When You Can Only Eat Five Foods

apple

Yes, you read that right. Earlier this summer, my diet was reduced to about 5-10 “staples”. Chicken broth, apples, turkey, carrots, olive oil….

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.


MTHFR Gene

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.


CBS Gene

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 claycharcoal, 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.


Pyroluria

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. YesLots 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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31 thoughts on “When You Can Only Eat Five Foods

  1. I suffer from psoriasis and have tried so many of these kinds of diets. I’ve never heard of anything in your sections on MHTFR or the CBS gene. Is there any scientific basis behind this, as I know things like leaky gut is generally not acknowledged in the medical profession? Don’t take that the wrong way by the way! I’m just always sceptical but intrigued by things like this after being told about so many ‘home remedies’ to cure my psoriasis!

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    1. Hey there! Thanks for your comment. I can totally relate on the skepticism regarding home remedies for the skin. I’ve tried many, and most of them have failed miserably (essential oils have been pretty awesome though).

      Psoriasis can flare up for different reasons, but a broken transsulfuration pathway (CBS gene issue) may be implicated. If I understand the process correctly: Cystathionine Beta Synthase is involved in the proper processing of sulfur from your food, but when this process is broken, important sulfate compounds are not created, and harmful chemicals (e.g. ammonia, hydrogen sulfide) are created instead. These sulfate compounds would normally be responsible for binding to salicylates and amines in your food.

      Salicylate intolerance is frequently linked with psoriasis. In short, if you have a CBS mutation, you won’t be creating enough of these sulfate compounds when you eat sulfur (eating more sulfur foods WILL NOT help with this – no matter how much sulfur you consume, most of it will convert improperly, because you’re running out of your CBS enzyme too fast). If there is a deficit in sulfates, then salicylates may build up, irritating your skin from within and producing symptoms of psoriasis.

      BTW, this whole sulfur process is closely tied in to liver function. Those suffering from psoriasis are often also suffering from poor liver health (usually because their sulfur-processing pathway for removing toxins from the liver is broken). This means your liver does not detox effectively, and quickly becomes overburdened (with things like salicylates).

      Salicylates can be great for you, unless you are sensitive to them or can’t remove them from your system. If this is the case, then it’s like you’re getting an internal acne “treatment” of salicylates 24/7 (rather than applying the occasional bit of salicylic acid topically, which I’ve also personally found to be problematic). Your skin gets pretty tired of this, and psoriasis flares up.

      https://www.dermveda.com/learn/skin-smarts/integrative-approaches/detoxification-series-the-liver (while this recommends eating high-sulfur vegetables like broccoli for detoxing the liver, this could be problematic if you have a CBS mutation).

      Yes, leaky gut is yet to be recognized by much of the medical community. But more doctors are acknowledging the huge role of leaky gut AND genetic mutations in chronic health conditions. Genetic mutations are like the gun, and leaky gut and toxins are the bullets. If you develop leaky gut and accumulate toxins, you “unlock” or “pull the trigger” on these genetic mutations, and they rear their ugly heads. I would highly recommend testing for your genetic profile (the test 23andme.com offers is pretty popular), then uploading your raw data (provided with the test) to a site like livewello.com to interpret your results (I think they charge $20 or so).

      Once you have your interpreted results in hand, I’d look around for a doctor familiar with genetics (preferably more than just the MTHFR gene) in your area.

      Unfortunately, I don’t see a lot of resources on the internet for locating CBS-knowledgeable physicians yet (easier to find for MTHFR), but they’re out there. A physician registered as an N.D. or D.O. – or a genetics specialist – might be your best bet. You’ll want to ask if the physician is familiar with genetic variants related to methylation and detoxification, or whatever mutations show up on your genetic profile.

      As far as online resources, Dr. Jockers has some helpful info. on his site: http://drjockers.com/cbs-mutation-low-sulfur-diet/, if you find you have CBS mutation(s).

      What’s made the biggest difference in my skin health has been changing my diet in a way that’s tailored to my specific genetic variants, as well as fighting yeast infection (candida albicans) in the gut, healing leaky gut with homemade chicken/turkey stock, and taking vitamin B6 and zinc. Additionally, lavender essential oil as a topical treatment is very soothing and anti-inflammatory, if you’re not allergic to it.

      Hope this was helpful. 🙂 If you have any more questions, let me know!

      Like

    1. Thanks for the feedback! I really appreciate it! 🙂 I originally had over 30 tags for this post, until I read that posts only show up in the Reader if they have 15 tags + categories or less.

