Why Your Low Carb Diet Isn't Working

Photo credit:  Mali Maeder

Photo credit: Mali Maeder


Many of our clients come to us on low carb diets.

Actually, they come to us on high protein diets.

Here’s what happens.

Toby comes to see us and says he wants to lose weight and improve his blood sugar levels.

He tells us he’s been on a low carb diet to help him reach his goals. We review his diet history and it reads something like this:
Breakfast: Bacon, eggs
Lunch: 2 large chicken breasts, small green salad
Dinner: Meatballs, sautéed broccoli and cauliflower
Daily snacks: Protein bar, hardboiled eggs, sometimes cheese, meat jerky
To Toby, low carb meant high protein.

Toby did lose some weight in the beginning on this diet, but then that weight loss plateaued, he ended up putting the weight back on, and without veering from his diet plan.

He also couldn’t figure out is why his blood sugar levels didn’t improve, because he knew that carbs are what increase blood sugar levels, and he wasn’t eating any.
Your body uses protein to build structures like enzymes, cells, tissues, and organs. You don’t store protein in your body like you do fats and carbs.

This is why it is important to eat quality sources of protein daily, and typically you need more than what government guidelines recommend, especially when your body needs to heal from health problems like gut dysfunction, skin rashes, autoimmune disease, thyroid problems, and for weight loss.
The flip side of this is when you have enough protein to maintain all the necessary building your body is doing, the extra gets disposed of, and one way is that it is used in a process called gluconeogenesis.

Gluco (glucose) – neo (new) – genesis (creating) – so we are talking about making glucose from a new source that’s not from carbs, which is where glucose typically comes from. That source can be the amino acids resulting from the breakdown of protein.

This is one way your body fights starvation. It raises glucose levels in the blood stream, and therefore insulin levels. This leads to weight gain over time, and blood sugar dysregulation.

By the way, glucose is a primary fuel your body uses to make energy so you stay alive. Because your body needs it so badly, there are a variety of ways your body can biohack things to make sure there’s enough of it. One of those ways is by using extra protein.

Overtime this process can result in the very problems you are trying to avoid in the first place like weight gain, blood sugar problems, insulin resistance, and diabetes.

That’s what happened with Toby. He had been following a high protein diet for several years. He did lose weight at first, however it came back on and just stayed there. He was also insulin resistant, heading towards diabetes.
We made some changes in his diet, conducted some functional testing so that we could tailor our interventions to the unique needs of his body, and got him on a customized supplement protocol.

Toby also was 100% responsible for his health outcomes. He followed the plan, was patient, and consistent. This is what it takes to succeed. You have to put in the work.

It’s not easy. You can do it, just like Toby did.

We are here to guide you.

This multi-pronged, committed approach is what it takes to get the results you want, and to maintain them.

With our interventions, Toby was able to maintain a weight he was happy with and balance his blood sugar levels. He experienced a variety of other benefits too including improved digestion, lower cholesterol levels, better sleep and more energy.

Are you ready to become our next success story? Book your introductory consultation with me!

Vitamin D - the Sunshine Vitamin

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Photo credit:

Vitamin D’s most famous role is in bone health where it enhances calcium absorption. Without adequate vitamin D, the risk for rickets (weak bones in kids), osteomalacia (weak bones in adults) and osteoporosis increases.


Vitamin D deficiency is also linked to a variety of conditions. Asthma and allergies, obesity, depression, gastrointestinal problems like IBS, and many more health issues may benefit from optimizing vitamin D levels.


New research indicates levels should be a lot higher than the current range we are told is adequate. Optimum range should be about 75nmol/L.


Vitamin D is known as the sunshine vitamin because it’s made in your skin when exposed to UV light. In order for the skin to make D, the UV light needs to hit it. Deficiency can result when clothing, sunscreen use, darker skin with more melanin, and limited exposure to the sun interfere with this process.


The skin of older adults is less efficient at making D from UV light too. Spending 15-20 minutes outside with the sun hitting your skin directly several times per week, WITHOUT SUNSCREEN (scary I know, but important) can help your body make the vitamin D it needs.


There aren't a lot of foods that naturally contain vitamin D, most is made via the skin. Foods that do naturally contain vitamin D include:


  • Egg yolk

  • Salmon

  • Sardines

  • Mackerel

  • Mushrooms


Many foods are fortified with vitamin D, meaning vitamin D is added to those foods. These include:


  • Orange juice

  • Cereals

  • Skim milk


Whole milk (milk fat) does contain trace amounts of vitamin D naturally. 


Those with fat malabsorptive disorders (celiac, IBD, UC, and cystic fibrosis) may risk deficiency because D needs fat for its absorption (it's a fat soluble vitamin), and folks with these conditions can’t absorb dietary fat well.


