Today we have Dr. Amy Yasko and she’s the owner of Holistic Health International, which is based on her protocol, the Yasko protocol, which dives into the methylation cycle. And, she believes that this personal based approach helps a multiple range of health conditions, including chronic Lyme disease.
The first question I guess I have for you is if you could tell us what MTHFR is and how you got into studying this and being an expert in this field.
The Methylation Pathway Explained
Dr. Amy: Well, first of all, I want to thank you for the opportunity to share some information about methylation with the Lyme community, because I do agree with you many people who have Lyme, as well as other chronic illnesses have imbalances in this pathway. One of the main things I’d like to get across to you as well as your listeners are it’s not just about MTHFR. I like to think of the methylation pathway as almost as if you had two gears that drive each other in opposite directions and there are various different components at all the different spots on those gears, almost like the hours on a clock. And so MTHFR is one position on one of the gears and if it’s not functioning properly… If you think about the teeth and the gear, if one of the spots isn’t functioning then the gears are stuck, they can’t move. And, we want these gears to be moving so that we can generate methyl groups and get rid of things like glutamate and reduce things like homocysteine so that our systems function properly.
Dr. Amy: Methylation is also very important for your immune system and so if your immune system isn’t functioning ideally it sets up a predisposing scenario where you will be more susceptible to various illnesses and chronic situations. And, I always say, “It’s a marathon, it’s not a sprint.” Whatever is going on in your system didn’t begin overnight and we’re not going to change it overnight. You’ll have to kind of take your time like we did trying to set up the Zoom and the video and realize everything doesn’t work perfectly at square one and just sort of settle in for the long haul to get from point A to point B.
Mimi: Right. No, it’s very true. And, how did you get involved with focusing in on this?
Dr. Amy: For years, I was more classically trained. I was at Albany Medical College, I was at Yale, Strong Memorial, the Cancer Center and then I spent 15 years in biotechnology. And, when I moved to Bethel, Maine which is such a peaceful, calm, spiritual place, we have 2,400 people in town and the population hasn’t changed since the late 1800s. I realized there were natural ways to approach the same systems I had been looking at with more classical approaches or with biotechnology. And so that was when I went back and got additional degrees in natural supplements and herbs and I started working with people in town and having consults for free. I just offered my services to try to give back to this amazing community I live in. And, over time I began working with more and more adults with chronic illness, as well as children with autism.
Genetic Imbalances Leading To Chronic Disease
And then I began to look at what were the underlying genetic imbalances that were perhaps creating predisposing conditions for the range of situations I was looking at and methylation sits right at the center. And, when I talk about those gears, what feeds in from the very top is actually a glutamate. And, one of the key things that I look at in my program, the first thing is to reduce the excess glutamate so that you’re not overexciting the nerves in your system. And so if you think about it, if glutamate feeds in the top and your gears aren’t working properly you’re not getting rid of the excess glutamate and so at square one, you’re overexciting your nerves to death. And so that’s why methylation, because it’s an overriding principle for everything I’ve been looking at, whether it’s adults with Lyme, whether it’s adults with MS or Lou Gehrig’s or Parkinson’s, whether it’s children with autism, whether it’s someone with an overactive inflammatory condition in their body or frankly, whether it’s someone who’s just concerned about longevity and anti-aging and wellness, methylation sits at the center of all that.
Mimi: That’s so interesting. I found you because I was going to other Lyme doctors and other just Western doctors and some of them actually do test for the MTHFR genetic gene, but often they just give you one supplement that says MTHFR support or something to that effect. Right? And then they figured that they’ve checked that MTHFR box. And so yours is very… Your process and how you look at it is very different so can you explain to us how, if people think that they’ve checked that MTHFR box through other practitioners, how they haven’t.
Dr. Amy: It’s a really good point you bring up and it actually is the main reason I agreed to do this, because I never do this kind of thing. I turned down people all the time.
Mimi: Thank you.
Dr. Amy: Well, I think it’s very important because you can’t just check an MTHFR box. And in fact, it’s the antithesis of the way I believe in doing things, because as I speak about, I have a new free video online called Feel good about your snips and it’s not basic. There are basic videos that are out there also that I share, but sometimes checking that MTHFR box may actually cause more problems. And, the reason is, let’s talk about the gears again, there is one pathway and I won’t get too complicated with genetics for this, that basically acts like a pressure relief valve. So you have glutamate feeding in the top that over excites your nerves.
If your gears aren’t functioning you need a pressure relief valve, you need somewhere that can go until we get those cycles working. And many of the MTHFR, all the things you need in one bottle to check off the box, actually block your pressure relief valve. So what it possibly may be causing issues for people because they’re not getting rid of their glutamate and their gears are not yet functioning. And so what I believe in doing is using small amounts, a sprinkle counts for me as the dosage, small amounts of multiple supplements and herbs in order to give your body everything it needs so that the gears are functioning. And, if you take a view from above, if you looked at all the pathways in your body they’re more complicated than if you looked at all the highway systems in this country.
Finding Your Baseline and Always Checking Your Progress
And so adding one thing in one spot it’s not doing anything to help to make sure that all this systems are moving and that all of the pathways are functioning in your system. And so the sense of, “Oh, I’ve taken care of MTHFR from one supplement in one bottle.” Is actually misleading, even if it’s not blocking that pressure relief valve, that’s why I believe in testing. Part of why I do not charge for my time, I don’t charge when I write on the test, is I want people to have the finances to run the tests they need to make sure what they’re adding is working and to be able to buy high quality supplements so that what they’re putting in their system is working. And, perhaps it comes from my research background, but I really believe anything you do, check and make sure it’s working. Run a test to begin with to see what your baseline is.
Use the supplements that you decide upon in conjunction with your own healthcare professional, your own doctor, whoever you’re working with. And then recheck again, to make sure what you’ve done is working and tweak it, adjust, constantly move and adjust so that you’re working closer and closer towards getting everything on those pathways functioning. And, the program is set up so that you can work with whatever doctor or healthcare professional you’re comfortable with. I make my suggestions, I will make notes all over your tests, all over your supplement lists, your doctor doesn’t have to be an expert in this. All they have to do is look with you at what I’ve written, what I’ve suggested, where I’ve made notes and decide what they’re comfortable agreeing to. But I’ll do all of that for you at no cost as a way to give back, because I feel very blessed in my life, my kids are healthy, I’m healthy, my husband’s healthy, I live in this amazing area. I’m able to give back and help you get to where you need to go.
Mimi: That’s really nice. I know you do do a lot of work, I’ve gotten some of your tests back and there’s so many notes on it. So I totally understand, but I just want to make sure everyone’s clear. So on your website you provide… You don’t actually see patients, you provide testing for people to figure out where they’re lacking in their methylation cycle plus you also provide supplements, but you do not actually see patients. So, I just want to make that clear to people who are listening, right? Is that correct?
Dr. Amy: Yes. I used to actually have personal consults for years, but when the waiting list was over five years long and that was probably 15 years ago, I decided I wouldn’t want to wait five years if I had an issue or one of my kids did. And that the best way to reach as many people as possible and to be fair was not have personal consults, donate my time and put virtually all of my resources online for free and create a situation where everyone could work with their own doctor and their own healthcare professional. And, I would give my guidance at no cost to help people get there.
Mimi: That’s great. That’s so nice of you. Have you trained any doctors specifically, do you have a network of doctors that kind of specialize in what you’re doing and kind of already well-versed to see your reports? So when they get it that it’s not like they’re starting from scratch.
Dr. Amy: There’s a handful of professionals who work with me very consistently. I know that you’re working with one of them. There’s some doctors all over the world that work with me a lot and so they’re much more familiar with the program and the best way for people to get recommendations for who those individuals are, would be from the chat group and from all of the parents, thousands of them, who are working with the program and working with these professionals. And that way I’m fair and I’m not guiding anybody to anyone in particular.
Mimi: No, that makes sense. That’s great. So, can you talk a little bit about the testing? Typically, it’s the genetic test and it comes up, but I do know you do other tests as well that dive deeper once you do the genetic test.
Testing for MTHFR
Dr. Amy: Well, just to clarify, I have a genetic test that I developed that has some proprietary snips on it that are ideally the gold standard of what I would like, but that kind of involve testing is not inexpensive. And, there’s some very inexpensive genetic testing out there and some testing is better than no testing at all. So, if someone has run an inexpensive test, great, at least you have some data you can send it in for the file. So, I will look at it when I’m looking at any other tests you run and then I’ll have that information. If you can run the gold standard I developed, wonderful, but not at the expense of not doing anything else. If all you can do is run an inexpensive genetic test so that you’re able to run other follow-up biochemical tests and afford the supplements you need and afford paying for your own doctor, then do that because the goal is to have the tools and knowledge you need to get healthy.
