Improving my eating habits has been a process for me. When I made a commitment to a healthier lifestyle I started to think about food in a completely different way. What we put in our bodies is tremendously important. What you ingest and how you digest it can be the single most important key to looking after your health in the long term. As Hippocrates said, “all diseases begin in the gut.” Food has no longer become simply an act of pleasure for me. Of course, I love food and the taste of it has and will always be a concern for me. But I am now more interested in getting nourishment from my food and being efficient about it.
As a person with MTHFR and as a woman who is trying to prepare her body for conception, I have a lot of nutritional needs. In fact, I often feel like I am not eating enough each day to get everything that I need. This is due to how much I can physically eat and the quality of the food that is available. You also have nutritional needs that are probably different to mine. Each body is special and unique. Today I want to discuss how you can plan your food and make adjustments to ensure that you are eating the right things for you.
I’ve always said that if I won the lottery one of the first things I would spend a chunk of money on would be a personal chef and nutritionist who would take care of all of my family’s meals and ensure we’re eating amazing food that is good for us all day long. Hey, a girl can dream, right? Maybe you have access to a chef or a competent nutritionist who has gone over all of your health needs and developed an appropriate plan that takes everything you need into consideration. If you have that, you’re tremendously lucky and need read no further. For me, something like that is a little out of reach right now. I don’t even have one doctor who knows everything about the health issues I’m dealing with. I need something custom made for me right now that encompasses everything. So I’m taking Ryan Andrews’s advice here and becoming my own nutritionist. At least for now.
As Andrews mentions in that article, it’s best that you don’t follow anyone else’s advice (aside from that of a trained health professional who is looking specifically at your personal situation) about diet. So I’m stepping right away from giving advice and going to just tell you what I’m doing. Maybe my plan would be suitable for you, maybe it wouldn’t. As I’ll discuss later in this post, MTHFR and genetic mutations are complicated. If you are really ill or have issues, for example, with your CBS gene, you’re going to need a whole different treatment plan than just a change of diet. In many cases, it will be essential to work with an experienced practitioner to get better. What I want to achieve with this post is showing you my process for coming up with a plan for yourself to start eating healthier right now, and more in line with your goals.
I’m a process-driven person so when I commence any project, I begin with goals. What do you want to achieve with your food? If you have MTHFR it might be to get as much of your needed vitamins and minerals from food as possible, while avoiding toxins and food contaminants that put stress on your body. That would be a smart goal for this condition. Maybe you also want to reduce your weight, so in that case, monitoring calories will also be important. Think about what you want to achieve for your health and then seek out information on how to bring about that desired objective. For me, my plan includes the following goals:
- As I mentioned above, I want to get as many of the vitamins and minerals I need to help with my MTHFR as possible. So I try to choose foods that help with that. I’ve listed these in the linked post.
- I want to remove as many toxins from my food as possible. I eat organic, especially when it comes to the “Dirty Dozen” and I ensure that any meat I consume is cage-free and has no hormones and antibiotics. I also avoid processed foods. Most of these are off limits for me anyway because they contain ingredients I can’t eat. Many toxins are stored in animal fats, so it is beneficial to reduce high fat meats as well.
- I aim for cancer and disease prevention. Eliminating toxins helps with this but I also avoid sugar and heavy metals. Sadly this means I have to watch what fish I eat and how much of it – and fish is very important to my particular diet. I eat as many fruits and vegetables as I can and aim for alkaline foods like non-citrus fruits, vegetables and cereal grasses. I don’t eat dairy or gluten if I can help it.
- I eat for fertility. I highly recommend the book, The Infertility Cure by Dr. Randine Lewis if this is something you are dealing with. She shows you how to assess your imbalances and tells you what foods, herbs and lifestyle adjustments will help with your particular situation. Generally, however, she recommends getting plenty of essential fatty acids in your diet, adding cruciferous vegetables and eliminating stimulants.
- I have to consider my thyroid too, so that means watching when I eat certain things and in what forms. For example, raw broccoli isn’t great for my thyroid and if I consume anything that contains soy (rarely), I try not to do it too close to when I take my thyroid medication. How you eat is just as important as what you eat.
So what’s left to eat? Quite a bit, actually. Some of the foods are not exactly on my list of favorites and I’ve had to say goodbye to a number of foods that I am loathe to part with. I’ll be sure to keep you posted on what’s working for me because I believe that it takes months to see the results of diet and supplementation adjustments.
Even if you’re homozygous for a MTHFR mutation, that’s just one piece of the puzzle. This is something I haven’t spoken about too much on this blog yet. I am learning that methylation is very complicated and that many other genes and immune system factors can come into play. This explanation is a good starting point for this subject. I’m still exploring my own DNA and what root causes are bringing about symptoms in my own life. But it’s pretty easy to just shove your diet and lifestyle aside and either a) blame it all on your genes and resolve that it’s out of your control, b) decide that you can supplement exclusively and change your health or c) put off changing your bad habits even though you know you should improve yourself. Lifestyle and diet do play a major part in determining what role your genetics will play in the story of your health – nutrigenomics is quickly gaining speed in the medical community. The changes I’ve implemented are healthy ones and I think everyone can benefit from a little self-awareness, and a lot from improving their diet and lifestyle. Being mindful of what you put in your mouth and how it affects you plays a big part.
If you’re looking for an easy way to get started, try eliminating something that you suspect might be harmful or inflammatory in your diet for a week or two and see what difference it makes. Or keep a journal of everything you eat for a month and record your symptoms. Then examine it carefully to see what foods are aggravating your body and which ones are making you feel great. Listening to your body is very important and you may improve your health simply by making some dietary changes. I also encourage you to read everything you can get your hands on about nutrition and your condition. Go online for free information (look for trusted websites and resources) or order some books online (I regularly order used books when I have a lot of reading to do to save money). Implement changes slowly and be sure you are getting a balanced diet. You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars on nutritionists or fad diets to realize a healthier you.
In the next post I’ll talk about overall gut health and how to improve it, which is extremely important to making a difference in your outcomes. Eating healthy is useless if your body cannot absorb the nutrients properly.
What is your approach to food and nutrition?