I made a massive diet change yesterday, replacing 80 to 90% of my diet – a change that frightened me as much or more than going vegan. It began Saturday night with a few hours of research and cross-referencing of the low-sulfur/thiol food list and the high-folate food lists. Sunday morning continued with two hours of shopping at Whole Foods and Vitamin Cottage, followed by a nap and then 3 to 4 hours of cooking followed by near total exhaustion.
You’ll see the product of my work in the photo at the right which was my breakfast this morning. For someone who has been eating large quantities of vegetables for many many years, this is an enormous challenge because the food list I am working with is way too short.
Now, here’s how I got here.
- I don’t have even the slightest doubt that I have mercury and other heavy metal toxicity.
- Mercury is known to cause intolerance of thiol containing foods in which my diet was very heavy for many years.
- Mercury is hypothesized to block the methylation cycle causing functional B-12 deficiency.
- B-12 deficiency is well known to cause fatigue, concentration difficulties, and memory impairment (among lots of other bad things) which I have in spades.
- Overcoming methylation dysfunction is aided by avoiding both folic acid supplements and high-folate foods.
- At the time that I became very sick in 2007, I was eating extraordinary quantities of broccoli, a very high sulfur food. As much as 4 to 5 pounds a day.
- I stopped eating broccoli long ago but continued eating a very high sulfur diet including lentils almost around-the-clock.
- There is a substantial overlap between the high-folate food list and high-sulfur food list, so I combined them to create my own elimination list.
What exactly does Andy Cutler say about thiols?
Sulfur is an atom in many food molecules. Sometimes it is in the form of a thiol, and sometimes in another form that can be converted to a thiol. Sulfate and sulfite are the only forms that seems not to convert to a thiol. People with too many thiols running around stir up their heavy metal burdens and are in essence more poisoned than they have to be given the amount of metal present. High thiols also activate the allergic part of the immune system. Glutathione is one of the body’s major thiol containing molecules.
Not wanting to be more poisoned than I need to be, I took the plunge! I’m trying the low-sulfur and methylation diet at the same time. There may even be some scientific basis for this according to METHIONINE AND METHYLATION: CHICKEN OR THE EGG:
First, there’s this:
Methyl group production in the methionine cycle is intimately linked to other portions of the system, namely to folate and sulfate metabolism. These pathways cannot be isolated from one another. They supply each other with substrates and work together like gears, so if one cycle isn’t moving in a progressive direction, the other two may not be either.
And then concerning sulfate metabolism:
Excess sulfur generates excess sulfur breakdown products like hydrogen sulfide, sulfite and other toxic molecules. It can also result in reduced glutathione production because of unbalanced and non-optimal function of the transsulfuration pathway. Sulfur is able to directly activate the stress/cortisol response that can lead to elevations in adrenaline and depletion of dopamine and norepinephrine. A constant state of fight or flight produces sympathetic versus parasympathetic overload and a wide range of secondary effects in the body, including changes in the magnesium/calcium ratio, decreased levels of serotonin and dopamine, effects on the methionine cycle via BHMT pathway substrate levels, changes in GABA/glutamate balance, as well as potentially depleting important glucose metabolizing enzymes and causing blood sugar fluctuations.
And ultimately concerning sulfate metabolism and detoxification of heavy metals:
When functioning optimally, the transsulfuration pathway generates glutathione (GSH). GSH is the body’s main antioxidant and heavy metal detoxification agent.
My summary: Methylation and transsulferation work together — so excess dietary sulfur can interfere with methylation. Excess dietary sulfur also creates toxic molecules, disrupts sugar control and neurotransmitter production and may interfere with heavy metal detoxification. Very, very bad!
In order to make this combined elimination diet work, I’m being forced to eat foods with a higher glycemic index than I like. Well, I actually like high-glycemic foods but have avoided them for years because of my poor sugar control. So, now I’m eating yams, spaghetti squash and acorn squash for example. The easy way to use this list is to eat lots of meat which I like. The challenge for me is to include enough vegetables to stay healthy (ha ha). Note, a low-sulfur diet has also been used by others to fight inflammation.
What I fear the most about this diet is the lack of foods I can easily use for snacking. I need to snack all the time in between meals to keep my energy up and brain functioning. But without beans or nuts, I’m not sure what to do. Coconut flakes are the only packaged food on the list that is easy to make snacks with, but I need something to combine with it to replace seeds and nuts…
One thing I don’t understand yet is how the low sulfur list was put together…
Because of the challenges of this diet and because of the changes I’ve made to supplements, I felt that I should do an easy round this week, so I am doing DMSA-only at four hour intervals.
Here’s what I’m eating now – listed as combinations that I enjoy:
- bacon and spaghetti squash
- acorn squash and butter
- yams covered with cinnamon and mixed with coconut flakes
- chicken thighs with skin and little chunks of ginger
- artichoke hearts
- beef brisket
- roasted turkey
- diced zucchini sautéed in butter with sweet corn
- lamb chops
- ground turkey
- coconut flakes mixed with cinnamon and cayenne pepper
That’s about it, I don’t have much variety and hope to add a couple more things. Definitely will try butternut squash soon.
Here are the relevant lists I’m working with: