- 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
- 2 cups nuts of your choice (I use raw nuts so oils are intact)
- 2/3 cup sunflower butter or nut butter
- 1/2 cup coconut oil
- 3 tbsp. honey (I used 1-1/2 tbsp and some stevia to taste)
- 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
- 3 tbsp. ground flax seeds (or chia)
- 10 ounce dark chocolate, melted (I tried using 88% Endangered Species and added stevia to my batch (not the batch shown), but it hardened and cracked when I tried to slice–maybe should not have let it harden before slicing–or added coconut butter?)
- Pulse nuts in food processor until like coarse sand
- Add all other ingredients except chocolate and blend thoroughly
- Pour onto wax paper or foil lined pan and smooth to the corners
- Refrigerate 1-2 hours until set
- Pour melted chocolate on top and chill 5-10 minutes
- Lift from pan and cut into bars
- Refrigerate until ready to enjoy (keeps their shape)
Learning Is In My Genes!
Last weekend, I attended a one day lecture in Columbus given by Dr. James Roberts, an integrative cardiologist who practices in Toledo.
Remember my trip to Portland to hear Dr. Amy Yasko speak about methylation and gene expression? Dr. Roberts has been using Dr. Yasko’s genetic testing and protocols with adult patients for several years. This was a great follow up to what I learned from Dr. Yasko a few months ago.
Beware, this information is DENSE and technical…if you’ve had genetic testing done and know some of your specific SNPs, you may find a few helpful tidbits here, but don’t expect to absorb and understand the whole thing. But you know me – when I learn, I love to share!
Here are a few of the highlights:
- There are three main ways our genes determine our health:
- Genes/genetic errors we inherit from both parents
- Epigenetic programming–the way our genes are “methylated” (marked) helps determine expression
- Interaction between our genes and our lifestyle, exposures and even emotions
- In a study done with rats, pups of mothers who were fed a low protein diet demonstrated a methylation pattern of their genes that predisposed them to high blood pressure in adulthood.
- The prevalence of MTHFR 677 defects is increasing and is considered to be an adaptive mutation that protects against certain types of cancers.
- Folate can stand in for BH4 (tetrahydrobiopterin) when there is a deficiency in BH4. BH4 is critical for the formation of neurotransmitters, and is negatively affected by several genetic mutations.
- Insufficient SAMe (resulting in a low SAM/SAH ratio) inhibits COMT, an enzyme that helps break down estrogens and catecholamines (stress neurotransmitters).
- When homocysteine is elevated, SAM:SAH ratios, glutathione, DNA methylation and BH4 levels are all compromised.
- SAMe is involved in:
- Carnitine production
- Inactivation of catecholamines
- Clearing estrogens safely
- Metabolizing bioflavenoids
- Generating phosphatidylchole
- Creatine production
- Clearing niacin (if you’ve had a bad reaction when using niacin, you are likely to be deficient in SAMe)
- Alcohol consumption inhibits the MTR enzyme, which directly impacts/lowers SAMe.
- Studies done on health Finnish men aged 45-64 revealed:
- High homocysteine and COMT defects (V158 and H62) was a significant cardiovascular risk factor because of persistent elevations in catecholamines.
- Similarly, increased cardiovascular risk was seen in those with COMT defects who drink coffee.
- The DNA of workers and queen bees is identical. Queen bees are fed royal jelly as larvae, resulting in larger, functional ovaries and a much longer life span (years vs. months).
- With CBS upregulations due to genetic errors:
- Homocysteine remethylation to SAMe is compromised
- Excess sulfite (neurotoxic) is produced
- Excess sulfate (increases fight-flight neurochemicals) is produced
- Increased hydrogen sulfide (causes brain fog and platelet activation)
- Glutamate (excitotoxic) increases, especially if heavy metals, particularly lead, are present
- Ammonia levels go up, using up BH4
- Cysteine and glutathione levels compromised, impairing detoxification
- There is a predisposition to GERD, allergies and asthma
- Things that act as methylation thieves:
- Fibrates by decreasing GFR (glomular filtration rate)
- Cholestyramine by blunting folate and B12 absorption
- Niacin by blocking B6 synthesis and using methyl groups
- Estradiol by unknown mechanism
- Testosterone by increasing creatine need
- Methotrexate by blocking DHFR enzyme
- Dilantin by slowing MTHFR and MTR enzymes
- Carbamazepine by depleting folate
- Cyclosporin by decreasing GFR and slowing MTHFR function
- Levodopa by increasing SAH generation
- NAC (N-acetyl-cysteine) by thiol-disulfide exchange
- PPIs (proton pump inhibitors) and H2 blockers (both of these are acid-blocking drugs) by decreasing B12 absorption
- Oral contraceptives by decreasing B12, B6, folate, B2, C and Zinc
- Alcohol by decreasing MTR activity and causing folate deficiency
- Mercury by decreasing MTR activity
- Lead, aluminum, cadmium and organic pollutants by multiple enzyme dysfunctions
- Even though cardiovascular mortality rates rise when cholesterol increases above 200, all-cause mortality, or death from ALL causes FALLS when cholesterol is OVER 150. Respiratory and digestive mortality rates are inversely proportionate to cholesterol levels–the higher the cholesterol level, the lower the mortality rate from respiratory or digestive disorders.
