Category Archives: Cuisine

METHYLATION MAZE: MTHFR Diagnosis

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I was tested for MTHFR gene defect in November. MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase and is an enzyme. My test came back positive (+) for the MTHFR gene mutation, specifically, I have two copies of the C677T variation (C677T/ C677T). My friend tells me this is “the worst” diagnosis. I don’t know if it’s “the worst,” but am focusing on what it means and what I can do to help my body deal with this abnormality.

I am still sorting through information on the Internet. What seems to be consistent is that it is a fairly common gene mutation and it can adversely affect the homocysteine levels in the bloodstream, thereby having cardiovascular implications , such as stroke and cardiovascular disease. It also seems to have a role to play in the risk for colon cancer, as well as possibly for depression and other health problems.

I found the Ben Lynch’s MTHFR.net Web site to be helpful, but a bit complicated. Joe Leech’s YouTube videos provide more accessible information on implications of an MTHFR gene mutation.

I tried adding a MTHFR-5 (methylfolate) supplement to my diet and did not tolerate it well. I experienced a lot of anxiety, agitation, and insomnia with a methylfolate supplementation. I reduced the dose, but continued to have side effects. What has worked best, so far, is to add folate-rich foods to my diet. MTHFR Living site gives a summation of natural sources of nutrients that are good for people with an MTHFR defect, but it seems like a sensible list for everyone to follow.

I suspected I would test positive for the genetic mutation because I do not seem to metabolize well the B12 (methylcobalamin) injections I take for pernicious anemia (Pernicious anemia is an inability to absorb the Vitamin B12 in food because of an autoimmune disease.). Although my serum (blood) levels show high levels of B12, I feel like I don’t metabolize the injections very well, and I seem to need them more often than a PA diagnosis would indicate. My body also reacts strangely to the numbing agent used during dental procedures. The last time I had dental work, much to the surprise of my dentist, I had to have more numbing agent injected about halfway through the procedure. I suspect this might be related to the MTHFR mutation.

There is conflicting information on whether folic acid or folate is recommended to treat this variation. This medical source implies there is no difference between folic acid and folate (both are Vitamin B9).  Other sources recommend avoiding folic acid in favor of more bio-available folate.

I have a lot of learning to do, but am starting to get a sense of what will work best for me. The good news is perhaps not surprising: some of the most folate-rich foods are ones I crave the most, such as spinach, asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, mangos, and romaine lettuce. I keep a list of folate-rich foods on my fridge and make it a point to enjoy food with folate every day.

Be well!

cruciferous

The Goiter Belt and the Importance of Iodine

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Here in the Midwest (of the United States), we live in “the Goiter Belt.” A goiter is “an abnormal enlargement of your thyroid gland.” The thyroid gland, a butterfly-shaped gland in the neck, is an extremely important gland and can affect mood and body functions. The Mayo Clinic lists common signs and symptoms of hyper- (“high”) and hypothyroid (“low”) imbalances. This list is by no means exhaustive.

“Although goiters are usually painless, a large goiter can cause a cough and make it difficult for you to swallow or breathe.The most common cause of goiter worldwide is a lack of iodine in the diet.”

According to WH Foods, “iodine is a key component of the hormones made in the thyroid gland. These hormones are absolutely critical to human health, helping to control energy production and utilization in nearly every cell of the body.

The balance of iodine in the thyroid gland is tricky, and both too much and too little iodine can slow down the production of hormones. This is not a situation where more is always better.”
Also according to WH Foods, “the risk of iodine deficiency is substantial in the United States and has been on the rise. The average urinary iodine level—a good measure of recent dietary iodine intake—has dropped by more than half since the 1970s. …
…The reason iodine levels  are dropping in the population is two-fold. One is that within the world of commercial baking, many bread manufacturers have moved away from iodine-containing compounds to keep dough fresh. But a bigger change is that the average U.S. household is doing less and less home cooking and resorting more and more often to prepackaged foods, ready-to-eat foods, and restaurant eating (including fast food eating). …even though many prepackaged foods are high in sodium, the salt added to these foods has not necessarily been fortified with iodine…There is a good bit of unpredictability in the iodine content of prepackaged and ready-to-eat foods.”
“There are compounds called thiocyanates in some commonly consumed foods. At high concentrations, these chemicals can interfere with the uptake of iodine into the thyroid gland, making a person seem like they have iodine deficiency, when they may not. The common thiocyanate containing foods include cassava, soy, and Brassica Family vegetables “(commonly known as cruciferous vegetables). “Tobacco smoke also contains thiocyanates.”
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The proper intake of iodine–not too much, and not too little– is critical for the normal functioning of the thyroid gland. If there is not enough iodine taken in with natural foods and foods supplemented with iodine, goiter can result. Luckily, iodine is easy to find. One of the easiest ways to get it is to make sure you are using iodized salt. When I was growing up, Morton iodized salt seemed like the only type of salt to buy. Today there are myriad salt choices: sea salts, including Sel de Mer and Fleur de Sel ,have gained popularity. It’s important to realize that not all salt has iodine in it. Check the packaging for iodine content, or “iodized”on the packaging.

Here’s a handy chart of natural iodine sources and a great explanation of the importance of iodine in the diet. As you can see, sea vegetables provide the most iodine.

So, if your landscape looks like this…

rural landscape

…you might be deficient in iodine.

Of course, if you are having symptoms of goiter, hypothryoidism, or hyperthyroidism, please investigate further with your medical practitioner.

Eat Food. Not Too Much. Mostly Plants

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“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants,” is Michael Pollan’s credo from his New York Times’ bestseller, In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. It is a follow-up to his book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma, which I, admittedly, have not read… yet. In Defense of Food is a thoroughly-researched and cogent cry for changing our dietary habits back to what our grandparents practiced. Pollan argues so much of what we are eating now does not meet the criteria for food. The emphasis on “nutritionism” has robbed us of the wisdom contained in whole foods. The American diet is heavily based on three over-hybridized crops: wheat, soybeans, and corn, which are not nutritionally dense. He points out that by consuming the American diet, we can be both overfed and undernourished. Michael Pollan also makes a good case for returning to the joy of eating food.

Here, praise for In Defense of Food.

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Chefs like Dan Barber also advocate bringing pleasure back to eating. During an interview on November 5, 2010, at Beth-El Zedeck synagogue, Chef Barber speaks about the pleasure of eating. Krista Tippett radio host of On Being, speaks to him at length about his gastronomic evolution. Chef Barber stresses that what tastes best is also the most nutritious, and is the most sustainable way of growing food. He continues to keep clear the trail blazed by Alice Waters, and her “California Cuisine” movement of the 1970s.

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You can bring more pleasure to your eating experience and become more healthy at the same time. You can take part in the Community Supported Agriculture programs (CSAs). As your budget allows, you can buy organic food from local sources, at farmers’ markets, and grocery stores. You can grow your own food in your own garden or, if you live in an apartment, you can grow herbs and some vegetables in containers. More and more urban environments have community gardens; an amazing example is Will Allen’s, Growing Power, located in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

So please be kind to your body by eating nutrient-dense, healthy, real food. It will make for a healthier communit, and your taste buds will be happier.

Bon appetit!

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Give me spots on my apples, but leave me the birds and the bees. ~Joni Mitchell, from her song,”Big Yellow Taxi.”