*Updated 28 Oct 2014*

When I found out I was compound heterozygous for MTHFR, my first thoughts were of regret. I have never refused myself anything when it comes to what I now think of as toxins: rich food, wheat bread, alcohol, dairy products, sugar, fast food, etc. How much damage, I thought, have I done to my body over the last two decades? Because when you have a MTHFR mutation, your body often doesn’t detoxify as well as “normal” people. The pathways that create crucial substances in the body like SAMe and glutathione are impaired. I am lucky that, aside from my hypothyroidism, I haven’t yet been plagued with medical problems like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, diabetes or the many others that can affect a person with MTHFR mutations.

supplements

Of course, I’m still reasonably young in my early thirties and I have to think that those health problems could or would be coming my way as I age. I have, however, had issues over the years with anemia, mild to moderate depression, insomnia, chemical pregnancy/miscarriage, tinnitus and digestion. My homocysteine levels were elevated at 9.4 back in April.

I don’t want to turn this post into a confessional, but I was also a cigarette smoker for many years. I was proud to put them down for the last time in 2006 and hope that my quitting has restored the health of my lungs and my body. But, while I’m not an alcoholic, I do enjoy beer and wine and have never held back when having drinks with friends or during our sometimes constant travels. My husband and I would often end a stressful day with a drink or two. Sometimes this would affect me and sometimes it wouldn’t. For a long time I thought I had allergies to sulfites in certain wines because I would feel sick after imbibing them. When I stopped taking birth control pills (another MTHFR no-no that I ingested for several years), those reactions seemed to dissipate. Now I realize that perhaps it was the combination of the two toxins that was too much for my body to handle. Alcohol is actually toxic to everyone, so it would be wise to cut back or eliminate it whether you have a genetic mutation or not. I now only drink alcohol on special occasions and always in moderation.

If you are like me and also have a MTHFR mutation, you might be wondering what you can do about it. I am not the person to completely solve that mystery for you. But I am developing this site to share what I’m doing and perhaps some of my lifestyle choices and manifestations will inspire you or help you mimic the same behavior should you choose to do so. My starting point has been the wonderful website MTHFR.net and, in particular, the page there about the basic MTHFR protocol for those who have one or two copies of the C677T mutation.

The recommendations from this page that I am currently incorporating into my life are as follows:

  • A switch to supplements containing the active forms of B vitamins (6, 9 and 12)
  • Changing to a gluten-free and dairy-free diet (I am still consuming goat cheese at this point.)
  • Eating only organic food including an increase in fruits and vegetables
  • Avoidance of nitrous oxide, antacids, certain medications/drugsfoods containing folic acid and processed foods
  • Drinking only bottled water (or heavily filtered water) and having at least two liters of it a day plus daily electrolytes
  • Eating only grass-fed, free-range, hormone and antibiotic free meats and eggs
  • Improving my gut health

These are in addition to the other precautions I already take because of my hypothyroidism.

I have also incorporated a number of additional supplements into my regimen. I’ve added these slowly as recommended. The primary supplements I am taking support my body in the production of glutathione, which MTHFR patients are usually deficient in. In addition to all of this, I see a wonderful acupuncturist weekly for hormone balancing and do Pilates twice a week. I’m of normal weight and feel healthy.

Wandering the aisles at the supermarket the other day, I was overwhelmed. Both by the amount of information I’ve taken in over the last couple of weeks and also with gratitude that there is so much that I can still eat. I can’t help but think that had I discovered my condition several years ago that perhaps there wouldn’t be so many choices and so much labeling in foods and beverages for people with special diets. Ironically, I used to whiz down the “special diets” aisle thinking, thank goodness I don’t have to worry about any of THAT! Well, as it turns out I do. And I suspect that many more people also should be following a restricted diet and do not, simply because they are unaware of their health status and have no idea how much our over-processed, highly toxic lives harm our health. These mutations are pretty common and it would be beneficial for more people to get tested. Not that it will be smooth sailing once you simply find out that you have a MTHFR mutation.

Product marketing is often killing us, especially when it comes to food, drink, pharmaceutical and lifestyle choices. We cannot look to the mainstream media and medical establishments and expect to follow their doctrines and lead healthy lives. As I’ll explore in my next post, most of the things in our modern world are tailored towards the quick-fix, the fast-buck and the most convenient solution. This goes for shopping, for medicine, even for your career. Something I will aim to do with this website is to present healthy alternatives, and to talk about living slightly outside of conventional norms when it comes to health and wellness. I don’t claim to be an expert on holistic health, integrative medicine or alternative therapies, but this is a subject that I’m passionately curious about and over the last year I have delved deeper and deeper into how these practices can help me in my own health journey. As much as possible, I encourage a discussion around these topics on this website. Please share your own knowledge with me and others.

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! =)

Flattr this!

