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Grain-Free Eaters Beware: Too Much Meat on Healing Diets?

Grain-Free Eaters Beware: Too Much Meat on Healing Diets?

A conversation I am finding myself having very often lately with my clients is about Dr. Amy Yasko’s “Three-Legged Stool” of BH4.  BH4 is short for tetrahydrobiopterin. Now that’s a mouthful, right? A good number of my clients come to me after having been on a special diet for a year or more. These people have been on The Specific Carbohydrate Diet, GAPS, or Paleo diets with some success, but their progress has stalled and while some symptoms may have cleared up, such as gut issues and certain behaviors, there are continuing symptoms, such as digestive problems, brain fog, fatigue, flapping, and stimming that may have even increased.  When I hear this kind of thing, I always start to think about ammonia and BH4. And often when we do a little testing, we find that when it comes to the Three-Legged Stool, many of them do not have a leg to stand on.

When clients come to me with a scenario as I explained above, I always recommend testing such as Yasko’s methylation panel or 23andme to look for particular genetics like CBS and MTHFR A1298C, as well as a little biochemical testing, such as a Urine Amino Acids Test, which can be really helpful in this particular situation. In fact, I usually recommend these particular tests before I start with any new client, because if a person has predisposing genetics, or high ammonia, or some of the other markers I look for on these tests, it can really guide us in terms of what foods are helpful and what foods are harmful to them as an individual. In my experience there is no such thing as a “one-size-fits-all” diet, and maintaining stable BH4 levels is one of many reasons for that.

Why is BH4 Important?

BH4 is needed for the development of language. When BH4 is low we can have imbalances in neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which can affect mood, behavior, sleep, attention, and more.  Low BH4 can cause oxidative damage in the body.  Low BH4 can cause mast cell degranulation and the resulting release in histamine.  BH4 has so many functions in the body it is impossible to sum it up in this short article, but these are the most common things I see in my clients with BH4 issues. If you are struggling with any of these issues, low BH4 just may be the problem. 

The Three Legs of BH4

Stable levels of BH4 in the body depend on the stability of all three legs of this stool.

  1. The first leg of the stool is affected by CBS mutations.  Any factor that causes high levels of ammonia in the body wastes BH4 because detoxification of ammonia via the urea cycle uses up BH4.  NOS is another mutation that can exacerbate this situation.  You can see where a high protein diet would be problematic, as it drives the urea cycle harder and wastes BH4. Dr. Amy Yasko tends to recommend a low-protein diet for those with CBS upregulations.
  2. The second leg of the stool is for MTHFR A1298C, which disrupts the recycling of BH4.  This is a very common mutation, and Dr. Amy Yasko has said that her most severe children on the spectrum are often homozygous for A1298C.
  3. The third leg of the stool is for bacteria and metals. Bacteria can harbor aluminum, and aluminum inhibits the key enzyme that synthesizes BH4.  Not only that, but bacteria can produce ammonia. For example, H. pylori produces urease, which converts urea to ammonia, further depleting BH4 by destabilizing the first leg of the stool… 

Final Thoughts

Meat is often used as a “filler” for many people on grain-free diets. Without grains, we can tend to overeat meat. Especially when we are dealing with picky eaters that won’t eat vegetables, or we are avoiding oxalates, salicylates or other compounds we may find problematic in plant foods.

I love meat.  I eat it every day.  To think I used to be a vegetarian! But I am very aware of the fact that if I eat too much meat, I don’t sleep very well.  With my MTHFR A1298C, it is possible that I am not making the serotonin required to make melatonin due to BH4 depletion.

If you are on a healing diet and feeling stuck, don’t be afraid of doing a little testing.  I always tell my clients that testing is their friend!  In fact, I think it is a good idea to do some testing before you choose your diet.  You really don’t want to learn after a year of cooking and high hopes for progress and piles of dirty dishes that the diet caused more problems than it solved, and I talk with people in that situation every day. Targeted testing can be a wonderful complement to a healing diet.

And there you have it – some more practical information to help you Peel Back the Onion Layers. Together we can achieve great health! :)
You can test for many different methylation mutations and health risks and as a very cool bonus learn more about your ancestry through 23andme: Get your 23andMe DNA kit for $99, all additional kits are 20% off.

For More Information: Pathways to Recovery by Dr. Amy Yasko
 



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40 Comments

  1. MamaSita says:

    Thank you so much for this article. It is extremely helpful in pointing at a place where my son and I may be stuck in our recovery.

    One question–does the 23andme test diagnose the CBS issue? If so, where do I look for it? My son and I have both done the test but I do not believe we saw that in the results. Also, I know I’m homozygous for MTHFR A1298C but I’m not sure about my son. Is that also in the 23andme results?

    Thanks again!

  2. I think it’s pretty hard to over-eat on meat though, because our body has natural hormonal signals that tend to stop most people from eating more protein than needed. Even though I’m on a mostly grain free diet I still have a problem getting even enough protein – it’s a daily struggle to get protein in at all my meals. I think the risk of eating too much protein is really pretty low for most people.

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      That might be true for some or even most people but not in the population I work with. Some of my clients come to me on a diet that is very high in meat; some even exist on meat alone.

  3. MamaSita says:

    Okay, ignore my previous comment. I found on 23andme.com where to find these SNPs for me and my son.**

    My son and I are both homozygous for MTHFR A1298C.

    Of the CBS SNPs, we both have the risk allele for all of them. We are both homozygous with rs2298758 which apparently intensifies the affect of the SUOX gene variation rs70573, of which we are both also homozygous. I alone am homozygous for rs1801181.