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    1. Hey Kristen! Thanks for reading, commenting, and sharing. So, SO true. Healing the gut is key!!

      I checked out the article. Definitely some excellent information there, which should be beneficial for many who are seeking to restore their health. Eradicating infection and repairing with glutamine are certainly crucial steps in healing the gut.

      Unfortunately, I react to probiotics (this is more common among those with histamine intolerance, and histamine intolerance is more common among those with certain MTHFR genetic variants).

      I also have to limit my protein consumption (due to genetics-based sulfur intolerance). 😦 So rather than consuming a lot of protein to heal my gut, I drink a lot of bone broth for the glutamine and other amino acids. It’s a lot easier for my gut to process. Might be a slower process for healing, but my CBS genetic variant can make things interesting with protein intake.

      It’s extremely inspiring to hear that you have found solutions and been able to reintroduce foods though!! Kudos to you!

      Depending on one’s problem foods – and the causes of the intolerance or allergies – it may or may not be possible to ever reintroduce those foods. I suspect I’ll never be able to reintroduce gluten, as I am genetically predisposed for celiac disease and seem to suffer gut damage from consuming it at all.

      However, I would not be surprised if I’m eventually able to reintroduce some less offensive foods once my gut is completely sealed from bone broth consumption, and is not being torn apart by candida and other infections.

      In Legit Excuses for Picky Eaters ( https://reflectioncube.com/2017/11/06/legit-excuses-for-picky-eaters/ ), I explore several different reasons a person might have a sensitivity or allergy to a food.

      Liked by 1 person

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  11. Disclaimer: To anyone reading this: I am not A Doctor. Do not take the following as medical advice. I am simply sharing info I have either heard or read or from talking to people who work in a health food/vitamin store. I am not liable for any possible bad effects or symptoms arising from the use, mis-use, avoidance, or abuse of the shared info.

    You are on your own with this, and how you use it or dont use it is your own doing. Here goes:

    Does too much Vitamin B-6 cause skin rashes? Rosacia?
    More than once I’ve heard that B-vitamins should be all taken together, not in isolation.
    Can B-12 lift one’s mood a bit?

    I’ve heard that Pantothenic Acid (vitamin B-5) is an antistress vitamin. and taking it together with vitamin C can help strengthen your Adrenal glands.
    Coffee destroys vitamin B-1. B-1 helps with digestion. Coffee also destroys Magnesium.

    Milk Thistle is good for your liver.
    Tumeric has health benefits. Look that up.

    For stomach: PEPPERMINT TEA! It is said you can even give peppermint tea to an infant. Also very good for stomach is Chamomile Tea.

    Cinnamon may help keep blood sugar on an even keel.

    That’s it for now.

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    1. Hi there, theOwl30! 🙂 Thanks for your input.

      Q: Can B6 cause rosacea or skin rashes?

      This can happen (I’ll list a few articles below). In my personal experience, B6 has only been helpful and not harmful in the treatment of my skin conditions (both redness/irritation and acne). However, it seems that nearly any “good” food/vitamin will be problematic for someone. :/

      It’s possible that I would experience a rash if I were to take too much B6. However, with my condition of pyroluria, it’s tough for me to reach the point of overdosing on this vitamin. So I don’t know what types of symptoms, if any, might show up in this situation. ( Pyroluria: https://reflectioncube.com/2017/08/30/got-chronic-depressionanxiety-white-flecks-on-your-fingernails-skin-disorders/ )

      Some articles on B6 and skin conditions:

      https://www.livestrong.com/article/547258-vitamins-to-help-fade-redness-in-face/

      https://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-934-PYRIDOXINE+VITAMIN+B6.aspx

      https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11763399

      https://www.livestrong.com/article/478587-vitamin-b6-itchy-skin/

      Whether B vitamins should be taken all together or more specifically/selectively seems to depend on the individual. Depending on one’s diet, medical condition(s), and other factors, there may be more or less of a need for particular B vitamin(s).

      You’re right, though, B vitamins can work in tandem (for example, methylcobalamin [B12] needs methylfolate [B9] in order to be effective), and it is important to have enough of all the vitamins in order to function. It’s just that some of us may only require supplementation with certain B vitamins, because we are already getting (and keeping) enough of the other ones from our food.

      Those maintaining a gluten-free/wheat-free diet are particularly susceptible to multiple B vitamin deficiencies.

      I’ve tried taking various B vitamin complexes and multivitamins before, and have generally felt more sick as a result. I attribute this, in part, to my inability to tolerate certain forms of B vitamins (such as folic acid [a form of B9 that I don’t process well due to MTHFR mutations] or methylcobalamin). However, I also suspect that, when taking these complexes, I may have been overdosing on certain B vitamins, while not getting enough of others. The proportions of B vitamins didn’t match my needs.

