Nutritional Consulting for a Hypothetical Client with GI Issues

Nutritional Consulting for a Hypothetical Client with GI Issues

By Laura Sheehan

March 19, 2018
My client Mrs. Green has come to me for help with her GI issues. Her symptoms include diarrhea, constipation, and recent unintended weight loss. She works full-time as a social worker and is also working on her master’s degree. She and her husband cook some of their meals and she also buys ready-made food at a gourmet shop.
Mrs. Green is wondering whether she might have IBS but based on her food record it appears she has already determined that she has it. Her consumption of fiber is very high. Fiber is a commonly recommended treatment for IBS by physicians1. But Mrs. Green may be consuming too much, or the wrong types of fiber2. I would suggest that she start to limit all types of fiber in her diet (i.e. beans, wheat berries), at least until her symptoms improve. I would also have her examine her continuing consumption of Metamucil and Colace, especially since she is currently not constipated. If she would agree to cutting them out or at least reducing them, we could see how that would affect her symptoms.
Another possible cause of her bowel issues is Lexapro. I do not know how long she has been taking it and I would attempt to get this information from her, especially because both diarrhea and constipation are listed as “common side-effects” of the drug3. If the bowel issues seem to have begun relatively concurrent or subsequent to her taking Lexapro, I would suggest that she talk to her doctor about potentially switching medications for her depression and anxiety.
My biggest concern about Mrs. Green is that she might be gluten-intolerant. Her reliance on gluten-containing foods is evident from her Food Frequency Questionnaire and 24 Hour Recall. Considering that cutting out gluten could help her IBS symptoms4, I will focus on this in the next section.
Mrs. Green appears to be an overall health-conscious eater. Among her favorite foods, she lists fish, salads, vegetables and fruits. Most of her foods appear to be fresh and not processed. Even the foods she buys pre-prepared at the gourmet shop look like they are made from scratch. This is good.
I am recommending that Mrs. Green do a trial of a gluten-free diet. I do not think this will be difficult for her as she will not have to change her current food selection habits very much. She will need to learn to replace gluten-containing foods in her diet with gluten-free options. It is likely that her gourmet food shop has gluten-free food selections that are prepared fresh and not processed. For example, instead of buying wheatberry salad, she could buy quinoa or buckwheat salad (although it would be better to buy tuna salad since I would like her to cut back on the fiber). Gluten-free foods are usually more expensive but this will likely not be an issue for her considering her demographic.
In order to increase the chance of compliance, I will try to transition Mrs. Green slowly to gluten-free. From her 24 Hour Recall, it looks like she consumes a gluten-containing food three times daily. I will work with her over time to reduce this to two servings a day and then gradually to zero servings. This should be relatively easy to do since she is motivated to make the necessary changes, and will be especially motivating for her if she sees changes in her symptoms.
The seed pizza is a favorite of Mrs. Green’s and for this reason I will provide an alternative gluten-free recipe for her. Here is the original recipe:
Seed Pizza
1 13- to 14-oz. pkg. refrigerated whole-wheat pizza dough
2 Tablespoons shelled pumpkin seeds, plain sesame seeds, and black sesame seeds
2 Tablespoons toasted pine nuts
3 cloves of roasted garlic
3 ounces of fresh mozzarella, cubed
½ tsp. red pepper flakes
1 tsp. olive oil
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Lightly grease a large baking sheet. Unroll pizza dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using your hands, shape dough into a 12×9-inch rectangle. Brush the pizza dough with the roasted garlic. Sprinkle with seeds and pine nuts and lightly sprinkle with salt and red pepper flakes. Sprinkle cubed mozzarella evenly over pizza. Drizzle olive oil over pizza. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until cheese is completely melted. Cut and serve.
Gluten-free modification:
Substitute a pre-packaged gluten-free pizza dough for the whole-wheat pizza dough in the recipe.
The gluten-free pizza dough should taste similar to the whole wheat pizza dough. In keeping with my philosophy of not changing too many things at once, I am making a relatively simple change in the recipe. I love the idea of a homemade cauliflower crust, but that would be a lot more work and Mrs. Green is already busy and stressed. Keeping the changes simple and straightforward will increase compliance. Plus Mrs. Green will get to keep the “crunch” she enjoys in her pizza.
Nutritionally, the whole-wheat and gluten-free pizza crusts are quite similar, at least from a macro-nutrient perspective5,6. According to the nutrition information supplied by the manufacturer5,6, each crust has about 150 kcal per serving and comparable amounts of carbohydrate (about 31 g/serving). Both recipes are low in fat and protein. There is only a small amount of fiber (2g) in each pizza crust.
Once I’ve made headway with Mrs. Green in cutting out dietary gluten, I would then assist her in eliminating refined sugars from her diet in the context of her overall carbohydrate consumption7. The degree to which I would eliminate the sugars depends on her response to the changes she will have made thus far.
In conclusion, I will work with Mrs. Green over a series of consultations to systematically identify and alter potential issues with her diet that are contributing to her symptoms. I will help her transition to a gluten-free diet and rule out issues with her fiber and laxative intake. I will also encourage her to examine potential unwanted side-effects of the Lexapro she is taking with her doctor.
1. El-Salhy M, Ystad SO, Mazzawi T, Gundersen D. Dietary fiber in irritable bowel syndrome (Review). International Journal of Molecular Medicine. 2017;40(3):607-613. doi:10.3892/ijmm.2017.3072.
2. Talley N. Soluble or insoluble fibre in irritable bowel syndrome in primary care? Randomised placebo controlled trial. Yearbook of Gastroenterology. 2010;2010:46-47. doi:10.1016/s0739-5930(10)79444-7.
3. Lexapro Side Effects by Likelihood and Severity. WebMD Web Site. Accessed March 18, 2018
4. Vazquez–Roque MI, Camilleri M, Smyrk T, Murray JA, Marietta E, Oneill J, Carlson P, Lamsam J, Janzow D, Eckert D, Burton D, Zinsmeister AR. A Controlled Trial of Gluten-Free Diet in Patients With Irritable Bowel Syndrome-Diarrhea: Effects on Bowel Frequency and Intestinal Function. Gastroenterology. 2013;144(5). doi:10.1053/j.gastro.2013.01.049.
5. Whole Wheat Pizza Dough. Web Site.
Accessed March 18, 2018.

