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 the MTHFR Academy 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 we 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 has things you’re aware of. 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 or MTHFR Academy 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
  7. Adjust as needed.

That is really the crux of it! Thanks for listening today and I can’t wait to see you in Genetic Rockstars. Also, I’ll be taking a break from the podcast for the month of August, but we’ll come back the first Sunday in September with Season 2. In Season 2 we’re going to walk through a year in the life of the MTHFR journey, starting with your very first steps.

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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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Detoxification for MTHFR, Revisited

MTHFR and detoxification are intimately linked. Having a methylation issue impairs detox of many substances including heavy metals and hormones to name a few, but also when those branches of detoxification are impaired it can generally affect the speed at which other substances are able to be eliminated.  So actively supporting those elimination pathways is a huge part of the MTHFR lifestyle. The problem is that anybody who has ever had a hangover, knows that being toxic comes with symptoms. Sadly, lots of people who have done cleanses also know that cleansing too quickly can come with symptoms.

I can certainly say first hand that doing an intense cleanse is fraught with difficulty. When I was a student, well before I knew anything about MTHFR or it’s consequences or that I have it, a good friend was bulk ordering cleanse kits at a discount.  This is the sort of weird geekery that we engaged in as students. Anyway, the cleanse involved a limited diet that tapered down to a total water fast over the course of six weeks along with heavy-duty liver pushers, clay as a binder, and a massive dose of fiber.  I won’t go into the gory details, but right around week four a good friend sat me down and said, very earnestly, “If you don’t stop this cleanse, I am personally locking you in your apartment to preserve everyone else’s sanity.”

I actually broke that fast with an entire large extra cheese and pepperoni pizza and an order of breadsticks by myself, which is even funnier if you had seen me in person because I’m 5’2 and 105 lbs soaking wet. Quite honestly, the pizza was blissful and the only part of that cleanse that was worth the price of admission.  The problem was, that for my body the cleanse was WAY too intense and it pushed my liver to liberate toxins that my system had no way of actually eliminating, and so they rattled around turning me into quite literally a toxic human.

Interestingly, when we refer to someone as “toxic” emotionally, they are usually a pretty good picture of what a person who is toxic physically looks like.  Angry, lashing out, generally spewing hatred and unpleasantness. Internally they might also have a headache, some mild (or severe) nausea, and be constipated. Their skin could be itchy, they might (eek!) produce some weird odors. It’s all pretty gross and, well, toxic. 

The symptoms of being toxic and needing a detox are much the same as the symptoms that occur if you’re trying to detox too quickly.  I know, for the small handful of you who are listening who have experimented with an overly-eager cleanse before, this was a lightbulb moment. The rest of you are probably saying, “so what?”

The reason this matters is that if you’re truly on a path towards balancing your methylation, then you’re going to get to the point where you start incorporating gentle detox into your routine more frequently, and invariably when people start doing gentle detox regularly and see how much better it makes them feel, they try to push the envelope with heavier-hitting detox. 

So let’s talk about steps toward mitigating those toxic symptoms.  We’ll go through a little flow chart.

  1. Are you having symptoms spontaneously (like you’re just toxic) or have you been actively detoxifying?
  2. If you’re just toxic, it’s time to implement some gentle detox strategies and give your body a cleaner diet for a couple of weeks or for good.
  3. If you’ve been detoxing, it sounds like you’re pushing your body a bit too hard. Here’s how to handle that.
    1.   First, Stop taking any supplements involved with the detox. Your body needs a break.
    2. The next big priority is to get your bowels moving because if you can’t physically eliminate things, then they’re hanging around inside of you and that is a genuinely horrible thought. This may mean a one-off dose of a laxative tea or even a glycerine suppository. Whatever you do, make sure you poop.
    3. Also, adding in some detox-type activities that don’t go through your liver or bowels can be a really helpful thing. This is using a sauna or sweating it out in any way you can, doing castor oil packs, taking Epsom salts baths, and that type of thing. 
    4. Keep a very simple, clean diet (fruits and veggies, rice, broth, fresh juices, lots and lots and lots of water. No alcohol, refined sugars, or processed foods, until the symptoms have passed, will help too.
    5. Sleep more – as much as you physically can, and generally give your body a break. 

MTHFR-safe detoxes.

In general, I warn MTHFR folks away from detox kits unless they are a pro with detoxes and can read their body’s signs and symptoms effectively and know how to counter any adverse reactions. But just because we can’t do prepackaged kits very well, doesn’t mean we can’t detox.