      Right now, I specifically take B6 (in the active form – P-5-P), and I see improvements in sleep, mood, and skin with this.

      Yep, there does seem to be a correlation between B12 and mood:

      https://wellnessmama.com/36091/vitamin-b12-deficiency/

      However, supplementation with vitamin B12 requires some extra research, caution, and personalization.

      While many people suffer from B12 deficiencies – and this is important to recognize and treat –
      it’s also essential that we consume the optimal form (what’s optimal depends on the person – could be methylcobalamin or hydroxocobalamin or another form), for maximum benefit and also to avoid negative side effects.

      https://www.drbenlynch.com/resource/4-forms-of-vitamin-b12/

      Additionally, B12 deficiency can be the tip of a much larger iceberg. Often, there is another serious underlying health condition leading to low B12 levels. In this case, it is important to identify and treat the hidden condition as well:

      https://drjockers.com/warning-signs-of-a-b12-deficiency/

      With B vitamins in general, it’s often more beneficial and safe to take the bioactive forms.

      B vitamin supplementation is highly individual. What works for one person could potentially be detrimental for another.

      Milk thistle is actually quite harmful for me. I took it for a while, and only continued to feel worse. Turns out, milk thistle tends to be contraindicated for those with CBS mutations.

      If I take milk thistle, it will not get processed correctly and will actually feed into liver toxicity instead of promoting detoxification as it should – all because my cystathionine beta-synthase pathway is broken and not processing certain foods or vitamins (typically ones containing thiols or other sulfur compounds) properly.

      The very properties (sulfur compounds) in certain foods and supplements which are effective in liver detoxification for most people actually have the reverse effect on me, increasing liver toxicity (This tends to happen with CBS mutations. These normally beneficial compounds turn into something very harmful).

      A couple info sources on CBS variants, sulfur intolerance, and low-sulfur diet:

      https://www.drlam.com/blog/a-cbs-mutation-could-be-causing-your-health-problems/34861/

      https://drjockers.com/cbs-mutation-low-sulfur-diet/

      Milk thistle is high in thiols (compounds containing sulfhydryl groups). Thiols can be highly problematic for those with CBS mutations.

      Turmeric is not high in thiols itself, but it can raise thiol levels significantly.

      Yep, turmeric does have many health benefits – at least for many or most people. 🙂 For me (at least right now), any health benefits are outweighed by the side effects. (It’s been a while since I’ve consumed it, but I seem to recall experiencing shortness of breath or dizziness.)

      I am eating cinnamon again, however, my understanding is that cinnamon does tend to LOWER rather than raise or maintain blood sugar levels. My blood sugar levels already tend to get dangerously low, so I probably need to rein it in a bit with the cinnamon. :/

      I know cinnamon has been recommended for diabetics for its ability to lower blood sugar. However, when blood sugar levels drop TOO low, this tends to cause the body to panic and raise blood pressure levels.

      Cinnamon is a wonderful plant, though, and I’m a huge fan of it. 🙂

      I love peppermint tea, and so does my stomach, to an extent. My brain? Not so much.

      I can feel a bit foggy-cloggy-headed after drinking it. I suspect this is related to the lectins in peppermint, as I’m quite sensitive to many types of lectins.

      However, I have experienced significant relief from stomach bubbles in the past by taking peppermint pills. 😛 I agree, peppermint can be a quick and effective remedy for some types of gastrointestinal distress. However, it may not be the best remedy for all gut issues, and may come with side effects for some.

      Please check out my disclaimer: https://reflectioncube.com/disclaimer/

      Thanks for commenting and for your input/questions. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

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  22. Becka

    Thank you so much for this post. It was like reading my own story but with the happier ending I seek! I’m pretty sure I have issues with MTHFR & CBS and have my 23andMe raw data ready to be interpreted. Doctors have been of no help, not even a consultant immunologist. It’s a lonely road & many people roll their eyes when time I say “I can’t eat that” – which is frequent. I want to get to the bottom of this not just for the benefit of my health & mentality, but also to prove to others that it’s not in my head. So thank you again for giving me hope & letting me know I’m not on my own 😊

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading and sharing your story, Becka!! I’m delighted to know that reading this has given you hope. 🙂 ❤ You're right, figuring this stuff out can be a very lonely road! 😦 Praying your journey through this brings more answers and hopeful solutions! ❤

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