144: What Is MTFHR, Intermittent Fasting and the Ketogenic Diet, and Genetic Polymorphism - with Dr. Emily Hecker!
November 18, 2019
Welcome back to the podcast! I’m so excited for my next guest. She is a pilot and meteorologist turned Functional Medicine Chiropractic Physician. She specializes in nutrigenomic support for those who have a genetic polymorphism for MTHFR. Enjoy!
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Hey, guys, I'm so excited for my next guest. She is a pilot and meteorologist, turned into a functional medicine chiropractic physician and she specializes in nutrition. Can you say that for me, it's Neutra dynamic support? Yes, you got it. Metagenomics support for those who have genetic polymorphism for empty H.F. are so welcome. Dr. Emily Hekker, thank you.
Thanks for having me. I'm excited to be here today and that a little bit about my father and my journey and health in general.
So talk to me. So that is that is kind of an extreme. You went from being a pilot, a meteorologist, and now you're a functional medicine chiropractic physician. That's such a wide range. How did that come to be?
I know it's not funny. So I've always loved the weather. I love energy. I can detect it in the sky, in the clouds, as most people can. When fronts come through, their bodies will tell them, hey, there's something coming in. And I, I really love science. And so I went and got my degree in meteorology from Oklahoma as an undergrad, loved it and also became a pilot at the time, too. I love mechanical. I love working with my hands. My sister is a pilot. She taught me to fly.
And after college I was sitting at a desk job and my back was hurting me.
I was twenty three and that shouldn't normally happen. I was young, I was, you know, functional and and also my back was hurting me. So I decided to go to a chiropractor. You see what I was growing up. You don't go to a chiropractor, you go to the medical doctor and you get medication for that. And so I chose a different route and it worked. I was amazed at this. So I decided I'm going to do this. I love this. I want to put my hands on people. My you can help headaches, back pain. And so that really drove me to want to get into alternative health care. And after I got in that I realized, you know, I'm going to I need the experience. And so I worked at a functional medicine chiropractic office and I fell in love with what it was. I had no clue what functional medicine was and most people don't. But now the trend is that people are searching for functional medicine because they want answers to their health. So that's what got me into the realm of functional medicine.
I now specialize in functional medicine, even though I am a chiropractic physician. I'm in St. Louis, Missouri. There's a fantastic chiropractic school and a ton of awesome chiropractors here. So we refer back and forth. I don't accept new chiropractic patients. I refer them out to my colleagues. They refer them to me when it's time to work in the functional medicine realm.
Awesome. That's so great. So tell us a little bit about your own wellness journey. So as far as is anything dramatically happens, since all the things that you've kind of learned, like maybe your top three things that have kind of taken your own wellness to another level?
Yeah, I am. You know, I have two boys. I'm a mom.
First of all, I'm a mom and I'm a wife. And my my boys are six and eight years old. And when I was when I was pregnant and after I had my my second son then. So my husband travels as well. So he's gone quite a bit. I was basically a single mom at home with two young boys. They're 18 months apart. And I was going crazy. I would reach for the sugar. I've been there, you know, I would gain weight every time the baby would cry, I would go eat a Hershey's bar from Halloween. Right. So, you know, I've been in those situations. I see what a drug sugar is and can soothe and can help people. And so I made a choice about five years ago to say, you know, I'm going to this has got to stop. You know, I've I'm I do this for a living. I know I'm in this this zone of unhealth.
And so I went and changed my diet.