Intermittent Fasting

 I love intermittent fasting. Love it with a passion. It’s easy, it’s safe, and it’s extremely well researched in all kinds of areas, but especially in promoting longevity. It’s just about the simplest and most effective health hack out there. Here’s how you do it.

  • 24-hour Fast: For a 24 hour fast, have dinner like usual, skip breakfast, lunch, and snacks the next day and drink plenty of water with a little bit of lemon in it (or plain if you’re not into lemon). Around the same time as you had dinner the night before, have a healthy, simple dinner. That’s it! It’s literally the easiest possible health-boost because there is less effort involved than you take on a normal day. 
  • 36-Hour Fast: For a 36 hour fast, have dinner the night before, skip all food the day of the fast and drink a ton of water or lemon water.  Get up the next morning (which is roughly 36 hours later) and eat a healthy breakfast. Done!

Clean Week

This is a great tool to use quarterly, and it can be as simple or as intense as you feel ready for that quarter. A simple clean week could be stripping your diet down to fresh fruits and veggies, rice, broth, and some gentle herbal detox teas. Take out some of the foods we tend to lean on that might not be the best – the grains, processed foods or packaged foods, refined sugars. During this week it’s important to rest more, be more mindful of toxin avoidance, and I like to take it as an opportunity to go inward – do a bit of journaling, clear out some clutter, that sort of thing. If you want to get more intense about it you can do a full juice cleanse, liquid diet, or alternate between juice only days and fasting days. This is a completely customizable tool.

Modified Month

This is exactly what it sounds like, and can be a really helpful format to use if you have a habit that you know is taking a toll. A modified month is like taking a reset on a bad habit – if you’ve watched your sugar cravings ramp up (like mine have) during covid, it could be a great idea to do a modified month over the summer in which everything else is mostly the same, but you cut out the sugar and sweets. Lots of people do modified months with events like Dry July or Sober October. Also, a modified month can be a great way to work on improving a good habit instead of eliminating a bad one. What about Active August or Hydrated… Shmydrated. I don’t have a rhyme for that one.

Detox can be as simple and small or as large and complex as you want to make it, and just because you did a big complex one last time doesn’t mean you need to do that again. Take your stress level and your life chaos into account when you’re planning this.

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MTHFR and Allergies or Sensitivities – We’ve All Got Them.

MTHFR and sensitivities are intimately linked and for better or for worse, this is part of the MTHFR experience that makes having an MTHFR community so important. Let’s face it – we need someone to talk to who also can’t use normal face cream and can’t eat wheat without feeling like we’re insane. Sensitivities come in four flavors and we’re only beginning to understand why.

MTHFR and Allergies

Allergies and atopic illness in general (this includes asthma, migraines, skin sensitivities, interstitial cystitis, and any other condition that is linked to over-responding to some irritant) are a huge problem for MTHFR folks. The reasons are multifaceted, but mostly, it centers around histamine. Histamine is the main mediator of conventional allergic reactions. There are a few concrete links, and also some logical connections.

MTHFR and Food Sensitivities

Food sensitivities have been increasing in the last few years – hence the rise of the “gluten free” industry and the implementation of food allergy labeling. Nobody really knows why this problem has become so pervasive, although I’ve heard theories about vaccine ingredients, genetic modification and selective breeding of crops, and gut bacteria. More than likely, the truth is some combination of all of those things. One other factor exists, and that is, of course, genetics. Food sensitivities certainly seem more common within the MTHFR community, and much of that could be attributed to the histamine problem. Also, because of the tendency toward higher resting histamine, there is also a tendency toward something called “histamine intolerance” within the MTHFR community.

Histamine intolerance shows up as food sensitivities in combination with a host of other issues (we’ll go over it in a whole post because it’s too much to condense here) and can be treated with a low-histamine diet that is absolutely life-changing for some people.

Histamine intolerance or no, food sensitivity elimination is crucial for MTHFR folks and for many of us, will knock a big chunk of symptoms out even before we’ve got our methylation balanced. For me, eliminating wheat and gluten from my life has been life changing.

MTHFR and Chemical Sensitivities

Chemical sensitivities can be seen as a combination of allergic issues related to high histamine, and detox issues related to the toxin buildup that can happen with MTHFR because we have a hard time methylating. This toxic buildup isn’t just with toxins that need to be methylated because as the system becomes overburdened and overloaded, all other detoxification pathways are slowed as well. In general, to have a good MTHFR lifestyle it is important to limit chemical exposure to every degree possible so that you can reduce the burden on your system.