6. Schar Gluten-Free Pizza Crusts. Thrive Market Web Site. Accessed March 18, 2018.
7. Goldstein R, Braverman D, Stankiewicz H. Carbohydrate malabsorption and the effect of dietary restriction on symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome and functional bowel complaints. IMAJ. 2000; 2(8): 583-587.

Hypothetical Case Study #1 Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome

Hypothetical Case Study #1: An Approach to Obesity and Metabolic Syndrome

By Laura Sheehan

I am going to discuss my hypothetical client Marilyn. Marilyn has come to me for nutritional help, with the goal of making dietary modifications to get off her medications. She is 65 years old and obese.

Multiple definitions for Metabolic Syndrome (MetS) have evolved over the past two decades 1. The most recent and applicable definition to my clinical practice is the NCEP ATP III (2005 revision). In order to be diagnosed with MetS, my imaginary client Marilyn would need to meet three of the following five criteria: abdominal obesity (waist circumference >35 inches in women), high triglycerides (≥ 150 mg/dl), low HDL cholesterol (< 50 mg/dl in women), high blood pressure (≥ 130/≥ 85 mmHg), and high fasting glucose (≥ 110 mg/dl). According to these criteria, Marilyn fits all the criteria for MetS. She has obesity, type II diabetes with a fasting glucose of 190 mg/dl, hypertension (180/90 mmHg), high triglycerides (202 mg/dl), and low HDL cholesterol (40 mg/dl).

Insulin resistance has been proposed as the common thread linking the symptoms of MetS 2. In response to diminished sensitivity to circulating insulin, the pancreas produces more and more of this necessary hormone, and the result is high levels of glucose and insulin in the blood. These elevated levels of insulin and glucose are damaging to the body and are associated with a myriad of negative health effects, especially cardiovascular disease and diabetes mellitus, with its complications of increased susceptibility to infection, diabetic retinopathy, cataracts, and chronic renal disease3. To help Marilyn, I will need to focus on reversing her insulin resistance and MetS. I will need to provide guidelines to make her body more insulin sensitive.

Several metrics will help me to monitor Marilyn’s progress towards her goals of increasing her insulin sensitivity and getting off her medications. I will try to regulate Marilyn’s measurements toward normal. Her waist circumference should be progressively decreasing to below 35 inches, her fasting glucose toward normal (80-100 mg/100ml), her triglycerides toward normal (70-110 mg/dl), HDL cholesterol increasing toward ≥ 55 mg/dl4, and blood pressure toward normal (120/80 mmHg).

Although there is quite a bit of debate in the literature, simple biochemistry indicates that MetS and insulin resistance are effects of too much sugar in the diet. It makes sense that I would consider recommending changes to Marilyn’s carbohydrate consumption. Lowering the overall glycemic index of carbohydrates in Marilyn’s diet could be successful5, but It would be simpler in practice to reduce Marilyn’s total carbohydrate intake6. Both approaches could be successful in reducing waist circumference and hyperlipidemia. A carbohydrate restricted diet combined with added soluble fiber could increase HDL and decrease LDL levels78.

Within Marilyn’s carbohydrate-restricted diet, I will emphasize that she avoid processed sugars and focus on complex carbohydrates in their whole form. Processed sugars, especially high-fructose corn syrup, have been shown to contribute to MetS by increasing the deposition of fat in the liver9. I will also stress increasing soluble fiber as the literature suggests a benefit to lipid profiles7. After implementing these changes, provided Marilyn can stick to her diet long enough, she should see improvements in her MetS criteria and be able to visit her family doctor for a medication review.

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1. Huang PL. A comprehensive definition for metabolic syndrome. Disease Models & Mechanisms. 2009;2(5-6):231-237. doi:10.1242/dmm.001180.

2. Reaven G. 1988 Banting Lecture: role of insulin resistance in human disease. Diabetes 1988; 37: 1595-1607.

3. Hall J. Insulin, Glucagon, and Diabetes Mellitus. In: Hall J. Guyton and Hall Textbook of Medical Physiology. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier, 2011: 939-954.

4. Weatherby D, Ferguson S. Blood Chemistry and CBC Analysis: Clinical Laboratory Testing from a Functional Perspective. Jacksonville, OR: Bear Mountain Publishing, 2002.

5. Finley CE, Barlow CE. Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load, and Prevalence of the Metabolic Syndrome in the Cooper Center Longitudinal Study. Journal of the American Dietetic Association. 2010;110(12):1820-1829. doi:10.1016/j.jada.2010.09.016.

6. Volek JS, Phinney SD. Carbohydrate Restriction has a More Favorable Impact on the Metabolic Syndrome than a Low Fat Diet. Lipids. 2008;44(4):297-309. doi:10.1007/s11745-008-3274-2.

7. Wood RJ, Fernandez ML. Effects of a carbohydrate-restricted diet with and without supplemental soluble fiber on plasma low-density lipoprotein cholesterol and other clinical markers of cardiovascular risk. Metabolism. 2007;56(1):58-67. doi:10.1016/j.metabol.2006.08.021.

8. Yancy WS, Westman EC. A Randomized Trial of a Low-Carbohydrate Diet vs Orlistat Plus a Low-Fat Diet for Weight Loss. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2010;170(2):136. doi:10.1001/archinternmed.2009.492.

9. Havel P. Dietary Fructose: Implications for Dysregulation of Energy Homeostasis and Lipid/Carbohydrate Metabolism. Nutrition Reviews 2005; 63(5): 133-157.

Carbohydrate Diets in Clinical Nutritional Practice

Carbohydrate Diets in Clinical Nutritional Practice

By Laura Sheehan

I have been using low-carbohydrate diets in my nutritional consulting practice for three years. The results have typically been very good. For the most part, people lose weight, reduce inflammation, improve their digestive function and have better energy. I don’t have a one-size-fits-all diet that I recommend but help people to reduce their carbs to a reasonable level where they start to feel better. This level is different for everyone. People that have severe metabolic issues such as diabetes, heart disease, or obesity, I would recommend that they go even lower carbohydrate. When these people follow a ketogenic diet, they have reversed diabetes and lowered inflammatory blood markers. I do not believe everyone needs to go keto to be healthy however (many nutritionists are espousing this right now).

Some of the most dramatic “low-carb successes” I have witnessed have been Alzheimer’s clients. There have not been very many of them, I admit. But when they do choose to agree to follow a very low carbohydrate (no more than 30 grams of carbohydrates a day) and high fat diet, I have observed amazing results. People that didn’t seem quite “all-there” in the room with you suddenly begin to look you in the eye and engage you in meaningful conversation. It stays that way as long as people are willing to keep the ketogenic diet going. I can immediately tell if they have indulged in sugar when I meet with them.

What would account for this observed effect? A study1 showed that ketone bodies are protective of hippocampal neurons in vitro that have been exposed to a a fragment of amyloid protein, Aβ1–42, a substance found to produce a deficit similar to Alzheimer’s disease.