    My son is indeed on a very low carb, high meat diet (he cannot tolerate high oxalate foods or gluten/dairy/sugars of any kind including fruit; he has been diagnosed with high clostridia (non-dificile) and H. pylori which we have not been able to get rid of.

    My question is, what do I feed him? On top of all these restrictions, he’s also very picky.

    **For others who might want to do this research, I found the rs#s on an Amy Yasko page: http://snpedia.com/index.php/Yasko_Methylation#COMT_Gene

    If you have had the 23andme test done, you can search your raw data for specific SNPs by logging in, clicking on the little gear symbol in the upper left corner, selecting “browse raw data” and then entering the rs# in the SNP search box.

  4. Siobhan says:

    Hi!

    That article was very informative and great food for thought! I would really like to check my family and some of clients for MTHFR A1298C but checked the site and from what I gathered they don’t check it (just MTHFR C677T) – this is where I got that info https://customercare.23andme.com/entries/23069087-Does-the-23andMe-service-include-analysis-of-the-MTHFR-gene-
    Obviously you and MamaSita have had this included in your results – just wondering if you needed to request the A1298C specifically (or have they added it since February when they posted the info in the link above)?
    Many thanks, really appreciate your input, Siobhan

  5. Honestly, no amount of research could tell me to stop eating as much animal protein as I do. I always make sure it’s extra healthy though, wild, free-ranged, grass-fed/finished!! :D

  6. Becca says:

    I recently gave up gluten. I appreciate you sharing this information! While I don’t see myself heading the path of eating too much meat, this is good to know.

    Thanks for sharing at A Humble Bumble :)

  7. I found this post very interesting. I think it’s very important for everyone, regardless of what diet they follow, to be careful how much meat they consume.

  8. Gerald says:

    Hi Dawn! My ability to digest plant foods has improved a little these past 4+ years on SCD/ GAPS, but only a little. After learning about the importance of healthy animal fat, I reduced my meat consumption and increased my animal fats _a lot_. This is what I needed – once again, the _opposite_ of what we’ve all been told all our lives.

    Also, HCl has helped me reduce my meat consumption even further. I believe that’s because I digest it better with the HCl supplements, so I don’t feel like eating as much of it.

    I could go a meal with very little meat, perhaps chicken eggs only and no meat at all, plus a cup of milk kefir for example as another animal product, and I would be OK. But I could not go a meal without _a lot_ of animal fat. If I don’t eat a lot of animal fat, I feel like I haven’t eaten at all, and no amount of animal flesh can make up for that for me.

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Hmmm, Gerald. I wonder if this has to do with your mitochondrial function and your citric acid cycle. If you are not using carbs to make ATP, you will use fat to make your energy.

  9. Debbie says:

    I just tested positive for MTHFR gene mutation A1298C. I found out about the BH4 thing but didn’t really know much about it yet. So it’s really cool I found this article (from Healing with Food Friday).

    I do eat a lot of meat sometimes. I haven’t noticed it affecting me, I will have to pay attention! I just like to eat a lot of everything :).

  10. [...] Grain-Free Eaters Beware: Too Much Meat on Healing Diets? from Peeling Back the Onion Layers. Very informative about some subtle but important issues on healing diets. A must read! [...]

  11. Melissa says:

    You know, as I have moved further away from grains, I have noticed that my GERD has skyrocketed. Really not what was expected. The good news is I have identified a whole slew of foods that were bothering me and I had no idea before! It is really interesting to study nutrition because each of us is so unique.

  12. Great article! As someone who was vegetarian for 10 years, I was always surprised that people were worried about my protein intake and felt like I should be eating meat all day long or else I would be anorexic. Clearly I wasn’t, as I regularly gave blood and my iron levels were always perfect. I think many people, grain-free or not, feel they need way more meat than they do and don’t realize it’s not always good for you.
    Thanks for sharing this on WNWNW, I’ve pinned it :)

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Thanks so much, Danielle! I really believe that everyone is different and we need to respect our differences and not assume that what works for us will work for others.

  13. Jenny says:

    Interesting. We aren’t grain free but I have wondered about diets like this that seem out of balance. Thank you for sharing your valuable information with us at the HomeAcre Hop. We hope you’ll come back again tomorrow.

  14. [...] 2. Grain-Free Eaters Beware: Too Much Meat on Healing Diets? by Peeling Back the Onion Layers [...]

  15. Joyce says:

    I too am a big meat eater, but there have been times I decided to give my body a break. If I go two days without meat I notice my energy level is lower, and I feel kind of lite headed.

    Thanks for sharing on Real Food Fridays, please stop by later tonight and share some more.

    • Dawn Tasher says:

      Thanks for sharing your experience, Joyce! I eat meat at pretty much every meal. But not large quantities. I feel best with some protein at every meal. Balance is good!

  16. Kristin says:

    Very interesting information. I am not on any of those diets myself, but have heard of a lot of people having success with weight loss from them. I would love for you to link this up at a Tips and Tricks Tuesdays where we share healthy living advice – I think a lot of readers would find it interesting. Thanks!

  17. Kris says:

    Wow, this is both amazing and overwhelming. I am going to have to sit down tonight and re-read it all and dig deeper into your site!
    Visiting from Simply Natural Saturdays…

  18. Kristin says:

    Thanks so much for linking up this great info at Tips and Tricks Tuesday!

  19. I found this article very interesting. I have just starred the Herbal Life diet but I’m having a hard time sticking to two shakes a day and no carbs. I was a carb addict and love my snacks at night–when the pounds pile up. I’m hoping after I reach my goal weight that I will be able to switch to a high protein, low carb diet and maintain my weight.
    But so far, I feel good and sleep better than before.
    Janis

  20. I just sent in my 23&Me!!! I am so excited to get the results back. My mom did it a few weeks ago, it was so interesting!

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