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Friday, May 11, 2018

Our Family's MTHFR Journey - Part II

In my last post, I shared how much my family's lives have improved since we all found out we have mutations of the MTHFR genes.  MTHFR is a critical enzyme in the body.  It’s required for a metabolic process that repairs DNA, switches genes on and off, and numerous other important functions.  MTHFR is also essential to convert folate (natural) and folic acid (synthetic) – each a form of Vitamin B9 – into the biologically active form called L-methylfolate (or 5-MTHF).  

There are two primary mutations (scientists believe up to 30 exist) that have been studied and tested so far - C677T and A1298C.  My husband has two C677T mutations.  If you recall from high school genetics, that means he got one copy from each parent.  The C677T mutation has been studied the most and is believed to have the most significant impact on the methylation process.  Their methylation is believed to be only 10-20% of what it should be.  According to the NIH, in America, about 25% of people who are Hispanic and 10-15% of people who are Caucasian have TWO copies of C677T.  Women with two C677T mutations are at increased risk of having a child with a neural tube defect.  Women and men with this mutation combo have an increased risk of having high homocysteine levels.  

Homocysteine is an amino acid and breakdown product of protein metabolism.  High homocysteine causes hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which could eventually result in a heart attack and/or stroke, and (2) blood clots in the veins, referred to as venous thrombosis. For my husband, he has had heart disease since he was born.  He has mitral valve prolapse and a bicuspid aortic value, so he is very focused on preventing his heart condition from worsening.  He was shocked to find he had very high homocysteine levels (18), which means he's not only at risk of a heart attack but also a stroke.

Both kids and I are compound heterozygous, which means we each have one C667T and one A1298C.  Depending on which research study you believe, people with this combination have a decline in methylation of 40-50%.  Still significant but it's possible to have this genetic combination and still have normal homocysteine levels.  Initial research indicates there is a digestive issue associated with A1298C.  But fortunately none of us seem to have that (of course, we all take probiotics, too).  But we have a lot of other issues that I believe are tied to the reduced methylation - anxiety, hormone imbalances, hypothyroid, sensory processing disorder, hypotonia (low muscle tone), low ovarian reserve, and dyspraxia.

MTHFR (as well as other metabolic issues) is really still at the infancy stage of being explored by researchers.  So far research has been conducted to understand how the MTHFR genes impact the following:

*Dr. Ben Lynch, who is considered an expert in this area, includes an even longer list on his website.

So what do you do if you have one or more MTHFR mutations?  The answer is pretty easy yet the execution can be challenging.  In short, you need to start taking methylfolate, active vitamin B6 and B12 (instead of folic acid and the crap found in your typical multi-vitamin).  I take Thorne Methyl-Guard, but there are many high quality options out there.  Neurobiologix makes a good one.  We use their cream version with the kids.  

That sounds pretty easy, right?  And it's a very good start.  The real challenge comes from eliminating folic acid from your diet, which your body can't process.  Right now, go into your pantry and start checking your foods.  If you were like us, you can probably throw away at least two garbage bags full of foods that contain folic acid.  Anything that's processed with wheat or corn - bread, cereal, crackers, meal replacement bars, etc.  We found there are some organic brands that use unfortified (or less fortified) organic wheat flour.  We like Dave's bread and Annie's products if we are going to give the kids processed foods.  We also use a lot of gluten-free foods, too.  But this was also an opportunity to cut out a lot of processed foods.  We never have pasta in our house any more for example, and we don't miss it!  Because once we cut out folic acid for 30 days, we realized when we did eat folic acid (like in a restaurant), our throats closed up...just like an allergy.  The feeling wasn't worth it.

The other thing you realize once you give up fortified foods is you likely don't get enough potassium in your diet.  Contrary to popular belief, eating a banana a day won't cut it.  We all noticed we started feeling dizzy, light headed, and even tired.  Once we added a potassium supplement to our diets, that went away.

With our son (who has sensory issues), we noticed that he needed an additional supplement to help his body make more glutathione (which children with autism and sensory issues are often lacking).  Proper methylation actually uses even more glutathione, which he was already lacking.  We added N-acetyl-cysteine (NAC, the precursor to glutathione) to his supplements and wow - what a change!  His therapist told me, "It's like night and day."  

Last but not least, the other challenge is finding the right dose of methylfolate for you.  There are multiple theories out there about dosing.  Some believe those with two mutations need a lot of methylfolate and some believe a little goes a long way.  Either way, I HIGHLY recommend you start out with a small dose (400 micrograms) and build your way up slowly.  Start by just changing your multi-vitamin to one that includes methylfolate instead of folic acid.  I use Pure O.N.E multi-vitamin.  I give the kids Pure Junior Nutrients.  After you have tried that for at least two weeks (a month might be even better), you can add more.  But stay at each dosage for at least two weeks (a month is even better) before you add more.  It takes your body awhile to adjust to actually methylating properly again.  And you can easily over-methylate and find yourself feeling even worse.  My husband I both found the 400 micrograms in our multi-vitamin plus an additional 1 mg in our MTHFR supplement was sufficient.  For our son, he just gets what is in his multi-vitamin - 200 micrograms (he weighs 40 pounds).  Our daughter (65 pounds) takes the multi-vitamin plus the NeuroBiologix Neuro-Immune Stabilizer cream twice a day.