MTHFR and Emotional Sensitivity

To put a general disclaimer out there – this comes entirely from my own clinical observations and hasn’t been seen in research (although, to be fair, this isn’t the type of topic that is often researched anyway because who would profit from it?)

I have seen a clinical correlation between MTHFR mutations and emotional sensitivity and I don’t mean delicate-flower-not-coping with real emotions, sensitivity, I mean actual sensitivity to emotions in oneself and in other people. I would call it a higher level of emotional awareness. In people on the autistic spectrum this might mean feeling the emotions in the room as physical sensations or finding other people’s emotions so distracting that they almost overwhelm that person’s own internal state. In lesser forms, it might just be a heightened awareness of internal or external emotional states that van impact mood and also decision making.

This is a trait that I see over and over again in my MTHFR community and I find it to be such a double-edged sword. On one hand, higher awareness of emotions allows for greater empathy, greater emotional intelligence and greater performance in relationships. On the other, it can come with the fallout of increased moodiness, greater tendency toward overwhelm, and greater need for buffer time between interactions with people and the outside world.

It isn’t something I have a solution for, outside of implementing more careful self-care, as I have done in my life, but it is a situation I want to bring awareness to and get people talking about. I do think this is a strength as much as it’s a weakness, if we understand how to harness it.

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Gentle Detox for MTHFR

The keyword here is GENTLE. Why? Anybody can overdo detox, but trouble is especially easy to find when you have a known genetic issue affecting detoxification. Pushing too hard is miserable, but detoxing in small steps is a great strategy to help you feel your best.

Gentle Detox for MTHFR for Life – The MTHFR Lifestyle.

Detoxification is a fact of life for everybody – we live in a world of chemicals, plastics, air pollution, water pollution and strange pretend food. All of those things need to be dealt with by your body. With MTHFR issues we have an added chink in our armor, but this is actually an ongoing issue for everyone living in the modern world. There are some things to help.

Here is Why I Don’t Generally Suggest “Detox Kits”

Lot of companies sell detox kits, plans and programs and among those some are great and some are less great but the biggest problem with detox kits is that they work. I know, that doesn’t sound like a big problem but it actually can be.

MTHFR folks run the risk of liberating more toxins into their bloodstream than their body can deal with at once and so doing more harm than good. This feels bad and more importantly, it can actually do damage.

Amy Neuzil, tohealthwiththat.com

Generally, detox kits include a supplement that pushes your liver to eliminate more toxins – some combination of milk thistle, globe artichoke, dandelion, or any number of herbs that stimulate liver function. These supplements usually have a pretty big impact on liver function. Also, there is often a fiber source somewhere in the detox – either within the suggested diet or in another supplement. This is to catch toxins as they’re being eliminated so you don’t reabsorb them, because that is a thing humans do. Also, typically some kind of modified diet that reduces the number of toxins you’re taking in and often reduces calories to free up some metabolic space for your body to focus on actually eliminating toxins, rather than dealing with food intake.

Detox kits are made for people who don’t have any genetic blocks to their detoxification pathways, and that isn’t MTHFR folks. MTHFR folks run the risk of liberating more toxins into their bloodstream than their body can deal with at once and so doing more harm than good. This feels bad and more importantly, it can actually do damage.

This isn’t to say that you will never be able to do a detox, just that you should be deep within your MTHFR journey before you try it. Optimizing your methylation pathways first and making sure you understand your body’s signals that it gives you when you’re struggling with detox before you push it that hard. We’ll talk about that in a future post.

If Detox Kits Are Too Strong, Then What Do MTHFR Folks Use?

Great question. Let’s talk about it because we have a lot of incredible detox options that don’t have quite so much potential to get us into a mess.

Sweat It Out

We talked a bit about the conflicting research on sweating it out here, and I stand by my statement that clinically, I see people make major strides forward in their health journey by using this simple technique. Sweating is easy for anybody with any financial means to accomplish because it can be done so many ways and literally anything that helps you work up a sweat counts. This can be in a sauna, an IR sauna, a hot bath, with vigorous exercise, in a sweat lodge, or even sitting in a hot car in the summer. It doesn’t have to be fancy, although fancy can be wonderful.

