Just over six years ago, I wrote a piece on depression. A little digression before I go on, SIX years. Time really is a wonder. Another wonder, this is post number 1600. SIXTEEN HUNDRED. I didn’t have an inkling back when I started what this would become or how long I’d be at it. In all truth, I still don’t. Maybe that I write and quote and photograph the truth. At least what is true to me. It’s the best I can do, and I do it. Again and again, with great JOY! Yes, indeed.
And so that bit on depression. In that post, I mentioned a genetic mutation that predisposes me for melancholy. I intended to write about it sooner, but, well, you know how life has other ideas. So did I, apparently.
Anyhoo, after learning of my depression and digestive woes, my Portland naturopath recommended that I test for MTHFR. I came back as heterozygous (one copy) for the C677T variant. There is a lot to read about it out on the interwebs, and I did until my eyes went googly. The very basic gist is my liver, on its very best day, only works at 70%. On the surface, it doesn’t sound too bad, 70% is average. In most of life, average is not bad! It’s only when you note how much is tied up in that missing 30% that things get thorny. Detoxification. Digestion. Cognition. Mood.
It also explained a lot about why my tummy was such a trickster. Why I could take a supplement in the morning and vomit it up WHOLE, along with everything else I’d eaten that day, right before bed. My everlasting depression. And much further down the line, why it was very likely that my bi-polar grandmother ended up suffering from dementia (MTHFR elevates homocysteine, which promotes brain atrophy), as the mutation is passed along like fruitcake. Pun intended.
With the naturopath’s limited knowledge, I started taking methylfolate, the cornerstone of the whole mutation. Because I don’t properly process folate. It’s got to be done for me. And so I started my dose. My mood soared! I was elated. I am healed! Then I utterly tanked, physically and emotionally, because my body could not handle the sudden cascade of detoxification. Back to square one.
So I read more on my own. I learned to start the methlylfolate incrementally. One supplement a week. Then twice a week if it feels right. Then three times. So very slowly. I let my body adjust until I could handle it daily. It was a long time before I felt okay, but I still had problems. An understatement, if ever there was.
I did more research and found the MTHFR protocol created by Dr. Ben Lynch and tinkered with it on my own. A little of this and a little of that. More. Then none. I went dairy and gluten-free for a year. Pretty good, but hard to sustain. Wheat is delicious! And I LOOOOVE cheese. I went vegan for a year and never felt worse. Lectins! Phytic acid! Abdominal pain. Brain fog. More tinkering.
At this point, I am ten years into this game and learned most everything I know on my own. I eat clean meats (grass fed and organic), a whole host of low lectin vegetables (everything peeled and seeded when possible, beans cooked in the instant pot), wee bits of fruits, nuts, and grains. My tummy thanks me.
That’s not all. I take a whole host of supplements, too. I rotate through pro-biotics and magnesium, for digestion, mood elevation, & muscle function. I take a co-enzyme B vitamin supplement, not just methylfolate, to help keep homocysteine levels down and mood up. N-Acetyl Cysteine helps keep my liver clean. DHEA a couple times a week keeps my adrenals and mood up. Vitamin D3 & K2 – sunshine in a bottle. Glutathione – helps my liver and gallbladder process fats (why I used to vomit all the time – the tiniest bit of fat kept me from digesting, no fun at all). Gallbladder Nutrients powder (from Seeking Health) with every meal – to further help my digestion.
It’s a lot, but it keeps me feeling good and as sane as I’m going to be. I take no prescription drugs and no pain killers. I really have never felt as well as I do now. My depression is ever present, but quietly so. I’m not struggling to keep suicidal thoughts at bay – I used to thing about dying ALL THE TIME. I can digest food! I no longer worry every time I eat if I’m going to be able to keep it down.
It’s rather odd, when I think about the shit show that has been my life – abuse, mental illness, endometriosis, migraines, and digestive woes – but I have always felt lucky. I guess I was born with the gift of truly seeing – every great privilege, every joy: the beauty of starlight, kindness, the scent of flowers and pine, music, dogs and cats and birds, the love of the hubster. Especially that.