Advice About Taking Supplements

Some of the best advice I ever received was from Dr. Carol Savage, who moderates the MTHFR Gene Mutation group on Facebook. She is, quite simply, an angel to so many people who are struggling to understand the complicated topics of epigenetics and individual biochemistry.

At the time, I had just started to supplement with methylfolate, B-12 and a variety of other co-factors. I knew I was on the right track, but some days I felt worse than when I started. I explained my situation to Dr. Savage and she suggested that I may feel better if I didn’t take all my supplements everyday. This was a real shocker to me! I had never even considered it. However, it made sense. Because the new supplements were jump-starting my dormant methylation cycle, things were starting to shift in my body. I was now releasing more toxins and perhaps my liver and kidneys were becoming overloaded.

The next day, I split my supplements into alternating days and immediately noticed a big change in how I felt. It turned out that I was simply rushing the process a bit too much and needed to take it a little slower. Go figure!

Taking_Vitamins

Photography: meaduva

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Helpful B12 Chart

I found this great B12 chart online and I wish I had seen it sooner! My first ND put me on Methyl B12. She told me to keep taking it even though it made me feel much worse. If I had been aware of this chart, I would have known that my best bet was to focus on Hydroxy B12 and ADB12.

If you’ve got your 23andme results handy, take a look and see if you’ve been taking the correct form of B12 for you.

B12chart

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Hair Tissue Mineral Analysis

In my last post, I talked about using genetic testing as a tool to help identify root causes of depression.

Another non-invasive diagnostic tool I recommend is a hair tissue mineral analysis. This test can provide valuable information about your levels of nutrients. It also provides feedback on toxic metals that may be accumulating in your body.

When you order the test through a qualified practitioner, you will receive a testing kit and an explanation of how best to collect the hair sample. It usually involves snipping a small amount of hair from your head that is close to the scalp. You can do this by taking a small sample from the back of the head underneath the top layer of hair where it won’t be visible. Test results are usually available within a week or two.

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

Image by © Royalty-Free/Corbis

The testing lab I use is called Analytical Research Labs in Phoenix. They test for 19 different minerals and toxic metals. Customers can order a variety of packages, some of which come with detailed analysis of results. The website itself is also a great source of information about nutritional balancing.

When I ordered my first test, I also got the complete interpretation, which helped me identify several more pieces in the puzzle of my depression. The test showed I was a slow oxidizer, and that my adrenal glands weren’t working optimally, which can contribute to depression and fatigue. When I got that information, it helped me to concentrate on improving my adrenal function using several targeted supplements. I made significant improvements during that time that I focused on healing my adrenals.

There has been criticism about hair testing and its accuracy, but for me,  hair testing has been really helpful.  I re-test every six months to keep an eye on my ratios and make adjustments to my supplements. I find it to be affordable, non-invasive, reliable, and it saves me from having to go to the doctor and get blood drawn (which I hate.) There is a new service by a company called Theranos that will hopefully be arriving in California soon. It allows consumers to order  individual tests at a drugstore using just a drop of blood from a pinprick on the fingertip. I am eagerly awaiting this service, but in the meantime, I find the hair testing to be a wonderful tool that helps keep me informed about the balance of nutrients in my body.

If you’d like to learn more about hair testing and its implications for your health, I’d recommend the book Nutritional Balancing and Hair Mineral Analysis, by Lawrence Wilson, MD.

 

Posted in adrenal fatigue, ARL, biochemistry, books, Depression, diagnostics, epigenetics, hair testing, Lawrence Wilson, mental health, mental illness, nutritional balancing, orthomolecular medicine | Tagged , , | 3 Comments

Simple Genetic Test to Help Identify Root Causes of Depression

One of the tools I recommend to help people identify the root causes of their depression is a simple saliva genetic test. When I took this test, it provided a wealth of new information. The one I used was from 23andme. It costs $99 and can be ordered online. (update: It looks like after offering the test for several years at the same price, the company has just raised the price to $199. The reason is that they now offer FDA-approved interpretation of your results.) After you send in your saliva sample, you will receive results in a few weeks.

Saliva_test

Once your results are available, you can download them to a separate service that will help you interpret the results. Below is a list of websites that offer this service.

(Please note that I have no affiliation or financial ties to any of the companies mentioned in this blog.)

  1. Nutrahacker.com– This is the site I recommend first because it provides specific useful information for each genetic mutations. The basic report is free, or you can purchase a more detailed report for $23.00. I think the free report is the most useful of the two. It breaks down the following for each mutations you have: the function of each gene, the consequences of having that mutation, and what to encourage and avoid. This was extremely helpful for me in discovering, for instance, that I do not do well with methyl B12. The report indicated that I would do better with Hydroxy B12. In addition, I now have a list of 10-15 things I may want to supplement with, and another 10-15 things I should probably avoid. This was extremely helpful for me, especially when I was just starting out and learning about what works for my body. It saved me a lot of trial and error.
  2. Promethease.com-This report is available for $5, and provides a large zipped file that you can download to your computer. The report gives specific information on: increased risks for certain diseases, medicines that aren’t easily processed, and medical conditions you may be prone to. You can also click on certain SNPs for more detailed research and information on each one. This company also runs SNPedia, a free resource that shares information about the effects of variations in DNA. You can see if your genetics are making you prone to addiction, depression, or any other number of conditions. It’s helpful to be aware of these tendencies because you can use specific supplements to practice prevention. However, please be aware when you are looking at your results that just because a report says you may develop say, breast cancer, it doesn’t mean you will. There are many factors that determine whether you will develop a disease and whether a gene is turned on/off. (This is the study of epigenetics.) Do not panic as you read the long list of possible diseases you may be susceptible to!
  3. Genetic Genie– This site provides two free reports, but also makes a request for a donation. One of the reports is a methylation analysis, and the other is a detox profile. I found these color-coded reports to be helpful, especially when meeting with my naturopathic doctor. I brought a copy for him and he could easily see at a glance what my main mutations were. The methylation profile also includes a brief report about mutations and a bit of background on what they mean. The language is a bit technical and can be confusing if you aren’t familiar with the lingo.
  4. MTHFRSupport– This site offers a variant report for $30. I didn’t find it to be as helpful as some of the other reports, but the website offers lots of tools and information about the common MTHFR genetic mutation. They also offer an app, a forum, and other free resources.
  5. Amy Yasko’s site- This respected researcher offers a free report called the Methylation Pathway Analysis (MPA). This report offers some good information, but unfortunately only recommends supplements that she sells, instead of supplements you can purchase on your own. She also has several books on the subject that you can purchase.
  6. Livewello– This site provides a genetic variance report for $19.95. I did not purchase this service, so I cannot say whether I would recommend it. Their website states that they provide 12 resources for learning about each gene.

Once you know what some of your major mutations are (MTHFR, COMT, etc.), you may want to explore Facebook groups that discuss your particular scenario. Epigenetics is such an emerging field of medicine, and things are changing rapidly. Your doctor may not be up-to-date about the impacts of certain genetic mutations, especially as they relate to mental health. The folks in the Facebook groups provide excellent real-life feedback on what they have tried and how it worked for them.

In future blog posts, I will discuss other non-invasive tools that are helpful in determining how to balance your body for optimal mental health: hair testing and urine toxic metal testing.

I truly believe biochemistry will play a huge part in future prevention and treatment of mental illness. It will be especially important for people with treatment-resistant illness or people who have a family history of mental illness.

Instead of trying to guess what supplements will work for someone who is depressed, a simple saliva test can help practitioners identify treatment options quickly and effectively. Once it becomes common practice, I am hopeful that this will save thousands of people from suffering through trying treatments that aren’t suitable for them.

Have you tried genetic testing? Was it helpful in determining important pieces of your health puzzle? Please share your feedback in the comments below. You can also contact me privately if you have questions.

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Vitamin D, gut health, and depression

sunshine

My journey in recovering from long-term depression has included a lot of different facets: diagnostic testing, listening to my body, doing research, and being open to signs and signals. Today was a great example of all of those components coming together.

I came across a research article about VDR -/- (the vitamin D receptor gene). I happen to know that I have this particular genetic abnormality because I got tested using the 23andme saliva test. The article talked about implications for people who have this genetic issue, and how their gut microbes may be affected because of this.

Coming across this information reminded me that vitamin D is an important part of my very complicated health puzzle, and I would be wise to start paying attention to this again. I feel a pull to start taking my probiotic again regularly. I had gotten out of the habit when I last ran out. It also reminded me that I would probably benefit from getting more sun exposure each day.

This made me think about how no two people who have depression symptoms will be helped by the exact same treatments. I believe a very important part of the journey to healing comes from getting to know your body and what works for you and makes you feel better.

Depression is not a one-size-fits all thing. There’s no one cause and there’s no one solution. Everyone has personalized needs. Some people swear by amino acids or B-6 or magnesium. However,  what worked for one person may not work for another. In fact, it may be detrimental.

The best system I have found is listening to your body and doing some trial and error to see what helps (and what doesn’t).

It can be challenging to sort through all the research and complex medical terminology. This is especially true if you’re not feeling well. But if you go slow and work on one issue at a time, you can start to make some big changes that will benefit your mood and your overall health. 

Posted in alternative medicine, Depression, epigenetics, gut health, holistic health, mental health, mental illness, MTHFR, probiotics, research, vitamin d | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Why the System is Broken and What You Can Do

The other day, I was talking with a friend about a natural treatment for an issue she was having. She was thrilled to hear about the easy non-toxic solution I recommended, but wondered why her doctor didn’t tell her about it.

The answer is two-fold:

1. Doctors (and especially psychiatrists) usually aren’t trained in natural treatments.

2. They are not allowed to recommend alternative treatments, primarily due to their employment contracts, medical board guidelines, and insurance company regulations.

doctor

It’s not that doctors don’t want to help you; it’s that their hands are tied and they are limited to only offering medical solutions such as pharmaceuticals. It’s what they’ve been trained to do.

One of my favorite books on the orthomolecular treatment of mental illness is called The Real Secrets to Mental Health, by Linda Van Zandt.

The author pulls no punches when describing what is contributing to problems with our country’s mental health system. She says,

“Medical schools, which include classes on psychiatry, receive millions of dollars each year from drug companies. In return, students are taught to prescribe drugs for virtually all chronic ailments, including heart disease, arthritis, depression, anxiety, etc. These medical students have been led to believe that covering up symptoms is real health care and, once they have their own practice, they continue to pass along this misinformation to patients. So, while I’m saddened at how doctors, and especially psychiatrists, blindly accept this model of ‘health’ care, I’m not really blaming them. They have been misled and lied to just as the rest of us have.”

As for the legal aspects that doctors are bound by, this article by the Alliance for Natural Health explains the issue in depth.

The question is: What can you do to remedy this? How can you protect your health and not be enveloped by this broken system?

The first step is to educate yourself about natural therapies: join discussion groups, read books, and find websites with more information. I have several resources listed here about how you can treat mental health issues using natural methods that get to the root of the problem.

The second step is to take action: try out some of the natural therapies and see if they make a difference. If one doesn’t work, try another. If you are persistent, you’re bound to find a solution that works for your biochemistry. The best part about trying natural therapies is that there are usually very few side effects. Of course, it’s best to work with a trained naturopathic doctor or alternative medicine practitioner. But if you just don’t have the means, take comfort in this well-known statistic:

More than 100,000 people a year die from pharmaceuticals each year, while none die from vitamins and supplements.

Posted in alternative medicine, alternative therapies, antidepressants, biochemistry, Depression, holistic health, mental illness, orthomolecular medicine, psychiatry, supplements, vitamins | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

Benefits of Using Amino Acids to Boost Mood

I’m re-reading one of my favorite books about natural mental health called The Way Up From Down, by Priscilla Slagle, MD. You can purchase a hard copy on Amazon, but the author also offers a free PDF version on her website.

the-way-up-from-down

Even though it was first published in 1987, the information is valuable and still relevant. It is a wonderful introduction for people who are interested in starting a nutrient program to better their mental health.

I want to summarize a few of the benefits she mentions about amino acid and nutrient therapy to treat depression:

  1. It has far greater overall safety than conventional drug therapies.
  2. It is preferable for long-term use, and can also  be effective with intermittent usage.
  3. It can be adjusted to deal with a large variety of symptoms.
  4. It has no associated withdrawal symptoms.
  5. It has almost no toxicity because it is composed of water soluble substances that don’t accumulate in your brain or other tissues.
  6. It relies on your brain’s own ability to override and shut off the process if the neurotransmitter concentrations become too high.

If a new pharmaceutical drug came on the market today that offered all of these benefits, everyone would be lining up to try it! : )

I hope you’ll take the time to check out this important free resource to see if starting an amino acid and nutrient program would benefit you. For more suggestions about book and websites that I have found helpful, please see my resources page. If you need a cheerleader to help you navigate the process as you implement a nutritional program, you know how to reach me!

Posted in alternative medicine, alternative therapies, amino acids, anger, anxiety, books, Depression, holistic health, mental health, mental illness, mood, neurotransmitters, vitamins | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Copper Overload: A Common Cause of Depression in Women

copper

I first discovered I had very high amounts of copper after I took a urine essential elements test. The results showed that my copper was in the 97th percentile range- way off the charts! My naturopathic doctor didn’t seem concerned by it, but when I got home I started doing some research. I was amazed to discover that high copper could be causing many of my symptoms.

Some of the symptoms of high copper include: fatigue, headaches, depression, insomnia, skin rashes, and PMS. I found out that women are especially prone to developing high copper due to birth control pills, IUDs, and adrenal fatigue. If you have been on birth control for a number of years, it’s possible high copper may be contributing to your depression. Men can also be affected if they have been exposed to copper environmentally, especially through contaminated drinking water pipes. 

My research led me to the book called “Why Am I Always So Tired?” by Ann Louise Gittleman. It explains the causes of copper overload, as well ways to get your levels of copper balanced and back to normal. I highly recommend it if you suspect you may have copper overload.

Because I didn’t have a health practitioner who was knowledgable in this area, I attempted to decrease the copper on my own using zinc, the natural antagonist to copper. I started to increase my zinc levels, but at one point took too much. This led me to experience what is known as a “copper dump” where too much copper was released into my body at once and my body just couldn’t handle it. I was extremely sick for several days.

If you have a qualified practitioner who can guide you through the process of balancing your nutrients, that would ideal. If you want to attempt it on your own, a great resource is the free information presented by Dr. Lawrence Wilson. Here he explains how to safely eliminate copper from your body. There’s also a support group on Facebook called Copper Dysregulation and Re-balancing. 

There are many other root causes that may contribute to depression, including pyroluria, parasites, adrenal/thyroid issues, infection, genetic pre-dispositions, methylation issues, toxins, and others. I will be writing future posts on these issues as well.

A quick reminder: although I am a certified holistic health practitioner, I am not a doctor and cannot treat or diagnosis any illness, including depression. Please work with your doctor or a certified natural health practitioner to order appropriate tests to determine if high copper may be an issue for you.

Posted in Depression, high copper | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Hitting A Brick Wall Can Be a Blessing

Along my journey to alleviate my depression without pharmaceuticals, I have run into many roadblocks. In retrospect, each challenge was important to identify what worked and didn’t work for me.

