MTHFR

MTHFR – it’s not our abbreviation for a swear word. MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene. But since the scientists who discovered this gene didn’t think that was confusing enough, they went on to label both the gene and the enzyme the gene produces MTHFR.

dna

What is MTHFR?

Really simply, we have two MTHFR genes – one from our mum and the other from our dad. MTHFR is a gene that produces the MTHFR enzyme. This enzyme is responsible for regulating our methyl cycle – the biochemical pathway that helps our body detoxify, produce energy, balance our mood, control inflammation, manage our immune function and maintain our DNA.

When the MTHFR gene is healthy, it produces sufficient, highly functioning amounts of the MTHFR enzyme. However when the gene is mutated, the enzyme isn’t produced correctly. Since we have two MTHFR genes, none, either one or both can be mutated.

Why does it matter if the MTHFR gene is mutated?

If both MTHFR genes are healthy it doesn’t matter. However mutated MTHFR genes can cause a range of health problems. Common health problems include:

  • Autism
  • Addictions
  • Miscarriages
  • Depression
  • Schizophrenia
  • Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
  • Chemical Sensitivity
  • Bipolar
  • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
  • Low HDL
  • High homocysteine
  • Asthma

For a more detailed list of medical conditions relating to the MTHFR gene mutations, check out MTHFR.net.

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3 Reasons why we should avoid soy

 

Soy – it’s one of those ‘superfoods’ right? It provides a great source of vegetarian protein and a wide range of nutrients…

Unfortunately this is not true for the soy we eat today. Once upon a time, traditional cultures would eat small amounts of highly fermented soy – and when we say highly fermented, we mean fermented for at least 6 months. Today, our soy is barely processed, let alone fermented.

soybeans

Here are 3 reasons why soy should be avoided (especially by those of us who suffer from an autoimmune disease):

  1. Trypsin Inhibitors

Ironically, soy can inhibit the absorption of protein. Trypsin is an enzyme that assists the assimilation of protein. However soy contains Trypsin Inhibitors which interfere with this process.

  1. Phytic AcidSayNoToSoy

Soy products contain extremely high levels of phytic acid. Phytic acid interferes with our body’s ability to absorb and use nutrients such as Vitamin B12, Vitamin D, Copper, Calcium, Zinc, Magnesium and Iron. This can lead to nutrient deficiencies, thyroid damage and heavy metal toxicity.

  1. Phytoestrogens

Soy contains phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens work by mimicking our estrogen and throwing off our body’s normal hormone regulation process. These are the hormones we can blame for fat gain, decreased libido, PMS, and hormone imbalances (which can result in a myriad of health problems including fertility issues in both men and women).

In fact, we should be seriously concerned about the amount of soy in our children’s diets. According to the Weston A. Price Foundation, “babies fed on soy formula receive the estrogenic equivalent of at least 5 birth control pills per day”.

I was actually fed on soy formula and grew up on soy milk, which I believe may play a part in the hormone and fertility issues I suffer from today (but mum, I’m not blaming you – you did the absolute best you could in such a tough and difficult situation!!!).

 

Unfortunately, soy is highly resistant to sprouting, fermentation and soaking which means a lot of the soy we see in our shops is processed. When soy is processed it can form neurotoxins such as MSG, as well as developing high levels of aluminium, which can lead to a number of other health problems.

One thing we can say about soy is that the food industry have been very clever in their marketing of soy products, making us believe it is a superfood! If you are going to have soy, ensure it is fermented, and only in limited quantities.

What is Leaky Gut?

Hippocrates, the founding father of modern medicine, once said “all disease begins in the gut“. And he was right.

You have probably heard the term ‘leaky gut’ in health blogs recently, but what really is leaky gut syndrome? Autoimmune Disease Leaky Gut Gluten

Medically, leaky gut is an intestinal tight junction malfunction. But since that doesn’t really clear anything up, think about the lining of your digestive tract as being a net that separates the food that you have eaten and your blood stream.

In a healthy digestive tract, the holes in this net are tiny, only allowing specific nutrients through to your bloodstream. However, when you suffer from leaky gut, this net is damaged and the holes are bigger, which allows foreign bodies to seep into your bloodstream.

Unfortunately, as these holes get bigger toxins, including undigested food particles, gluten and bad bacteria, leak from your digestive tract into your bloodstream and cause inflammation. As the inflammation builds up, it can cause an immune reaction, leading to a variety of sensitivities and in turn illness.