And so the follow-up tests are biochemical tests and they tell me if what you’re doing for yourself is working, they give me the feedback. And so the least expensive, the most basic way to start is a hair metal test, I can at least look at what toxins are coming out of your body, what is your lithium look like? What does your cobalt look like? What is your molybdenum look like? What’s your magnesium to calcium ratio? What’s your zinc to copper ratio? It’s a place to start and so you can send in whatever genetics you have or even if you don’t have genetics, start with a hair metal test. If your gut is a problem there’s a whole series of various gut tests you can run, there’s baseline ones like the CSA, there’s more involved ones like the GI360. Helicobacter and mycoplasma are very hard to detect, it’s like trying to detect… It’s almost worse than trying to detect Lyme.
And so those are from an outside lab that looks at the genetic material for those organisms and they can look in saliva and urine and stool, you can run all of those, you can run none of those. There’s energy tests, there’s amino acid tests so depending on what the imbalances are for you or your child that will let you know what biochemical tests you might want to focus on. And when you run even one test, what I’ll do is fill out a form for you and your doctor to look at and I suggest and number what the next biochemical tests you might want to think about are. And, what I’ll usually do if someone doesn’t have genetic information in the file and hasn’t run my gold standard of genetic tests, I’ll circle it and I’ll usually put when you can, because I’m very sensitive to the fact that not everyone has the finances to do everything they would like. And it’s very important to me that people get high quality supplements and that they run follow-up tests so they know if what they’re doing is actually working.
Mimi: Now that makes sense. Now from these tests and from what you’ve been doing for the past… So, how long have you been doing this for like 15 years? Did you say? I can’t remember-
Dr. Amy: Probably more like 20.
Common Thread Between Chronic Lyme Patients
Mimi: For 20 years. Have you seen a common thread for chronic Lyme patients? Is this kind of the key as why they’re not getting better? Is this like methylation scenario or is there any kind of insight you can provide to that?
Dr. Amy: I do think that getting methylation in balance is probably critical for anyone with any sort of a chronic long-term illness, because if methylation isn’t functioning. If you don’t have appropriate methyl groups your immune cells aren’t going to function properly, you can’t make new cells to repair what’s been damaged. So that’s just kind of a baseline, if methylation isn’t functioning your ability to address chronic illness is going to be compromised. I also think that looking at gut and gut bugs, looking at gut pH, because if you think about Lyme and other microbes they’re parasites in a sense, they’re taking advantage of a weakened system. And so if your gut is in imbalance, you’re more likely to have other compounding microbes that set up an environment where something like Lyme can be there on a more chronic basis. And I mentioned mycoplasma, mycoplasma is very difficult to detect it can affect your nervous system.
Dr. Amy: And, many people who do have Lyme also tend to show mycoplasma as a secondary problem and that’s why I work with an outside lab that will do DNA based testing for mycoplasma in urine and in saliva and in stool so that we can be really sure it’s not hiding somewhere in your system. Because when you have other chronic microbes in your system, now you set up a situation where you have chronic inflammation and chronic inflammation, again, uses up the resources of your immune system that you need to combat the basic problem that you’re concerned about, which is Lyme.
Mimi: Right, is mycoplasma like mold? Is that where that comes from? Or, what is that from?
Possible Bacteria Behind Your Neurological Lyme Symptoms
Dr. Amy: Mycoplasma’s a type of bacteria, but it’s an anaerobe so it hides in an environment without oxygen and it’s small and very slow growing. So, more standard tests won’t pick it up. Someone who has a chronic cough, someone who chronically has problems with high eosinophils, those would be risk factors where you would want to look for mycoplasma. Unexplained, neurological symptoms that are getting worse, where running a battery of all the standard medical tests isn’t showing anything, many times that’s when I see mycoplasma as an issue.
Mimi: Interesting. Okay. And, do you get that from something in particular? Where does that come from? Does it just pick up along the way?
Dr. Amy: Yeah. As with any microbes, where do you get any of them? Again, which gets us back to methylation, if your system is compromised, if you’re at risk, if your immune cells aren’t functioning ideally, if you have chronic inflammation you’re going to be more susceptible to whatever is out there in the environment.
Excess Homocysteine and B12 Can Cause More Issues
Mimi: Right. Now can you talk to us about, a little bit, you mentioned it earlier about the homocysteine. So, with the methylation not working typically your homocysteine go up?
Dr. Amy: Yes, because we have the gears and just below the bottom of one of the gears is where homocysteine sits and we need methylation to process it so that we can make glutathione, which is something your immune system needs. So we can make taurine, which is calming and anti-aging. We don’t want too much of taurine, let’s say, because then we’ve got more sulfur groups then we can deal with easily. And then we want to worry about, do we have enough B12 and molybdenum to process it? And so that’s why everything kind of feeds back into itself. One of the first things, again, getting back to where do I want to start a hair test? Lithium actually helps you to transport B12. B12 is a key feature for the methylation cycle, but also further down once we’ve generated glutathione and taurine, we need B12 to process it.
