19th-century-style apothecary shelves full of bottles.


Conditions to consider if you’ve been mysteriously sub-par for a long time

GABA, iodine, iron, vitamin B12

Here’s a list of conditions I’ve investigated over the years as I tried to solve my health problems. You’ve no doubt heard of some of them but might think the symptoms don’t apply to you, or might have been given the wrong test or had your test results evaluated with the wrong lab ranges. All but two of the items listed (Lyme disease and mold / biotoxin poisoning) have the benefit of being easy (if not cheap) to test for or at least rule out.

But first: about lab ranges

You cannot trust your doctor to know the right lab ranges, so if you do have tests taken, make sure you arrange to have copies of the test results sent to you. I can’t be the only person who had a ferritin so low I couldn’t even sit up straight, and yet was told repeatedly over the years that my iron levels were fine.

B12 deficiency

This requires two or ideally three tests: the usual one, plus two you’ll have to specifically ask your doctor for and which your insurance company might not cover. If you are already taking B12 supplements, the tests will not be accurate, a fact your doctor might not be aware of. The book Could It Be B12 has up-to-date info, or if your brain fog isn’t too bad you can look at the intro docs at the Vitamin B12 Deficiency is Commonly Misdiagnosed forum.

Bromide poisoning

This substance is everywhere in our environment and food supply, and because of its link to breast cancer, sites about that topic have the most info. Here’s a short intro on the subject. This condition tends to go hand in hand with iodine deficiency (see below).

Food reactions

This seems really obvious, but it might be that you are reacting to a certain category of food but haven’t tried enough types of foods in that category to make the connection. If you’re lucky, it might be a category connected to a deficiency you can correct. For example, oxalates lower zinc levels, salicylates lower vitamin K, and goitrogens can lower iodine.

Histamine: the Low (histapenia), the High (histadelia), and the Intolerant

People think of histamine in terms of allergies, but your histamine can go awry for non-allergy related reasons and cause all sorts of wackiness, many involving your mental state. (“Histamine intolerance” refers to having a body that wanders into histadelia territory too easily.)

If I have this right, two main culprits are behind high histamine – wonky methylation and/or? low DAO enzyme levels. This article on histamine intolerance describes it in terms of low DAO. This article on the effect of brain histamine levels focuses on methylation. Ignore the fact that histamine is spelled wrong for a third of the article. Also be warned that the author is behind the times in her belief that folic acid and vitamin B12 should not be used for histadelia. There are now methylated versions of each on the market that are used to treat methylation issues.

Iodine deficiency

This deficiency is getting more and more common but misconceptions abound. For one thing, what doctors assume are hyperthyroid reactions to iodine are in fact usually bromide detox symptoms. Drs. Guy E. Abraham and David Brownstein have books on the subject. A primer is at Breast Cancer Choices. The Yahoo Iodine Group also has intro documents. (Be sure to read the bit about how they tracked down the source of the oft-repeated warning about iodine causing heart failure.)

Iron deficiency

This requires four lab tests to evaluate correctly. Stop the Thyroid Madness has a page on recommended tests and lab ranges and how to take iron supplements. If you’ve lost hair due to low iron, you’ve probably read in your internet research that your ferritin level has to be in the 70s for three months before your hair will grow back.

Long-term effects of prescription drugs or supplements

Some prescription drugs will affect your biochemistry for 15 years, but your doctor will tell you they are out of your system in a few months. Xanax, for example, can disastrously affect your levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, which is involved in sleep. Also see the books Drug Muggers by Suzy Cohen, Supplement Your Prescription by Hyla Kass, and The Nutritional Cost of Prescription Drugs by Ross Pelton and James LaValle. Blogger Monica Cassani at Everything Matters (formerly Beyond Meds) also covers this subject a lot.

The same can be said of any supplement. If you ever took anything in large amounts for a long period of time, it might have affected levels of its cofactors. Vitamin D, for example, can lower vitamin K levels, among others. L-glutamine, often used in huge amounts by body builders, can deplete vitamin B6. Nitrous oxide, aka laughing gas — you know who you are — can deplete folate.

Lyme disease

This is significantly under-diagnosed. Mainstream doctors rely on an unreliable blood test for diagnosis and often won’t order the test if you don’t remember getting the stereotypical bullseye rash, which half of patients don’t get anyway. Unfortunately the far more accurate test (about 75%, said one alterna-doc) by the company Igenex is upwards of $750. The good new is you don’t need a prescription.

Mold or biotoxin poisoning

One of the first doctors to bring this to the public’s attention was Ritchie Shoemaker. His books are a good place to start. I also recommend the pdfs put out by a citizen science group made up of a group of his former followers, who are making many new discoveries about effective treatment and about mold behavior. Some of their findings about recovering from mold and other biotoxin poisoning, borne out of personal experience, differ significantly from Shoemaker’s opinions. For one thing, the group has found that mold remediation of a home rarely works when someone has reached a certain level of illness, because it cannot eliminate the toxins themselves, only the mold spores. A significant percentage of “moldies” have also been diagnosed with Lyme.


In pyroluria, the body can’t process sufficient vitamin B6. You can be born with it, in which case your life probably sucks, or it can develop from a long-term deficiency. Convincing your doctor to test for it might not be easy, but you can arrange it yourself for about $129. I used The Bio-Center Laboratory in Wichita, Kansas. The test does not require a prescription or blood draw but it does require careful handling — refrigeration, close timing, etc. Here is a list of symptoms.

Thyroid wonkiness

Most doctors only test TSH and not the other hormones, and use the wrong lab ranges to evaluate results. Stop the Thyroid Madness has lists of recommended lab work and optimal lab values.

Please let me know if you have any other suggestions for this list.

When this content was published

The content on this post was first posted on June 21, 2012 and updated on August 14, 2017.

Marjorie smiling, wearing an orange shirt.

Marjorie R.

Marjorie is the creator of AvoidingRx.com, a record of her and her guest authors’ experiences with non-prescription health solutions. She is a third-generation nutritional-therapy self-experimenter.

6 thoughts on “Conditions to consider if you’ve been mysteriously sub-par for a long time”

  1. If a low histamine diet and vitamin C helps, then you might consider histamine tolerance (HI or HIT). Your comments about needing p-5-p with any supplemental amino acids might be another indication. B6 is important for protein metabolism and assimilation, but you seem particularly sensitive to supplementing with amino acids. B6 is important for those with HI. This link explains how HI is actually about biogenic amines and how they relate to specific amino acids.


    I think your blog and info are absolutely wonderful.

    • Chris: This fills in a missing piece of the puzzle. I started a big magnesium experiment a few months ago after learning that Mg repletion takes a lot more dosage than previously thought. I had discovered that low Mg is linked to high histamine, among MANY other symptoms I have. After reading your article I internet-searched Mg and DAO and found Mg is needed for DAO. From your and other commenters’ notes it sounds as if histamine intolerance can be a DAO thing or a methylation thing. Methylated forms of other vitamins never helped me, histamine-wise. I will add your info to the page. Thank you!

      Here’s that article: http://synergyhw.blogspot.com/2013/01/magnesium-part-3-wrath-of-histamine.html Looks like I also need to eat more fat for the DAO.

  2. Glutamine also has a negative effect on your thyroid causing one to become hypo. For some, the effect is permanent. Before I knew this, I took 1500mg for 2 weeks and started gaining weight, getting very tired, hair falling out, getting spacey. So I researched it and found others had the same issues. I stopped it and am now in the process of trying to get my thyroid back up to speed. Hopefully this lowered thyroid function is not permanent for me, time will tell.

    • I had no idea glutamine could affect the thyroid like that. I hope you recover quickly. If I remember correctly, Freddd (3 d’s) at the bettermedicine.com B12 discussion forum (with the long name “Vitamin B12 deficiency is commonly misdiagnosed”) believed that glutamine had a disastrous effect on his B12 levels. As for the B6 interaction I mentioned in the post, I found recently that I have to take all amino acids with extra PHP (B6) or I feel it after a few days. Regular B6 doesn’t seem to work for me anymore.

  3. Thank you for this post. I followed up on the B12 info and am now on the active B12 protocol. This is the single most beneficial thing I’ve tried (and longest-lasting benefit). The brain fog is mostly gone, allergies are much less severe, and a number of other symptoms have improved. I can’t thank you enough.

    When I started digging into the metabolism of B12, I kept coming across references to mercury. Mercury interferes with a number of enzymes in the metabolic cycles which use B12. This led me down another trail, and I eventually concluded that the cause of many of my problems is mercury poisoning from dental amalgams. Have you ever investigated heavy metal poisoning as a possible cause?

    • I’m very glad I could be of help. I looked into mercury when I first heard about the issue, but it turns out all my fillings are composite (non-mercury). I did end up with elevated mercury levels from eating fish every day for several years, but of course that was a very mild, short-term poisoning compared to what you are dealing with. It was discovered in a routine test at the osteopath, and resolved after a few months of no fish and lots of pesto. (Cilantro is a mad mercury chelator, apparently.) Now you have me wondering how accurate those tests are…

      Good luck with the detox! From what I’ve read it can be a bit of a trial.

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