I cannot reiterate this enough - You should NOT try a methylfolate supplement unless you get tested and know you have the MTHFR mutations.  It will not only make you feel bad.  It can hurt your health as well.

My last little tip is this - if you find out you have one or two MTHFR mutations and begin trying to figure out the right supplement protocol for you, keep a bottle of low-dose Niacin (50-100mg) on hand.  Niacin stops methylation.  So if you overdose on methyfolate, you can take Niacin and feel better.  Although, you should know Niacin opens up your blood vessels and can give you a very hot feeling and turn your skin red temporarily when you take it.  It can be freaky, but it's normal and will subside.

I hope that some of you find this helpful.  I'm planning to write one more post about my personal health issues and journey.  But in the meantime, I'm very happy to answer questions or tell you more about our experiences!   

Thursday, April 5, 2018

What the MTHFR?

As many of you who have followed my blog know, my family has struggled with health issues like anxiety, sensory processing, and hormone imbalances over the past five years.  My personal decline in health started 3.5 years ago.  I started gaining weight I couldn't lose.  I had chronic fatigue.  My hair was thinning.  My Fitbit told me I was averaging 4.5 hours of sleep a night even though I could have sworn I was sleeping for at least eight.  My anxiety started to increase.  I just didn't feel like me.  Everyday felt like something to be survived rather than lived.

All of this led me through a long, long journey of finding my good health again.  After being treated for low thyroid, low progesterone and low testosterone, I finally found a piece of information, which I believe is responsible for most (if not all) of my health issues as well many of the health issues my family has struggled with - sensory processing, anxiety, and heart disease.  What is this magical piece of information you ask?  It's a gene called MTHFR.  And yes, it is pretty much a MTHFR.  And you know what else?  Scientists believe as many as 50% of white Americans have at least one mutation of the MTHFR gene.  That tells me these mutations probably aren't genetic screw-ups.  Rather, our ancestors' genetics have not adapted to our current lifestyle.

So here's the brief scientific explanation of MTHFR.  The MTHFR gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase.  This enzyme plays a role in processing amino acids (like serine, glutamine, cysteine, tyrosine, etc.), the building blocks of proteins.  Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase is important for a chemical reaction involving forms of the vitamin folate.  This reaction is required for the multi-step process that converts the amino acid homocysteine to another amino acid, methionine. The body uses methionine to make proteins and other important compounds.

I know that was a lot of physiology.  The short story is that people who have one or two mutations of MTHFR need an active version (and an extra amount) of folate.  Sadly, most of us don't get that in an American diet.  Folate is found naturally in beets, citrus fruits, green veggies, and some beans.  But most Americans get the majority of their folate as a supplement called folic acid (remember that from pregnancy?).  In 1998, the FDA mandated wheat flour be supplemented with folic acid.  Folic acid is a more stable form of folate and easier to add to foods.  The FDA mandated this change because it was proven that folate deficiency was a direct cause of spina bifida and anencephaly.  And indeed, this nutritional change in our foods has decreased the number of children born with spina bifida by 1300 each year.  However, the rate remained high for Hispanics.  So in 2016, the FDA mandated folic acid be added to corn meal to ensure this ethnic group was equally protected.  Folic acid is also in your multi-vitamin.  If you take a B-complex, it's in that, too.  So if you live in Texas and take a multi-vitamin, that means you are getting A LOT of folic acid.  (But even if you lived in another country previously, you have a good chance of being highly supplemented.  86 countries currently mandate folic acid supplementation in wheat flour.)

Even for those who don't have a MTHFR mutation, this excess of man-made folic acid can be harmful.  It can cause abdominal crampsdiarrhearashsleep disorders, irritability, confusion, nausea, stomach upset, behavior changes, skin reactions, seizures, gas, and excitability.  I can tell you that many people theorize the reason people who are gluten-free experience health improvements is not because they are giving up gluten.  It's because they are inadvertently cutting out the excess man-made folic acid.

But what if you are among the 50% who HAS at least one mutation?  This high intake of folic acid is harming you on two fronts.  Firstly, is what I mentioned above.  Secondly, you most likely aren't actually getting enough active folate (remember you need even more that an average person needs) to complete the methylation process.  What does methylation do for your body?  When optimal methylation occurs, it has a significant positive impact on many biochemical reactions in the body that regulate the activity of the cardiovascular, neurological, reproductive, and detoxification systems, including those relating to:
  • DNA production (have you struggled with miscarriages as a result of chromosomal abnormalities?)
  • Neurotransmitter production (anxiety, ADHD, sensory processing)
  • Detoxification (getting rid of the chemicals you ingest or absorb)
  • Histamine metabolism (hello allergies)
  • Estrogen metabolism (getting rid of the chemicals/added hormones your body interprets as estrogen...which if you don't eliminate these estrogens, you are at a higher risk of cancer)
  • Eye health
  • Fat metabolism 
  • Cellular energy
  • Liver health (do you feel nauseous when you drink alcohol?)
To sum it help, optimal methylation is critical to help keep the cells in your body and brain healthy, energetic, and cancer-free.  If you have one or more of these mutations, you are at risk for any of the above processes failing.  If you have one of these mutations and are pregnant, you are at risk for not only passing the genes on to your children, but also depriving your unborn child of adequate methylation during the pregnancy.  Scientists do not fully understand yet what the consequence of this is.  However, early research indicates there is a correlation between the mother's methylation and the DNA expression of the child.  There is no definitive conclusion yet, but there are many active studies assessing the impact of poor maternal methylation on the increase of disorders such as autism, sensory processing, ADHD, and anxiety.

So if you are reading this and thinking this might be me.  This might be my kids.  What do I do?  Sadly, the answer isn't simple with our current health system.  But you do have a lot of options.

  1. I highly recommend finding an holistic integrative medicine doctor.  An holistic doctor is a medical doctor who focuses on healing the whole body through nutrition and supplements.  If you live in the Austin area, I highly recommend the Wiseman Practice.  They have literally given me my life back.  They treat adults and children.  And they take insurance, which is rare in this field.  
  2. If that isn't an option, talk to your regular GP or pediatrician and request the genetic test.  We used this method for getting my husband and our kids tested.  Insurance may or may not cover the test, but the test isn't terribly expensive ($150).
  3. Ask your doctor to test your homocysteine levels.  High homocysteine is often an indication of the the MTHFR gene.
  4. If the above options won't work, there are online genetic tests like 23andme.  However, this option usually requires you to send your 23andme results to another lab to get the final results.  It's complicated and more expensive than just asking your doctor.
  5. And last but not least, if you can't verify your genetic makeup through testing, you can make some of the nutritional changes without knowing your genetic makeup.  I wouldn't recommend taking supplemental 5-MTHF without knowing if you have the mutations, but you can still eliminate folic acid and change your multi-vitamins to vitamins that use the active forms of folate and vitamin B.

Our family spent several months making changes to our diets, household items and supplements.  I'm so happy to report, we are a new family!  My husband's anxiety has improved tenfold.  He is like he was five years ago, which I can say has dramatically improved our relationship, too.  I feel like I did five years ago.  I have energy, I have more patience with my kids, and I have confidence I have added quality years to my life.  Per my son's therapist, "It's like night and day" since we changed his diet and supplementation.  And our daughter grew 2.5 inches with a normal weight gain (rather than above average weight gain and below average growth) this past year.  In short, we are seeing success!

There is so much more to write about this subject, and I promise I'm going to.  I will tell you about the mutation possibilities, supplementation protocols, and links to hormone issues, thyroid issues,  anxiety and sensory processing.  It's just too complicated to include it all in one post.  If you have questions in the meantime, please feel free to ask!

Friday, November 17, 2017


Let's talk about this tipping point we are seeing in America right now.  I mean as I write this, I'm watching Al Franken get added to the list of accused harassers.  It is absolutely remarkable.  It's remarkable on so many levels.

First, it's remarkable that electing a man who openly admitted to sexually assaulting women might just lead to more positive change for women than electing a woman.  What does that say about America?  In my opinion, it says a lot.  It says that much of America (particularly white America) really didn't appreciate how much misogyny and gender inequality still exists in America (racial inequality exists, too, but that's for another post).

I will be the first to admit I had no idea how bad it still is.  As a grown woman, mother, and business person, I have to really say to myself, "How did you not get it?"  After all, I have a #metoo story.  I experienced sexual harassment by three different men (in one night) in a previous job.  Then, once it was reported to HR, a woman (my boss) told me I was not welcome there any more and needed to find another job.  In short, I should have understood this was a part of the culture there, and if I wasn't going to let it slide, then, this wasn't the place for me.  That should have been my wake-up call.  But it wasn't.  I knew of many other women in the company who either had experienced the same thing, had participated in affairs with married executives, or had coordinated "dates" for married executives...and yet, that wasn't a wake-up call either. I've had friends who were victims of rape and sexual assault.  That's didn't wake me up.  I've had friends who have been victims of professional gender discrimination, and that didn't wake me up.  Why the hell not?