In terms of using sweating therapeutically, it has to be regular. Sweating frequently is the key because it liberates only a tiny amount of toxins, especially heavy metals, each time. Here are some tips:

  • Sweat regularly – try 3 times a week for 10 minutes to start and increase if you can.
  • Ditch the antiperspirant – if you’re trying to sweat it out, it doesn’t make any sense to also block the sweating. Switch to a deodorant. Also, antiperspirants use aluminum (heavy metal and also toxic) to block the sweat ducts so in general, they’re a good thing to get rid of.
  • Shower after – I”m sure this goes without saying but shower off the sweat when you’re done (unless you sweat in a hot bath). Not just for hygiene and everyone else’s happiness, but also because we do absorb things from our skin so if you leave it there, you might end up reabsorbing the toxins you worked so hard to eliminate.
  • Hydrate – sweating uses water and also electrolytes, so make sure you’re replacing what you use.

Castor Oil

Castor oil is one of my very favorite tools because it’s supremely easy, inexpensive, and extremely effective for detox but also for pain relief. There is recorded use of castor oil for at least 3000 years and anything that survives that many years only does it because it works. The primary molecule in castor oil, ricinoleic acid, is a strong anti-inflammatory and is small enough to penetrate beyond the deep dermis of the skin and into the lymphatic channels.

Castor oil really will be your secret weapon.

Lymph is something we don’t talk about nearly enough, but it is another method your body has for delivering toxins to the liver to be eliminated and removing toxins from the tissues.

Castor oil is beneficial for a number of disease and conditions (see the link above), but I like it best for the everyday benefit of detoxification. There is a more formal method of using castor oil, called a castor oil pack, but I use a lazy method – Amy’s Lazy Castor Oil Treatment. Here’s what you do.

  1. Get your organic castor oil. Your local health food store should have this, but if they don’t you can always order online.
  2. Slather it on before bed. Make sure you cover the front and back of your abdomen, especially the right side over your liver (but honestly, I do the whole thing).
  3. Put on your rattiest pajamas. Because they’re never coming back from this. These are now your castor oil pajamas because it’s sticky and will never wash out without a trace. The pajamas are basically just protecting your bedding at this point.
  4. Go to bed for the night. And sleep and sleep and sleep. Lovely.
  5. Shower in the morning. There may be a slight trace of oil that hasn’t absorbed in the morning, but chances are it’s all soaked in and your skin is soft as a baby’s bum. That is just a side bonus – we’re going for the detox.

That’s it – you’re done. Try to do this two to three times per week and more if you’re feeling especially toxic (if you don’t know what it feels like to feel especially toxic, read this.) Also, if you happen to have digestive pain, pelvic pain, or any other ongoing pain, you can use castor oil at night topically to that area for its antiinflammatory properties. A full list of uses can be found in this article.

Fiber and Other Gut Sponges – The Unsexiest Topic

Yeah, fiber lacks sex appeal in every sense. So does the phrase “gut sponge” if truth be told, but without it, there are even unsexier things that happen, like constipation, man boobs, and hemorrhoids. The RDA for fiber is 30 – 38 grams per day for men and 25 grams per day for women. I think all of us should shoot for about 35 grams.

Benefits of fiber:

  • Prebiotic – soluble fibers help to nourish your microbiome, without which you would be dead inside of a minute. No joke.
  • Adds bulk – which in an of itself sounds gross, but soluble fibers hold bulk and add mass to your bowels so that they can move.
  • Causes movement – insoluble fiber irritates your digestive tract, which sounds like it would be a bad thing, but actually, it just reminds your intestines and colon to move things along and not let them hang out there – that’s actually a bonus.
  • Binds to toxins – this is, in my opinion, the best thing about fiber – fiber grabs lots of toxic things, including detoxified estrogen, heavy metals, and chemicals, and makes sure they actually get eliminated rather than reabsorbed. This is also the benefit of gut sponges.

What is a gut sponge?

A gut sponge is anything that will perform that same function as fiber and bind to toxins in the gut without giving them the opportunity to reabsorb, so that they become eliminated. They are also sometimes called “binders” or “adsorbers.” They act like a sponge moving through your digestion that soaks up all the bad stuff. Other gut sponges (other than fiber, I mean) include:

Quite honestly, for normal application fiber is both the easiest to take – it’s in your food, it’s easily found as a supplement, and it’s reasonably inexpensive. Some of the above binders have very specific binding properties and can be useful if you have a known toxin issue.