I have come across many different viewpoints on low carbohydrate diets and their effect on health. The scientific data are mixed2. I personally believe that human beings can be healthy and eat a vast array of different types of diets. What I am looking to do in my practice is to balance out the incredible over-consumption of sugar that most of my clients are guilty of. To this end, a continuum of different lower-carbohydrate diets appears to be useful. Even though the scientific debate is clearly not settled, I believe I have been helping people get healthier, lose weight, and feel better on lower-carbohydrate diets.

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1. Kashiwaya Y, Takeshima T. d-β-Hydroxybutyrate protects neurons in models of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A. 2000 May 9; 97(10): 5440–5444.
2. Nordmann AJ, Nordmann A. Effects of Low-Carbohydrate vs Low-Fat Diets on Weight Loss and Cardiovascular Risk Factors. Archives of Internal Medicine. 2006;166(3):285. doi:10.1001/archinte.166.3.285.

Effect of Carbohydrate Intake on Depression

Effect of Carbohydrate Intake on Depression

By Laura Sheehan

I was never formally diagnosed with depression and I have never taken depression medication, but I can attest to the effect that altering my carbohydrate intake had on my depression symptoms. In short, I am cured of my symptoms when I avoid refined white sugar, and my symptoms return when I begin to consume refined white sugar again.

Research by Akbaraly et al.1 concluded that a processed-food based diet is associated with increased risk for depression while a whole food based diet is protective. In another older study 2, nondepressed individuals were found to consume more protein relative to carbohydrates, but in depressed individuals it was the other way around.

So does this mean that high carbohydrate diets are associated in general with increased risk for depression? Recent research has revealed that depression is more a result of systemic inflammation than a chemical deficiency in the brain.3 Because of the inflammatory effect of high blood glucose 4, one can conclude that eating too much sugar and carbohydrates causes depression.

Many nutrition textbooks state that carbohydrate intake should be no lower than 50-100 grams per day. 5 It is my clinical experience that lowering carbohydrate intake in general to these levels can have a positive impact on mood and help individuals with depression.


    • 1. Akbaraly TN, Brunner EJ. Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age. British Journal of Psychiatry. 2009;195(05):408-413. doi:10.1192/bjp.bp.108.058925.
    2. Christensen L, Somers S. Comparison of nutrient intake among depressed and nondepressed individuals. International Journal of Eating Disorders. 1996;20(1):105-109. doi:10.1002/(sici)1098-108x(199607)20:1<105::aid-eat12>;2-3.
    3. Leonard B, Maes M. Mechanistic explanations how cell-mediated immune activation, inflammation and oxidative and nitrosative stress pathways and their sequels and concomitants play a role in the pathophysiology of unipolar depression. Neuroscience & Biobehavioral Reviews. 2012;36(2):764-785. doi:10.1016/j.neubiorev.2011.12.005.
    4. Dandona P, Ghanim H. A. Insulin infusion suppresses while glucose infusion induces Toll-like receptors and high-mobility group-B1 protein expression in mononuclear cells of type 1 diabetes patients. American Journal of Physiology-Endocrinology and Metabolism. 2013;304(8). doi:10.1152/ajpendo.00566.2012.
    5. Insel P, Ross D. Carbohydrates. In: Nutrition. 6th ed. Burlington, MA. Jones & Bartlett Learning; 2016: 138-171.

5 Reasons You’re Sick

Sickness and health are big topics in today’s discourse. If you want to be healthy, wouldn’t it be good to find out what makes people healthy, and do that? Wouldn’t is also be good to find out what makes people sick, and avoid or handle those things? In this blog I am going to address what the root causes of sickness are, so you can avoid them and get yourself on the road to health.

Have you ever asked your conventional medical practitioner “why?” If you have, you know it can be a frustrating experience. I had recurring chronic infections in my early 20’s. During this time, I asked several doctors why this was happening to me. They had literally no answer. They wouldn’t even address the question. Instead, it was, “here, just take this. This is what you take for what you’ve got.” Well, what I had just kept coming back, even after I took the meds.

And I wasn’t satisfied. I wanted to fix my problem, and I wanted to know why. It wasn’t until I met Keith Sheehan that anyone even started to answer that question.

Sickness – disease – ill-health – feeling crappy — these don’t just fall out of the sky and hit you in the head. Our natural state is radiant health. So what is going wrong? Here is a list of 5 causes of sickness. From these you can find the real reason for your sickness and health. Then once you find the real reason, take some action to change it!