Sulfur – So What?
Some patients have difficulty clearing sulfur (sulfites and/or sulfates) from their system, most often due to specific genetic inheritance from either or both parents.
We screen for this via genetic saliva testing and urine testing of sulfites and sulfates in the office.
An intolerance to sulfur can manifest as asthma/shortness of breath, hives/itchy skin, headaches, nausea, diarrhea, flushing, high or low blood pressure, brain fog, chronic stress (via elevation of cortisol and glutamate) and fatigue. Patients who are intolerant to sulfa drugs should suspect an issue here and consider testing.
It’s important to keep in mind that limiting sulfur foods should be short-term since the body does need sulfur to make many critical compounds, such as glutathione and taurine. The length of time needed to lower urine sulfites/sulfates varies and is monitored with at-home urine testing of these levels.
There are many foods and supplements that are sulfur-containing, but we have had good success with limiting only those that are highest in sulfur, so keep in mind that many sulfur-containing items will not be included here.
It may take several weeks for urine testing to normalize to the desired level of <800. If you start out at >1600, keep in mind that your levels may actually be far above that since the strips do not reflect anything higher. In that case, it may take several weeks before your levels begin to shift lower on the testing strips.
In addition to lowering sulfur consumption through diet and supplements, we find Sparga Sulfur detox helps to assist in this process. (Use 10 drops in 4 ounces of water 1-2 times daily.) Some people require molybdenum or boron (or other nutrient support) since it gets used up in detoxification of sulfites.
- *Alpha Lipoic Acid (or thioctic acid)
- Chondroitin Sulfate
- Epsom Salts (baths)
- Glucosamine Sulfate
- Magnesium Sulfate
- Milk Thistle
- *N-Acetyl Cysteine (NAC)
- Sulfur-containing meds (antibiotics, sulfonylurea, etc)
*These items are not only high in sulfur—they are high in thiols as well.
Medications that Increase Sulfur
- All diuretics except spironolactone
Sulfur Containing Foods
- Coconut milk, juice, oil
- Cruciferous veggies, including: bok choy, broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, horseradish, kale, kohlrabi, mustard leaves, radish, turnips, watercress
- Dairy (except butter)
- Dried fruits
- Legumes and dried beans
- Lime/lemon juice in bottle
- Meat and fish
- Onions (leeks, shallots, chives also)
- Wine and grape juice
What About Thiol?
There are many who believe thiol content is more significant than actual sulfur content of foods. When a food contains thiols, it can cause elevation of sulfur. When foods don’t contain a high amount of thiols, it is believed the sulfur in these foods stays complexed with methionine and does not significantly raise sulfur levels.
Other common foods and supplements not listed on the high sulfur list that are high in free thiols are:
Supplements High In Free Thiols
- Dairy sourced acidophilus
Foods High In Free Thiols
- Bean sprouts
- Carob and chocolate
- Green beans
- Peas (split and fresh)
Turmeric is not high in sulfur or thiols, but has been found to raise levels significantly. I have not been able to find an explanation for this. If anyone has heard of one, I would be grateful for the reference.
Finally, Food Additives
Also pay attention to these food additives:
- Sulfur dioxide
- Sodium sulfite
- Sodium bisulfite
- Sodium metabisulfite
- Potassium bisulfite
- Potassium metabisulfite
Good Grief… Glutamates!
Think of your brain as a race car, with neurotransmitters being the gas and brake for the race car. Following so far?
In this scenario, GABA would be your brakes, calming the brain and promoting relaxation. Too much GABA would cause lethargy and fatigue.
Glutamate would be like the gas pedal, acting as your major excitatory neurotransmitter, keeping the brain focused and alert. Too much glutamate/excitation causes anxiety and sleeplessness, among other symptoms, depending on the person. Over time, excessive levels of glutamate cause neurological inflammation and damage.
Keeping glutamate and GABA balanced in the brain can be extremely impactful for a range of neurodegenerative conditions:
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Those with atrial fibrillation, seizures and panic attacks also seem to benefit from achieving this balance.
