A Tale of Two Potato Chips
Actually, it was a lot more than two potato chips - a tale of two types of chips - one with normal potatoes and one type made with vitamin A rich sweet potatoes.
As an example of what might happen if a person did have an overactive conversion of carotenoids to retinoic acid, I have a recent personal experience involving far too many potato chips. Since learning of the Retinoid Toxicity theory, I gradually cut out all rich carotenoid sources because even a small portion did seem to lead to the chapped lips symptoms.
Dark green veggies like kale, I could use, but only as an addition to a meal rather than as a full portion. Even a bite or two of carrot or tiny slice of cantaloupe seemed to lead to symptoms for me once I had fully stopped my daily use of carrot, kale and mango that had led to a flair up in the chapped lips with unhealing cracks at the corners (cheilitis). Excess Retinoid medications is a known risk factor. (healthline/Chapped lips) I do not use any Retinoid medications though.
Background: What I do tend to do though, over the course of lifetime of learning my own quirks, is to binge eat occasionally, or frequently depending on a few factors. Having an endocannabinoid deficiency (BHMT gene allele) can affect hunger and fullness signaling in the brain - either binge eating or anorexia, severe lack of appetite, or more likely to occur. The excessive snacking after marijuana use known as “the munchies” can be an effect of THC use in excess, but in even more excess it can cause a lack of appetite and even vomiting.
Having a good balance of the THC/anandamide and CBD/2-AG is what is needed for a healthy appetite and also it can help inhibit overactive mast cells and prevent excessive histamine release. Retinoic acid would try to activate mast cells and let more histamine be released causing the various seasonal allergy or chapped lips symptoms.
As I have had to restrict my diet more to avoid autoimmune or other symptoms, good old potato chips were a lone stand-out of convenience foods that didn’t make me too sick. The vegetable oil is inflammatory, but the ingredients are simple enough - potatoes, sea salt, and oil - that as long as I avoid the iodized salt (hyperthyroidism) in excess a tiny bag of potato chips are a nice salt delivery unit on a hot summer drive if I forgot to pack other food. A large bag can lead to excessive eating though, so I try to simply not buy them. Bean chips and other substitute ‘natural’ processed chips aren’t much better because they tend to have other stabilizing ingredients, so I just skip the temptation of salty/crunchy. No, I can’t eat just one potato chip, so I don’t start - usually.
Emotional triggers - eating out of anger or frustration - is a problem that I have had to face in myself and work through. Acceptance is really a BIG first step if you hope to achieve change. Yes, I have an eating disorder with a genetic basis - my genotype sets me up for hunger/fullness dysfunction. Having a balanced external source of cannabinoids helps me have a phenotype of normal hunger and fullness. Recent post on my other SubStack: Genotype, Phenotype, and Choice.
Avoiding food when feeling emotional is also helpful for maintaining that phenotype of normal eating patterns. Avoiding foods that are particularly addictive - salty, fatty carbs, especially with glutamate seasonings or aspartate sweeteners, are particularly difficult to stop eating because they stimulate the brain and lead to pleasurable and pain relieving opiate like exorphins. Knowledge does help - know your weaknesses and you can avoid them - or at least recognize that you are hurting yourself by your choice.
The last few months have been very emotionally difficult for me as I have had to take on a lot of responsibility for the care of my parents - trauma childhood revisited as an adult. It has been a challenge to try to maintain my own progress. I did slip and have a big bag of white potato chips (Type One), eaten over the course of a few days, but more than a tiny bag amount. Eating too many leaves a fairly immediate symptom of digestive upset but otherwise didn’t affect me too badly.
I had also picked up a big bag of sweet potato chips (Type Two) which I also love - but hadn’t opened them. A couple days ago - after writing the last retinoic acid post, I was having a moody night and grabbed that bag - ate some without thinking, and then suddenly the lightbulb - Why? Why Did I Buy Sweet Potato Chips? I should know better? I was in mid-binge mode, it is hard to stop once started - seriously. The brain is just not into that - but I consciously thought - carotenoid overload - I had already eaten more than a tiny sliver of cantaloupe worth of the chips. I decided to just go ahead and see what happened. I ate way too many - immediate symptom, queasy from too much grease. Went to bed.
The next day report: symptoms included slightly inflamed lymph nodes in my neck, always an early indicator that I my autoimmune issues are more flared up. My lips did feel a little more dry and chapped, but haven’t gotten worse to the point of the cheilitis fissures. Groggy headed and tired. I had been building up to more yardwork - digging and moving wheelbarrows of dirt - with a little free time I went optimistically to go do more loads and instead laid down for a few minutes and woke up a couple hours later. My klutziness has been worse and I have banged into doorways more often and a stairway ceiling - just more ADHD like - my norm when I am not doing as well or am stressed and busy which can lead to not functioning as well as when I am relaxed. I was also a little more congested and sneezing than I had been.
Carotenoids make me more inflamed instead of less like they would in someone whose body isn’t over-activating them to Retinoic acid.
My take home lesson as a human knockout mouse for the BHMT gene (endocannbinoid deficiency) and potential over-activator of carotenoids is to don’t eat sweet potato chips, at all, and continue to try to avoid white potato chips too, because I can’t just eat one potato chip.
So what did I do? I napped more, went to bed earlier, made my herbal tea mix and had some Wormwood tea. I used an extra dose of niacin when I remembered it and took extra black seed oil, a spoonful am and pm instead of just am. The tea, niacin doses, and black seed oil can help with congestion and the rest of the inflammatory response. I am feeling better today. We’ll see if I get any wheelbarrows of dirt moved.
Last summer’s projects included this area:
Disclaimer: This information is provided for educational purposes within the guidelines of fair use. While I am a Registered Dietitian this information is not intended to provide individual health guidance. Please see a health professional for individual health care purposes.