Article by: Restorative Chiro
Recipes by: Lindsay O'Neill
Considering dietary choices can be of great benefit for those with MTHFR genetic variants, methylation deficiencies, or those pursuing vibrant wellness. The reality is, if your particular genetic expression is impaired, making certain dietary changes can go a long way to supporting health and well being. Food is medicine, after all. Anti-inflammatory Diet
Abiding by an anti-inflammatory diet is the first step for those with methylation deficiency and/or MTHFR. Removing inflammatory foods including many grains and gluten, conventional dairy, sugars, processed foods, soy, and other food additives is an important step in supporting the body. It is also important to note that food sensitivities can promote inflammation within the body. While the foods listed above are common food triggers, there could be other foods an individual is sensitive to and therefore contribute to the body’s inflammation.
Dr. Ashley’s book, Restorative Kitchen is an anti-inflammatory diet. Additionally, the diet laid out in her book can help identify an individual’s food sensitivities, which is crucial for those with methylation deficiencies and/or MTHFR.
Avoid Processed Foods Processed foods are often fortified with folic acid. Again, folic acid is found no where in nature and can accumulate in toxic levels in those with impaired methylation and/or MTHFR genetic variants. In addition to folic acid exposure, processed foods often contain rancid oils, hydrogenated fats, inflammatory refined sugars and high fructose corn syrup, brain-damaging MSG, and other hidden food additives and chemicals. Obviously, these are not conducive to health and wellbeing.
Gluten-free Gluten exposure is prominent in our food system today, especially for those consuming processed foods or eating out. Unfortunately, issues with gluten are all too common whether it be celiac disease or non-celiac gluten-sensitivity. For those with MTHFR and gluten sensitivity, this can result in a “double blow”, so to speak, on the body’s immune system and levels of inflammation.
For those with MTHFR and gluten sensitivity, there is likely intestinal permeability (AKA leaky gut) at play. Gluten exposure and methylation impairment can contribute to the breakdown of the gut lining. When this happens, large food proteins are able to enter the bloodstream and cause a host of health concerns, nutrient deficiencies, and inflammation. Research shows that individuals with MTHFR and gluten sensitivity have higher inflammatory markers, namely homocysteine. In a study of patients with MTHFR variants, many had hyperhomocysteinemia, or high homocysteine levels. These high homocysteine levels were more common when their MTHFR variant was compounded with gluten sensitivity. Additionally, these patients were low in several nutrients because of malabsorption including folate and vitamin B12. When patients utilized a gluten-free diet, their homocysteine levels normalized, along with folate and B12 levels.
Dairy-free Consuming dairy when there is a potential methylation deficiency can add greater stress to the body. When it comes to food sensitivities, dairy sensitivity is oftentimes a close second in severity behind gluten sensitivity. In fact, dairy is also cross-reactive with gluten, so in those that are gluten sensitive, the body may “see” dairy the same way as gluten and can initiate an inflammatory immune attack.
When having a conversation on dairy intake, it is important to consider the type of dairy that is being sourced. Conventionally produced dairy is a potential inflammatory food. Due to the fact that conventional dairy cows are raised inappropriately as well as the pasteurization process, conventional milk is typically a nutrient-poor food choice. While the pasteurization process may be effective in eliminating detrimental organisms from the milk, it also kills beneficial organisms including enzymes and probiotics that are needed to effectively digest the milk. Furthermore, the conventional dairy system typically utilizes Holstein cows in their dairy production. These have been bred over the years to produce substantially more milk than other breeds. The significant downside to this breed is that their milk protein is almost exclusively A1 beta-casein. A1 beta-casein is a protein that is less well tolerated by most people and is linked to gastrointestinal distress, cardiovascular disease, type 1 diabetes, sudden infant death syndrome, and neurological disorders such as autism. For this reason, we recommend either avoiding dairy for a time or sourcing raw goats milk to replace conventional dairy.
Consume Ample Amounts of Leafy Greens As stated before, supplementing with folic acid, vitamin B9 in its synthetic form, can cause build up in the body in those who are not properly methylating. The good news is, many leafy greens have high amounts of the natural form of vitamin B9, folate. Load up on varieties such as arugula, kale, swiss chard, bok choy, spinach, collard greens, mustard greens, beet greens, and broccoli rabe for natural folate. Consuming ample amounts of these greens on a daily basis ensures that plenty of natural B9 is getting into the diet. Keep in mind broccoli, asparagus, and avocado are also foods high in folate.
Eat Clean Food Sourcing foods that are organic and non-GMO are important for everyone, but especially those with MTHFR or impaired methylation. Conventionally grown fruits and vegetables oftentimes have pesticide, herbicide, and other chemical residues on them. When consumed, those with methylation issues will have a hard time detoxifying these toxic substances. Additionally, GMOs are “food” substances that have been genetically altered from their original state. Although there is not much evidence on their detriment to human health, we have no idea about the depth these genetically modified organisms could impact human health and those with the MTHFR genetic variants. Grass-fed & Pasture-raised Animal Products Animal products from animals responsibly-raised exclusively on grass and/or pasture are nutrient-dense, healing foods. The quality of these animals is drastically different than those raised with conventional farming methods. Unfortunately, conventional animal operations expose animals to many harmful toxins that will end up being taken in by consumers. Choose responsibly-raised, grass-fed and pasture-raised animal products for the greatest nutrient profile and far less toxin exposure.
Eat the rainbow Phytonutrients in food come from all different colors—green, yellow-orange, red, blue-purple, and white. It is important to consume all of the different colors found in organic produce to be able to benefit from various phytonutrients available in each color group. Phytonutrients are plant compounds that are anti-inflammatory and have antioxidant properties. Perhaps you’ve heard of polyphenols, flavonoids, or caratenoids-these are all examples of classes of phytonutrients. Phytonutrients help keep their plant species healthy and can also help keep us humans healthy. Phytonutrients have been shown to prevent disease, modulate the immune system, improve cellular communication, and prevent cancer. When striving to “eat the rainbow”, we would also encourage you to combine as many color groups as you can for a given meal. When phytonutrients are consumed together, they can have a synergistic effect on the body. This means they become even more health-promoting because these compounds work together.
Mind Your Microbiome A healthy gut and microbiome are important for improving methylation and overall health. There are many foods to include in your diet to promote gut healing and a thriving microbiome:
Consume gut-healing foods like collagen and bone broth on a daily basis
Source quality fats that contain butyrate, an anti-inflammatory short chain fatty acid that promotes gut health by feeding beneficial gut flora. These are found in foods such as grass-fed butter and ghee.
Supplement with probiotics and prebiotics
Avoid inflammatory foods including gluten, conventional dairy, sugar, processed foods, food additives, and any foods you are sensitive to
Abiding by a non-inflammatory, MTHFR-friendly diet can help with improving methylation and genetic expression in people with these genetic variants, but also for those who want to promote health and wellness. These dietary recommendations are beneficial to many of our patients that battle autoimmunity, brain symptoms, gut and digestive symptoms, and those with mysterious symptoms. Sources https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15952099 https://www.researchgate.net/publication/271288328_Cross-Reaction_between_Gliadin_and_Different_Food_and_Tissue_Antigens
Recipes for MTHFR c/ Lindsay O'Neill: