Maybe I should start this post off with a list of some of the things that I’m starting to get really angry about now that I know how much they negatively affect me and others who have MTHFR genetic mutations and/or thyroid disease or dysfunction:

    • Government mandated folic acid fortification of foods: folic acid is an artificial substance that can actually be very harmful to people with MTHFR mutations – and we’re talking about potentially 30% or more of the population here. I’ve written an entire post about this issue and how to avoid folic acid.
    • The fluoride and other poisons in our water supply
    • The allowance of food to be packaged in plastic containers that leach toxins into the food or beverage, or companies that are still charging a lot for their appliances while allowing food-touching components to be made of “bad” plastics.
    • The general level of toxins we are exposed to from industrialized farming and food production, pollution and unacceptable chemicals in products.
    • Poor food quality and harmful ingredients in food, not just for those of us with MTHFR, but for everyone (high fructose corn syrup, for example)
    • “Standardized” medicine that does not evaluate each patient individually and operates against holistic ideals
    • The corruption that allows much of this to happen

This is probably a growing list and I’d be naive if I thought that any of it was going to actually be stopped until everyone gets together and takes a real stand against it. Information about these issues dribbles out here and there in the mainstream media, but overall those of us trying to live clean, healthy lives are not winning. Just look at how many more regular supermarkets there are than organic supermarkets and farmers markets, and how much more expensive “healthy” food is.

On this website I am trying to exemplify the type of lifestyle that someone with special health challenges like MTHFR and thyroid issues should lead. But already I am failing. I have challenges in my household situation that prevent me from customizing everything so that I can avoid both toxins and the common endocrine disruptors that will surprise you. Otherwise, I’m doing the best I can and following a MTHFR protocol and a good diet. If you have MTHFR, I insist that you watch this video on Methylation and MTHFR Defects. It’s created by a naturopath who is a leading researcher in this area and who has MTHFR himself so you can trust the information there. You will learn a ton, I promise!

I live in a rented house at the moment and I’ve just moved back to the United States after many years overseas. We have to take some time to build credit and save for a house while we decide where in the city we want to live long-term. So we have at least another 10-18 months in this house. It’s a great house but some things about it are out of my control right now. I’ll give you a quick tour…

kitchen water faucet

Our water

You can smell the chlorine in our water. My husband complains every time he takes a shower that his skin smells like he’s gone in the pool. While our district is in compliance for all water contaminant levels, a review of the substances in our water is alarming. We have 0.41 mg per liter of fluoride, 1.75 mg per liter of chlorine and a whopping 9.75 average mcg per liter of arsenic! The latter is particularly alarming because of the effect that much arsenic can have on children and expecting/breastfeeding mothers.

But, as you can see from the photo above, our weird kitchen sink faucet doesn’t seem to be particularly filter-ready. Our plan when we purchase a house is to install a comprehensive water filtration system at the primary water main, but in the meantime, we only drink and cook with bottled water. Thank goodness for Costco!

bottled water

Now I know this is not the ideal solution for a few reasons, the first being that the water comes in plastic bottles. The brand we use is supposed to be fluoride and BPA-free, but who ever really knows. The second reason this is not ideal is the cost, but at the moment this is what we’re using until I can investigate some additional options. It would be more costly for us to outfit a house we are only going to live in for a year with a permanent filter than to keep purchasing bottled water in bulk for a year or so.

Third, and perhaps most important, this doesn’t solve the shower problem. Toxins in water are absorbed into our skin and that’s not okay. When you ingest a toxin, your kidneys and liver have a chance to minimize the damage, but your skin absorbs things right into your system. I’ve started shortening my showers and taking them less frequently. I spend most of my time behind my desk anyway so I’m not filthy at the end of the day and requiring constant scrubbing. So when you look at your water sources, be sure to look at everything you are doing with the water: bathing in it, cooking with it, watering your vegetable garden with it…use the best systems you can afford to improve the quality of your water.

Carpet

Most of the rooms in our house have wall-to-wall carpet. Apparently certain carpets have toxins and, in general, tend to trap carcinogens. I try not to walk around barefoot but, seeing how we don’t know what kind of carpet we have, I’ve tried not to worry about this one too much at the moment.

carpet

Plastics in the kitchen

I turned the water tank for our brand new $600 espresso machine over today to empty it and saw the #7 plastic symbol on the bottom. Hmmm… Some quick reading online led me to this handy plastics guide and let me know that I MAY not need to worry about this. In general, however, it is difficult to avoid plastics in the kitchen. Pre-packaged meats often have a plastic tray and even the healthiest foods come wrapped in plastics. I’ve left this image in the set to remind you to do your best to reduce plastics in your kitchen and look for alternative packaging. I hear about new advances in packaging all the time so there are other materials out there. Companies just don’t always implement them because of the costs involved.

plastics in the kitchen

*By the way…coffee isn’t good for people with elevated homocysteine or trying to conceive anyway, and I only allow myself one a day (some things are just non-negotiable for me and my coffee is one of them). Just in case you were wondering.

Gas stoves

I’m a huge foodie who loves to cook so I shudder at the thought of this one. I AM supposed to avoid petrochemicals as much as possible because of my hypothyroidism, so this makes sense. Again, however, this is not something I can change this year.

gas stove

Chemicals in personal care and household products

I stopped using perfumes and lotions, only wear makeup a couple of days a week and have swapped out the products I do use for more natural substitutes. I don’t use fluoride or SLS toothpaste or shampoo with sulfates in it. My next product to tackle is my antiperspirant. That’s going to be tough because, while natural deodorants exist, I haven’t seen any alternative antiperspirants.

What other harmful products are lurking in our cabinets?

What other harmful substances are lurking in our cabinets?

Cleaning products are also tough. I’ve tried a few of the “green” ones and am happy with the results. At the moment, however, I am using a large number of regular cleaning products. I wear a mask and gloves when I clean and aerate the room. This is another area where my lifestyle detox needs some improvement.

What are the toxin challenges in your life? 

Seeking Health, Inc

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I’ve been on my new healthy eating and proper supplementation regimen for MTHFR for over two weeks now and I’m feeling great. The first days were a little rough, feeling like I had very slight flu-like symptoms, I guess as my body began to detox. But it’s been smooth sailing since then.

tomatillo

The funny thing about food preferences is the way we perceive taste and desire. I know I’ve fallen into the trap of craving fast food, junk food or sweets that I know I shouldn’t eat. But it tastes so good, I would think to myself. I have to have it. And then afterwards I would feel like garbage – pretty much always the feeling after having, say, a fast food burger and fries. We think we crave and then reach for bad choices because it’s what we’re used to. But when you start eating healthy you feel so much more vibrant and eventually you start to crave those good-for-you foods instead of the junk.

Healthy food just tastes better. As my husband and I sit down for meal after meal of delicious organic, locally sourced food, including more vegetables, lean protein and fruits, we are constantly commenting on how delightful everything tastes. At first we were both worried about what we would be able to eat (he wants to lose some weight so he’s decided to just eat what I eat) and that we would feel deprived. But it has been wonderful because now we are feeling better and actually love the taste of the food we are eating. I never, ever crave junk any more.

Not that this is an inexpensive lifestyle. I expect that we spend 20-30% more on organic, hormone-free, antibiotic-free foods and gluten-free items. It is definitely cheaper and easier to eat unhealthy food. That is a sad reality and one that, I think, keeps too many people from experiencing optimum health. But money isn’t everything. You can’t always get your health back once it’s taken a turn for the worse. Sadly, many of the health problems facing us today are caused by companies and governments taking cost-cutting measures. So being vigilant and proactive has become more important than ever.