Glutamate is a VERY common amino acid found NATURALLY in many foods to varying degrees. Remember, even the human body produces some and uses it to produce body proteins, and neurotransmitters (brain chemicals). Over-consumption of MSG, glutamic acid, or other forms of glutamate can cause sensitivity in some people. Avoiding it is close to impossible. The key is knowing food sources so you can limit your exposure if needed.
The first step in balancing glutamate and GABA is to avoid foods and nutritional supplements that contain or prompt the body to create glutamate or other excitatory neurochemicals that can enter via the glutamate receptors such as aspartate, aspartame, aspartic acid, cysteine, glutamic acid, glutamine (mostly a problem with children), homocysteine and monosodium glutamate (MSG). Then, if you feel better when restricting glutamates, it’s best to modify/limit the amount of food sources you consume.
All of these act as neurotoxins when present in excess.
Sources of MSG
- Hydrolyzed protein or hydrolyzed oat flour
- Sodium caseinate or calcium caseinate
- Autolyzed yeast or yeast extract
- Glutamic acid
- Monosodium glutamate
Excitotoxic Food Ingredients
- Autolyzed anything
- Autolyzed yeast
- Autolyzed yeast extract
- Calcium caseinate
- Carrageenan (or vegetable gum)
- Chicken/pork/beef “base”
- Chicken/pork/beef “flavoring”
- Disodium caseinate
- Disodium guanylate
- Disodium inosinate
- Dough conditioner(s)
- Guar gum
- Hydrolyzed anything
- Hydrolyzed oat flour
- Hydrolyzed plant protein
- Hydrolyzed protein
- Hydrolyzed vegetable protein
- Kombu extract
- Malt extract
- Malt flavoring(s)
- Malted anything
- Malted barely flour
- Malted barley/barley malt
- Meat flavorings (chicken, beef etc.)
- Monosodium glutamate
- Natural flavor(s)
- Natural flavoring(s)
- Plant protein extract 1-cysteine
- Seasoned salt
- Seasoning(s) or spices
- Smoke flavoring(s)
- Sodium caseinate
- Soup base
- Soy extract
- Soy protein
- Soy protein concentrate
- Soy protein isolate
- Soy sauce
- Spice mixes that contain glutamate or MSG as an ingredient
- Textured protein
- Vegetable gum
- Whey protein
- Whey protein concentrate
- Whey protein isolate
- Yeast extract
Foods High in Glutamates:
- Anything enzyme modified
- Anything fermented
- Anything protein fortified
- Anything ultra-pasteurized
- Anything vitamin enriched
- Anything with corn syrup added
- Anything with milk solids
- Baked goods from bakeries
- Barbeque sauce
- Certain brands of cold cuts/hot dogs
- Body builder protein mixes
- Bottled spaghetti sauce
- Boullion (any kind)
- Canned and smoked tuna, oysters, clams
- Canned soups (certain brands)
- Canned refried beans
- Canned, frozen, or dry entrees and potpies
- Caramel flavoring/coloring
- Chili sauce
- Chocolates/Candy bars
- Citric acid (when processed from corn)
- Corn chips (certain brands)
- Dough conditioners
- Dry milk or whey powder
- Egg substitutes
- Flavored chips (certain brands)
- Flavored teas, sodas
- Flowing agents
- Fresh and frozen pizza
- Fresh produce sprayed with
- Auxigro—instead choose organically grown produce
- Fried chicken from fast food sources
- Frostings and fillings
- Gravy Master
- Instant soup mixes/Stocks
- Kombu extract
- Low-fat/Diet foods
- Many salad dressings/Croutons
- Most salty, powdered dry food mixes
- Mushrooms, especially shiitake and enokitake
- Non-dairy creamers
- Parmesan cheese
- Salted peanuts (certain brands)
- Powdered soup and sauce mixes certain brands)
- Processed cheese spread
- Ramen noodles
- Restaurant gravy from food service cans
- Restaurant soups made from food service Soup base
- Sausages/Processed meats/Cold cuts
- Seasoned anything
- Skim, 1%, 2%, non-fat, or dry milk
- Some bagged salads and vegetables
- Some peanut butters
- Some spices
- Soy sauce
- Supermarket turkey & chicken (injected)
- Table salts
- Tofu and other fermented soy products
- Tomato sauce/Stewed tomatoes
- Whipped cream topping substitutes
- Worcestershire sauce
- Xanthan gum/other “gums”
Addendum: for additional information of hidden glutamate in foods http://www.truthinlabeling.org/hiddensources.htm
Some Background On Fructose
Fructose is a sugar found commonly in fruits. You probably already knew that. But did you know that Americans now consume far more fructose on a daily basis than the amount found in 1-2 fruit servings? Even worse, often without the nutrients, fiber and water content that would normally slow its absorption and aid in its processing.