I think there are multiple reasons for our society's complacency.  The first reason is that women don't talk about their experiences.  Whether women are victims of sexual harassment, sexual assault, physical abuse or just gender discrimination, society tells us not to talk about it.  The consequences for women who speak out are almost always worse than the crime itself.  So women are expected to suffer through the crime and then, suffer even more in hopes of punishing the offender.  In my personal situation, after I was asked to leave the company, I wanted to tell the world.  I was furious, and I wanted people to know not to go work for this company.  A manager (the manager I had confided in) convinced me not to do that, because I would burn bridges and it might prevent me from getting future jobs in Silicon Valley.  Sadly, that's what most women are told.  Don't speak out, because you will be punished even more.  So there's a feeling that these assaults and harassments are rare occurrences.  Well, after the #metoo campaign, I think we can all see that is hardly the case.

The other reason for my complacency was this feeling that this is just a part of life and that women need to focus on proving themselves and not whining.  This is the Texan in me.  I believed that if women just show everyone how amazing we are, these harassment and gender inequality issues will go away.  Somebody should have shook me and said, "What?  This makes no sense."  First of all, I clearly needed a history lesson.  Women did not even get the right to vote until 1920.  Men have been voting since 1789.  Condoms were invented in 1839.  The birth control pill was put on the market in 1960.  White women only make 78% of what white men make for the same job.  Minority women make 54-64% of what white men make for the same job.

To be fair, I knew these statistics, but for some reason, I didn't comprehend the consequence.  I still believed it was women's fault for being unequal - we were too emotional, we didn't study hard enough, we chose to be moms and leave the work force.  I'm shaking my head as I write this.  To be fair, I was raised by great parents who taught me that I was smart, capable and could be anything I wanted to be.  And I believed them.  So I genuinely thought my life's accomplishments were 100% within my control.  I did not understand or believe that there were still many, many men out there who have a vested interest in maintaining their position of power.  They don't want to share it with women or even minority men.  And it doesn't matter that I am probably smarter and more capable than them, because many of those men already have the power.  And those men will continue to prefer other men just like them.  I really believe society and our school system (while well-intentioned) made a mistake with Generation X.  They did a great job communicating that girls could be anything we want to be, but they led us to believe equality already existed.  And in the South and Texas, girls were taught to work hard and don't whine (i.e. protest or speak out against injustices).  We need to communicate girl power to young girls but we also need to educate older girls and boys that gender inequality is still a work in progress.  And I want to emphasize that it's important that we educate girls AND boys on this issue.

Last but not least, I think there is complacency because often the women who are most impacted by these incidents are the most vulnerable - women of color, women of lower incomes and young girls.  Predators aren't stupid.  They choose victims who are least likely to defend themselves.  So for those of us who were lucky enough to be among the least vulnerable - white women, middle and upper class women, women who grew up having healthy relationships with their parents (especially fathers) - we were largely sheltered from the realities that millions of other women face.  I actually commented to a friend the other day (who agreed) that seeing all of these women come forward now telling their #metoo stories has left me feeling so blessed that I was never raped or sexually assaulted.  Let me repeat that.  I feel LUCKY.  No woman should feel lucky because she hasn't been raped.

So where do we go from here?  First, let's not let this moment in history just be a moment.  We need to carpe diem!  We need to make real changes.  I know for one, I'm making some personal changes --

1.  Believe victims - I'm ashamed to admit there was a time when I really questioned women who waited 10 years to accuse someone of a crime.  I bought into the whole "if it was real, they would have said something then."  Ha!  I knew nothing about being a victim.  Of course, there are rare occasions of false accusations - and those women should be punished - but remember, that is the exception not the rule.  According to Stanford University, only 2% of sexual accusations are proven to be false.  And only 40% of all sexual assaults are even reported.  Ponder that.

2.  Speak out - I'm older and thus, less vulnerable now.  But if I see another woman being victimized or another man acting inappropriately, I promise to speak out.  I promise to not just "let men by men."  I promise to be an advocate for younger women who might find themselves harassed or assaulted somewhere down the line.

3.  Teach my daughter better - My daughter will know she is smart, capable, and just as (if not more) qualified than men.  She will know she has her parents' support to be anything she wants to be in this world.  But she will also be taught to appreciate the women who fought for the rights she has now and know that she carries a responsibility to continue to fight for equality for women.  Last but not least, she will know that no man has the right to touch her or speak to her in a way that makes her uncomfortable.  And if that happens, she should speak out - and her parents will support her 100%.

4.  Teach my son better -  My son will know he is smart, capable, and just as (if not more) qualified than women.  But he will know that he is privileged because of his gender (again, we'll leave race and economic privilege for another post).  He has benefits given to him as a result of his gender, strength, and cultural history.  He will be taught that he should carry that privilege with respect.  That means he should never touch a woman who hasn't soberly given him permission to do so.  He should never speak sexually about a woman in front of other people.  And he will know that in the professional world, if he wouldn't do/say the same thing to another man, he shouldn't do it to a woman.  And last but not least, he needs to join in the fight to ensure we keep progressing in gender equality.

What will you do?  How will you change so that your sons and daughters live in a more equal, healthier world?

Friday, October 20, 2017

Here's to the Amazing Parents!

The other day I saw a Facebook post that made me pause.  It was a great, celebratory post about something special the parents did for their kids.  It was a feel good moment.  What gave me pause was reading the comments from friends..."You guys are the most amazing parents!"  "When I'm a parent, I want to be like you!"  "Your kids have the best parents!"  Amazing, feel-good praise.  And really, there is nothing wrong with the post.  We should share the happy moments with friends.  And the people who posted were just being kind and good friends.  But the reason it gave me pause was because I feel like as a society, we often value and judge parents solely based on the feel good moments or their kids' achievements.  Social media perpetuates this pattern, and I firmly believe this pattern is unhealthy.

When I think about the parents I know who I believe are amazing parents, they are the ones who often don't get a lot of public praise.  They don't get a lot of praise, because they are the parents with kids who are not easy going and sometimes have behavior problems.  They are the parents with kids who have special needs and will never make the honor roll.  They are the single parents who are struggling to just pay the bills and sometimes forget their child was supposed to wear a special shirt to school last Friday.  They are the parents who are too busy or too private to share every moment on Facebook, but at night they are exhausted and wondering if tomorrow will be better.  And they are the parents who often don't tell others about these challenges for fear they will be judged.

Take a moment and think  - How often do your friends share the bad child rearing moments?  And I don't mean complaining about how they can't go to the bathroom alone or that their three year old will only eat mac 'n' cheese.  I mean how often do your friends share the bad moments that their might be judged for?  Like when did someone last share their child went to the principal's office three times last week?  Or that they hired a private tutor because their 5th grader still doesn't understand fractions?   Or that their eight year old child still refuses to eat spaghetti because "tonight it looks funny?"  Or that they don't have enough money to pay their share of the teacher's Christmas gift, so they had to be "that" parent who doesn't contribute?  Sadly, our society tends to think these flaws are always a result of inadequate parenting and thus, parents who struggle, struggle in silence.  (And for the record,  yes there are lazy, disorganized, thoughtless parents out there.  But I believe most parents are trying.)

There are parents who are often trying ten times harder than other parents to just get their kids to pass classes.  They are the parents taking their seven year old child to therapy every week, and their child still doesn't have the motor skills to kick a soccer ball.  They are parents crying themselves to sleep at night, because they are worried what opportunities their child will have in life because their child isn't the perfect, Type A personality our society praises.

I write this post, because I think all parents sometimes need a reminder about what is really important in parenting.  Parents are at their most amazing when their kids are behaving terribly and the parent figures out a way to resolve the situation productively.  Parents are at their most amazing when even though they don't have enough money to buy a fancy Christmas, they still figure out how to make the holiday full of love and special moments.  Parents are at their most amazing when they recognize their child is struggling and they seek help without shame or embarrassment.  Parents are at their most amazing when they are outside throwing a baseball with their child for the 100th time, hoping this will be the time the child hits the ball...but knowing if it isn't, they will be out there throwing the ball a 101st time.

If you have kids who are high achievers in academics, athletics or arts, that is fantastic!  If your kids are well-behaved and easily try new things and new foods, that too, is freaking fantastic!  Feel blessed.  Feel happy.  Enjoy it.  Society needs high achievers, and high achievers need amazing parents to help them reach their full potentials.  But also remember that these amazing traits are probably just as much a result of genetics and good fortune as they are good parenting.

And if you have kids who rarely receive praise...if you have kids who never earn an award or trophy...if you have kids who still only eat yogurt and grilled cheese, you are not a failure.  You know how much effort, love and tears you are putting into parenting everyday and that is your sign of success.  Your success is marked by the improvements you see every month and year, not by the awards hanging on the wall.  And those improvements are a result of your amazing parenting!

And tomorrow, we as parents should do two things:
1.  Praise yourself for the tough moments.  Celebrate the day you survived that was hard!  That's the day you really earned your Amazing Parenting Award.
2.  Be supportive friends and good listeners to those whose kids are struggling.  There's a good chance they could use a good friend - someone who can be a good listener, not someone who can give great parenting advice.

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

This Nutrient Has Revolutionized Our Family

So you may have noticed, I haven't written a blog post in awhile.  In fact, my blogging fell off right around the time our new President was inaugurated.  Was there a correlation?  Yes, sadly, there was.  Many of the events that occurred at the beginning of his presidency sent me into a heightened state of anxiety that I just couldn't recover from.  I was gripped by the news, my phone, my thoughts, and I could not detach at all.  I could not put my phone down.  I could not enjoy being around friends or family.  I was really living in a constant state of anxiety.  It was awful.  I was pretty convinced the only cure for this intense feeling was impeachment or the 2020 election.  But I am very happy to report, that I was wrong...I mean my feelings about our President haven't changed, but my anxiety is so much better now!  In fact, our family has reached a whole new level of calm, peace, and happiness.