Dr. Amy: And so that’s why a one size fits all, single MTHFR supplement that’s sitting over here, isn’t worrying about all of these other pieces. And that’s why I like to look at not just a hair metal test, but the next step is I want to look at a Urine Toxic and Essential because I want to make sure it’s not just certain minerals that are depleted in your hair, but that we’re moving what we want the B12 into your body, that you have so much extra B12 that I can see it being excreted in urine. I want to look in a urine amino acid, I want to see what your methionine looks like because that’s sitting in my gears. I want to see what your taurine looks like, I want to make sure we’re moving our way down to that point.
I want to run an OAT test and see what your glutathione looks like, what your methylmalonic acid looks like. I want to know if you have the right kinds of foliates in your system. And so that’s why I’m saying, even though I developed the genetic tests that I consider the gold standard and I’ve written books, some are free, and online videos about it, I want you to be able to run biochemical tests so I can make sure that what you’re doing is actually working for you.
Importance of Supplement Quality
Mimi: Mm-hmm (affirmative). That makes sense. So, is there anything else that we haven’t covered that you think we should cover? I forgot, I’d love to talk about your supplements because I do know the quality of supplements are different depending on where you get them and you do offer some supplements. So can you talk a little bit about that as well?
Dr. Amy: Yes. That actually was what I was going to bring up when you said, is there anything else we should talk about? Supplement quality matters, supplement storage matters, supplement shipping matters. The big difference between people that I see doing really well, really quickly and people maybe who are struggling for longer is where they’re getting the supplements from. It doesn’t mean you have to get your supplements from Holistic Health International, which is who I worked through. They listened to what it is I want and so therefore they get new supplements in everyday. The way things are shipped and packaged are to help to ensure that we’re not compromising the supplements. We don’t have a situation where supplements are bought in bulk and sitting on shelves and going off. They’re in a temperature controlled environment, they’re in a humidity controlled environment. And so while it may make sense to someone with limited funds to buy in bulk from the least expensive place you can, if you waste six-nine a year of months of your life using something that’s not optimal quality then what have you saved?
And that’s why I harp on this constantly, if what you’re using is working so you can buy your supplements from anywhere you want. And, if you run a follow-up test and you’re looking good, great, that is awesome. But if you run a follow-up tests three months in and things are not looking good or sometimes looking worse than they were when I first commented, maybe you should be looking at somewhere else for your supplements. Also, what I ask people to do is if you’re not using supplements from this source that I know and trust, tell me where you’re getting them from. And, I’ll look at the labels of all the supplements and all the ingredients when someone’s getting something from elsewhere and I’ll comment on them. I talked about the gears and glutamate, but something very similar to glutamate is a aspartate or aspartic acid. And, you want to be looking and making sure that you’re not using molybdenum aspartate or magnesium aspartate or glutamate or glutamic acid complex with one of your supplements.
I don’t like minerals that are complex with glycine because that can interfere with that pressure relief valve. I overthink everything, I overthink every ingredient, every component, every step, but that’s because I understand how intricately all of these pathways are related. And so I want your pressure relief valve to work, I don’t want you stuck up here at glutamate. I want all of the gears functioning, I want homocysteine filtering it’s way down, but I don’t want to doing it to such an extent that you’ve got sulfur problems. And so that’s what I’m thinking about when I’m looking at tests and looking at supplement lists and looking at ingredients, something like GABA, which is so central, if it sits around too long it can decompose, it may convert to glutamate. And that’s again, why storage, shipping, the controlled environment something’s in not just the brand name, but how it’s handled, how fresh it is. You wouldn’t want to use lettuce in your refrigerator that had been sitting there for six months or sitting out on the counter for six months. Very similar logic in terms of thinking about what you’re putting in your body.
How Can I Tell I’m Finally Getting Better
Mimi: Now, that makes total sense. So, if someone started your protocol how… I know you said it’s a long process, it’s a marathon, but how long do you think it would be you start seeing symptoms or improvement that you can think, “Now it’s working.”
Not that you’re like 100% back to… But like, Hey, are you going to feel worse before you feel better? Or, maybe you know it’s working, you can get out of bed now or?
