This diet was not a doctor’s order. But it was my last stab at trying to feel better.
Migraines, cluster headaches, brain fog, chronic fatigue, persistent infection, excessive hair loss, dizziness, low/high blood pressure, unstable blood sugar levels, chronic acne and skin issues resembling rosacea/psoriasis, extreme depression and anxiety, hormonal imbalances, neurotransmitter deficiencies, and widespread, chronic aches. And…allergies.
Any of this sound familiar? Read on.
Over the years, I have developed sensitivities and allergies to every food on the planet. (Sound like leaky gut?) While leaky gut was certainly a factor in my rapidly declining health, there were definitely more bugs crawling beneath the carpet.
If I were to tell you that approximately 50% of the population has a gene variant associated with impaired detoxification abilities, would that surprise you?
The gene is appropriately abbreviated MTHFR. Which actually stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. Chances are (50/50), you have at least one mutation on this gene. About fifty percent of us are waltzing (or stumbling, fumbling, bumbling) through life un-detoxed.
When one has an MTHFR mutation, the ability to produce MTHFR – the detox chemical – is severely impaired (by at least 30%) However, if you got this mutation from both Mom and Dad, production impairment can reach 70%.
Upon taking a genetic test, I learned that I have at least thirteen broken (disadvantageously mutated) MTHFR alleles. My ability to remove toxins (heavy metals, fluoride, excess histamine) from my system is essentially nonexistent. I am an undermethylator.
Undermethylators frequently suffer from histamine intolerance. They may react to foods such as avocado, tomatoes, bananas, and spinach. Other possible food intolerances include citrus, berries, nuts, cured meats, and fermented foods.
Well, if detoxing is the issue, there are solutions for that. Chelation, sulfur, garlic, lots of cruciferous vegetables…. Right?
Alas, if only the solution were that straightforward.
The catch-22 is that I also have variations on the CBS (cystathionine-beta-synthase) gene, which cause me to react strongly to sulfur, chelation, and cruciferous vegetables. Not only do these substances cause reactions, but their detoxification properties actually don’t even work on me. In fact, consuming these sulfur-based foods and medicines increases toxic buildup for me, by promoting extra production of ammonia and hydrogen sulfide in the system.
All this toxic overload creates a massive burden on the liver. When the liver struggles to filter out toxins – because there is too much junk (ammonia, hydrogen sulfide, histamine) to handle – the toxins spill into the bloodstream and take a ride all the way to the brain. As the blood-brain barrier is very weak when it comes to ammonia, this caustic substance easily accesses brain cells and burns them. This is why people with CBS mutations frequently experience brain fog.
To make matters worse, those who have been poisoned by mercury (which, these days, would be most of us) AND who have CBS mutations suffer more intensely when sulfur is consumed. The sulfur (in the form of cruciferous vegetables, chelation, MSM, and other foods/supplements) binds to the mercury and drags it along throughout the body, but DOES NOT eliminate it. The mercury stays in the system of a CBS sufferer, after it has inflicted much damage to cells by binding to the sulfur and being pulled around everywhere.
So. No broccoli, kale, garlic, onion, cabbage, cauliflower, egg, dairy, wheat, beans, or nuts for me (there are also additional health reasons I avoid some of these, but I won’t get into that now). I also have to limit my intake of high-protein foods, as complete proteins contain the sulfur-based amino acid cysteine. When I do consume heavy amounts of protein, I try to take clay, charcoal, L-Ornithine, yucca root, and/or magnesium (magnesium is important for SO many chemical reactions in the body). These protect the body and brain from ammonia.
I reached a point where I could barely function. My skin was itchy all the time, and my brain also felt “itchy”. It was just constantly tired and irritated. As if it were on fire.
Well, once I started avoiding all things sulfur, these symptoms went away. My skin began to clear up, and itched much less. My foul-smelling flatulence also disappeared. 🙂
The Next Step in My Recovery
However, I still felt pretty crappy overall (very tired and sluggish, blood sugar would drop, pain in the gut). And I was continuing to develop or notice more food sensitivities.
To balance my blood sugar, I had to cut out all grains. (I was still consuming rice and rice products at the time.)
I realized that if I was going to avoid developing allergies to the precious few foods I could still eat, I would have to heal my leaky gut.
So I took a three day “fast”, during which I consumed only homemade broth (rich in gut-healing properties, especially if you keep the fat), ghee, and licorice pills (no candy). 🙂
It made a difference. After this fast, I was able to reintroduce a few foods into my diet (including wild caught cod/salmon, cherries, and some berries, and eventually amaranth flour, which is now my baking flour of choice). [UPDATE: This has changed. I had to remove amaranth from my diet. I suspect the lectins were affecting me. However, I’ve been able to use quinoa flour in moderation, and lots of tiger nut flour! See My Journey to Recovery: An Update.] I also noticed that some smells (eggs, laundry detergent) bothered me somewhat less than they used to. I still have food sensitivities though. Pumpkin is a no-no.
Once I was able to add some nutrition back into my diet, I began to feel a little better, but my emotions were noticeably off. While taking some informal neurotransmitter deficiency tests online, I came across a test for pyroluria. Based on my indicative results, I decided to research this condition further.
I learned that pyroluria is a genetic condition, estimated to be present in 10-11 % of the population. It is not recognized by much of the medical community (I have cynical theories as to why), and it is one of the most common undiagnosed conditions.
Symptoms of pyroluria can include anxiety, depression, poor gut health, and skin problems. I think pyroluria deserves its own post, so I’ll leave it here and just say that taking vitamin B6 (in the enzymatic, P5P form), and zinc has made a phenomenal difference for me here. My energy and outlook have significantly improved, and I can tolerate protein slightly better (though I still have to be careful).
I’ve also been experimenting with the ketogenic diet. When going keto, I notice significantly improved physical energy and mental clarity.
Equal, or perhaps second-best (for me) to the keto diet, is a high-fat, med-carb (mostly fruit), low-protein diet. Kinda counterintuitive, but the foods that make me feel the healthiest are not meat and veggies, but rather (healthy) fats, fruit, and salt. Yes. Lots of salt. Makes the adrenal glands happy. High salt consumption has also stabilized my blood pressure! (You also need to replenish electrolytes more when on the keto diet.)
I still consume homemade broth nearly every day, to continue the process of healing my gut.
2-3 months ago, I feared that at 24, I had a life of chronic illness ahead of me. But I finally believe that I’m getting my life back.
So many of these topics deserve their own post(s). So I will wrap it up here for now.
Have you dealt with chronic illness? Did some of the symptoms or solutions I mentioned resonate with your own experiences? Let me know in the comments below!
Disclaimer: Each individual is, well, individual. Different genetic combination. Different environmental and life factors. Consequently, appropriate treatment will, no doubt, vary from person to person. I am not a doctor, just someone who has studied genetics a lot, has some “interesting” genetics, and has experimented on herself because of that. Please do not treat this information as medical advice.
© 2017 Kate Richardson All Rights Reserved
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