How - you might ask?  I began researching ways to lower cortisol, because I assumed that was at least part of what was causing my feelings of anxiety.  Of course, I found suggestions of ways to calm yourself and your lifestyle, but realistically, unless I was going to divorce my husband (who has anxiety) or give away my kids (who have anxiety)...I just didn't see how meditation and yoga were going to be sufficient.  I came across a supplement I had never heard of  - phosphatidylserine.  I know that's a mouthful, so I'll just refer to it as PS from here on out.

What is phosphatidylserine?  PS is a type of fat produced by the body but mostly sourced from foods (soy, mackerel, chicken heart, tuna, chicken liver).  It's found in every cell of the human body, but mostly concentrated in brain tissue. It enables the brain to use blood sugar (glucose) more efficiently. Glucose (which often gets a bad rap) is brain fuel, and when the brain has better access to fuel, it works better.

In addition to glucose mediation, PS helps balance cortisol levels, ensuring cortisol peaks in the morning and decreases by night time. When cortisol levels fall out of this pattern (often due to stress), the body loses equilibrium. Chronic stress levels cause the adrenal glands to pump out mega-doses of cortisol, which then desensitize the hypothalamus and the hippocampus. These two parts of the brain act as shut-off valves for cortisol. When they become desensitized, cortisol levels get out of balance - thus causing insomnia, chronic anxiety, and fatigue.
Studies show PS is effective for people with age-related mental decline and Alzheimer's.  There are limited, but not conclusive studies, using PS with people who have depression and/or ADHD.
The good news is you don't have to run out and buy a lot of chicken hearts and livers.  You can  purchase phosphatidylserine supplements easily from any place that sells vitamins.  PS used to be made from cow brains (kind of gross), but now it is commonly manufactured from cabbage or soy. (The switch was triggered by a concern that products made from animal sources might cause infections such as mad cow disease.)
Research indicates you need at least 800 mg a day to lower cortisol levels.  General memory or ADHD symptoms might improve with as little as 200 mg a day.  I actually started with 1500 mg a day (500 mg taken 3 times a day).  Within two weeks, I felt 100 times better.  I was finally able to set down my phone.  I was able to watch something besides the news.  I was able to be present with my kids.  I was also able to genuinely enjoy being around others and not just count the minutes until I could be alone again.  I continued at this dose for two months and then cut back to two doses a day.  I have also been battling some other hormone and thyroid issues (that I will write about at another date).  I'm hopeful that as I get those hormones balanced, I will be able to cut back my PS intake to just one dose a day.
Of course, my experience with this led me to wonder if PS would have a positive impact on my husband and children who have struggled with anxiety much longer than I have.  Surprisingly, my husband willingly offered to take it.  He started with just two 500 mg doses a day (1000 mg total).  Within a week, I could tell a huge difference in his behavior.  He was much more patient and calm with the kids.  He was able to have a conversation with me while doing something else (historically multi-tasking has been virtually impossible).  He was able to cope with interruption without getting angry or irritable.  He said he could tell he was able to cope with professional conflict and ambiguity better as well.  Prior to taking PS, conflict would cause him to get angry and shut down but now he was able to work it out and still feel energized at the end of the day.  This was a miracle.
So I decided to slowly introduce PS to my kids.  Studies have been conducted and shown success using 200 mg a day with children.  I started giving them PS100 once a day.  It's only 100 mg of PS and it doesn't contain any additional supplements.  After a week, I didn't see any negative effects.  Even better, my daughter seemed happy.  To others, that may sound odd.  Our daughter usually seems happy in public, but at home, it's a different story.  She puts on her good face for the world which leaves her exhausted and irritable for our family.  After just one week on 100 mg, I saw her singing and dancing.  She was telling me jokes.  She was willing to talk to me after school.  She was able to speak politely, using "please" and "thank you" without me prompting her every time.  She told me she loved me - out loud!  It seemed like a miracle.  I decided to add a second night time dose for both kids.  After adding the second dose, I began seeing changes in our son.  For the first time, he was willing to try new tasks at occupational therapy without pouting or getting angry.  I saw him volunteer to demonstrate tasks to his class, which he never does.  He was willing to approach children who were playing and speak to them.  It was another little miracle.  
PS may not be for everyone.  You should definitely speak to your doctor about taking it as well as review the potential side effects and interactions.  But if you believe you or a loved one is struggling with memory issues, ADHD, or high cortisol levels (always in fight or flight mode), then, I recommend looking into PS.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Mommy's Christmas List

If you are like me, you are so focused on shopping for everyone else for Christmas, you don't have time to think about what you want.  So then, when someone finally says, "What do you want?"  You're like, "Oh.  I don't care.  A spa gift card."  And come Christmas morning, you're thinking, "I should have thought about that answer a littler harder."  So I've brainstormed some awesome mommy gifts for you, so that you will be prepared to answer that question with awesome answers this year!

1.  Alexa - I've said it before, but I'll say it again.  If you don't have an Alexa (also known as the Amazon Echo), get one!  It is my favorite thing in the house (other than my family).  It plays music on command.  It let's me quickly order things from my kitchen or bathroom by just talking to Alexa.  It entertains my kids.  They think Alexa is another member of our family.

