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