Empty Bucket, Fix Backlog.

I feel like this is getting into Zen slogan territory – Chop wood, carry water… Empty bucket, fix backlog. Actually, for us MTHFR folks, this could be tantamount to a personal mantra guiding us through life.

Emptying Your Bucket

Your bucket, you’ll remember, is all of the stuff that is happening to you right now. It’s anything ongoing that your body is dealing with. It includes lots of things that happen all the time in the background, a few things that you can change or modify, and the rest we can just chalk up to life.

  • Metabolism of food
  • Daily maintenance of oxidative balance, hormone levels, fluid balance, neurotransmitters, and all the amazing things your body does without you being aware.
  • Healing, cell turnover, and cell regeneration.
  • Immune defenses against viruses, bacteria, molds, fungi, yeast, parasites, and other pathogens,
  • Pollutants in the air, water, food, self-care products
  • Food additives – artificial colors, flavors, sweetness, preservatives, etc… (fixable)
  • Ingested Irritants – especially food sensitivities (fixable)
  • Dehydration (fixable)
  • Nutritional deficiencies (fixable)
  • Lack of sleep (fixable)
  • Sedentary lifestyle, work, or habits (fixable)
  • Too much UV exposure (fixable)
  • Work, family, and life stress (life)
  • Big changes – moving, marriage, births, deaths, new pets, new jobs, loss of jobs, financial changes, relationship changes (also life)

This part of the Empty Bucket, Fix Backlog mantra comes down to making conscious decisions about your health. This is the 99.9% of healthcare that has nothing to do with your doctor and everything to do with the decisions you make throughout the day. Will you have the extra helping of mac and cheese? Another martini? Two more hours of TV at night? Another glass of water? This is the part that is entirely under your control (and often feels entirely out of control).

It comes down to valuing your health over the momentary pleasure you’re going to get from that bag of chips or the candy bar in the checkout line, and also knowing that if you make decisions that prioritize your health 90% of the time, the other 10% can slide. There is and always has to be room to be human.

Bear in mind an optimal diet has lots of room for treats, you just have to know what is a treat your body can handle vs. one that triggers the worst for you. This is where working with a great practitioner, health coach, or ideally a healing group on the same journey, like Genetic Rockstars where you can get help from a group of peers to stay on track.

In terms of biggest-impact changes, for MTHFR folks, balancing methylation is always the biggest because that is the heart of the problem with the MTHFR mutation. After that, eliminating food sensitivities and working on your sleep have the biggest and most pervasive impact on your health.

Fixing Your Backlog

Your backlog is stuff that used to be in your bucket that your body didn’t have the resources to deal with at the time. The only safe way for your body to handle something that it doesn’t have the resources to address at that moment is to store it, wall it off, isolate it, and otherwise keep it away from vital tissues. This isn’t ideal – your body would rather eliminate it completely, but sometimes that isn’t an option. For MTHFR folks who haven’t had good methylation balance, it may not have been an option to deal with lots of things for a very long time.

What I’m really saying here is that we MTHFR folks have a lot of baggage. 😂

Your backlog may contain:

  • Heavy metals
  • Hormones you couldn’t process
  • Plasticizers, pesticides, herbicides
  • Synthetic fragrances, parabens, petroleum products
  • Persistent organic pollutants
  • Tissue repair/remodeling
  • Sleep deficit
  • Unaddressed cell regulation (this can be destroying cells that are dysregulated or cell regeneration)
  • Chronic or subclinical infections of any type
  • Chronic inflammatory processes
  • Genetic repair

You may have spotted a couple of big differences between your bucket and your backlog here. One is that your bucket is filled with things you’re aware of (mostly). These are stressors that you probably recognize and have some awareness of. Your backlog, on the other hand, is mostly made up of things you don’t know about at all. They were once in your bucket, but they passed through the bucket a long time ago. Another big difference is that nothing in the backlog is under any kind of conscious control. Even addressing the backlog is unconscious – your body will do it when it’s ready and has resources, but it’s not really your brain’s decision.

What I’m saying here is that we MTHFR folks have a lot of baggage. 😂

Amy, mutant-in-chief at Genetic Rockstars.

This means there is nothing you can really do to encourage the processing of your backlog. In good news, your body will happily get to it as soon as it has some resources available so balancing your methylation is also the biggest and most important step here.

If there is anybody reading or listening who is thinking, “Ok, Amy, but what do I actually have to do to balance my methylation?” Here’s the super quick and dirty.

  1. Join Genetic Rockstars so you have the support of other people who are on the same journey.
  2. Eliminate folic acid from your diet – this is fortified foods like wheat and sometimes corn products, and also from your supplements first thing.
  3. Add good food sources of natural folate – things like beans, avocados, asparagus, fresh-squeezed orange juice, and marmite.
  4. Begin with a background of other B vitamins without folate or B12
  5. Add a B12 that suits you
  6. Add 5-LMTHF, SAMe, or another methylation driver
  7. Adjust as needed.