Really I really changed my diet. And it's funny because I was eating paleo at the time. I was working out with a personal trainer. I was spending a ton of money doing that, but I only lost six pounds and I was pushing about 200 pounds. And and so that really opened my eyes because I'm like, here I am dedicating I'm eating paleo, I'm working with a trainer, but yet I'm not seeing reflection in my body composition change. So that's when I went and did a different type of program, really, really monitored the types in the quantity of food that I ate. I lost about fifty pounds. I kept it off. And now I'm really looking at investigating the the love of fasting, you know, the science behind fasting, the science behind calorie restriction and what happens when the body can't do that anymore, when the metabolism gets set. And so I'm working and I have a love for working with patients who want to lose weight, you know, with the intermittent fasting that you do, I I love it. I see that people can get great results. But when you combine that piece with functional medicine, then you're going to really get those people who who can't fast who just they're adrenals, can't tolerate it, or they're dealing with some pathogenic bacteria or they've been in an environment with mold and they cannot clear it. And so they can't lose the weight because there's something going on internally that doesn't allow them to get the results that they want. So that kind of brings that my journey into a little niche of where I got into what I do with the functional medicine piece.
So talk to us about just a normal day in the life of Emily. Like, what did what did you eat? When did you eat it? Do you do how long do you do intermittent fasting? And talk to us about that for just a little bit and exactly what your diet looks like.
Yeah, and that changes as we learn and research and see things. About five years ago I really got into ketogenic because I know that to to go into a fasting state, you are producing ketones. And so I really drove into this whole ketogenic approach way before it became popular. Now you've got a target and you see all kinds of cookbooks. Right. And and it's it's really hitting the market. And and and so I, I love that that component of the ketogenic realm of of things now.
Let's see here. So.
Your question, what was your question again, just what do you what do you do, like talk to us about your diet? What do you do with the kids? So so keto has to blend in to fasting. So fasting is kind of a newer thing that I've gotten into to dabbling with myself.
But a day for me is going to look at I do well with fasting, so my body does really well. I'm I say to people, I'm like a fasting superhero. I can go for five days on a water diet and a bone broth and my brain loves it. So a day for me is kind of going to be different. What you're going to look at it. So, for example, I do better when I fast in the morning for breakfast. I'm a busy mom. I got to get my kids off to school so I don't have time to sit down to make a huge breakfast. Now, on the other side, my kids, do they need that energy? They they need that huge breakfast. I make the eggs. I make bacon for them.
Sometimes I'll do a gluten free waffle for my boys and for me, I'm having a coffee.
It's not every day that I have a coffee, but occasionally I'll have a coffee. Like today I'm it's in St. Louis. It's raining. It's cold. I needed a coffee this morning. So that was my morning today for lunch. It depends if I'll do a twenty four hour fast. Sometimes I do. Sometimes I'll have a nice Greek salad for lunch. I'm inspired currently and that's what kind of drives the eating habits too is. Where have you been. What book have you been reading. What what place have you experienced. I went to Malta a couple of weeks ago, which is a country just south of Italy and it's in the Mediterranean. And I love learning about the history of that particular country and what they do, especially in the Mediterranean, because it's it's very ketogenic, is very fasting, and it's built back into the biblical time. So it's funny because I want to bring that fasting approach into this. They talk about it so much in the Bible. And so when I went over to this country, that was that Paul was shipwrecked on and was there back in the Roman times when they when they practiced that fasting, that I implemented more of that into my lifestyle. So I do more of these intermittent types of fasts for dinner. I'll have a piece of fish or I'll have some a protein. I'll bring in some vegetables. I have I shop at Trader Joe's. I don't know if you have them where you're asked, but we love Trader Joe's. I do. I love Trader Joe's so, so much there and at a great deal. And and so I'll I'll make that for dinner. I like the instant pot that something easy.
I make a lot of sheet pan meals because you can throw your meat in your protein on there and get your vegetables on there and it's delicious and fast. So that's important for me to be fast and easy, clean up and quick for my kids. So that's what they life in the food looks like for me too.
Awesome. So talk to us about the longer fast that you do. So what would you say? What is the longest fast that you've ever done?