  1. In general, our diets suck. Or, even if your diet doesn’t suck right now, it did suck for a large chunk of your life. Sickness and health depend primarily on our diet. For example, I was a vegetarian for twenty years and ate mostly bagels, tofu and cake. Sorry, not enough nutrition in those foods to really lay the foundation for health. What we eat keeps us alive, but how well we eat (or ate) determines how well we live.
  2. Even when we do start to improve our diet, we are still eating the wrong diet for us. I thought going vegetarian would be healthier than eating meat. So I was working on eating better, according to the information I had at the time. But the veg diet just wasn’t right for me, as chronic skin problems, hormonal issues and fatigue were cropping up. I had to become more flexible mentally in order to adopt the correct approach for me.
  3. Even when we do start to eat the right diet for us, the soil is depleted and we’re just not getting the nutrition we should from all that good food. Vegetables, fruits, meats, fish – the nutritive content just ain’t what it used to be! According to this article – as yields have gone up, nutritional content of foods has gone down. Like a quality vs. quantity thing.
  4. We’re not taking the right supplements. I have seen several folks just recently who would not start to get better on a program with me until they cut out taking the supplements that were blocking their healing process. It sounds weird, I know. All supplements were not created equal. So I recommend seeking out the proper guidance on what specific nutrient support to take. Because we do need to fill in the gaps that we’re not getting in our diets.
  5. We don’t exercise. Hello? Physical activity, anyone? According to this article, only 20% of us are getting enough exercise. No wonder we’re generally depressed, overweight, tired, and stressed. Exercise is a medicine that will end those problems.
  6. Six? There are six reasons for poor health? Well, mostly there is only one reason. See reason #1. But I’m reserving #6 for stresses and toxins that may be keeping you sick that you will need a professional to locate and identify. You may not be able to do much about #6 right at this point, but you can sure do something about numbers 1,2,3,4 and 5! So get to it!

And even when the pieces of the puzzle are finally in place – proper diet, nutritional supplementation and exercise – then your body will take time to heal. It won’t happen overnight! But there is hope. And we can help! Call our office today to get yourself on the road to better health.

And I’m reporting my food to you.

This morning I had: coffee with butter and cinnamon, cashews, ground beef with onions, sweet potatoes and curry powder

At 12:00 PM I had: Greek Salad with some tuna salad on top. I skipped the dressing but used the juice from inside the bright green (banana)? peppers. Unsweetened iced tea with lemon.

1:30 PM: another cup of coffee. I’ve started using 1/2 caf (mixing full caf with decaf)

3:00 PM: a SP berry bar

I haven’t had supper yet, but I’m likely to have another salad and wings at DipCo. Sauce on the side! And perhaps one alcoholic beverage. But also maybe not. I haven’t decided yet.

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Nutrition Response Testing Graduation!

On September 24, 2016 I officially graduated from the final level of the Nutrition Response Testing program. This is the culmination of two years of training.

Nutrition Response testing is in my blood, so to speak. Dr. Sheehan helped me 18 years ago using a system of analysis very similar to Nutrition Response Testing. He helped me get rid of some chronic infections that I had been suffering with for years. He used natural supplements and herbs that worked with my body to actually fix what was going wrong. It was not a purely symptom-based approach. Conventional medical treatments (i.e. drugs) were not getting to the root cause of my chronic infections. What I really needed help with was fixing my immune system! At that time I “converted”. Nutrition Response Testing is my health care now! I have been able to take care of 99% of all of my health concerns using this system. The only time I go to the “regular doctor” is to get a skin tag removed. 🙂

Since I have begun doing nutritional counseling and using Nutrition Response Testing, I have been able to help many people with symptoms and physical problems they didn’t think anyone would be able to help. The secrets are to figure out: 1) what’s the body’s priority, 2) what’s stressing the body out, and 3) what is the best approach to fix these things. I help people work with what their body is trying to accomplish instead of against it. Your body wants to heal; it’s always working to heal in fact. It’s just that sometimes there are road blocks that need to be cleared. My friend and colleague Sarah Outlaw in Cherry Hill, NJ has this to say about Nutrition Response testing.

One of the best things about being a graduate is that now I am part of a network of professionals. There are practitioners all over the country using this technique. These people were not satisfied with the status quo in health care and sought out Nutrition Response Testing so that they could really help their patients. Making a difference is what really matters, right? Helping someone to feel better…without the use of potentially dangerous and harmful treatments…that is what it’s all about! There is no better feeling on earth; it’s actually like a high. So now, back to work for me. And as for you…come check out what we have to offer. Come to a New Patient Day to learn more. Nutrition Response Testing changed my life. And if you qualify as a Nutrition Response Testing case, it has the potential to change yours.

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