For example, when I first saw a naturopathic doctor, she mentioned the possibility that I may have an issue with my MTHFR gene, and while we waited for the test results, she advised me to stop taking my normal multivitamin. She suggested that I switch to methyl B-12, a more bioavailable form of B-12. I was glad to receive this new information, and followed her advice.

Unfortunately, I started to get much, much worse. My destructive thoughts increased, and I was angry and irritable at the smallest things. When I informed her of this, she told me to be patient and keep taking the methyl B-12. She explained that I wasn’t going to feel better overnight. So I hung in there and kept taking it for several months. At one follow-up appointment, I remember being in tears and sobbing, “Please help me. I need help.” She had already tried everything she knew, so she wrote me a referral to another naturopathic doctor. I was so discouraged. It felt like no one would be able to help me, and I was too tired and depressed to do my own research. All of this only added to my feelings of hopelessness and futility.

When I saw another practitioner and signed up for more tests, I stopped taking the methyl B12 so it wouldn’t skew the test results. Amazingly, I started feeling better right away! It started to dawn on me that the methyl B-12 was not right for me and was making me worse. I looked into other forms of B-12 and found there were other options. I ordered two different types of B-12 (HydroxyB-12 and ADB-12) and had amazing improvements when I started taking them. I felt what it must feel like to be “normal.”

Although I was glad to make this discovery, I was also angry at the practitioner who had advised me keep taking methyl B-12. I felt like I had wasted months following her advice. But as I look back, I see that it was really important for me to make that discovery about the Methyl B-12. If I had tried other supplements at that time, I may not have pinpointed my adverse reaction. Now I know what types of B-12 work for me, which was a very important discovery. I’ve had several other similar discoveries along the way. Each one has been part of the puzzle I needed to put together to restore my health.

One of the most important lessons I learned from this was to trust my own body, and my reactions to different supplements. As research about epigenetics gets better, one day in the future practitioners will have more tools at their disposal to determine what supplements will work for which genetic types. Because the research is still so new, right now it is a guessing game of sorts, where each person needs to experiment and listen to their body to see what works for them.

It’s easy to get discouraged as you run into these types of roadblocks on the journey to recovery, but if you can use the information to re-direct and try something else, you’ll be ahead of the game.

What kind of health challenges have you run into that later turned out to be blessings?

Posted in b-12, Depression, epigenetics | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Simple Things You Can Do To Boost Your Mood

If you’re feeling down right now, here’s a list of simple things you can try that may help boost your mood. Follow your intuition and choose one or two that speak to you. Be sure to keep a list of what makes you feel better so you can reach for it next time you are feeling low.

  1. Epsom salt bath: Add about a cup of epsom salts and your favorite essential oil to a hot bath and stay in it until the water cools. Epsom salts are a great source of magnesium, and you will absorb this needed mineral transdermally. More than 90% of people are deficient in magnesium, which regulates many important systems in our bodies, including mood. For more info on the importance of magnesium, visit http://www.gotmag.org.
  2. Go outside: Much like magnesium, Vitamin D plays an important role in regulating mood. The best way to get Vitamin D is directly from the sun. To get the best effects, don’t use sunscreen (but do protect your face by wearing a hat.) Stay in the sun for 10-15 minutes and notice how you feel afterwards. While you’re outside, take off your shoes and walk barefoot in the grass, or lie on the earth. This process is called “grounding” or “earthing” and is known to boost health as your body absorbs the earth’s electromagnetic energy.
  3. Drink 2 large glasses of good quality water: This will help flush toxins from your system. About half of the population has the MTHFR genetic abnormality and because of this, they can’t efficiently eliminate toxins. You can find out if you have MTHFR by ordering the 23andme saliva test in the mail.
  4. Take vitamin C: This important vitamin helps with immunity and helps detoxify your liver. You can safely 1,000-5,000 mg a day or more, as it is water soluble. If you reach bowel tolerance, you should reduce the dosage.
  5. Jumping jacks or trampoline: If you have the energy, try doing jumping jacks or jumping on a trampoline for 10 minutes. This will help stimulate your lymph system, where many toxins are stored. If you do this, be sure to drink lots of water to flush any dislodged toxins from your system.
  6. Sauna: If you have access to a sauna, this is an excellent way to get rid toxins out of your body via your largest elimination organ, your skin. You can also use a dry brush before beforehand to open up pores. If you have acne or skin eruptions, this is an indicator that you have stored toxins, an need to get them out.
  7. Drink some fresh pressed vegetable juice. If you don’t have the energy to do this yourself, go to a juice bar and order one or more of the following: carrots, beets, cucumber, celery, ginger, apples. This will get valuable nutrients directly into your bloodstream rapidly, and will give you an immediate energy boost.
  8. Take the right amino acid: Taking a targeted specific amino acid that is right for you can often boost your mood or lower your anxiety in a matter of minutes. If you’re not sure which is the right one for you, contact me and I can help you determine which may work for you.