The longest fast. It's been about five or six days that I've done and I've really started incorporating that over the past really the past year. Last March, I did one and I really tied it in to be more spiritual base, too. So right at Easter time, I implemented that because I could bring in that spiritual component of reading the Bible, you know, and that's not something that I've done my whole life and life. Everyone's changing. You know, we're all on self-improvement. Right? And so I started getting into that, reading that and saying, wow, this really is so biblical when it comes to this and the research. You can't argue the science behind all of this. So I started a five day fast. For me, it was easy to jump into the first one I did. Now, that was about a year ago. Now that I've been more into learning about fasting, what I'll do, I'll start implementing some small fasts and I'll gradually work up till like a twenty four hour fast, which is from dinner to dinner. If I feel good, then I'm gone to the next. And it really also depends on what's going on in that week. So if we have an event going on or a celebration, I'll eat, you know, so it's not so restrictive where you're staying on a specific diet for a long period of time. Yes, you need that. You know, the commitment and the support. But I also find when I'm going into my face that when I'm in a ketogenic type of eating a low carb, which that essentially is just making sure you're not eating sugar with your sugar is is killing us as a society. So so decreasing sugar intake makes it so much easier to get into a fast no matter if it's a eight hour fast, if it's a sixteen, if it's it's a twenty four hour, I find that that really helps my patients and myself get into that zone where they can start burning fat for fuel, whether the goal is weight loss or whether it's mitochondrial function because they're dealing with. Illness, so there's many ways to look at it. Many people want the weight loss, this me included, but some people don't want the weight loss, but they want the benefits of it fast. And that's where we work with it. Optimizing mitochondrial function and the research behind the ketogenic diet, behind intermittent fasting is is is building so much up to brain function in neurodegeneration.
Awesome for listeners who don't know what MTA far is, talk about that and what is your how do you help people with that?
Yes, that's a lot of times how people find me in all of this goes together, the fasting peace and the genetic peace. So it may be part of it made people have people haven't. It stands for. It's an acronym and it stands for methyl tetrahedral, folate, reduc taste. That's a mouthful. OK, so it's basically a gene that all of us have and it helps process the leafy greens that we get from our our salads, our brussel sprouts. That helps process that into a very usable be vitamin called benign. So we need to eat foods, to assimilate the vitamins, to function now benign is an important nutrient because it helps with clotting, prevention of clotting. It also helps make the the DNA work. It helps protect the cellular structure of all of our cells. And we need that to prevent aging as we age or just even as we we have new tissue that needs regeneration. We rely on that enzyme or gene. So when you think of a gene, what happens? Think of it in terms of a factory. So we have a factory that has to produce something that gene that far is a gene that produces the the the folate that your body is going to have to utilize later. There's lot there's hundreds of thousands of genes in the body. That's one of them that has gotten popular. And so what happens is a lot of especially women will have miscarriages or they're dealing with infertility or they're finding that they have blood clots and that their doctor will run this blood test and they'll find that they have. Now, it's also tested via saliva as well. So there's a couple of ways that people can can find if they have this genetic polymorphism, meaning that that gene, that factory is not working great. Like, for example, you have this factory that's supposed to have 100 workers in it and really it has about 50 workers in it. Half of them are out sick or they're dealing with traffic. They can't get to the factory.
So you're not able to produce that that product, that product being benign.
Got it. And then talk about genetic polymorphism.
Yes, so that's where those factories aren't working, whether because this is where epigenetics, that term comes into play and that's that's becoming a popular term now. But when when happens when you have a genetic polymorphism, is that that gene is not able to work properly. Some people are born with a gene that just has 50 workers or has seven five workers in it. And so it doesn't it's not able to produce the amount of product that it can. So when what affects that also genetic wise is the epigenetics, what's in our environment that's affecting the output of that factory? So think of this. So say we have this factory, but now we have we have some acid rain falling from from the pollution. Think of this as the toxic waste that's in our environment. So you go outside and you have a factory literally outside your door that is raining down acid rain on you and your breathing that in or you're eating that that vegetable from from the grocery store that has pesticides on it, that's impacting that structure of that of that factory, of that gene. So it's going to make it not work well. So what we do in functional medicine is I can't change your genes. Nobody can change that. Only God can can do that. That's what your mom and your dad gave you when you were born. But what we can do is we can help make it work better. So if you were born with about 50 workers and then you have on top of it some food sensitivities where you can't deal with anything you're not you don't handle very well, for example, or you have mold in your environment or you're dealing with histamine intolerance because you have a pathogenic bacteria that you got from Mexico when you were traveling to Cancun. You know, so all of that will impact how that factory, how that gene works. And so you may have some symptoms and there's a lot of people with symptoms that they'll find or miscarriage or infertility or blood clotting disorders. And that's how people really find and come to this empty piece. Not the answer for everything, but it is one piece of the puzzle that can help your body detox. And that is the key thing with why we need that gene working well is because we want your body to detox the bad stuff.