We still have a long way to go as a household towards maximizing our nutrition. I plan to buy a juicer and start making fresh, raw juices at home. I was saddened to find how much sodium comes in something as simple as bottled tomato juice. We lived in Norway for a year before moving back to the United States in May and, not that I am saying I want to go back there, but I didn’t worry as much about what was on the grocery store shelves as I do here in the US.  I used to purchase a lovely, pure tomato juice there, for example, that didn’t have any added salt. I’m sure I can find something similar here but why bother when I can control what goes into my juice on my own?

Supplements have been a bit of another story with regards to regulating what and how much I need. The three primary vitamin supplements I have added are Folate (the bioactive form of B9, L-5-methyltetrahydrofolate), B12 as methylcobalmin and B6 from pyridoxal 5’ –phosphate. I get most of my daily dosage of this from a prenatal called NeevoDHA that was prescribed to me by a doctor. I add in additional B 6, 9 and 12 from high-quality supplements. Neevo isn’t covered by our insurance though and, at $140 a month, isn’t something I want to continue with because it is not a complete supplement for pregnancy. So I will be switching to a different prenatal when this month is over.

The difficulty with establishing a personal protocol for how much of the active B vitamins you need begins with the fact that nobody wants to tell you how much you should be taking because it’s different for everyone. Some people have other issues that mean they shouldn’t follow a methylated vitamin B protocol at all right off the bat. So far I haven’t noticed any issues with the B vitamins but I am paying attention every day to how I’m feeling. I also take some other beneficial (for me) supplements like Vitamin C, D, E, zinc, magnesium, riboflavin 5’-phosphate, selenium, CoQ10, curcumin, krill oil and milk thistle. I tried taking N-acetyl cysteine but after a couple of weeks it made me really tired so I cut that out. If you have any negative reactions to any methylated vitamins, it’s important to stop and do additional genetic testing. Other mutations can be at play and there is more to methylation than just MTHFR.

It’s impossible to see the benefits of supplementation in such a short period of time. By the time I see the doctor at the end of August I hope to be able to see some results from my supplementation and be able to evaluate with her how I’m doing with that. With regards to the dietary changes I’ve incorporated, however, so far so good!

If you have a comment that is related to your own health or have questions that require an answer, please leave these in the community discussion forums and not in the comments below. Thanks! =)

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informationWhen you first find out you have a problem with something, it’s natural to have a zillion questions and to just dive into reading just about everything you can get your hands on. When it comes to health, many real doctors argue that Dr. Google can be one of the most damaging things out there for patients. I guess that’s fair enough given many people’s inability to distinguish between what is credible on the internet. But if you know what to look at and where to look for it, I believe you can find a lot of excellent information online. And not only on the mainstream sites like WebMD.

If it wasn’t for the internet, I would not have come as far as I have in such a short time to getting to the root of my health issues. To give an example of this, I will trace my information pathways prior to trying to conceive. I began with some online reading on some of the popular parenting websites and a book for women trying to conceive and first-time mothers. I never saw anything about MTHFR or the fact that many people need the active form of folic acid in my pregnancy book. In fact, I had only read online in a forum somewhere that many women are unaware that they aren’t able to convert regular folic acid into the active form, leaving them deficient in this crucial vitamin. Most only find out after multiple miscarriages or have babies born with birth defects. Eventually I found some detailed information online about T3 and T4 levels for hypothyroid patients and the importance of having optimal levels prior to getting pregnant. It was my own posts about my doctor visits and lab work on an online discussion forum that led to someone suggesting that I get tested for MTHFR. And so here we are. Had I simply gone to doctors and specialists and not questioned anything they told me, I would be completely ignorant of my situation. So I give Dr. Google, and my own ability to use it wisely, some credit.

As you may be able to tell, I’m a big fan of online discussion forums and communities. However and wherever they exist, be it a forum hosted by a media company or a Facebook or Yahoo group, I am for them. People need to get together and compare notes and talk about their health problems. They can find support and the comments in forums often build up a useful database of information that can be mined later by others searching for keywords about their own problems. Most of the time these discussions are uninhibited because of anonymity. I did my entire masters thesis on this topic and I absolutely believe in the value of these discussions. If you have a specific health concern I encourage you to join a group and talk to others about it. Always double check and verify the information you find there, of course, but exchanges with others in the same situation is a valuable tool in your arsenal.