Symptoms of leaky gut

The inflammation caused by leaky gut can emerge as the following symptoms:

  • Food allergies, digestive-system
  • Asthma,
  • IBS,
  • Low energy and fatigue,
  • Bloating,
  • Food sensitivities and intolerances,
  • Headaches,
  • Digestive issues,
  • Skin problems,
  • Weight gain,
  • Thyroid conditions,
  • Joint pain,
  • Anxiety,
  • Bipolar,
  • Depression,
  • Malabsorption,
  • Syndrome X, and
  • Other autoimmune conditions.

Generally experiencing multiple food sensitivities and becoming bloated after eating are the biggest warning signs that you are suffering from leaky gut. Another indication you suffer from leaky gut that has progressed is when there is undigested food in your poo!

If left untreated, leaky gut can lead to more severe health problems.

In our next post, we’ll focus on what causes leaky gut.

Choosing Eggs

WhyILoveEggs_Paleo

Eggs are a great snack or addition to a lunch box. Hard boiled eggs are particularly good as they’re easy to make ahead and travel with (although make sure you peel them before you pack them to avoid that “hard boiled egg” smell that so easily fills the air!). They carry many flavours so well – our favourites are butter or mayo with black pepper and ham. And they only take 4 – 8 minutes to cook…plus peeling time!

However, one important factor when cooking with eggs is to make sure you know the source of the eggs you are using. Pasture-raised eggs are best. These kinds of eggs are a significantly better source of long-chain omega-3 fatty acids (check out Why I Love…Eggs). The chickens they come from are also healthier than the conventionally raised chickens as they have access to sunlight, fresh air and are fed on their natural diet of grass and bugs.

But navigating your way through the many categories of eggs in the supermarket can be confusing (not to mention the advertising and marketing tricks companies use)!

The main kinds of eggs we come across are:

  1. Good old fashion ‘Eggs’

The typical ‘Home brand’ eggs you see in the supermarket. These eggs come from chickens raised in cramped cages, who never see the sun, fed on a grain diet and are generally given antibiotics. These facilities use artificial light to increase egg production and the air the chickens breathe are filled with dust (and in some overseas facilities, can contain ammonia).

  1. Cage-Free Eggs

Literally, the chickens these eggs come from are not bred in cages…BUT they are still raised indoors in cramped conditions. So really, not much difference to the no brand ‘eggs’. There is no guarantee that these eggs are not given antibiotics or not fed on grains.

  1. Farm-Fresh, Omega-3 Eggs

Farm-Fresh is a little misleading. This label just means that the chickens were fed grains, with maybe a little added flax to increase the omega-3s. Most of the time, the chickens are cage raised and their welfare is not any different to the chickens who produce the good old fashion ‘eggs’.

  1. Certified Organic Eggs

Certified Organic means the chickens consumed organic grains. If you don’t have access to pasture-raised eggs, these are the next best choice.

  1. Pasture-Raised Eggs

These are the kinds of eggs you would get if you were to have chickens in your backyard. Although, given the space needed to own chickens, this is not always an option. But with the increasing presence of farmers market, hopefully there is one near you where you can buy your eggs from.

Check out our egg recipes here!

Grains and Copper Toxicity

grains.jpg

You know we don’t recommend eating grains – especially gluten containing grains and especially, especially if you suffer from an autoimmune disease. But there is a connection between grains and copper toxicity that is particularly relevant to today’s diet.

The level of zinc in plant-based foods tends to be low. When grains are refined, their zinc-copper ratio is disturbed, pushing the ratio further out of whack and in favour of copper.

Whole grains contain high levels of phytates which interfere with our body’s ability to absorb zinc. Therefore, when we eat whole grains (a food already low in zinc), the phytates prevent us from absorbing the little amount of zinc in them. Copper absorption is less affected by phytates further pushing the copper-zinc ratio in favour of copper.

The increased copper-zinc imbalances in grains have more of an impact on us today than in older generations. Previous generations liberally ate animal products and saturated fats which helped to balance out the high copper ratio in the grain products they ate.

But when we were encouraged to consume less animal products and adopt a ‘healthy’ plant-based diet, we began to eat more grains and other foods containing phytate. Scarily, many people on these diets believe that these foods are excellent non-animal sources of zinc and protein (and don’t worry if that is/was you – we used to believe it too!). Unfortunately, this is resulting in malabsorption of nutrients, zinc deficiencies and copper toxicity.

