*Updated 28 Oct 2014*
When I found out I was compound heterozygous for MTHFR, my first thoughts were of regret. I have never refused myself anything when it comes to what I now think of as toxins: rich food, wheat bread, alcohol, dairy products, sugar, fast food, etc. How much damage, I thought, have I done to my body over the last two decades? Because when you have a MTHFR mutation, your body often doesn’t detoxify as well as “normal” people. The pathways that create crucial substances in the body like SAMe and glutathione are impaired. I am lucky that, aside from my hypothyroidism, I haven’t yet been plagued with medical problems like fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, diabetes or the many others that can affect a person with MTHFR mutations.
Of course, I’m still reasonably young in my early thirties and I have to think that those health problems could or would be coming my way as I age. I have, however, had issues over the years with anemia, mild to moderate depression, insomnia, chemical pregnancy/miscarriage, tinnitus and digestion. My homocysteine levels were elevated at 9.4 back in April.
I don’t want to turn this post into a confessional, but I was also a cigarette smoker for many years. I was proud to put them down for the last time in 2006 and hope that my quitting has restored the health of my lungs and my body. But, while I’m not an alcoholic, I do enjoy beer and wine and have never held back when having drinks with friends or during our sometimes constant travels. My husband and I would often end a stressful day with a drink or two. Sometimes this would affect me and sometimes it wouldn’t. For a long time I thought I had allergies to sulfites in certain wines because I would feel sick after imbibing them. When I stopped taking birth control pills (another MTHFR no-no that I ingested for several years), those reactions seemed to dissipate. Now I realize that perhaps it was the combination of the two toxins that was too much for my body to handle. Alcohol is actually toxic to everyone, so it would be wise to cut back or eliminate it whether you have a genetic mutation or not. I now only drink alcohol on special occasions and always in moderation.
If you are like me and also have a MTHFR mutation, you might be wondering what you can do about it. I am not the person to completely solve that mystery for you. But I am developing this site to share what I’m doing and perhaps some of my lifestyle choices and manifestations will inspire you or help you mimic the same behavior should you choose to do so. My starting point has been the wonderful website MTHFR.net and, in particular, the page there about the basic MTHFR protocol for those who have one or two copies of the C677T mutation.
The recommendations from this page that I am currently incorporating into my life are as follows:
- A switch to supplements containing the active forms of B vitamins (6, 9 and 12)
- Changing to a gluten-free and dairy-free diet (I am still consuming goat cheese at this point.)
- Eating only organic food including an increase in fruits and vegetables
- Avoidance of nitrous oxide, antacids, certain medications/drugs, foods containing folic acid and processed foods
- Drinking only bottled water (or heavily filtered water) and having at least two liters of it a day plus daily electrolytes
- Eating only grass-fed, free-range, hormone and antibiotic free meats and eggs
- Improving my gut health
These are in addition to the other precautions I already take because of my hypothyroidism.
I have also incorporated a number of additional supplements into my regimen. I’ve added these slowly as recommended. The primary supplements I am taking support my body in the production of glutathione, which MTHFR patients are usually deficient in. In addition to all of this, I see a wonderful acupuncturist weekly for hormone balancing and do Pilates twice a week. I’m of normal weight and feel healthy.
Wandering the aisles at the supermarket the other day, I was overwhelmed. Both by the amount of information I’ve taken in over the last couple of weeks and also with gratitude that there is so much that I can still eat. I can’t help but think that had I discovered my condition several years ago that perhaps there wouldn’t be so many choices and so much labeling in foods and beverages for people with special diets. Ironically, I used to whiz down the “special diets” aisle thinking, thank goodness I don’t have to worry about any of THAT! Well, as it turns out I do. And I suspect that many more people also should be following a restricted diet and do not, simply because they are unaware of their health status and have no idea how much our over-processed, highly toxic lives harm our health. These mutations are pretty common and it would be beneficial for more people to get tested. Not that it will be smooth sailing once you simply find out that you have a MTHFR mutation.
Product marketing is often killing us, especially when it comes to food, drink, pharmaceutical and lifestyle choices. We cannot look to the mainstream media and medical establishments and expect to follow their doctrines and lead healthy lives. As I’ll explore in my next post, most of the things in our modern world are tailored towards the quick-fix, the fast-buck and the most convenient solution. This goes for shopping, for medicine, even for your career. Something I will aim to do with this website is to present healthy alternatives, and to talk about living slightly outside of conventional norms when it comes to health and wellness. I don’t claim to be an expert on holistic health, integrative medicine or alternative therapies, but this is a subject that I’m passionately curious about and over the last year I have delved deeper and deeper into how these practices can help me in my own health journey. As much as possible, I encourage a discussion around these topics on this website. Please share your own knowledge with me and others.