That is really the crux of it! I can’t wait to see you in Genetic Rockstars.

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Obstacles with MTHFR – The Bucket and The Backlog

The MTHFR journey to health can be a bumpy one and there are certainly ups and downs along the way. We have talked a bit about this progression before, but I want to clarify the bumps in the road.

Moving toward health with MTHFR can feel really up and down – like you make progress for a little while and then hit a wall. But why? What are these walls and where do they come from? In my opinion, they come from two places. Your bucket, and your backlog.

Your Bucket

We’ve talked about the bucket before – your bucket is unique to you and it represents a container for how many stressors your body can hold before it fills up and symptoms start to spill over. The goal with any form of healing, not just with MTHFR, is to empty out your bucket so that your body has more room to deal with stressors.

So your bucket really is the stuff that is coming in right now – it’s stressors that are actively having an effect on your body. This could be viruses or pathogens, it could be alcohol, it could be inhalants from the perfume aisle or your big deadline at work. It could be a night of bad sleep, food that caused inflammation, or even an injury. This is whatever is actively being dealt with by your body in this very moment.

Your Backlog

Your backlog, on the other hand, is the stuff that needs doing that has accumulated over the years. This could be accumulated toxins that your body didn’t have the resources to process at the time they came in. It could be sleep debt, long-term hormonal imbalance, chronic inflammation, chronic oxidative stress, long-term blood sugar changes, or nutritional deficiencies. These are the big-picture things that your body isn’t quite keeping up with.

Backlog is really easy to picture as the baggage your body has to carry around with it on a day to day basis. You might not be actively adding to it right this second, but your body would like to be able to put some of it down.

It helps to think of your backlog as your body’s long-term to-do list. This is stuff that needs to be done and your body is just waiting on the resources it needs, then it will crack into this in a hurry.

So Why Do Bucket and Backlog Make Healing Bumpy?

The main thrust of working with MTHFR is working to balance your methylation, and that means adding resources, like methyl folate, that your body might not have had in a while (or, ahem… ever).

When we add these resources it suddenly allows for all of this work to start happening and your body gets really excited that it can clear up some of the junk it’s been holding on to, and there can be a bit of a flood at the gates, so to speak. Your body starts working through the to-do list but this takes both energy and resources.

If you happen to be having a full bucket day (more stressors than usual) or a busy backlog day (more processing than usual) it can feel like you’re hitting a wall or like your symptoms are worse.

Fixing the Bad Days

I know everyone wants a picture of healing that doesn’t have any bad days in it, but unless you can move to an ashram or a spa in thailand and devote yourself entirely to healing for the next year, it isn’t realistic to expect it to progress smoothly upward. There are going to be some bumps because real life happens.

Bumps are ok as long as you have a toolkit to deal with them. Here are a few suggestions:

  • Keep your bucket clean – really try to limit your bad days by minimizing what is coming in right now. This means you should get rid of:
    • Toxin exposure as much as possible.
    • Food sensitivities
    • Folic Acid (synthetic) in your diet and supplements
    • Excess alcohol
    • Tobacco
  • Sleep – getting good sleep gives your body that time to help clean house, recharge, and prepare for more work. If sleep is difficult, read more here
  • Watch your diet – good nutrition gives your body the resources it needs to deal with the bucket and the backlog.
  • Boost your antioxidants – if you’ve had a lot of stuff coming up lately or if you feel like you’re hitting a wall and having more symptoms, it can be a good idea to boost antioxidants or try different antioxidants to help your body cope with the excess.
  • Rest – rest is actually a different thing than sleep and your body needs both. Take some downtime to recharge mentally and physically, especially when you’re having a low day.
  • Use your gentle detox strategies – if your body is mired in the backlog, help it out with detoxification support that will move the process forward and help clear up the symptoms you’re experiencing. These include:
  • Be patient. Getting through the backlog takes time, energy, and patience and you will start feeling better from day one, but it will take time to work out all of the kinks.
Starting methylfolate can be rough, but things smooth out with time.

Bad days aren’t the most fun thing in the world, but they are a good signal that your body needs more support. If you haven’t been using a symptom tracker, I highly recommend starting today because your detoxification symptoms have a particular pattern and if you can recognize them, then you can begin to deal with them appropriately when they arise. This saves a lot of fuss and bother in the long run.

Also, you’ll begin to see patterns emerging that could give you more information about the way your body is dealing with certain foods, sleep, hormones, and other stressors. Symptom tracking makes all the difference.

If you don’t have a symptom tracker, you can download one for free by signing up for my email list (below or on the right-hand side of your screen) or you can find it in the MTHFR library in Genetic Rockstars, the entirely free MTHFR healing community.