Vitamin D is important! Ask your healthcare provider, get your levels checked, and supplement. Vitamin D supplementation is needed way more often than not to achieve optimum levels.


Need a vitamin D supplement? You can purchase one through my online dispensary. If you'd like assistance selecting the best product for you, contact me for guidance, I'm happy to point you in the right direction!


"Your nutritional needs are as unique as your fingerprint, and they are dictated by your individual biochemistry. As a functional and clinical nutritionist, I can help you interpret your body's nutrient needs and customize a plan to reach your health and wellness goals. This is personalized nutrition." -Jennifer Caryn Brand, MPH, MS, CNS, Clinical Nutritionist


Wishing you a delicious weekend!

Functional and Clinical Nutritionist


Copyright © 2018 Jennifer Caryn Brand Nutrition, All rights reserved. 

Leaky gut, insulin resistance, dyslipidemia, weight gain, oh my!

Health begins in the gut. An imbalanced gut microbiome leads to a variety of cardiometabolic conditions like insulin resistance, obesity, and more. Addressing gut imbalances can lead to improvements in cardiometabolic conditions.

Ms. King (name and some details have been changed for privacy) has a lot going on. Her doctor referred her to me to help her address insulin resistance, high blood sugar levels, dyslipidemia and weight gain. During our intake assessment, Ms. King told me she suspects leaky gut is causing her problems. As we continued to talk, Pandora’s box pretty much started to explode.
I’m probably sounding like a broken record, and that’s because I feel it can’t be stated often enough… health begins in the gut. Our gut microbiome houses 70% of our immune systems. Ms. King’s case is another example of how this works.
You see, Ms. King revealed to me during our intake assessment that she has a hiatal hernia, which causes reflux, and that she’s been on acid blocking medications for years. A hiatal hernia creates an anatomical problem in the digestive tract that often results in reflux. Reflux is the most common symptom of a hiatal hernia, and primary treatment involves lifestyle modifications, such as diet, weight loss, and sleeping with a couple of pillows to elevate the head at night for example. Suppressing stomach acid with medications called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) is a cornerstone of therapy, and unfortunately it’s a lot easier to take a medication than it is to change your diet, lose weight, and modify your sleeping position.
This is a huge problem. Why is this the case? We need stomach acid for a lot of reasons. It helps us break down foods, it causes the release of enzymes to further aid in digestion, it’s necessary for the digestion and absorption of very important nutrients like vitamin B12 and iron, and it helps protect us from invasion by pathogens often found in foods. When we don’t have enough stomach acid, all of this can shut down, and we can wind up with nutrient deficiency, gut infections and serious imbalances in the gut microbiome. This can lead to inflammation and yep, leaky gut. So Ms. King was spot on to suspect leaky gut, which we confirmed via functional testing, and she was unaware of this connection. This leads me to another point so I’ll digress for a moment. We are intuitive creatures. If you suspect something is wrong, feel it in your gut (pun sort of intended), we need to listen to that feeling. We know our own bodies better than anyone else. Tune in and listen. When you have what seems like random, unexplained symptoms, or stubborn conditions that won’t resolve, your body is talking to you, asking for help. My job is to help interpret what your body is saying. I speak its language.
Now let’s connect the dots between Ms. King’s gut and her primary goals to address insulin resistance, blood sugar and blood lipids, and weight.
Disturbances of the microbiome have been linked to cardiometabolic conditions, and our intestinal microbes play a role in the development of cardiometabolic diseases. Cardiometabolic conditions include those that increase your risk for having diabetes, heart disease or stroke.  Insulin resistance, obesity, and dyslipidemia are some examples of conditions that increase your cardiometabolic risk.
The human microbiome plays a role in sugar (glucose) and fat (lipid) metabolism. Studies have shown that there are differences in the microbiome of people that are obese, and that have type 2 diabetes, and certain gut microbes may regulate glucose and lipid metabolism by changing intestinal permeability (cause leaky gut), which can drive inflammation. Most people that are obese will develop inflammation in the fat tissue around their middles, and having fat around your middle (visceral adiposity) puts you at greater risk for cardiometabolic conditions. Fat tissue is metabolically active, meaning it releases hormones, and chemical messengers that signal things to happen. In the case of obesity, these things are inflammatory leading to conditions like insulin resistance, and imbalances in the intestinal microbiota have been shown to be associated with these kinds of inflammatory changes. Gut bacteria can also produce lipopolysaccharides (LPS), which are toxic, inflammatory molecules that have the ability to trigger strong immune responses in the body.  When we have leaky gut, LPS make their way into the bloodstream and can cause all sorts health problems, and contribute to obesity, insulin resistance, type 2 diabetes, and even autoimmune disease.
Isn’t biochemistry fun!?!?
So here we have a disrupted microbiome, contributing to Ms. King’s primary concerns. What did we do? We addressed her gut health by weaning her from acid suppressing medications (with support from her physician), and put her on a diet and lifestyle plan to address her hiatal hernia and cardiometabolic issues. We also added supplements and supportive foods to help remove gut pathogens, replaced digestive factors, balanced and restored her gut microbiome, and repaired her damaged and leaky gut. Ultimately we were able to improve her insulin, blood sugar, and blood lipid levels, and help her lose weight. 
Need help connecting your dots? Interested in becoming your own success story? Contact me today to get started on your journey to better health and wellness.
 "Your nutritional needs are as unique as your fingerprint, and they are dictated by your individual biochemistry. As a functional and clinical nutritionist, I can help you interpret your body's nutrient needs and customize a plan to reach your health and wellness goals. This is personalized nutrition."
-Jennifer Caryn Brand, MPH, MS, CNS, Clinical Nutritionist
Wishing you a delicious Friday and weekend!