 

Wait – I can eat salt?

Celtic_Sea_Salt

This post follows on from our article Why I Love…Celtic Sea Salt and compares regular table salt to Celtic sea salt.

Now you may have realized I named our other article is called ‘why I love Celtic sea salt’ not ‘why I love all salt’. This is because regular table salt does not have the same nutritional properties as its Celtic relative!

Every day ‘Table’ salt is processed at extremely high temperatures and during this process, the chemical composition is completely altered, destroying the nutritional benefits. In the end, generic table salt ends up being 97.5% sodium chloride and 2.5% anti-caking chemicals, iodine, monosodium glutamate (MSG) or white sugar to stabilize the iodine and aluminium – delicious.

Ultimately, this every day table salt turns out to be a chemical concoction of all sorts of nasty things, and it is this salt that puts you at risk of heart attack, stroke, bloating and thirst – not Celtic sea salt.

In addition, iodized salt (such as table salt) is particularly bad for autoimmune thyroid disorders, as over-iodization leads to an abnormally enlarged thyroid which contributes to poor thyroid function or worsens pre-existing conditions .

In comparison, Celtic sea salt is about 80% sodium chloride, with the remaining 20% being magnesium, digestive enzymes and other trace minerals that support sodium-potassium balance, healthy adrenal and thyroid function, hydration and electrolyte balance.

But won’t salt make me bloated?
Well yes, everyday table salt will make you very bloated and thirsty, given the extremely high level of sodium chloride it contains. However, Celtic sea salt will not!

Celtic sea salt promotes healthy electrolyte balance and hydration, so drinking a glass of water with ½ – 1 teaspoon of Celtic sea salt will restore your sodium-potassium balance and rehydrate you! It is actually the dehydration that causes you to bloat and feel thirsty.

Feeling thirsty, and craving salty food, is actually the body’s mechanism to try and get you to drink more water; the body wants you to feel thirsty from the salt so then you will drink more water. If you have ever had a hangover (don’t lie I know you have) you will know that all you want is bacon, bacon, bacon and then water, water, water. This is because your body is dehydrated and needs salt and water to restore proper electrolyte balance.

So in answer to your question, Celtic sea salt will not make you thirsty or bloated but every day table salt will!

 

Diet and Copper Toxicity

detox copper eat meat

Inspired to adopt the ‘healthier’ diets touted by the health system (think low/no fat, vegetarian, meat free week, low cholesterol – all that anti-animal food stuff), we are now facing serious health problems.

If you have read our other posts, you will know how important maintaining an optimal zinc to copper ratio is. Copper is present in most foods (and our modern environment). When zinc is present in abundance, and we have enough quality protein available to bind it, the copper we consume can be managed effectively by our body and the excess can easily be excreted through bile.

However, the push to eat less animal products and a ‘healthier’ diet has led to us not being able to source enough zinc for the copper elimination process to occur.

Generally, these so called ‘healthy’ diets are heavily plant-based. Unfortunately, the best and most bioavailable sources of zinc are found in animal products. Therefore, when we live on one of these ‘healthy’ diets our zinc levels are sharply reduced relative to copper.

Not only that, these ‘healthy’ diets suggest you reduce your animal protein intake and, god forbid you even consider eating saturated fat! But, it is the zinc, protein and fats (for bile production) that are required to eliminate excess copper from our bodies.

A diet lacking in zinc, protein and fat can lead to excess copper building up in tissues in an unbound, inorganic form, which is highly immobile and creates a low-level toxicity that interferes with many body systems. As we have said in our earlier posts, particularly affected are our liver and brain, but also our digestion.

How to Detox from Copper

Mind-racing

Detoxing from excess copper is a long and difficult process…and it is important to understand as much as you can about the condition because taking the wrong steps can exacerbate the condition.

If you have read my initial post, you will know that with pretty much everything I have tried, I have felt worse before I have felt better. This is because as your body is detoxing, the copper is mobilized and exits through many of the body’s detox pathways. As it does this it can cause a wide range of symptoms including:

  • Headaches,
  • Racing thoughts,
  • Anxiety,
  • Mood swings,
  • Digestive problems,
  • Very orange poo(!),
  • Skin conditions, and
  • Increased fatigue.

Be aware of your detox symptoms and if they are too severe, you may need to slow down the detox process.