vitamins

Posted in alternative medicine, alternative therapies, Depression, grounding, holistic health, magnesium, mental health, vitamin c, vitamins | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

A Move in the Right Direction!

I was thrilled to see this abstract on PubMed today. It makes me hopeful that researchers are turning a corner on the traditional way of thinking about #depression. The title of the paper is:

Dietary recommendations for the prevention of depression

Here’s a snipet from the abstract:

“As current treatments are estimated to address only one-third of the disease burden of depressive disorders, there is a need for new approaches to prevent depression or to delay its progression.”

I couldn’t agree more!

The reason I love papers like this is because it gives “scientific  weight” and validity to what has previously been thought of as “alternative” medicine. A lot of people reject great solutions because they only put their faith and trust in “scientific” assertions.

Now, if researchers would start doing research on amino acids and targeted nutritional therapy, we’d really be headed in the right direction. But for now, this makes me excited and hopeful!

journals

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Movie Review: My Depression

I just finished watching the animated short film called ‘My Depression’ which aired on HBO. It brought up some strong feelings for me.

my-depression-the-up-and-down-and-up-of-it-1024

There were a lot of great things about this film:

-It tackled the subject of depression in an easily accessible way that reached a lot of viewers.

-It didn’t skirt around the suicide issue.

-I valued the honest and realistic portrayal of how it feels to be in the pit of depression.

However, when it came time for the inevitable “this is what finally worked for me” at the end, the answer was MEDICATION. I guess I knew that was coming, but I still held out a little bit of hope that they might mention amino acids, vitamins, or orthomolecular medicine. 

The protagonist, after struggling with whether or not to take medication, finally succumbs to it and says she spent THREE YEARS trying different pharmaceuticals until she started to feel better. Yikes! I have to imagine that someone who is watching this film and considering medication may be incredibly daunted by this timeline.

The narrator mentions that she tried a number of different alternative approaches, including yoga, acupuncture, religion, and eating well. Unfortunately, the film portrays that none of these things really helped her until she found the medications. To me, this reiterates the common misconception that there are really only two ways to address depression: talk therapy and medication.

Watching this film re-confirmed my enthusiasm for my mission to educate people that there are other effective ways besides pharmaceuticals to approach depression which are extremely effective.

The information has been buried, but the time is ripe now for a massive change toward effective, natural mental health care. Let’s do this! Are you in?

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My Life’s Purpose

Dear Readers:

I’m so glad you found me! I am thrilled to have found my life’s calling of coaching people who have mental health challenges.

I have struggled with depression and anxiety since my late teens. Like most people, I was prescribed medications to help me. But I always knew instinctually that pharmaceuticals weren’t right for me.  I was confident that there were natural ways that I could re-balance my body and feel better.

After trying a variety of natural alternatives and reading every book on the subject, I have finally come out the other side and feel compelled to help others in their journey.

If I can be of assistance to you, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Kind wishes,

Judy

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