So in my newest edition of my book, Waste Away, I talk about how people don't have to deprive themselves when it comes to food, but everyone needs to decide for themselves, what are there red light, yellow light and green light foods and so red light foods that your your body just doesn't do well with at all. Like, you just feel terrible when you eat this yellow. It's like I don't feel great, but I don't feel awful. I'll have a little bit of it. So what are your red light and yellow light foods for you personally?
Yes. So it's funny because it changes especially with pregnancy. I noticed because your immune system is going up and down with that. I can't tolerate lots of gluten. I can't tolerate lots of dairy. I also cannot tolerate lots of tomatoes. And everyone has those different things that show up differently with me when I have tomatoes, which is probably be kind of a green moving into a yellow light for me, I can't move my joints very well when I have lots of especially tomatoes. I can't tolerate them on occasions. There's also a histamine involved with that. So depending on where I am in my cycle, I might have a yellow food when it's going to have higher histamines, like coffee, like chocolate, spinach. Those are some things salmon. Those are some things that can make me turn into a yellow light right before my period. So I know to avoid them. Also gluten. I don't do that well with gluten. I know my body does and I know my kids don't and I know my mom does. And there's some genetic factors in the play there for me. I know I don't do well with sugar. That's a red one. And it's hard when it's Halloween time or when it's Thanksgiving. When you turn into the holiday season, it's it's hard to to work with those just as a human because you're around all of these different social events and and but knowing that those particular foods can cause a red light experience, then I generally stay awake. I'm human. And so I will have them. And I do things to moderate those like take certain enzymes or I'll help with removal of those products with some binders and charcoal. So there's ways to get around those and a ways to help build that up. But those are some key ones for me that that I personally avoid.
All right, well, let's jump right into the listener questions, this first one is from Luke in Memphis. I think I may have a histamine intolerance. How would I know if I do? Luke in Memphis.
Yes, so look, so his main intolerance, so if your so used to me, it's really interesting because you might be hearing this word Luke has, because he's probably heard me talk about it a little bit. But in even with with our listeners, you when you think of histamine, you think of allergens like antihistamines, you think of pollens. And a lot of times how you'll express that people will have runny noses, they'll have itchy skin. But also it presents a little differently, too. And this is where a lot of patients and look, this might be you as well. You've been from different doctor to different doctor, whether it's you having some cardiovascular heart palpitations or you might be having headaches, that man, no matter what you're doing, you're eating healthy. But you have this headache going on or you might be having some some rashes come out on your skin or really itchiness. That doesn't make sense. So there's different modes that these histamines can play out in your body. And really linking those together is is a key concept. And I'm finding that with with a lot of patients. So as far as if you're if you have a histamine intolerance, it's working with a functional provider. So if you can find someone in your area that is a functional medicine provider that has experience with with histamine intolerance, that's going to be huge for you. But there's certain foods that are high in histamine as well. And so you'd want to be aware, play around with taking them out of your diet. I mentioned them a little bit earlier. So chocolate is one strawberries. So Valentine's Day and you had champagne in the mix. So anything fermented like even just like the healthier types of meats and and salami. Alcohol isn't something else as well that produces lots of histamine in your body. So if you're having these histamine type of reactions, you might get a runny nose. When you drink alcohol, you might start sniffling. And so there's things that we can look for because it all goes back to the gut environment and rebuilding that gut environment, removing those pathogens. So, Luke, find a provider that works with you or you can try removing some of those his high histamine foods. I do have some of those histamine foods listed on my on my genius food formula program that I have. It's a ketogenic antiinflammatory way of eating. It's kind of paleo in nature. But I have listed on there some high histamine foods that you could work with.