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What to Expect When You’re Starting Methylfolate

If you’ve already:

  • Taken folic acid out of your diet
  • Added in natural folate
  • Started a multivitamin or B complex without folate or B12 

And you’re tolerating these changes well, then you’re at the point where you might consider adding some extra 5-LMTHF. We talked about it in a whole post here. As a quick recap, you can expect one of three big reactions.

  1. This is the miracle of miracles.
  2. This started really great and went south.
  3. This is a nightmare.

No matter which of those big reactions you fall under, there can still be a bit of an adjustment when you’re starting. I couldn’t describe my adjustment reaction to you in any way other than to say that my brain felt “weird.” It wasn’t awful, it was just not normal. If it is awful, then stop dosing and read the above post to find out your immediate steps. Here, I want to talk about longer-term expectations and what you might see.

Good Days and Bad Days

As you continue for longer periods on your MTHFR journey, the good days and bad days smooth out and things get a lot more regular and predictable. In the beginning, though, your body is still struggling out of its own personal sand pit and so you’re a little more susceptible to ups and downs. This is normal and expected and gets so much better over time. Just be gentle with yourself and on days when you’re feeling a little yucky, add in some great self-care. That could be scheduling a little nap or some outdoor time, it could be a hot bath or taking 5 minutes to meditate. It could be sitting and staring at a wall for 15 minutes, unplugging, or even watching funny videos during a break to get your dose of laughter. Just be extra gentle with yourself and take some extra care. Your body is working hard and some days it needs extra love and support.

Starting methylfolate can be rough, but things smooth out with time.

Detox Symptoms

One of the biggest processes that is happening with appropriate methylation support is detoxification. This is great news and we want it to happen, but if detox is happening too quickly, then it can feel crappy. Like, really crappy. Detoxing too quickly looks like:

  • brain fog
  • headaches
  • nausea
  • irritability
  • general yuckiness
  • usually it reminds you a lot of a hangover.

This means you’re pushing your body to detoxify, but it’s getting stuck somewhere.  Here is what you should do:

  1. Decrease your dose or take a break from any methylated supplements or methylfolate that you’re taking. Your body needs a break for a minute.
  2. Rest more
  3. Get extra water and some good mineral support (like adding a bit of Himalayan pink salt, lemon juice, or apple cider vinegar to your water).
  4. Do some gentle detox. This could be:
    1. Sweating in a sauna, hot car, hot bath, or wherever else you can sweat.
    2. Hot bath with Epsom salts (for the sweat, and the magnesium)
    3. Castor oil pack
    4. Boosting your fiber intake
    5. Taking something to bind to toxins like bentonite clay (food grade), activated charcoal (also food grade), or spirulina.
    6. 24 – 36 hours of fasting.

As an MTHFR mutant, gentle detox is going to be part of your life, so it really helps to familiarize yourself with your body’s toxic signals. My first one is always irritability – it’s a sure sign that I’m pushing too hard.

Learn Your Boundaries

I feel like one of the biggest and most important factors to really taking care of your body as an MTHFR mutant, is to learn to understand your body’s tolerances and limits. None of us like the word “limits” it implies that we aren’t superhuman, that we have to stop some time or take breaks. It *almost* sounds like a weakness. We have got to change that idea, and fast. Understanding and listening to your body if it is approaching a threshold helps you to avoid the big fallout times, the horrible days, the emotional days, the exhausted days (or weeks), the brain-foggy-can’t-focus days. Believe me, without those, your potential skyrockets and it’s like you’re launched to the next level of life as a human, both personally and in your professional or creative life. This is a lot like learning the subtle language of your body so that you can stop problems before they start.

The best way I know of to start this process is to use a symptom tracker – maybe even daily. Rank symptoms and also traits from 1 – 10 every day and after a while, patterns will pop out at you. Like I said above, if my irritability starts to rise I know to add in some extra detox. If I don’t do that, then I can expect 2 – 3 days of headaches, irritability, brain fog, and general misery. Believe me – it’s better to just make time for that hot bath and convert those to good days.

Likewise, if I start feeling my stress-levels ratchet up, or my level of work-obsession rise, then for me that is a signal that I need more methylfolate, more antioxidants, and more exercise. A couple of days of that will right the balance and put everything into perspective again.

My signals are probably going to be different from your signals, but by using a symptom tracker you will start to see those repeating patterns and can use them to develop coping strategies to keep most days as good days.

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