For most of my life I’ve struggled with insomnia, fatigue and depression. As a child it was milder, but noticeable. I love being outside and being active, but never quite had the energy to do as much as I wanted to do. As I’ve gotten older it has gotten worse. For many years friends and family have said to me, “Why are you having so many health issues when you eat healthier than anyone I know?” In 2002 I was diagnosed with gluten, dairy, soy and egg intolerance. Grain and sugar intolerance made themselves known shortly after, so I’ve been eating a super clean diet for years. I don’t cheat on my diet because I hate the symptoms I have if I do. I’m very motivated and disciplined in this area. But though my diet is very clean, I’ve still had major trouble with insomnia, fatigue and depression. I’ve tried so many doctors, research, supplements, diets and nothing seemed to break this vicious cycle.
After my 3rd baby was born in 2008 I read a book about the raw diet. It sold me, and my husband, on that way of eating, so we began a new diet venture. We started with green smoothies, which immediately helped me gain energy and sleep better. I also had a lot less moodiness. I felt calm and more patient. Soon I was eating a totally raw diet and lost way too much weight because I was still breast feeding. It was a bad time to go completely raw, but who knew?
Anyhow, the raw diet only lasted about 6 months and then I began to add in some cooked food and a little bit of meat because my stomach was killing me and I was super emotional. Adding some cooked foods really helped. I also noticed that I couldn’t tolerate any grains at that point. That was one of the reasons why I felt a stomach ache all those years that I was just eating gluten free. It wasn’t just the gluten, it was all grains. Going raw helped me to see that, and I’m so grateful for discovering that piece of the puzzle.
Sugar was also a bother, as it caused me to have phlegm and itching, so I cut that out, too. Fastforward to 2009 and I begin to have the most severe insomnia ever! I went to my naturopath and he did a blood panel, only to discover that I was very low in B12, Vitamin D and iron. The rest of the results were excellent! So, he put me on a protocol for those things, but sadly I had a terrible reaction to all of them. I got worse!
So off to another doctor. This time it was a traditional MD. He also did a blood panel and made the same diagnosis as the naturopath. Again, he put me on iron, vitamin D and B12. Same senario, different doctor, same bad reactions! My symptoms were itching, heart palpitations, irritability, insomnia and diarrhea! Seriously? That again? Why always those symptoms? Neither doctor had any idea what to do, so I began to research. I learned a lot in my research, but it took a long time to make any headway. I was reacting to everything I tried for energy and sleep. All I took was the typical stuff like minerals at bedtime or melatonin or 5-HTP. Nothing was working, and everything was making me sicker.
In 2013 I went to another naturopath because the fatigue and mental clarity was spiraling downward from all the insomnia. He did a stool panel, blood panel, adrenal and neurotransmitter test. The blood work was the same. All the numbers looked great except the vitamin D, B12 and iron. I also had a parasite and elevated glutamate, a neurotransmitter that has something to do with sleep. His recommendations were spot on for most people, but I still had a terrible reaction to everything he prescribed. I continued to get worse. Nothing was working. He also couldn’t understand why I wasn’t able to take the vitamin D, iron and B12.
Through my research I learned that I needed magnesium to process the vitamin D. Seems simple enough that those three doctors could’ve told me that, but none of them did. I bought some Natural Calm and it worked like a charm for the vitamin D. Wow! Finally some headway. But still a long way to go.
When I began to try the iron and b12 again I literally took a fraction of the dose and slept a little bit better. However, I began to have major chest pain. I had an EKG done and it was normal. Calcium and Potassium numbers also normal. The chest pain was scary and didn’t go away until I stopped taking the iron and B12. Even at that tiny dose it caused a major problem. Finally the naturopath recommended that I take a DNA test from 23andme.com to see if I had something called MTHFR. (Read this article to learn about MTHFR). He didn’t tell me much about it, but just said it was fairly common and could be the reason for my inability to tolerate the things I needed the most.
I ordered the test for $99. It was an easy test where I had to spit into a small tube and then ship it back to them. In a few weeks my results came back and as it turned out the doctor was right. I had 10 DNA mutations! Overwhelmed and scared I began more research because he wasn’t sure how to treat me since I was so reactive to supplements. What I noticed was that all the supplements for the MTHFR mutation had astronomical doses of B12 and Methylfolate. I knew I couldn’t handle those doses, so I searched for something with a tiny dose. In my searching I found something called Intrinsic Factor. As it turns out intrinsic factor is made in our guts for vitamin B12 absorption. Some people don’t make enough and need to supplement with it. I found a product that contained Intrinsic Factor with B12 and methylfolate. This time I didn’t have some of the bad symptoms as before from the B12, which were excessive bruising, nervousness, insomnia, irritability and diarrhea.
More prayer and research and I found that TMG (trimethylglycine) was frequently used with B12 and methylfolate. When I looked it up I learned that TMG is for cardiovascular health and digestion (great for my gallbladder situation since I had it removed at age 27). I immediately picked some up and within 30 minutes of taking it all my chest pain was gone! So with the magnesium at night and the intrinsic factor and TMG during the day I could tolerate the vitamin D, B12 and Iron without bad side effects. I began to gain some energy and joy, but was still having insomnia.