And don’t believe the commercials – the biggest culprit is high fructose corn syrup (HFCS). HFCS is commonly derived from corn and found in high amounts in processed, sweetened foods and beverages.
One of the things that makes fructose different from other sugars is that it does not require insulin to enter cells and take part in energy production. Because it bypasses certain steps in glycolysis (energy production from sugar), it leads to a build-up of certain metabolites that would not otherwise accumulate. It is mainly processed in the liver, and excess consumption has the following effects:
- Altered gene expression in the liver, raising risk for diabetes and cardiovascular disease
- In susceptible individuals, intracellular ATP (the energy currency of the cells) is depleted
- Disturbances in protein, DNA and RNA synthesis (think healing and gene repair)
- Reduced ammonia detoxification (build-up of ammonia interferes with neurotransmitter production, altering mood, focus and energy levels)
- Lactate, uric acid and triglycerides elevations (think gout and cardiovascular disease)
Should Everyone Beware of Fructose?
For most of our clients, fructose in the amount found in 1-2 servings of fruit per day is not an issue, but for those who are “fructose sensitive” limiting its intake may help achieve better body balance. If you’re not certain if this is an issue for you, there is testing available, or you can simply try limiting its intake for 7-10 days to see if you notice an improvement in your health.
Take a look at the lists below for more detail about what’s safe, what’s OK in moderation, and what you should avoid.
The Safe List
A short, general list of what should be OK for those with a fructose sensitivity:
- All meats (unprocessed)
- All nuts & seeds (unsweetened)
- All healthy fats (Avocados, olive oil, ghee, grass-fed butter, coconut oil/coconut butter, etc.)
- All unsweetened dairy and unsweetened dairy alternatives
- Pure Erythritol
- Pure stevia
The Avoid List
A short, general list of what you should avoid if you have a fructose sensitivity:
- Honey & all other sweeteners except pure erythritol and stevia
- Processed foods including processed meat products
- Coconut products (milk, etc)
- Imitation meat/crab
All portions are 1 whole or 1 cup serving.
All fruits should be in moderation– 1-2 a day and should always be the fresh, whole fruit (no processed or canned fruit products).
- Cranberries (fresh)
- Lemon juice
- Lime juice
- Passion fruit
- All dried fruit & fruit juices
- Green Beans
- Brussel Sprouts
- Cabbage, Onions
- Sweet Peppers
- Sweet Potato
- Green Olives
- Cherry Tomato
- Navy beans
- Refried Beans
- Baked Beans – any variety
- Whole grain wheat
- Wild rice
- Light rye & rye
- White rice
- Brown rice
- Rice Bran
- Dark Rye
- 3-4 turkey sausage links, cut into bite sized pieces
- 1 medium zucchini, chopped
- 2-3 tbsp. chopped onion
- 1 tsp fresh rosemary, diced
- 1 tsp fresh basil, diced
- 1/4-1/2 cup quinoa, precooked
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Brown sausage for 2 minutes in oil
- Add zucchini, onion and rosemary and cook, stirring frequently, another 2-4 minutes
- Add rest of ingredients and cook another 1-2 minutes
- Season to taste
Tip: Just about any veggies will work in this recipe. Try mushrooms, cherry tomatoes, peppers, spinach…you name it, it can work!
- 1 pound mild Italian sausage meat
- 2 medium eggplants
- 1 medium zucchini
- 3 bell peppers, any color
- 2 stalks celery
- 1 can chopped tomatoes, and a few fresh if you have them
- 1 onion
- 3 cloves garlic
- 1 tbsp fresh minced rosemary
- 2 tbsp fresh chopped basil
- 1 tbsp dried Italian herbs
- 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 tbsp oil
- Other seasoning to taste
- Put sausage, oil, garlic and onion in a large, deep skillet and cook, stirring often until sausage is cooked through.
- Meantime, chop up veggies into bite sized pieces.
- Add all ingredients to skillet except basil. I like to add peppers first for a few minutes, then eggplant, since these take a bit longer to cook. This prevents overcooking of the other veggies.
- Once veggies are cooked to desired consistency, add basil and remove from heat. Allow to sit covered for 5 minutes then serve.
This was delicious ladled over some lemon hummus, spinach and cooked quinoa. You could also layer over zucchini pasta, cauliflower rice or similar. Mushrooms and olives would also go nicely in this recipe if they’re on hand!