So how do we actually detox from copper?

1. Eliminate the source of copper

Whilst this is the most important step, it is also the most difficult. To do these, you need to identify all possible sources of copper in your life (diet, lifestyle, environment etc.) and get rid of as many as humanly possible (because you probably aren’t going to be able to eliminate your exposure to some xenoestrogens when you’re out and about).

2. Supplement with zinc

Zinc is the most natural way of removing copper efficiently. As we have talked about in our previous post, zinc and copper have a close relationship, working together to help our body function. It is not the amount of copper and zinc in our body, but the ratio that matters. The optimal ratio of zinc to copper is 8:1, therefore supplementing with zinc can help bring this ratio back into balance. (Make sure to check with a practitioner about how much zinc to take – more is not always better).

Drink more water

3. Drink water

Ok so we know we should be drinking 8 glasses of water a day, but how many of us actually do this? When trying to detox from copper it is important to not only drink the recommended amount of water, but more. The water in our body helps to get the copper mobile and moving through the detox pathways.

4. Increase copper antagonists

These are minerals that help rebalance copper (excrete copper). The main copper antagonists are manganese, vitamin B, C and E, sulphur, selenium and molybdenum.

5. Sweat

Using saunas, steam baths and anything that increases sweating is helpful in removing copper from your body. Steam baths with added clay and Epsom salts also help to pull out toxic metals (and the Epsom salts help you to relax too – just be careful not to swallow any…unless you can get to a toilet very fast). We like to body brush before the bath too, not only does it open your pores, it also has a relaxing routine too it.

6. Coffee enemas

Coffee enemas are used to help eliminate toxins, not just copper, from our body. There is some controversy surrounding enemas and their health benefits, but if you are at your ‘wits end’, like us, trying to find answers, anything is worth a try!

7. Reduce/eliminate foods high in copper from your diet – Check out our copper toxicity and diet post for what foods this includes.

detox copper eat meat

8. Eat foods high in zinc – Again, check out our copper toxicity and diet post.

9. Address your adrenal health

This is easier said than done. In our previous post we mentioned the relationship between adrenal fatigue and copper toxicity is more like a catch 22. Read our post on adrenal fatigue and copper toxicity here.

10. Practice meditation

Meditation, among its other benefits, can help turn off your overstimulated sympathetic nervous system (caused by excess copper) and help you to relax (which will also help in step 9).

11. Identify if methylation and gene mutations are an issue

We suggest reading Dr Amy Yasko’s book Autism: Pathways for Recovery (downloadable free from her website).

What Causes Elevated Copper?

In today’s world copper-zinc imbalances are rather common. However, many people do not suffer from copper toxicity as their livers are able to detox the excess copper effectively. The problem occurs when our body’s liver is not functioning properly – this happens especially in people suffering from autoimmune diseases because we can’t clear heavy metals very well.

copper causes

There are numerous causes of copper toxicity, including:

1. Zinc deficiency – As we said in our previous post, copper and zinc have a very close relationship which act together in our body. Zinc is required to form ceruloplasim and metallothionein which bind to copper and carry it into our mitochondria. While the actual amount of copper and zinc doesn’t matter too much, it is the ratio of zinc to copper that has the most significant impact. Ideally, we want a zinc to copper ratio of 8:1.

However, the push by the public health system to eat less meat, eliminate fat and cholesterol from our diets means we are not getting enough zinc in our diets (animal protein is the highest form of concentrated zinc). But not only that, because of over farming, antibiotics and environmental toxins, our soil has now had its zinc sources depleted.

2. Copper plumbing – Copper can leach from copper pipes into our water sources causing copper toxicity. In some instances, copper sulphate is also used in our water supply to prevent and control algae contamination.

3. Other vitamin and mineral deficiencies – Elevated copper in our bodies can also result from deficiencies in vitamin C, vitamin B, iron, chromium, manganese and selenium.

4. Other heavy metal toxicity – This is especially significant for us suffering from autoimmune diseases as our liver is unable to detox heavy metals effectively. As a result, there may be a build-up of toxic metals such as cadmium and mercury. When our copper binding proteins are busy trying to clear these metals, they are unable to transport copper, leading to an excess in our body.

5. Lifestyle factors – This includes contraception (especially birth control pills and IUDs which increase retention of copper in the kidneys), copper cookware, jewellery, swimming pools and some prescription medications.