2. Stitch Fix subscription - If you haven't heard about or tried Stitch Fix yet, it's a personal styling service that sends you a box of new clothing items to try ever 2 weeks, 1 month or 2 months.  You can choose the items you are interested in, your style, you measurements, and your price range.  Then, a stylist puts together a box of trendy items they think you will love.  I have to admit this is not something I would have initially thought would interest me.  But I was given it for a gift, and now I'm hooked.  I honestly rarely ever shop now.  My stitch fix keeps me fixed, and I always feel like I'm wearing things that are in fashion.  And it's super fun to just get a box of surprises on your doorstep every once in awhile!

3.  Wine of the month - This is the gift that keeps on giving!  I love getting wine in the mail every month.  You just have to make one clarification.  This wine is just for mommy...no sharing.

4.  Kindle Voyage E-Reader - This reader has a built in light with a sensitivity adapter, so it adjusts the lightness of the screen depending on the amount of light in the room.  It has 300 ppi resolution, so it's crystal clear.  Great for people who normally need reading glasses (not there yet...but I'm sure it's coming).  But the thing I love the best is it comes with Free 3G, which means you can connect to the internet and download books anywhere...not just where you have access to a Wi-Fi network.  That's awesome!

5.  A Girls' Weekend - Now I'm not just talking about your husband gives his blessing for you to leave for a weekend.  I'm saying your husband plans the weekend for you and your girlfriends, he pays for it, and then agrees to happily send you on your way without you having to "prep" for leaving.  And he promises the house won't be a disaster when you return.  Wouldn't that be amazing?

6.  Tory Burch watch - I just love this watch!  And a watch is something I am highly unlikely to buy for myself.  It always seems like a huge splurge.  So I love getting something I love but wouldn't buy for myself for a gift.

7.  Fire TV stick with Voice Remote - I actually don't have one of these, but I want one.  No more cable!  Just plug in and start watching.  You can even get live TV, including NBC, NBC, ESPN, CNN, and HGTV.  And it works with your voice!  If it's as good as Alexa, then, the voice capability is impressive.  My kids could probably even change the channel themselves.  And drumroll....this is only $45!!

8.  FujiFilm INSTAX Mini 8 Instant Camera - I don't know about you, but I actually miss the old Polaroid camera sometimes.  I takes tons of photos on my phone that never see the light of day.  It always seems like extra effort to upload them on Shutterfly, select my photos and order them.  And then, I have to wait 10 days to get them.  And I can't tell you how many times my kids have brought home an assignment requiring that they put together a collage of photos and it's due in 2 days.  (Don't teachers know we don't have photos lying around any more?)  An instant camera would help solve that problem!  And last but not least, your kids will think this is the coolest thing.  They've never actually seen a Polaroid camera before.

9.  Anti-aging Skin Care  - Who doesn't want to look younger?  But if we're honest, many of us have a hard time spending a lot of money on our skin, because it seems a bit selfish or too luxurious.  Well, then, that makes it the perfect gift!  You get to enjoy the great skin without the guilt.  I cannot think of a better line of skin care products than Rodan + Fields Redefine regimen.

10. Ralph Lauren bag - So if you are really looking to get a big gift, you might ask for Ralph Lauren's new honey matte alligator tote that goes for a cool $18,500.  But if you are not a celebrity or uber wealthy, you might go for the Ralph Lauren laser cut suede bag.  Very bohemian chic yet classic, too!

11.  It wouldn't be Christmas without a new pair of "I can still be cool and fashionable and sexy" mom boots.  Now my first choice would be these super cool Frye patchwork boots, but their $528 price tag might be cost-prohibitive for some.  So another nice, less expensive, and super comfy option is this pair of Naturalizer Frances boots.

So hopefully, this has helped get your mommy gift ideas going and hopefully, Santa will be good to you this year!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Our Family Is Thankful for Calm

In my last post, I wrote about how amino acid supplements have had a huge impact in our daughter's anxiety and behavior.  We have also seen great results from using supplements with our son who has sensory processing disorder (SPD).  I share this, because for some reason, there seems to be a perception that sensory processing can only be addressed with therapy...even though there has been a tremendous amount of research using supplements in children with autism and ADHD, two conditions that often come with SPD, too.  In fact, ALL kids with autism have SPD.  So it only made sense to me that some of the supplement treatments researched for autism might have a positive impact on kids who have just been diagnosed with SPD.

Our journey into using supplements started about 8 months ago.  Last March began a very painful period of trying to figure out how to get our son to stay in his bed and go to sleep at night.  It has always taken him a long time to go to sleep, but historically he seemed happy to lay in bed and talk or sing until he eventually went to sleep.  Shortly, after turning 3 that changed.  He was very comfortable getting out of bed.  At worst, it could take 3 hours to get him to go to sleep.  I thought I was going to lose my mind.  So I turned to Google and found that apparently this is a common issue with kids who have autism and SPD.  It's been studied quite a lot in autistic children.  While scientists don't exactly know why autistic kids have trouble sleeping, they know that taking 1 mg of melatonin nightly seems to be very effective.

So we started giving him melatonin and it worked instantly.  He could fall asleep in 5-10 minutes.  That had NEVER happened in his entire life.  Suddenly, he could sleep for 11.5 hours a night, no problem.  Seemed amazing.  That additional sleep also seemed to have an effect on his cognitive abilities, which makes perfect sense.  It actually made me wonder how much of his developmental issues were tied to him just being sleep-deprived.

Now I will say that while melatonin worked fantastically for our son, I have since read more that has led us to make a switch to 5-HTP (tryptophan).  Tryptophan has been studied more widely in kids than melatonin.  Tryptophan helps the body produce serotonin, and serotonin produces melatonin.  Scientists know that children with SPD, ADHD, and autism typically have low serotonin levels.  Therefore, studies have been conducted and proven that these children have broader improvements, including sleep, when taking 50 mg of 5-HTP instead of just melatonin.  We now give our son 50 mg of 5-HTP (mix it up in his milk) at dinner time, and it works great.

The next issue we faced were meltdowns.  Soon after turning 3, he began having more severe tantrums, and they happened everyday.  They routinely lasted 45 minutes.  And he would consistently ask for us to calm him down.  After having endured this with our daughter, I just couldn't face it again with another child, so I began searching for new answers.  I came upon the recommendation of using either magnesium or Omega 3s.  Most children eating western diets can benefit from magnesium and omega fatty acids.  It's critical for brain health and development.  Omega 3s have been proven to improve mental skills and remembering in patients with ADHD as well.  So I decided to give them a shot.  We started with magnesium, but I didn't seen a change.  So I added fish oil.  720 mg of EPA/DHA.  Instantly, the daily tantrums stopped.  Don't get me wrong, he still throws tantrums, but now they typically last 3-5 minutes, not 45 minutes. (BTW, we use Barlean's Omega Swirl Fish Oil.  Our son likes it and thinks it tastes like lemonade.  However, our daughter who is super sensitive to smells can smell the fish oil, so she won't take it.  We use Coromega 3 with our daughter.)

Fast forward about 6 months.  We've made definite progress with therapy, sleep, and nutrition.  But at about 3 years and 9 months, he stopped napping.  He wouldn't go to sleep at school or at home.  Within a week, his behavior had regressed significantly.  It was like it was 6 months ago.  I thought, "Oh no, no, no.  This can't happen.  I have to get him to nap again."  We still happened to have the magnesium oil around, so I pulled it back out.  We started using it twice a day, applying it to his feet.  In 24 hours, he was napping again.  In fact, his naps increased from 1 hour to 1.5-2 hours.  Amazing.  He was back to the good, happy place.

At this point, I thought, it can't get better than this.  Okay, not really, but there wasn't an issue so pressing that it sent me scouring the internet.  However, as I mentioned in my last post, we accidentally stumbled upon the benefit of amino acids (l-theanine) for our daughter's anxiety.  That led me to wonder what impact do amino acids have on SPD?  One of the key issues with SPD kids is they usually have too many glutamates.  Glutamate is the most excitatory neurotransmitter in the brain!  Geez.  That explains so much.  So if you can help the brain balance that neurotransmitter, the child's overexcitabilities and anxieties can be reduced.  L-theanine (Relaxsaurus) can help reduce glutamates.  (Here's a great chart that helps break down brain chemicals and nutritional support.)

It's not like it cured him, but small wins are critical.  For example, I typically have to remind him every time to walk to the left side of car where his car seat is.  Otherwise, he just wanders or goes to the right side of the car.  Since taking this, he walks to the left side every time without being prompted!  Another example  - in the car one day, I said, "On the way home from therapy, remind me we need to stop and get gas."  This was really a test, because I knew he wouldn't remember that.  Usually, what would happen on the ride home is this - I would say, "What were you supposed to remind me?"  He would say, "What?"  I would prompt him again and he would say, "I don't know."  This time I said after we got back in the car after therapy, "Hey, what are you supposed to remind to do?"  He proudly said, "You are supposed to get gas!"  I was stunned.  

I'm very excited to see how this progresses.  But given that Thanksgiving is next week, I say make your kids eat lots of turkey (which has tryptophan in it) and hopefully, you will have a calm, relaxing holiday!

Some added notes:

I also give him a probiotic.  I can't say that I have seen a direct difference in his behavior, but from everything I've read, it's highly recommended for SPD and autistic kids.  A substantial amount of the neurotransmitters used by the brain are produced in the gut.  Therefore, if there are imbalances and shortages of neurotransmitters, it could be because there is bacterial imbalance in the gut.  Taking a probiotic help ensures the digestive system is balanced and functioning properly, thus improving brain function.

Also, I found this post to be really helpful and easy to follow if you want more information.