Dec 12

Holy MTHFR!

If I say MTHFR, then Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase are the two words that pop into your brain, right? No? Well, hopefully after reading this, you’ll see more than that swear word that caught your attention.

If I next mention bipolar struggles, rapid mood swings, depression, anxiety, heart disease, strokes, macular degeneration, miscarriages – and any of these issues hit home for you, then read on, because you might just want to know about MethyleneTetraHydroFolate Reductase – better known by its abbreviation – MTHFR.

MTHFR is a gene and like all genes, it acts as a light switch – turning on or turning off various body processes. In this case, MTHFR takes folate (vitamin B9) and methylates (converts) it into methylfolate (5-methylTHF). Hardly seems like a big deal, does it? Yet, if you belong to an autism, Pandas, Lyme or chronic fatigue group, you’ve probably noticed a big buzz around this thing called methylation. While the past decade has seen MTHFR studied in terms of cardiovascular disease and cancer, it turns out it might also be a very big deal for those raising kids with developmental, neurological or behavioral symptoms and for those fighting chronic infections.

Methylwhat?

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Jan 30

The Label of Mental Illness

Hello my name is stickerI have diabetes. I’m an alcoholic. I have cancer. I’m bi-polar.

A label can speak volumes. We use them all the time. But why do you have diabetes but you are an alcoholic? Why do you have cancer but you are bi-polar? All four are physical diseases. Yet the diseases that impact our below-the-skull body are things we unwillingly have while the diseases that affect our minds are things we are. Implicitly, a disease that attacks your tissues is beyond our control, while a disease that influences our thoughts and actions is somehow a deliberate choice; a part of our essence, as if we’ve decided to have mood swings for the fun of it or could control our inattentiveness if only we wanted to badly enough.

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Sep 25

Ever Heard of P.A.N.D.A.S.?

I’d never heard specifically about P.A.N.D.A.S. (an annoyingly cute acronym for Psychiatric and Neurologic Disorders Associated with Strep) until Adrienne Ehlert Bashista posted  this article from Psychology Today on the Easy to Love But Hard to Raise Facebook page.

The article suggests that infections by bacteria of the Streptococcus family may initiate or exacerbate predispositions for many disorders that we currently understand poorly, including Tourette’s syndrome, tic disorders, OCD, generalized anxiety disorder, ADHD, and anorexia nervosa. Possible connections to lupus, fibromyalgia, and rheumatoid arthritis are also being studied.

As often seems to occur, researchers in other countries have been trying to establish links for over a decade and the information is now trickling in to the U.S. medical community, however slowly.

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Sep 23

Guest Post: Passing it Along

This blog post is by Robbi Nester, a contributor to Easy to Love but Hard to Raise. Robbi and I recently shared a couple of e-mails about the genetics of ETL kids – how, if you were raised in a dysfunctional family, possibly due to the impact of genetic neuro-atypicalities, you are sometimes forced to relive those same patterns if your child(ren) have been impacted by these same challenges.

Here’s Robbi’s post:

from flickr user Nina Matthews PhotographyOne day a few years ago while cleaning out his garage, my uncle Bill found a box of old negatives. Having no idea what they contained and being of a curious frame of mind, he bought a photo-scanner on E-bay for a few dollars, and discovered perhaps the only surviving pictures of his and my father’s maternal grand-parents. To my knowledge, my grandmother only very rarely spoke of her parents or the rest of her family, and kept no actual pictures of them, though there must once have been pictures for these negatives to have survived.

Out of the shadows emerged the outlines of a history: in the picture, my fierce-eyed great-grandfather challenges the camera, grasping a chicken by the throat as though suggesting that this is the fate awaiting anyone who crosses him.

My petite great-grandmother, who so resembles my own grandmother, except for the earlier woman’s much more vulnerable expression, lounges on a hammock. To this day, I don’t even know her name for certain.

Indeed, my entire family’s history, at least on my father’s side, is shrouded in mystery. This is because sometime after my grandmother came to the United Statesfrom Russia in the first decade of the 20th century at the age of 12, she effectively wiped out all traces of her former life, including her original surname, family ties, and roots in the old country. In an extreme effort to escape what was to all appearances a traumatic and miserable childhood, she became an entirely different person, one I knew only as Jenny Ketler, the name she took on as an adult, after marrying her second husband, Robert Ketler.

I didn’t think much about this lost history until the birth of my son, Jeremy, named for my deceased grandmother. But then, shortly after his birth, I spoke with my uncle Sidney, the eldest of the children of that generation. He asked me why I had named my son Jeremy. When I replied I had named him after my grandmother, Jenny, he told me that her name had actually been Velma. That’s when I realized that there were many dark corners in my own family I had no idea existed.

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