Homophobia is defined as a ‘dislike of or prejudice against homosexual people.’  I would rather you turn your attention to a dislike or prejudice of another word with the ‘homo’ prefix in it…Homocysteine.  If you want to change your future health outcomes, I would encourage you to create homophobia for homocysteine. 

I was delivering a recent workshop on the Thyroid and I was asked, “if you could only test for one value, what would it be?”  This was difficult to answer as your lab values interconnect so much and to base anything on one value is lazy and ignorant.  But to play the game with the audience member, I said I would test for homocysteine, not an analyte directly used to measure thyroid function.

Here’s why.

Homocysteine, when in a nice range of 4 – 8 umol/L  is a good thing.  This range is definitely tighter than what you see on a standard lab panel of 0 – 15 umol/L.  Why do I like a tighter range?  Because of what homocysteine indicates and contributes to when it’s elevated and I don’t want to wait until it’s outside the ‘normal’ ranges before action is taken.

homocysteine_metabolism

 

Homocysteine is actually a middle step in the formation of the amino acid cysteine, which is a precursor of one of the most power antioxidants in your body in glutathione so to be low is a bad thing as well.  Homocysteine is actually a good thing.  But often times too much of a good thing has the opposite desired effects.  

Homocysteine is one of those scenarios but takes it up a level too.  Homocysteine has been called the single best indicator of your longevity and quality of life.  It’s not just an indicator of many disease processes like cardio-vascular disease, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, Auto-Immune disease, diabetes, Hypothyroid, Osteoporosis, liver disease, hormone imbalance, autism, and anemia, to name a few, but a massive contributor to them.

One of the biggest reasons it contributes to virtually any chronic illness is that elevations can indicate a defect in a process called methylation.  Methylation is one of the top biochemical reactions in the body.  The roles of methylation aid in protecting DNA translation, hormonal control, neurotransmitter regulation, liver detoxification, and nutrient activation.

Those methylation defects may be due to what is known as Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms (SNPs).  Think of these SNPs (snips) as you would reading this post.  You could come across a word that had a single wrong letter that was written backwards or a different letter all together.  You may just keep reading and know exactly what I meant and it wouldn’t change the meaning or intent of the word.

Or maybe you’re someone that gets irate with typos and you won’t even finish reading this post due to that one typo and discredit all intent and value that the post has to offer.  You know whom you are.

SNPs can affect people in either manner.  You may already be familiar with SNPs like MTHFR or CBS.  If you’re not, it’s this reason I would test homocysteine anytime lab work is done.  It’s a great indication of those SNPs that may affect how you express health or illness now or later in life without testing for the specifics.

What’s the greatest influence on whether you express specific SNPs or succumb to homocysteine?  Your lifestyle choices.  Homocysteine was discovered back in the 1960’s and the enormous risk it can play into cardiovascular disease.

I speculate that because the drug companies couldn’t make a drug to lower it, homocysteine never made it to your TV screen with a message of ‘Ask your doctor if drug company kickbacks are right for you.’  Instead cholesterol was labeled the villain and statins took over raking in billions for the manufacturers, leaving homocysteine high and dry, but more importantly your health outcomes.

Why is homocysteine so dangerous when elevated?  You remember the circus guy that swallows swords?  Imagine if he ate a million little razor blades and they were left free to slice and dice your arteries.  As injury occurs, inflammation ensues.  As a repair mechanism, the liver pumps out cholesterol to be carried by LDL particles.  The cholesterol patches up the injuries in the form of a scab, or plaque since we’re talking about your arteries.

This is where cholesterol gets a bad reputation.  It’s just doing its God given role of repair.  Our healthcare system says this is stupid since all these clogged arteries are filled with cholesterol plaques and the war on fat ensued back in the late 1970’s.  Now, 40 years later, the government is looking to reverse its stance on dietary cholesterol.  Oops!  Maybe we were wrong about the cause of heart disease.

Before your doctor sends you in to have your TSH measured or your cholesterol calculated, insist on including your homocysteine levels be collected.  All your other ailments just may have a route in the damaging effects of high homocysteine.

If your doctor doesn’t express homophobia for homocysteine, it’s probably time to find a new one.  If he asks you why you want that tested?  Just answer him with a question.  “Why wouldn’t you want that tested?”  It might freak him out that you know something he doesn’t know and cave under the pressure of feeling stupid.

If all else fails, just shed some tears.  Crying seems to get you anything you want.  At least my 3 old thinks so, since he hasn’t let up after how many times we tell him ‘no.’  You have questions, shoot them my way.  You have comments?  Shoot them below.  You have friends and relatives with chronic health issues, share this post with them.

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