Functional and Clinical Nutritionist


The body composition of children changes as they grow and develop, and this process can be dangerously misunderstood

Photo credit:

Photo credit:

This one is about a topic close to my heart because of personal experience, and because I work with parents and children of all ages to help them with general, as well as complex, nutritional needs.

I was a skinny young child. I remember pants would slide off my hips because I had none, and my mother was always trying to find clothes that fit me properly. I also remember being a pretty big eater as a child (nothing has changed there actually). Around 5th or 6th grade (so about age 10-12 years), during my physical, the doctor told my mom, with me right there, that I was putting on too much weight and she should watch what I was eating. Fast-forward to my 40s, about 20 years of disordered eating, working on recovery (it will always be something that’s a part of me), and now seeing children as a clinical nutritionist, not much has changed when it comes to the type of advice I was given so many years ago by that physician. We are a society overly concerned with weight, leading to negative feelings about body image. This is especially dangerous for young children.
During middle childhood (about age 5-10 years), body fat percent drops to a minimum of 16% in girls and 13% in boys. Around age 6, a growth spurt occurs called BMI (body mass index) rebound, and it results in an increase in height and weight (adiposity or fat mass). The increased body fat is a marker for the pace of puberty. In girls this happens earlier than in boys. Girls may have a 19% increase in body fat, and boys 14%. This increase, especially in young girls, can lead to concern that they are becoming overweight. Body composition changes dramatically in girls during puberty.  Lean body mass percent decreases, and body fat percent increases. During puberty girls can have a 120% increase in body fat. In order for a girl to start her menstrual cycle, she needs to have at least 17% body fat, and then body fat must be at 25% for her cycle to remain regular. This gain in body fat in girls is normal and required for normal physiologic function, yet it is often viewed as negative, leading to compromising health behaviors like excessive dieting, restriction, and exercise, and use of diet aids and laxatives that can lead to disordered eating, eating disorders, and severe health related consequences.
As a parent, you can reassure your child that changes in body composition are a normal part of growing up. Take care not to reinforce a preoccupation with size and weight. Keep in mind that children have the innate ability to internally control their energy (calories from food) intake. These internal cues can be altered by external influences. Children of parents who control their child’s eating have a lesser ability to innately respond to their own energy needs, meaning these children lose the ability to respond appropriately to their innate nutritional needs, and their internal controls of hunger and fullness. Parents who experienced difficulty controlling their own intakes may impose more restrictions on their children, and this transfer of unhealthy eating behavior may influence children as early as preschool age. If mom is on a diet, her daughter is likely to follow suit. Imposing controls and restrictions over dietary intake can actually promote increased intake of ‘forbidden’ or ‘restricted’ foods, and may be a risk factor for developing obesity in the future. Dieting, dietary restrictions and controlling child feedings ignore internal cues of hunger and fullness, and can contribute to the onset of obesity, and the beginning of eating disorders.

Keep in mind that boys are affected by disordered eating and eating disorders as well.
For more information or for help to ensure your child gets the nutrition he or she needs to grow and develop optimally, contact me today!
Brown J. Nutrition through the Life cycle 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth; 2011.

"Your nutritional needs are as unique as your fingerprint, and they are dictated by your individual biochemistry. As a clinical nutritionist, I can help you connect the dots to reach your health and wellness goals. This is personalized nutrition." -Jennifer Caryn Brand, MPH, MS, CNS, Clinical Nutritionist

Wishing you a delicious Friday and weekend!

Jennifer, MPH, MS, CNS
Clinical Nutritionist

The Problem With Diet Culture

Photo credit:  Breakingpic

Photo credit: Breakingpic

I spoke with a client this week who was interested in losing weight. She's 5'6" tall and weighs 135 pounds. This puts her in a normal BMI range. BMI stands for body mass index, and it is an attempt to measure body fatness. Of course, if someone is overweight they are at a greater risk for many chronic diseases, so BMI can be used (loosely) to gauge someone's risk.