That's great. All right, this next one is from Becca in Vancouver. I love wine, but I can't tolerate it anymore. Having after having kids, please don't tell me I have to give up my Marleau. Becca in Vancouver.
Yes. That I actually have similar experience with that myself after having children. So what happens with that, Becca, is that what goes on is your immune system changes when you're pregnant. And so that puts you at risk for becoming more susceptible for different autoimmune diseases, as well as becoming susceptible for four gut infections or just sensitivities to different things. So wine is one of them that produces lots of histamine. So what you can do, Becca, with the wine is one you need to look at what's going on in your body. So maybe there's there's some some erosion going on in the cells that line your digestive tract that you need to build back up, because within the lining of our cells, we have these little finger like projections that stick out these micro Billo. And at the tip, the very tip of those micro Billo, you produce an enzyme called Deyo Diamine oxidase.
This enzyme acts like Pakman and it gobbles up all the extra histamine that's in your body. And so if you have a beautiful working digestive tract with microbially that are intact, you have lots of great Pakman that can go and gobble up all the extra histamine.
Wine creates lots of histamine. And if the the lining of your digestive tract has been eroded due to stress, who of us isn't stressed then that can actually erode that digestive enzyme that's being produced at the tip of that border?
So we're going to be looking for you when working with a provider as well. It's going to be another answer for you. But seeing what we can do with building up colostrum is a great product that can help you, of course, consult your doctor for you personally, but classroom helps build that microbial life back up. There's also some type of products that can help build that so you can produce your own enzyme. There are a few companies out there that make that enzyme that you can just have on occasion. So on those occasions where you don't want to give up your Marleau, then you can bring in some enzymes to help you break that down and to help you detox a little bit better.
All right, Dana and Columbia, I've been fasting for about ten months. I do a six hour eating window and I've lost about twenty six pounds. But in the last couple of months, I've hit a plateau. Should I move down to a four hour eating window to kick start my progress or should I go straight to just doing one meal a day? Any ideas, Dana and Columbia, that.
Well, congratulations. That's fantastic that you've lost that amount and and you're seeing progress. So cheers to progress and not necessarily stepping on the scale and seeing those numbers that don't let those numbers get you down. Just use your those those pants or that that thing that you want to get into. So it cheers to you for doing such a good job. Now you want to keep progressing and assuming you still have some body fat on you, then that's when you can continue with your fasting. If you're to the point where you are at your body composition, you don't want to lose anymore or it would be unhealthy for your body to lose any more fat, then we don't want to progress to a larger fasting window because your body will start the top advising process and we'll start removing those those protein structures that we don't want to lose. So if you still have some body weight and it's OK with your practitioner and your doctor to continue with the fasting, then I would say, yeah, if you feel good with it, move to a twenty four hour fast. If you can do that, if that's what you said, progressive a little bit more. I think you said you're doing a six hour and then you went back to a four. You know, if you should go to a four hour or six hour, you can extend that a little bit more, see where your limit is, push it a little bit and then you can see just making sure that you're doing OK, that you're monitored properly and that you're you're hydrating as well. Hydration is so key and that you're getting those electrolytes in like the salt, the Himalayan salt that you're getting the potassium in. I see. That is huge in my patient population. So hopefully that helps you out and pushes you along your way.
Awesome. Well, thank you so much for being on our show and tell listeners where they can go and follow you and your work.
Yes. So you can find me on my website. I'm at enlighten us dot com. I'm in St. Louis. I do see patients nationwide. I do have to see you one time in my office just for legal. But you can also find me on social media. I am social. I'm on Facebook at and actually Dr. Emily Stout and on Instagram, Dr. Emily Steel. And you can also find my genius food formula to give you some tidbits on the ketogenic way and the genetic support genius food formula. Dotcom.
Awesome. And if you have a question that you want answered questions at Chantel Ray dot com. We'll see you next time. Bye bye.