So after a bit of an exploration of my status as a hypothyroid individual, I want to turn the attention back to MTHFR because this is the condition that has prompted me to make most of the lifestyle changes that I’ll be documenting on this blog. I should start off by saying that I have yet to find a doctor to treat me for MTHFR. After my current primary care physician wouldn’t test me for the mutations, I went off on my own and consulted Dr. Ben Lynch’s wonderful resource, MTHFR.Net. After testing positive for compound heterozygous MTHFR, I have only the internet to turn to until I can find a doctor who acknowledges this condition to be problematic. I have one candidate lined up for the end of August, which is the earliest I could get an appointment, so until then I am on my own. I am also looking into a local clinic that specializes in DNA and cellular assessment to get more information on my MTHFR. I will report back as I go with the outcomes of all of my visits to health professionals.

vegetables

What prompts someone to find out they have a genetic mutation and embark on a complete and total lifestyle overhaul? I wonder as I write these first posts whether I will get readers who think I’m a crazy hypochondriac who is taking things way too far. Not that I’ve ever cared about what people think, but I look forward to meeting others who have encountered this disorder in their own lives and decided to make drastic changes. By now we’ve all heard about Angelina Jolie and her BRCA mutation. I have not been tested for this gene but both my mother and maternal grandmother have been affected by breast cancer in their lives. And MTHFR is possibly related to increased cancer risk if not properly treated.

But cancer isn’t the only thing to worry about. MTHFR, if not addressed, can lead to many serious health problems. And as I have mentioned before, I would like to become pregnant in the near future. The number of potential pregnancy complications for women with MTHFR is staggering. I hope to prevent as many of these as possible by being properly treated and monitored and also to prevent any birth defects or adverse conditions in any future children I have.

There is also increasing evidence that MTHFR mutations can play a direct role in the development of autism in young children. Interestingly enough, I was already prepared to deal with my MTHFR mutations before I even found out I had them. Autism spectrum disorders have been on my radar for awhile. I already had my big toe in the pool of organic and holistic living from six months before we even started trying for a baby. I was vigilant against genetically modified organisms and chemical exposure. I refused to eat meat that had been treated with hormones or antibiotics or fish high in mercury. I shunned fluoride, antibiotics, fabric softener, sugar, processed food, high fructose corn syrup and excessive cell phone use. This is all before I even knew that I was one of the people at risk of having an autistic child. All I knew of were the terrifying statistics – that one in 88 children are affected by Autism Spectrum Disorders.

So for me, there is no halfway or playing games with this genetic affliction. Some people may choose a more moderate approach. I don’t judge anyone or tell anyone what to do with their lives. The only person I can make decisions for is myself. And for me, a complete change in lifestyle is now required. I can’t tell you how many people, in two short weeks since I’ve known that I’m compound heterozygous, have waved their hands at me in dismissal and told me not to worry about it. I guess I should be comforted by the fact that possibly 30-50 per cent of the population has at least a heterozygous mutation of one of the genes in question? That, along with our increasingly toxic environment, may explain the increasing number of autism cases. But MTHFR being widespread does not give me pause. I think there is a lot to be said for a healthy lifestyle. It’s a choice I’ve made so that I can feel at peace with whatever happens in the future with my health or the health of my family.

These are, of course, just my first steps at this stage. I am completely new to all of this, including clean living. If you caught me a couple of months ago you would have found me eating fried chicken and biscuits chased with a couple of beers. Not every day, mind you, but often enough to disqualify me from being able to speak at all about being “health-conscious.” And this is about the time I should add the requisite disclaimers that I am not a doctor or any kind of licensed medical scholar or practitioner. Nothing that I write about on this site should be taken as advice or directive – it is simply my personal diary about what I’m doing to live a healthier life because of my MTHFR and hypothyroidism. And believe me, if I can do it, anyone can. In the next post, I’ll tell you a little bit about what I’m doing so far and my goals for the future.

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! =)

Flattr this!

I’m extremely conscious about not letting myself become defined by my illnesses. My hypothyroidism has always been something that simply lingered far in the background. Perhaps this was unwise, as I’ve never been tuned in to how much my birth defect may have affected my life. Or perhaps it’s smart – getting the most out of life by refusing to be sick and never putting any limitations on myself. Time will tell how much I have been affected by my condition and how things will progress.

little girl with arms up

I want to put MTHFR aside for a short while for this post and talk a little about my hypothyroidism. Perhaps some of the readers of this site will also have issues with hypothyroidism, as the two are somewhat linked. This is a disease that can be incredibly frustrating to deal with, especially when you are trying to get your hormone levels to optimal (as everyone should). I am currently in a place where I am experimenting with medications and doctor shopping, trying to get my thyroid under control after what may be years of under-medication.

The funny thing about me and my thyroid is that I never really noticed any issues that I would attribute to it until I started trying to conceive. Now, I’ve never spent any time inside anyone else’s shoes, so I don’t know what it feels like to be inside a “normal” body. I’ve always just felt okay, never really struggled with massive weight gain or some of the more severe hypothyroid symptoms that you see listed on websites. My hands and feet were always a little cold, which I thought meant I had poor circulation. I have a bit of a feisty personality, which isn’t really uncommon if you survey the population. Otherwise I really wouldn’t call myself “hypo.”

