This post could also be titled, “How planning to run a marathon may have saved my life.” And by saving my life, I mean literally not figuratively. I debated whether to even share this publicly, but this IS a part of my journey–a part of the distance that I will need to travel.
Last week I got results from my pre-marathon blood screening back. Included in that was a test for a gene mutation which my mother carries and her doctors think directly contributed to her inexplicable stroke at 52. I tested positive for two copies. It’s confirmed — I’m a mutant. This type of mutation doesn’t give me super powers, though. I won’t be sporting a uni-tard and flying around the city fighting crime any time soon. There is no power with my mutation, but there IS great responsibility.
What I have is a MTHFR mutation. Without boring you with the science, what this basically means is that my body isn’t able properly perform an essential process called methylation which my body uses to clear all kinds of nasties including metals, histamines, and other toxins like chemicals. Wait, back up… Histamines? You mean those things that cause allergic reactions?! Yes, those things. Those little meanies that I have been fighting for the past several years. Additionally, this going unchecked can lead to all kinds of horribly scary conditions–heart attack, stroke (blood clots), Alzheimer’s, dementia, breast cancer, hypothyroidism and the list goes on–many of which my family members have been diagnosed with or passed from. Eek. It can also cause many of my symptoms some of which I have had most of my life, others that have made me really miserable for the past few years. Things like chronically low b12, chronic fatigue, reactions to gluten and dairy, reactions to chemicals like in cleaners and soaps, slow recovery and increased injury from intense exercise, brain fog, insomnia, IBS, high stress, premature greying, and the list continues but I won’t bore you.
So what does this mean? Well, in terms of lifestyle changes, not much for me. An organic, paleo diet is recommended. I will have to watch out for foods with added folic acid (like big brand orange juice) as my body can’t process it. I will have to continue to be conscious of chemicals in my environment as my body has trouble clearing toxins from my system. (Quitting hair coloring and not wearing make-up most of the time was a smart decision!) Since my body has trouble ridding itself of heavy metals, I may need to do detoxes to help it out. I will likely need to practically eliminate any alcohol consumption. Sleep, sun, and moderate exercise are all encouraged. (Oh darn!) As are saunas and massages which help remove toxins and stimulate that methylation process. (Double darn!) All of this is stuff excluding the saunas and massages I am pretty much already doing so it’s not really that big of a lifestyle change. Additionally, based on my variation, I will likely be put on an active form of folate and B12 since my body can’t create those. Once my body receives those active forms my methylation should improve and my body will start to clear some of my built up nasties. Getting the dosage correct can be tricky so that may take a little time and there is chance I will feel pretty crappy during that time period as my body starts to try to clear years of built up toxins.
But what does this mean for my running? I can’t find much online, but everything I have found points to moderate exercise being okay but “intense exercise like marathon running” not being okay. I’m certainly not going to make any decisions based on Dr. Google, though! I will be discussing this with my doctors starting next week when I visit a hematologist to discuss proper supplementation. I’m hoping the fact that I don’t plan to BQ or even really push my pace in the race (I’m just aiming to finish) will mean it will be okay. Regardless of what happens, though, my health comes first.
So that’s it, in a nutshell. I’m relieved to have discovered what could be the cause of many of my health problems and that relief may be around the corner. I’m a little scared about the bigger things this mutation can cause. But mostly, I’m grateful. I’m grateful that because of this thing I love (running), I may be able to change my fate. I may be able to avoid some of the things that have plagued my family. I may be able to get relief from symptoms that I have been dealing with for most of my life. So let’s be very clear here: This isn’t a pity party, this is a moment of gratitude.
I will update this blog in regards to how this mutation affects my running and other adventures. As I said before, this is now a part of the distance I will need to travel. Challenge accepted.