Rather than enjoying the youth and virility of my twenties, some of the “best years of my life,” I suffered from a decade of chronic illness. It started with severe leg swelling and chronic pain on a daily basis. By mid afternoon, I carried what felt like bricks of water in my legs. On top of that, I was plagued by chronic digestive issues that left me feeling sick, lethargic and just plain gross. This was what I suffered from before I started my journey of detox, which led me to feeling alive, healthier and more energetic than I had felt in over a decade.
One of the crucial things I learned on my healing journey is that because we are all encoded with a unique DNA, each of us has a unique response to chemical toxins and how well we methylate. Some of us can detox and process these toxins, while some of us cannot. I, for example, was born without the enzyme MTHFR, an enzyme that doesn’t allow me to detox properly. This is why some people feel sick when they walk into a store with perfume and others don’t have any trouble and why some people get sick from mold exposure while others don’t show any symptoms. And also, why some of us have a hangover after drinking, while others are fine the next day! Some people cannot detox these toxic substances from their bodies, and in turn, they need a little extra support. Many other people like me, who have this MTHFR missing enzyme, can work with their Integrative Medicine M.D.’s to help their bodies remove toxins.
Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is both an enzyme and a gene; it is crucial to the body because it processes folate (folic acid) for our bodies to utilize it. Mutations in this gene result in decreased activity of the enzyme, which causes issues with the methylation in our body, leading to important body functions to become disrupted – which include the ability to eliminate toxins properly. Methylation is an important biochemical process that is essential for the proper function of nearly all of your body’s systems; it occurs billions of times each second and helps repair your DNA, controls homocysteine, recycles molecules your body needs for detoxification, helps keep inflammation in check and maintains your mood. To avoid serious conditions that are caused by the breakdown in methylation, the key is to maximize methylation (protect your methylation) by understanding what affects your methylation process such as toxic exposure, smoking, medications, poor diet, malabsorption and decreased stomach acid.
The main goal to help my missing MTHFR enzyme as I mentioned above is to optimize methylation, which refers to a series of approximately 100 reactions that are responsible for the production of T-cells (immune cells), glutathione (vital for immune function), energy production and for creating dopamine and serotonin. Anyone with 1 or 2 copies of MTHFR, the enzyme that converts folic acid into methylfolate, like myself, tend to have lower immune function. Myself and anyone lacking the MTHFR enzyme can benefit from taking B12 and methyl folate; they work together and are prime components for methylation reactions.
My lack of MTHFR has forced me to take precautions, while other people can detox easily and remove toxins, I cannot. A good place to start cleaning up your lifestyle is with your food. Eating more dark, leafy greens such as dandelion, mustard, collard, beet greens, spinach, kale, watercress, bok choy, escarole and Swiss chard, which are the most abundant sources of the nutrients our bodies need for optimal methylation. Also, looking for good sources of B vitamins from your food such as sunflower seeds, eggs, walnuts, almonds, whole grains and asparagus. Probiotic-rich foods are also a plus because they keep your gut healthy so you can properly absorb the vitamins you get. I use organic sauerkraut, chickpea miso and kimchi. Start by reading labels and eating organic fruits and vegetables from the Dirty Dozen without pesticides, herbicides and other chemicals. You can also eat organic meats, poultry and eggs so that you are not ingesting growth hormones or antibiotics from the animals. I am a dedicated organic consumer – but I wasn’t always. It wasn’t until I learned what those pesticides, antibiotics and growth hormones were doing to my body. Now, I eat a 100% organic whole food diet filled with lean proteins, healthy fats and a wide variety of fresh veggies. I avoid seafood that is high in heavy metals such as tuna and swordfish, I cannot eat anything out of a can or box because my body reacts to them – so I eat pure, clean, whole foods. Healthy fats such as nuts, seeds and avocados as well as veggies such as spinach, bok choy, Swiss chard, collard greens, sweet potatoes and kale and protein such as chia seeds, ground flax seeds, and organic poultry are a part of my daily eats. It’s tough, but it’s doable and let me tell you – I feel 100% better after removing the toxic junk that was in my life.
Detoxing and methylation are the links to better health that I believe is missing in Western medicine. Trust me; there is hope. There is an answer. Breathe, meditate and focus on the present. Take everything one day at a time; you will get there. You will heal. Your answer IS out there.