6. Xenoestrogens – Today we are exposed to countless more chemicals in our environment than our grandparents. Estrogenic compounds, commonly found in plastic, cosmetics, petrochemicals and pesticides disrupt our endocrine system causing our bodies to retain copper.

7. Imbalances in copper binding substances – An imbalance in ceruloplasim and metallothionein (due to reasons other than low zinc) can cause copper toxicity.

8. Inherited – Unfortunately this one can’t be avoided if you have inherited excess copper from your mother. This can occur if your mother had high levels of copper and passed them through the placenta to you (gee, thanks mum! But we still love you to the moon and back!).

9. Genetic Disorders – In particular Wilson’s Disease and Pyroluria.

10. Diet – We have dedicated a whole blog post to the role of diet in copper toxicity (still to come), but the key point is that eating foods with high copper to zinc ratios (and vice versa) can lead you to accumulating copper.

11. Impaired methylationMethylation is one of the pathways our body uses to detox heavy metals. When we can’t methylate properly this can lead to the build-up of heavy metals in our bodies. In particular, a defected MTHFR gene mutation (an no, we are not swearing….although when suffering from copper toxicity you most definitely want to, this is actually the name of the gene) can result in the body not being able to break down heavy metals effectively, leaving them to accumulate in our body.

12. Adrenal Fatigue – Because it wasn’t causing us enough problems anyway. We have written another post dedicated to copper toxicity and adrenal fatigue (still to come), but the main take away is that copper and adrenal fatigue is a catch 22.

 

Copper Toxicity – Why Should I Care?

Copper is an essential trace element that our bodies need for vital functions. It works with zinc to:copper-zinc-scale

  • Produce ATP for cellular energy,
  • Produce and repair connective tissue,
  • Form collagen,
  • Metabolise iron,
  • Produce optimal immune function,
  • Enable our reproductive systems,
  • Provide a healthy nervous system,
  • Enable cardiovascular function, and
  • Develop neurotransmitter production and function.

This list is not exhaustive of the functions zinc and copper work together to achieve – but as you can see, the relationship is responsible for some serious systems in our body!

What happens with the copper-zinc balance gets out of whack?

There are 3 kinds of copper-zinc imbalances: insufficient copper, excess copper and copper bio-unavailability (there also exists a rare genetic disorder – Wilson’s Disease – where the body is not able to effectively excrete copper, leading to brain and liver damage).

The first 2 are self-explanatory. Copper bio-unavailability occurs when there is excess copper in our bodies, but it isn’t easily accessible. This occurs when copper binding proteins are deficient and may lead to both a copper deficiency and copper excess at the same time!

When someone is deficient in copper they may experience:

  • High blood pressure,
  • Depression,
  • Chronic fatigue,
  • Miscarriage,
  • Chronic fungal infections,
  • Loss of libido,
  • Heart disease,
  • Food cravings and compulsive overeating, and
  • Addiction.

Copper toxicity occurs more often than insufficiency. When someone is suffering from excess copper they may experience a wide range of both physiological and psychological health problems, including:Stages of adrenal fatigue

  • Anaemia,
  • Brain fog
  • Hair loss,
  • Candida,
  • Impaired digestion (e.g. fat intolerances, feeling queasy after eating animal protein, bloating, gas),
  • Insomnia,
  • Autism,
  • Bipolar,
  • Schizophrenia,
  • Anxiety,
  • Depression (generally from the anxiety and insomnia),
  • Adrenal fatigue (though this is a chicken-and-the-egg problem, more on this in later posts),
  • Light sensitivity (sometimes so bad that you need to wear sunglasses inside),
  • Burn easily by the sun,
  • Fluid retention,
  • Anorexia,
  • PMS,
  • Fibromyalgia
  • Candida, and
  • Many, many more….

Excess copper stimulates the nervous system, having a profound impact on the neurotransmitters in our brain and causing a similar effect on the body as caffeine or amphetamines. The excess copper tends to accumulate in the liver, brain and reproductive organs. When excess copper accumulates in the thyroid it can lead to hypothyroidism and Hashimoto’s disease.

The copper-zinc relationship has such an important role to play in our bodies. Copper has a very narrow range for optimal function – both too much and not enough, is associated with an increase in oxidative stress. The key is to try and keep the two minerals in balance (which is easier said than done in today’s society), as too far in either direction leads to trouble.