Dr. Amy: First step in knowing something is working, is that you’re not getting worse anymore. The first book I wrote, I talked about a ship floating out to sea and it’s being carried out by the current and the point at which that ship is just standing still. It’s not being pulled out anymore that’s the first step in progress. Because if you have a chronic long-term debilitating illness, you’re getting worse and worse over time. If it just stops, if you’re not worse tomorrow than you were today, something you’re doing is helping. So now you’re standing still and now we start to climb out of that hole. And it’s very gradual for some people it’s fast, I mean, I have to say there’s some people a couple of weeks in and they’re like, “This is amazing.” Others it could be take three, four, five years to be where they want to be.
That’s why one of the important things on the last page of my supplement list is a wellness progression chart. And, I asked the people give me numbers for about 10 symptoms. Where were you when you started? And, where are you today? And, I think it also helps for you to think about it and look at it and go, “You know what? I’m not a 100%, but I’m also not as bad as I was a month ago or a year ago.” And how long it takes really does depend on genetics now. How many snips do we have to deal with? How big is the hole we have to climb out of? And what else is going on? Is it Lyme? Is it Lyme and mycoplasma? Is it Lyme, mycoplasma, Helicobacter? The pH is 5.8 in your gut and we’ve got leaky gut and we’re leaking all of our minerals and we’re loaded with toxic chemicals.
And so that’s why the range of time is very dependent on the individual… That gets us back to the supplement conversation, though. The more things that are out of balance and the longer you haven’t felt well for, the more important it is to be paying attention to where you’re getting your supplements. Once we’ve got you where you’re like, “I feel great.” “I’m a 100%.” Then if you want to start to fool around with swapping things out one at a time and saving on costs, go for it. The other trick, if finances are an issue, if I’ve listed 50 different things I think you should be taking and even if it’s a sprinkle of each or a half of each the costs mount at, rotate things to every other day. Right there you cut your costs in half, immediately and so that’s the easiest trick to cut your cost for supplements. Don’t buy lesser quality, just rotate every other day,
Mimi: Right? And that’d be as potent or as beneficial to still have every other day. Okay, this has been amazing. I really appreciate your time. And, I definitely think this will be useful for people, because I don’t think people really have dive into this area as much as they should be. And think by just, “Yes, I have it.” It’s funny, because every time I meet somebody who has Lyme, I’ll say to them, “I bet you, you have an MTHFR mutation and I bet you had like mono or EBV at some point in your life.” And every person I have met, says yes to both of those things and so I don’t think they really are diving in.
Dr. Amy Yasko’s Resources
I know I haven’t been, because you asked your doctor and they’re like, “Oh no, we got it covered.” And so until I actually met Dr. Mullan and really kind of started diving into your protocol which is known as the Yasko protocol for anybody who wants to like Google it. And then also Dr. Amy’s website is Holistic Health International. I’ll put the information and the link, everything in our notes for this podcast, but they should definitely check it out and start the process and learn more. And you have great community and great information there for people to really kind of dive into and learn about it.
Dr. Amy: Mimi, when you mentioned EB virus, mono, that gets back to the whole, your immune system not functioning properly. Another really important resource for people would be dramyyasko.com, all of the video links are there for free, almost all the books are there for free and really the best advocate for your health is going to be you, no one is… I care so much, which is why I work 24/7, but nobody’s going to care more about your own health than you. And so part of why I give all the tools for free is the more knowledge you have, the more power you have, and then it’s not so scary anymore because you have control over your own health.
And so I really would encourage people to go to dramyyasko.com, take advantage of all the free resources, read the books for free, watch the videos, take your time, go back to them later. You’ll reach a point where you’re educating your own healthcare provider, your own doctor, because you’ll know more than they do. And then you have control over your own health and that’s ultimately where you want to be. I can’t thank you enough for your time. I think what you’re doing to help other people, to pay it forward, to share information, that’s awesome. And, I thank you for making time to talk to me so I can try to reach and help more people.
Mimi: No, thank you. I mean, you are just an angel and the fact that you’re giving so much of your time and it’s just really inspiring because there’s so many people suffering and looking for answers and it’s a long road and it’s a lonely road for a lot of people who have chronic illnesses.
Dr. Amy: I get so emotional about it. There are times I read files and I am literally crying as I’m reading through someone’s history. And I know how blessed I am and so you give it back, you help people where you can, because I don’t… I have files from people who are sleeping in their cars because of the… I don’t know. And they have children, I mean, how do you live like that? So, what you’re doing is an amazing service and thank you and have a very happy holiday. And, I hope everyone has a happy and really healthy new year.
Mimi: Thank you so much and take care. I really appreciate it. Thank you.