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The Bucket Theory and MTHFR

The Bucket Theory isn’t a new thing – it’s been around for a long time in a lot of different forms. It is, however, incredibly relevant to the MTHFR problem and many of us have lived out the stages of the theory unknowingly. Here it is.

A Bucket Theory Fairy Tale

You’re born and for the most part, your body is clean, undamaged, fresh with promise. You’ve got a bucket, and it’s clean, shiny, and empty.

Life starts, you get skinned knees, your first emotional wounds, pick up a few viruses and a drippy nose along the way. Your family has a pretty clean diet and you live next to a farm. Your bucket starts to pick up a few things inside of it. Some toxins, some viruses hanging around, a few emotional stressors.

There is a tiny hole in the bottom of the bucket where the contents are being processed, and released from the bucket, but it’s pretty small. Doesn’t matter – the bucket doesn’t have much in it.

You are growing up and life is great. Sure, high school kind of sucked but you’re off to university and all the fun that goes with it. You get hit with mono, but you got it from your first love, so it was totally worth it. You maybe drink more than you should and ramen noodles are your go-to meal because you only have a kettle and a microwave, but things are amazing.

Your first love leaves to study animals in the Galapagos, or to party in Ibiza or to join a big firm in New York. Your heart breaks. You spend a few months mooning around eating carbs and going on dates.

Now you are entering the work force but the hours are long and god knows you don’t want to miss out on social time, so you’re burning the candle at both ends. Plus, that old soccer injury is playing up. You aren’t aware of your bucket at all – you’ve never even thought about it – but you’ve piled on enough tiny stressors and damage to your body, that your bucket is getting close to full.

You meet the love of your life and get a promotion – everything is golden. You buy a fixer-upper and spring for new carpets. You have a big deadline coming up at work and you’ve got to pay the mortgage and you’re often up at midnight, trying to make sense of the latest spreadsheet. Then, you find out that you’re going to be a parent – hooray! Then, to nobody’s surprise, you get the flu.

The flu lingered and you couldn’t get your pep back, but this is no time to take a break. Besides, you’re out of sick days at work and your deadline is looming so you jump back in full-throttle. You have no energy, but who really does? Except now it’s turning to summer and you still feel down.

You notice that you can’t work out anymore without feeling winded and your sleep is suffering because your mind races at night and you can’t seem to turn off. You know your life is really good, but you just can’t seem to connect with that because you’re so very tired.

Does any of this sound familiar?

This person’s bucket reached full with the flu. Now, there is no more room in their bucket so every little thing causes overflow – it is all, quite literally, too much.

This is one of the most common MTHFR stories I hear. “I was always so healthy, never though about my health at all – it was just there. Then I got the flu/a divorce/new carpets/a promotion/married and the wheels fell off the cart. It’s like overnight, everything changed. I feel like my body betrayed me.”

Your body didn’t – it’s just that your bucket filled up and now every little insult comes out as a symptom because it’s all overflowing over the top of the bucket. Your bucket is full.

This is usually where people start desperately looking around for help, going from doctor to doctor, practitioner to practitioner, and testing all of the things. Often, this is when people find out about their MTHFR issues. And this is totally normal.

The ultimate goal in working with your MTHFR, is to empty out your bucket. The more room you have in your bucket, the more you can cope with additional stressor without noticing that they take your body down. Emptying your bucket is a lot like filling up your bank account – it gives you some protection when crisis strikes. Granted, an emptier bucket won’t help you pay to fix your car when it breaks down, but it helps your body cope with the stressors that inevitably come. A little virus floating around at the office, a cut that gets infected, a new car with the formaldehyde-related new car smell, relationship trouble, worries and stresses, life changes.

Stressors don’t have to seem big or important to you, it isn’t about what you consciously acknowledge as stressful. It’s the accumulation of all of the extra work that your body has to do. It has to process toxins, fight off bacteria and viruses, manage stress hormones, cope with tiny nutritional insufficiencies, and deal with all of the physiological changes that come with strong emotions.

In terms of MTHFR – optimizing your methylation pathway, doing your slow detoxification, cleaning up your diet and helping yourself to regulate your emotions all help to empty out your bucket.

A full bucket doesn’t empty overnight. All you can really do is make that hole at the bottom a little bit bigger so that you can process your junk a tiny bit faster. Giving yourself buffers takes time and patience. You have to be willing to play the long game.

There are short cuts – I am pretty sure a month of fasting and cleansing in a health center in India or Thailand would give you a little bit of wiggle room in your bucket in one short month. Given that most of people don’t have that luxury, we’re left with slower options. Also, the month long detox can be undone pretty quickly, too. This is the point where you make a commitment to life-long change.

I think the Bucket Theory is important to understand with MTHFR because it gives you a concrete way to visualize your progress, and also helps you to recognize what an achievement it truly is when you begin to be able to cope again. When a bad night of sleep doesn’t set you back for a week you know your bucket has got a little bit of space in it. It’s a really big deal.

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