I don’t eat bone broth, fermented foods, collagen, or take glutamine or folate/5-MTHF supplements. WHAT?! Many of you may be surprised given that bone broth, fermented foods, and glutamine are very popular in both the gut healing arena and chronic illness world. Folate (or 5-MTHF, methylfolate supplement) has also been hyped up a lot recently as a helpful supplement to combat mutations on the MTHFR gene and it’s sister genes.
I’ve never liked bone broth or fermented foods and both have always bothered my stomach rather then helped it. I kept trying to eat those foods because everyone said I should to heal my gut. I’d force bone broth down and attempt bites at sauerkraut on occasion. I then started added hydrolyzed collagen to my smoothies, baked goods, or tea. It never felt right and it certainly didn’t make me feel good.
Then, the other week, I had my genetics properly and thoroughly analyzed by a nutrigenomics specialist and some serious light was shed! I should always know to go with my gut because it has yet to let me down…
Woah woah woah, let’s back up a little, shall we? Let me drop some knowledge. This is about to get a bit scientific, but I’m going to try and keep it as simple and straightforward as I can. There are four similar sounding words I need you to keep straight first. They are:
Glutamate is essentially the same thing as glutamic acid, for your reference and the purpose of this post, so in this post I’ll just be using the word glutamate. Glutamine is a PRE-CURSOR to glutamate. Let’s just worry about remembering those two for now, glutamine vs glutamate, okay? And glutathione is an anti-oxidant that helps with detoxification and inflammation. Many of you probably already know what glutathione is.
Glutamate is a neurotransmitter. An excitatory one. It’s VERY important for proper brain function and isn’t something to hate on… unless in excess. Glutamate is also praised for it’s ability to help with healing in the body, including the gut. Glutamate is the pre-cursor to GABA which is an inhibitory neurotransmitter. GABA can then be recycled to glutamate. Essentially, glutamate and GABA balance each other out (one excites, one calms). Imbalances in the body (due to many things, which we will get into in a moment) can cause imbalances in glutamate vs. GABA, leading to high glutamate levels.
High glutamate levels can cause a number of issues from neurological disorders, aversions to certain clothing (fabrics and feels), paranoia, chronic fatigue, and more. Although glutamine helps produce glutathione, increased glutamate can put a demand on glutathione, reducing glutathione levels in the body which in turn increases inflammation. Sounds fun, huh?
Ever heard of glutamate? Probably, it’s a supplement, it’s found in foods, and it’s the component of MSG. MSG= monosodium GLUTAMATE. Many processed foods contain free glutamate. Many health foods contain bound glutamate because it is an essential amino acid. We do need it for our health! Bound glutamate tends to be good because your body is able to digest it slowly and use it properly. We need all 20 amino acids (proteins) in our diet and in meals (meat contains all 20, vegans need to eat rice WITH beans to get them all at once), but consuming just one, and in excess, can cause a lot of issues. Gluten and casein also contain high levels of glutamate, another reason to cut gluten and dairy from your diet.
Well, glutamine is a pre-cursor to glutamate, like we mentioned above. We all know how bad MSG and other processed foods are (is it now making sense why MSG has been linked to neurological disorders?). But, you probably didn’t know glutamine supplements and natural, even healthy, foods high in glutamine or glutamate can cause issues. So what foods are high in glutamine? Bone broth, fermented foods, collagen supplements… 3 foods that are all the rage in the paleo and gut healing community! Many doctors also prescribe glutamine supplements on top of all that for gut healing, not surprisingly given what I said above about it’s ability to convert to glutamate and accelerate healing. I AM NOT SAYING THESE FOODS ARE BAD! But in excess and for those susceptible to glutamate issues, they are. My genetics make me highly susceptible to glutamate uptake and not recycling it into GABA properly.
Like I said, glutamine rich foods and supplements are popular in the gut healing community, but if you have leaky gut then this allows glutamine to leak into the blood stream, cross the blood-brain barrier, and turn into glutamate… uhh?! You’re essentially just dumping this excitatory neurotransmitter into your poor little brain and it soon becomes toxic leading to all the negative consequences I mentioned above. That’s a real problem isn’t it?
So how does folate fit into this mix? Folate, also known as B-9, can increase glutamate and it also helps convert another amino acid into glutamate. So, you’re taking a folate or 5-MTHF supplement to help with your MTHFR mutation, you’re downing bone broth and fermented foods to help heal your gut, and maybe you added a glutamine supplement to it all, as well. All of this increases the pool of FREE GLUTAMATE in your body. Ay carumba! Are you feeling like crap yet?
One more thing about folate and glutamate, both stimulate mTOR. mTOR is the process in your body that creates new cells while autophagy is the cleaning up of old, dead or bad cells (including viral cells, bad bacteria, etc). These phases can’t be on at the same time. Either mTOR is on or autophagy is on. If mTOR is constantly on, then your body isn’t cleaning up any of the bad guys and your left with all those viral, bacterial, and dead cells sitting in your system! Talk about NOT healing…
Are you taking all the steps you think you’re supposed to be taking to help heal your gut and body yet still feeling bad or even worse? This could be why. Especially the folate supplementation issue. Many doctors see MTHFR, MTRR or another sister mutation and immediately think METHYLFOLATE SUPPLEMENT NOW! Without looking at or knowing about other genetic issues a person may have that don’t allow them to use folate properly. That’s my issue, but I’m not going to get into all the genetic mutation issues related to folate in this post. I’m just going to leave things where they are for now and hopefully you’ll take my word on it (I mean don’t, do your research, but for now know that I have ;)). And don’t blame your doctor right away, genetics are very complicated and much of this is just coming to light.
I think this is a very important topic to share about given the popularity of the foods and supplements mentioned in this post and the lengths many of us go to find healing. Healing, especially for those chronically ill with something like Lyme disease, can be EXTREMELY complex. I know I just added another layer to the onion, but your genetics play a paramount role in both your illness and health. They aren’t something to be ignored. Yes, we can actually alter gene expression but you need to know what genetic issues your dealing with first to either have your genes express in a positive manner or know how to compensate for the bad ones.
Be sure to talk with your doctor or a trained genetic specialist (I suggest a nutrigenomics specialist who understands all the genes related to gut and detox) to find out what genetic issues you may be having and how to address them. Remember, I am not a doctor. I am simply sharing my experience and knowledge that I gain along my healing journey.
My knowledge from biochemistry classes in college
My nutrigenomics specialist