But since I started taking my basal body temperature daily over a year and a half ago, I can now look back over my charts and note that my body runs a little cold, with low temperatures. And as I mentioned in my last post, my menstrual cycle’s luteal phase is on the shorter side of normal. So I began to investigate my thyroid levels and have become obsessed with getting them optimal, especially before I get pregnant because things can quickly get out of hand in that situation. And the one thing more important to me than optimizing my own health is doing everything I can to ensure that my problems don’t adversely affect my baby.

Earlier this year I began incorporating T3 medication into my regimen. It started with small amounts of Cynomel (the European version of Cytomel) added to my T4 drugs. I was on one called Levaxin at the time but many people take Synthroid. These are synthetic drugs that I was on for most of my life. I now take Nature-Throid, though I am not at this time confident that I am on the appropriate dosage. So much has been written on optimal levels of Free T3 and Free T4 that it would be redundant for me to replicate the discussion here. I recommend a read of the Stop The Thyroid Madness website as a good starting point. I’ll be continually updating the Resources page of this site as well to help you find information about thyroid problems.

I was born with part of my thyroid missing. So I still get a decent amount of thyroxine from my own body. I have luckily been spared (for now) the difficulties of Hashimoto’s or Graves disease and I can’t speak to the special needs of people with those disorders. The best advice I have in dealing with thyroid problems is to find a good doctor who can partner with you in achieving optimal health. And that’s the sad difficulty of the thyroid epidemic facing patients across the world: good doctors are hard to find. I have yet to find my perfect doctor match. Some might say there is no perfect doctor, though I am aware of several specialists in the area of thyroid who are getting magnificent results with their patients. I have an appointment with an endocrinologist at the end of August who I hope will be able to do that for me and I will keep thyroid issues as a priority on this website as I share my journey.

Being hypothyroid is definitely something that I’m aware of in my life, even more so over the last couple of years as I’ve begun to pay more attention to my health and began trying to conceive. Since the start of the year, my condition has caused me to make different lifestyle choices. For example, I actively avoid (as much as possible) the following:

Hormones and antibiotics in food – I’m already predisposed to cancer so why would I want to ingest hormones that further promote this disease?

Plastics and petrochemicals – This one is extremely difficult for me and I will cover it more in a separate post. People with thyroid problems should avoid plastic because it interferes with your T3. Considering the amount of packaging and exposure to car fumes that are a given unless you live out in the country, this is easier said than done.

Sodium lauryl sulfate (and its cousins – found in toothpaste, shampoo and other personal care products) – This one seems to be heavily debated with apparently false information out there claiming that its contaminants can be cancer-causing. Others say it’s no big deal. SLS, however, does seem to be irritating and that’s not something that I want on my skin where it is easily absorbed into the bloodstream. Be sure to check the labels of SLS-free products though: the materials used in its place may also be problematic for you.

Herbicides and pesticides – These can be particularly harmful to those with reduced thyroid function.

MSG and nitrates – I avoid all additives if I can…

Fluoride – I’m surprised everyone doesn’t know about Fluoride by now and that it’s still in our water supply.

Canned tomatoesThe lining in the cans is the main problem here. I always seek out tomato products in other types of packaging. Any canned food with linings, especially those high in fat content, can pose a problem.

Soy – As explained in this article and study on thyroid and soy consumption, avoiding soy is not a given. It can interfere with thyroid hormones but this issue can be mitigated in a number of ways as explained by the article. I don’t absolutely reject soy altogether, but I try to avoid having too much of it. A primary reason being that 90% of the soy in the United States is from genetically modified organisms (GMO).

These are just some of the hormonal disruptors and chemicals that can cause problems for people like me. There are many other toxic substances that I also must avoid, especially with my MTHFR. Sometimes it is easier than others.

But what about the ways my life has been affected by my hypothyroidism? I find the constant reliance on medication to be a burden. I have dealt with anxiety issues throughout my life that I only recently got control over. I have a tendency towards depression, though I have never had a full-blown bout of it. I work constantly at maintaining optimism and trying to keep myself balanced. I have moments of bad temper, where I feel upset with myself afterwards because of my behavior. Re-reading this paragraph, however, I wonder how different I am from everyone else on the planet. Today’s lifestyle is maddening…who can blame us for unburdening ourselves now and again or feeling fearful or anxious about big steps in our lives? All kinds of articles have been written about the connection between thyroid and mental health so it is impossible to ignore the ways that being even sub-clinically hypothyroid can affect our minds.

Something I hope to explore on this site is the ways that our physical illnesses manifest in our working and social lives and the ways that having a chronic illness can change us for better or worse. To get the ball rolling, I would love to hear your thoughts on this subject in the comments below.

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! =)

Flattr this!