There are all sorts of issues with using BMI as a metric to assess someone's body fatness. BMI does not take into account muscle, or where the fat is located (around the middle is associated with a higher risk of disease) for example. 

When I asked my client why she wanted to lose weight, she said she felt more comfortable 10 pounds less than she is now. I mentioned that based on BMI, her weight is within a normal range. Her tone changed and I could tell I couldn't push more at the time to have a deeper conversation about body weight and body image expectations.

Our bodies actually have a genetic set point for weight, and beating our bodies into a place they do not belong can have serious health consequences.

This isn't only an issue among women, I've worked with men that have body weight and body image issues as well.

It disheartens me that we have the food industry marketing products, even health food products, to us that are anything but healthy, yet they are promoted as being good for us. The result of consuming them can be nutrient depleting (we eat products instead of food, and products, even health food products, are not a substitute for whole real food). Overtime this can lead to metabolic dysfunction, which in turn leads to changes that affect our natural weight set point (weight gain) through a wide variety of mechanisms (hormone disruption and inflammation are examples). As we battle to manage our weight while eating 'healthy' processed products, we also have the fitness industry which has us convinced that their products and programs will fix the problem. Now we become trapped in a vicious cycle, and two very large industries become wealthier at our expense, leaving us scratching our heads, wondering where we have failed. We begin to feel worthless, and our perceived failure pushes us even farther down the rabbit hole of trying to obtain a level of aesthetics that is not just unrealistic, but also impossible. Physical activity is absolutely necessary for overall health, and its purpose should not be only to counteract poor dietary habits.

You can break the cycle, and it begins by eating whole real foods. To get you started, download my free healthy snack ideas here. 

If you'd like assistance developing a customized food plan, I can help you do that as well.

Why You Should Be Eating Artichoke

Grilled artichoke! Not only is artichoke delicious, it's good for you!

Jennifer Caryn Brand Nutrition, Why You Should Be Eating Artichoke

Extracts from artichoke are used as medicine (food is medicine). They can stimulate bile flow, which is important for digestion, and can help lower cholesterol levels. Artichoke extracts have also been used for IBS, liver and kidney problems, anemia, arthritis, problems with water retention, gallstones, and for bladder infections.

Artichoke contains fiber, also good for digestion, detox and for lowering cholesterol levels.

They contain B vitamins (energy production), vitamin C (antioxidant vitamin, also important for collagen production), vitamin K (bone health and blood clotting), and a variety of antioxidant compounds (fight damage caused by oxidative stress and free radicals, which can lead to inflammation).

Artichoke also provides a variety of minerals important for health including potassium (heart rate and blood pressure regulation), manganese (cofactor for antioxidant enzymes), copper (cofactor for antioxidant and other enzymes, and needed for red blood cell production) and iron (red blood cell production).


Jennifer Caryn Brand Nutrition, Halibut

My neighbor goes fishing often and brought this halibut steak over for me. You can see it here swimming in a sea of avocado oil just before I turned the heat on. After it was cooked, I added it to a salad of kale, spinach, radicchio, and parmesan, dressed with fresh squeezed lime and more avocado oil (it was DEVINE).

Halibut is a lean and meaty white fish. It's loaded with omega-3 fatty acids, which are anti-inflammatory and excellent for heart and brain health.

It contains B vitamins (energy production), and minerals like magnesium (cofactor for more than 300 enzymes), potassium (helps regulate heart rate and blood pressure), and selenium (cofactor for detoxification enzymes).

Halibut (and other fish) is also a great protein source.

Halibut can contain high levels of mercury, so it is definitely not a fish to eat regularly. To learn more about safety when it comes to eating fish, click here, or contact me to discuss more!

Making Good On Promises - Pistachio Carrot Cake Recipe

It is SUPER important to me to make good on promises I make. Frankly, I don't make promises I can't keep.  That said, as promised, here's a recipe for a delicious, and healthier carrot cake. Do remember that a treat is a treat is a treat, so even "healthy" treats should be treated as treats. Should I say treat a few more times? ;)


2 sticks of butter, melted

9 eggs

3 large carrots (makes 3 cups grated)

5 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/5 coconut milk


Mix wet ingredients together



1 cup coconut flour

1/2 teaspoon cardamom

1 teaspoon cinnamon

3 teaspoon baking powder

1 cup raisins

1/2 cup pistachios


Bake at 400 degrees:

Muffins - 20 minutes

Cake - 45-50 minutes



8 oz cream cheese (heat in microwave for 20-25 seconds to soften)

1 tablespoon of grated ginger (fresh)

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest from (size of a small lemon)

1 tablespoon honey

Mix until desired sweetness - add more honey or other ingredients if desired


Why pistachios you ask? It's kinda cool to mix things up a bit, don't you think?




This recipe yields a dozen muffins and 2 loaves (frosting is a perfect amount to cover all)