In our world today, knowing what and how to eat can feel like a daunting task. And the plethora of dietary theories and dogma only serve to create more confusion and health problems. If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years as a practitioner of nutritional therapy it is this: what’s good for the body isn’t necessarily good for the brain. In other words, feed your brain first so that your body can follow.
My Journey with Food
This truth hit me hard several years ago after a couple of years on a strictly plant-based diet in which I was consuming a lot of high copper and folate-rich foods. I couldn’t understand why I suddenly felt so terrible —I mean, aren’t kale and avocados good for me?
Imagine my surprise when I found out that all these healthy foods were actually turning on deviant genes inside my body making me feel depressed, anxious, and tired. The worst part for me was the return of a very disordered food relationship that had developed when I was a child. This time, though, it was back with a vengeance.
This is the power nutrients have on gene expression.
Individual Dietary Assessment
Now I want to share with you this fundamental truth: we are all biochemically unique, which means that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all style of eating for everyone.
Even within each biotype, nutrient and dietary protocols are different. Here’s a sample case study that sums it up nicely:
Both Vanessa and Susan are the same age with a severely undermethylated biotype.
Vanessa is a patient who came to me struggling with depression, perfectionism, disordered eating, and obsessive tendencies. In addition to severe undermethylation, testing also revealed low vitamin D, normal range copper and zinc, along with a normal thyroid panel.
Susan had the exact same symptoms with histamine and vitamin D levels to match. She also suffered from high anxiety, insomnia, chronic fatigue, and had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. In her 30s, she had a complete hysterectomy due to uterine fibroids. What was different in Susan’s case was that her zinc levels were very low and her free copper (copper not bound to proteins) was off the charts.
Vanessa’s protocol was completely different because her symptoms (along with zinc and copper levels) painted a very different story than Susan’s. Susan has a sensitivity to nutrients that Vanessa doesn’t, so starting her on lower doses (especially zinc) was an integral part of her healing process in addition to a diet that addressed all her food sensitivities, such as oxalate and salicylate intolerance, and gut dysbiosis.
Methylation Diet Considerations
- Supplemental nutrient efficacy can be diminished with a diet that is inappropriate for your biotype. For example, undermethylated individuals on plant-based, high folate diets will not be able to repair methylation status without adequate protein intake.
- Extreme juice cleanses, detox programs, and restrictive diets overload or deplete the body of nutrients, leading to cognitive dysfunction, and stressed out organs and glands that don’t work properly.
- Plant-based diets alone do not supply all the nutrients required for balanced methylation and glutathione synthesis (the body’s master antioxidant), regardless of biotype. I don’t recommend plant-based diets for anyone, but keep in mind that overmethylated individuals also require protein to repair blood sugar dysregulation in addition to a high folate diet.
- Plants have inherent chemical defence systems or anti-nutrients that can make humans and animals ill (this is their claws and teeth). Some of these defence systems come in the form of chemical compounds such as oxalates and salicylates that can create inflammatory responses in sensitive individuals.
- Behavior and thought processes are greatly influenced by the kind of foods you eat, even foods deemed healthy, such as spinach.
- Overmethylators thrive on folate-rich foods, while undermethylators need to be very mindful of them. It’s a myth that we all need greens to be healthy.
- Both over and undermethylators can have food and chemical sensitivities, this is the case with autistic individuals, most of whom are undermethylated.
Now it’s your turn. Are you struggling with a methylation imbalance and confused about what to eat? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below. It is through sharing your story that we create community, eliminate guilt and shame, and bring about healing.