Don’t make the mistakes I made with MTHFR and food sensitivities…

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Why do people write blog posts? We can come up with a pretty hefty list, I'm sure. The reason I write is to hopefully keep you from making the same mistakes I made - mistakes with self-care, with food allergies and sensitivities, and mistakes with how to leverage MTHFR and other genes to optimize your health.  

Ultimately, all of those things are intimately connected - self-care, food sensitivities and the genetics piece.  But it doesn't really make sense from the outside, right?  The picture is a little fuzzy at best.  After being on my own journey for many years - it all makes sense to me.  And that's what I want to share.

A lot of folks are looking for information on how to live with MTHFR.  Ready for the secret?  You can't focus on just MTHFR.  

Let me explain why…

MTHFR is part of your genetics – it’s a gene (actually a few genes!) in each of your cells.  This gene codes for an enzyme and an enzyme is a protein with a job.  It makes something happen.   Many genes work in multiple different places in your body and have a few different jobs.  MTHFR is pretty specific in that it converts 5,10-Methylenetetrahydrofolate to 5-Methyltetrahydrofolate.  That's it.  It is an important job and gets a lot of press but here’s the thing…it is one gene and one enzyme in a whole community of genes and enzymes. 

We’re going to talk through how several different genes affect food sensitivities over the next several weeks, but before we jump in it is so important to understand that the biochemistry in your body is very similar to a very busy community.  Your body - that community - was built to maintain balance in the face of innumerable challenges.

Each member of the community plays an important role in that balance – the bank, the grocery, the bus system, the doctor’s office, the school, etc.  (And keep in mind we still don't know what the entire community looks like or how it functions - science is still learning about the human genome!)  If we focus too much on one gene and increase or decrease the function of that one gene without supporting the others, we have a good chance of messing up the balance of the entire community.  Which ultimately means you feel miserable.

That's what happened to my mom.  She was diagnosed with the MTHFR variant and was started on a methylfolate supplement.  After a few days, her anxiety and pain was so bad she was literally hiding in the closet.  No one could tell us why she reacted that way - and that's why I started learning about MTHFR and all of the other genes in the community.

As we jump into a lot of genetics in the weeks to come, here are some of the foundational tidbits you need to keep in mind.  (So you don't make the same mistakes I did…)

  1. It’s important to remember there is no right or wrong, good or bad with the genetics we will be discussing.  These aren't cancer risk genes.  They aren't telling you a diagnosis to treat or fix.  They don't mean you WILL end up with any particular disease or illness.  This is all about you learning more about your unique health susceptibilities, how your unique body works and how to minimize your overall risk.
  2. Your decisions influence that risk by changing how these genes do their job - a thing called epigenetics.  This is where self-care comes in!  These decisions include things like what you eat, how you sleep, how you manage stress, how hard and how much you exercise, etc.  You can throw a ton of different supplements and pills into your routine to "fix" the biochemistry - but that is frequently like taking a sledgehammer to the situation instead of changing some of your habits and allowing your body to make the changes in its own elegant fashion!
  3. Anything you do with decisions, self-care or even supplements simply changes the biochemistry in your body, not your genes.  There is absolutely no expectation that we will change someone's genetics!
  4. Just because your MTHFR (or any other gene) is coded to work fast or slow doesn’t mean that it is necessarily out of balance…because there is the rest of the community working with MTHFR for that balance.  In fact, when you look at the whole array of genetics for an individual it is pretty common to find where some genes are coded to be fast, others are coded to be slow…again, it’s all about balance!
  5. Conventional medicine will argue about this use of genetic information.  In fact, many will argue that MTHFR has no health effects at all.  My answer to this is that conventional medicine rarely sees health as a continuum that covers the span from healthy to disease.  It looks for disease to diagnose and treat.  If you don't meet the definition of disease, medicine says you're fine.  By using genetics as suggested here, you are learning more about how to prevent disease - or food sensitivities - before it gets to the big ugly stage where your doctor says you're sick.  
  6. Genetic testing tells you about the susceptibility, not the actual function.  Because so many of our choices impact function you can't rely only on what the genetics say.  You need to know what lab tests tell you and what the results mean.  
  7. And then the big one - yes, I believe all of the genes we'll discuss (and likely many more) affect your food sensitivities.  Keep the picture of a bustling community in your mind's eye.  You add one four-way stop and you'll change the flow of the entire community!  While MTHFR may not specifically get rid of histamine (the food sensitivity culprit in many situations), it does help your body make stuff that helps the histamine genes work.  It's all connected!

That's a lot of groundwork as we start our journey discussing genetics and food sensitivities.  And there will be additional bits I'll share along the way.  

Sixty-second Self-care Tip…

Genetic testing sounds like a big deal.  While it can be very impactful, the actual testing is pretty easy and there are a few different ways to access it.  Usually the actual test is a simply cheek swab sent in to a laboratory.

Your healthcare provider can test for a handful of specific genes, including MTHFR, and insurance may cover it - once in a lifetime.  These are your genes and they're not going to change!  But your healthcare provider will have to justify the test - and that could be based on symptoms you're having, your family's health history or other factors.  

Another resource is Ancestry.com or 23andMe genetic testing.  You don't need a special health-related kit so if you've already done one of these, you're in business!  Use the basic kit and most of the genes we will be talking about over the next several weeks will likely be tested.  The only hiccup is getting the information into a format you can use.  

I like either Strategene by Dr. Ben Lynch or Sterling's App Report as they both present the information pretty clearly but in very different formats.  Strategene is like getting a mini-owner's manual for your genetic makeup and can be a little overwhelming if you're perusing it on your own.  Sterling's App is a long list of genes, so you'll need to know someone to ask or where to look online for help in interpreting the information. There are other programs out there if you want to shop around!  And know there is a fee associated with most of these programs.  

Never done genetic testing?  Who knows, you might consider it at some point as we work through the food sensitivity genes!  I know many folks are concerned about privacy.  I'm always on the look-out for reliable testing options with excellent privacy.  More to come!

And if you really want to dive into this world with me, consider joining the waitlist for Food Sensitivity Code


Tags

60-second self-care, community, epigenetics, genetics, MTHFR


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