darkening to be considered done. Let cool for about an hour.

LAYER 2:

1 cup heavy cream

8 oz full-fat cream cheese, softened

1 cup powdered Splenda or Stevia

Whip heavy cream and sweetener until stiff peaks form. Add in cream cheese and continue mixing until well combined thoroughly. Spread over cooled crust.

LAYER 3:

1 ½ cups fresh blueberries (frozen can be used, but thaw, rinse, & dry first)

Spread blueberries evenly over mixture.

LAYER 4:

1 large pkg of sugar-free Vanilla Jello

1 ½ – 2 cups heavy cream

Mix well and spread evenly over blueberries.

LAYER 5:

1 cup chopped nuts – I prefer pecans, but almonds, cashews, or walnuts will work

Sprinkle nuts over top. Chill for at least 2 hours.  Serve.

biscuit, breakfast, diet, gravy, insulin resistant, keto, ketogenic, NAFLD, paleo, Recipes

KetoNurses’ Biscuits & Gravy

Biscuits & Gravy with Chopped Steak
Biscuits & Gravy with Chopped Steak

Biscuits:

1/3 cup almond flour

¾ cup grated mozzarella cheese

1 Tbsp coconut flour

½ tsp baking powder

½ tsp xanthan gum

1 egg

2 ½ Tbsp melted butter

Pre-heat oven to 350.

Mix all ingredients together in small bowl. I use a fork for easy mixing.

Shape into 4 evenly-sized balls and place on parchment-lined baking pan.

Bake for 10-12 minutes.  Watch bottoms carefully – the bottoms will brown much faster than tops; tops will NOT brown much at all & will still be done.

 Gravy:

¼ – ½ pound sugar-free sausage (or leftover steak, chicken, or chops from a recent supper – my fave)

2 Tbsp. grass-fed butter (optional)

½ cup heavy cream

Black pepper to taste

While biscuits bake:

Brown ¼ – ½ pound of sugar-free sausage in skillet and remove from pan. Do NOT drain fats off.

If using leftover meat, you will need the butter for heating/browning it.

In same skillet as above, and after removing cooked meat, add 3 Tbsp grass-fed butter & allow to melt over low or medium-low heat. Butter should NOT sizzle, but just melt.

Pour ½ cup heavy cream into melted butter; using whisk, stir pretty constantly.  Add pepper to taste.  Simmer and stir for about 3-5 minutes, until cream just begins to thicken.

Add the previously cooked/heated meat and stir in.

Serve over open baked biscuits.

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What is Bulletproof Coffee?

Bulletproof coffee is gaining popularity among dieters and those seeking to improve energy levels,  metabolism and brain function.  About 5 or 6 years ago, a visit to Tibet resulted in the development of the new recipe for coffee; Dave Asprey created the coffee with “upgraded” coffee beans with lower amounts of mycotoxins.  Mycotoxins are toxic fungi that easily colonize crops and can contribute to disease or sickness.  Regular coffee often contains mycotoxins, these organisms may be related to some people’s stomach upset or sensitivities when they drink coffee.  While some recent studies have suggested that up to 4 cups of regular coffee can help postpone symptoms of Alzheimer’s, the “upgraded” bulletproof coffee (BPC) may turn out to be even more helpful.

It is referred to as “bulletproof” because drinking the “upgraded” coffee with lower mycotoxins and higher fat content seems to make people feel better with higher energy levels, improved brain function, and thus feel “bulletproof” – like nothing can stop them.

Adding fats to the coffee has become quite a trend; it’s a hot topic on many blogs and even made it to “The Today Show” a couple of years ago.   More recently, BPC made its debut on “The Queen Latifah Show.”

What fats?  Most people that drink bulletproof coffee start with coconut oil or MCT oil.  MCT oil is a medium-chain-triglyceride, shown in some studies to aid weight loss and possibly increase metabolism.  Medium-chain triglycerides are different from short-chain triglycerides and long-chain triglycerides, in that MCTs do not require bile salts or energy for absorption and digestion. MCT oil is currently being studied as possible benefits for a variety of conditions including Parkinson’s & Alzheimer’s.

In addition to coconut or MCT oil, many recipes include grass-fed butter or ghee; ghee is clarified butter where the butter is heated and solids are separated out.  In the Hindu and Indian cultures, ghee is considered a special part of many religious ceremonies, because it comes from “holy” cows and is “separated” or pure.  It is believed that ghee is much healthier than regular butter because of the separation of ghee from solids, which are thought to be impurities.

Athletes and bloggers began using this bulletproof coffee and claimed to have better test scores, memory function, energy, and moods.  As more people tried it and noticed results, news of this miracle wonder hit the internet on a variety of blogs and social media.  As word spread, BPC no longer was only made with the “upgraded” beans, but with all sorts and brands of coffees.

Many recipes abound today; using coconut oil, MCT oil, butter, ghee, and flavors just like fancy baristas use to prepare gourmet coffee blends are widely published on blogs, Facebook, and Twitter.  While there may not be a lot of research to support the use of BPC, it is quite a drink! Bloggers and Tweeters have shared hundreds of BPC recipes, and people are concocting their own personal twists to flavors.

Benefits of BPC do appear to include keeping people from feeling hungry; other advantages include feeling more energetic and more alert, with less forgetfulness.  Many people drink BP in place of some meals, while other use the BPC with or following meals to help improve satiety and prevent “the munchies” or frequent snacking.  Making BPC is quite simple, and recipes abound. Just perform a Google or Bing search for “bulletproof coffee recipes.”  Choose a recipe with flavors you like; use a blender for a few seconds to thoroughly mix; remember fats and water don’t stir to mix well.  Drink while it’s warm; trust me, congealing fats don’t go down well! LOL

It took me about 2 weeks of tweaking the recipe to get it right for me.  So, if you don’t get it right the first time, keep trying.  Here is my recipe:

1 Tbsp coconut oil

1 Tbsp grass-fed butter

1/4 cup unsweet vanilla almond milk

1 Tbsp sugar free Torani vanilla flavor – like they use in the fancy coffee shops

Approx. 10 ounces of coffee

Blend for 5-8 seconds, and enjoy.  Can be reheated without problems.

1 Tbsp grass-fed butter

1/4 cup unsweet vanilla almond milk

1 Tbsp sugar free Torani vanilla flavor – like they use in the fancy coffee shops

Approx. 10 ounces of coffee

Blend for 5-8 seconds, and enjoy.  Can be reheated without problems.

One last tip… some people have a little tummy response to sudden high intake of fats and end up with a bit of urgent need for the restroom.  So, if you are JUST beginning to increase fats, use smaller amounts of fats in your BPC for the first week or two.  Allow your body a little time to adjust to higher fat content.

Cholesterol, diabetes, diet, Fat, gluten-free, Grain free, Guidelines, insulin resistant, keto, ketogenic, lifestyle, low carb, NAFLD, nurse practitioner, paleo, PCOS, Recipes

Missing mashed potatoes? These are even better!

Cauliflower mashed “potatoes”

2 heads cauliflower

1 stick butter

1 eight ounce container full fat sour cream

2 cups cheddar cheese (or swiss cheese, any cheese you prefer)

Salt and pepper to taste

Garlic powder to taste–or add fresh minced garlic

Cut and boil the cauliflower. Mash it up. Add butter, sour cream, salt, pepper, garlic.Add a cup of shredded cheese, if desired.  Place in a buttered casserole dish. Top with shredded cheese. Bake at 350 until cheese is bubbly. Enjoy! Sometimes I add a cup of sauteed vidalia onions or some crumbled bacon! Yum! mashed-cauliflowr-recipe-7231