In 2002 when I was diagnosed with gluten, dairy, soy and egg intolerance I’d had an adrenal stress test done and was given a supplement called Seriphos for the elevated cortisol that was causing so much of the insomnia. In my last adrenal test in 2013 I still had some cortisol issues so I decided to try the Seriphos again. This was a huge help with the insomnia. I really began to sleep almost through the night, but now I began to be extremely fatigued beyond what I had ever experienced. I also lost all libido and was more depressed. I found a great naturopath by word of mouth, Dr. Phillip Arnone BS, DC, DABCI, who immediately ordered a hormone panel. From all the insomnia my adrenals had gotten extremely fatigued and as a result, four of my hormones plummeted. They were cortisol, estrodial, DHEA and testosterone.
We decided to treat the testosterone first because it was the lowest number on the test. I immediately felt better and began digesting better and sleeping through the night. I was, however, having major fatigue in the afternoons. We then added some progesterone and estriol, which helped as well. Taking DHEA made me really sick, so I stayed away from that. After 4 months of treatment my hormones got to an optimal level and I’ve been able to go off all the treatment except a tiny dose of progesterone.
After all of that I was still struggling with fatigue and a bit of insomnia. Recently I read about using beef gelatin to help regulate hormones, heal the gut and sleep better. I tried it and sure enough I sleep better with it. Still struggled with fatigue, however.
Finally I read about an adrenal cocktail on a website that I found through my instagram, www.gingernewtrition.com. This adrenal cocktail has been a huge breakthrough for me. I’ve been drinking a modified version of the adrenal cocktail on her site and have had more energy than I’ve had in years. I haven’t had any afternoon crashing since drinking it. Also, within 2 weeks my progesterone began to balance out and I’m now living without progesterone therapy and feeling great. Adrenals regulate hormones, so this makes perfect sense that the progesterone would balance out while healing the adrenals.
Here’s the recipe I’m using for the adrenal cocktail:
4 oz. fresh squeezed orange juice
4 oz. plain, unsweetened coconut water, or 2 T. raw cream or canned coconut milk, or 1/4 t. cream of tartar (choose which method best fits your diet)
1/4 tsp Himalayan Pink Sea Salt
1 teaspoon – 1 T. grass-fed beef gelatin or collagen
I’m using coconut water instead of the coconut milk because without a gallbladder I can’t digest coconut milk. It goes right through me. It’s recommended that you drink the adrenal cocktail an hour before or after food. You can read more about it on gingernewtrition.com.
Also, if you are struggling with any of these same issues I highly recommend you get tested for MTHFR and find a good physician to help you with proper treatment. My protocol is very specific to my needs so I’m not recommending that my readers take exactly what I take. I believe this article will encourage someone with similar issues and lead them to get the right kind of help. I’m not a doctor and do not aim to treat anyone. Everyone is different and some people, like myself, cannot tolerate the high doses of B12 and methylfolate that most doctors recommend. Dr. Ben Lynch at www.mthfr.net has a lot of information on his site about how to proceed with low doses at first to see how you react to the treatment. It can be dangerous if you don’t start low and slow. Some people have experienced major side effects from taking the wrong dose at the wrong time, like seizures, so please be careful. Also, since I still drink a 16 oz. green smoothie every day I don’t need the high doses of methylfolate because I’m already getting a lot of folate from the smoothies, so if you’re not drinking green smoothies, you’ll, more than likely, need more methylfolate than me.
Another very important thing to share about getting the insomnia under control was that I had a heavy metal hair test done in February. For some reason I have very high Bismuth, but from an unknown source. As soon as I started on the Chelex supplement I began having more energy and sleeping through the night. I’ve tried skipping it and if I do, I end up waking for a couple of hours. I also feel more calm and joyful on it. It’s been a huge blessing.
My daily protocol is very specific to me and isn’t perfected, yet. But I have made huge progress with my health in the last year. I take tiny doses of some things and the recommended serving of others. I never start with the full dose of anything since I’m so reactive, and I find that I save myself from major side effects proceeding slowly this way.
In case you’re interested, here’s my current protocol (it changes as things get better and I adjust accordingly).
AM (I take these with my tea or lemon water)
16 oz lemon water or white, green or oolong tea (I hydrate First Thing in the morning, Super important for detoxification!)
10 drops Concentrace
2 Chelex by Xymogen
2 teaspoons Natural Calm
2 Kirkman Taurine 325mg caps (helps me sleep and helps digest fat since I don’t have a gallbladder)
I know it seems like a lot of supplements, but each one of these play a very important role in keeping me in balance. When I take one out of the picture, I end up with very negative consequences and I begin to spiral downward quickly. This is typical for those with MTHFR. Chronic illness isn’t a quick, one pill fix. It involves a lot of different systems in the body that work synergistically to keep things in balance. I’m very happy to share this success with you and hope you find help in what I’ve shared.
The beginning of wisdom is this: Get wisdom. Though it cost all you have, get understanding. Proverbs 4:7