The second place to find good information is on a trusted website by a qualified professional who is doing research on the particular condition you are having an issue with. It is both a good thing and a bad thing that doctors have specific areas that they want to focus on. It’s a bad thing because that person is going to often have blinders on things that he or she doesn’t know very much about, which will usually be things that are unrelated to his or her area of interest. This is where I often find problems with primary care physicians and general practitioners. Some of them are amazing and really do keep abreast of all the common problems people face, and those doctors who care about being accurate are usually also very good about sending their patients on to see specialists when they really don’t know what to do about a particular health problem. It’s a wonderful thing when a doctor chooses one small area to devote his or her work to because of the expertise they acquire. But, unfortunately, a human being can only be in one place and geography becomes a factor. As does the numbers game that a doctor can only see so many patients and give them proper attention at once. Luckily, many specialists provide their research online on their websites. So it is important to find doctors who are writing about your condition, being sure to look across as many as you can to ensure you are getting up to date information. Then, at the very least, you have some information in hand when you go to visit your own physician and you have some basis to compare what he or she tells you with what you have already learned.

Ideally, however, you are going to find a specialist who can help you. I find this to be a little challenging sometimes, however, because I am a fan of the most natural approach possible when dealing with an illness, while a doctor may want to prescribe drugs for something. I’ll take medication when I absolutely need it. I take thyroid medication, for example, and I have for many years. But antibiotics are a no-no for me unless I am dying of infection or have a serious problem. As are fertility drugs at the moment unless another six to eight months on my new diet and health regimen don’t prove fruitful. I only take drugs when absolutely necessary. This is just my personal health objective and finding a doctor who agrees with this approach isn’t always easy.

But the good news is that you can also find doctors online. Many online health communities publish lists of doctors that their members have found helpful, along with reviews and comments. Some also publish lists of “bad doctors” and those who were not helpful for a specific condition. I know I usually start my search for a doctor on my insurance company’s website, but it’s been wonderful being able to cross-reference lists of potential doctors with those covered by my insurance. I often cross-reference other lists too because one doctor may have glowing reviews on one site and not so great ones on the other. The list is pretty narrow when I’m finished and I live in a major metropolitan area.

I’ve only just recently come across Dr. Andrew Saul’s website, DoctorYourself.com but I see he has a number of books out so you may know more about him than I do. I think this is an excellent concept and I need to delve more into this website before commenting on it. I really advocate self-awareness in all aspects of a person’s life. As I’ve said before, it is extremely important to be proactive when it comes to one’s health. The more you read and digest and get to know your own body and what is going on with it, the more of a resource you become to yourself. It is then possible to be more discerning with the medical and health professionals you come into contact with. You learn to instinctively know when you should get a second opinion and when a health issue is serious and requires intervention and when it doesn’t. Of course, if you ever have any doubts you should always consult someone qualified, whether it be your doctor or a naturopath or a nurse, but knowing when and for how long to let your body ride with something is valuable information. In the case of someone very close to me, allowing a frivolous specialist and surgeon to interfere with what turned out to be a virus led to him now having a different health condition for the rest of his life due to unnecessary surgery. There are actually a lot of doctors out there who are just in it for the money, or who don’t give pause to things. A lot of things simply get missed in the paperwork and miscommunication or simple laziness do hurt people. You don’t want to be one of those statistics. Once again, I’m NOT advising people against going to the doctor, but be very careful when it comes to blindly following doctor advice without getting second opinions or verifying information ahead of major medical treatment courses or surgeries.

If you have a comment that is related to your own health or have questions that require an answer, please leave these in the community discussion forums and not in the comments below. Thanks! =)

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