When it comes to detoxing our sweet little MTHFRs, gentle is key. If your child with an MTHFR variant is in a dire health situation and must undergo a more intense detox program (such as for heavy metals), please do so under the supervision of a naturopathic physician. It is very important to never attempt an intense detox on your own, and especially not with children. I discuss the difference between gentle and intense detox here. Aside from such a circumstance, the goal is to create a lifestyle for your child that supports his or her unique genetic challenges.
Below are some ideas to get your kiddo with an MTHFR variant on track for a happy and healthy life:
1. Remove sources of folic acid from diet and supplements. Folic acid, a synthetic form of folate with a different molecular structure, does not agree with those with an MTHFR variant. Folic acid requires an extra step of conversion into a form that the body can use. However, those of us with an MTHFR variant struggle to make this conversion efficiently. Folic acid can be found in processed foods, as well as in many supplements, including multivitamins and B complexes. Removing this substance from your child's diet early on can save a lot of health trouble down the road.
2. Replace folic acid supplements with bioavailable B vitamins. Your child with an MTHFR variant desperately needs B vitamins, so simply removing folic acid is not enough. Be sure to replace folic acid with a bioavailable form that your child's body can tolerate. The most common forms are methylfolate and folinic acid. Methylfolate is generally recommended first, and if an adverse reaction is experienced, then folinic acid is suggested. With the proper form of folate, methylation can occur, which supports pretty much every system of the body, including detoxification.
3. Encourage a healthy diet that's rich in folate. I know, most kids hate veggies. All children need to eat their greens to grow healthy and strong, but kids with an MTHFR variant need those nutrients all-the-more to support their compromised methylation process. While green vegetables such as spinach, asparagus, broccoli, and Brussels sprouts are rich in folate, cauliflower, papaya, oranges, nuts and seeds, beans, peas, lentils, and bell peppers also pack a strong folate punch. Try a creative way of sneaking these veggies into your meals, such as making cauliflower crust pizza! Many kids also enjoy green smoothies with some added banana and cacao powder. Try to minimize processed and sugary foods as much as reasonably possible.
4. Keep the bowels open. Your child won't be able to detox properly if constipation is an issue. Keep this detox pathway clear by trying prune juice, coconut oil, or a magnesium supplement to support gentle relief.
5. Stick with organic as much as possible. "Organic" is not just a buzzword. Organic means avoiding many toxic chemicals that are especially damaging to people with compromised immune systems, including those with an MTHFR variant. The more organic your child consumes, the less he or she will have to detox chemicals from their system. This means a lighter toxic load and supported methylation.
6. Drink lemon water. Lemon water is a great gentle detoxifier. If lemon water is too sour for your child's liking, try adding a little Stevia or raw honey to sweeten it up in a health-supporting way. You can even pass it off as lemonade!
7. Try juicing fruit and veggies. While I wouldn't suggest a juice fast for a child, incorporating some fresh, raw juices into their diet supports detoxification. If your child won't drink a raw green juice, try starting with something like fresh orange juice and slowly work towards a variety of fruits and veggies. Mixing some fruit into the green juice can also make the concoction more palatable for young ones. Juicing allows for a far greater absorption of vitamins and minerals than eating raw.
8. Identify and remove food sensitivities. Gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and sugar can be problematic for many. However, everyone is different. Food sensitivities can be identified though testing or with an elimination diet. A good rule of thumb is to eliminate all potential triggers for two weeks and then reintroduce one at a time, monitoring their response. Through this process, you can determine which foods your child's unique body needs in order to thrive, and which are a hindrance to detoxification. Remember that any food that is triggering an adverse reaction will be causing internal inflammation and damage to the gut lining. Check for a decrease/increase in things like tummy aches, headaches, rashes, and even emotional distress.
9. Support glutathione stores. Acetaminophen (i.e. Tylenol), depletes the body of its master antioxidant, also known as glutathione. People with an MTHFR variant are already at a greater risk of becoming deficient in glutathione. This equates to a decreased ability to detox and a greater probability of developing a whole host of health issues. While a dose of Tylenol here and there won't pose a problem, it's the regular use of this substance, even in recommended dosages, that can seriously disrupt methylation and detoxification. Try to limit its use to only when your child really needs it. Then, when it is necessary, counter its use with a quality liposomal glutathione supplement.
10. Switch to non-toxic cleaning products and personal care items. Many of the cleaning products and personal care items we use contain very dangerous chemicals that are especially damaging to the delicate immune system of a child with an MTHFR variant. Thankfully, there are many fantastic brands out there that create non-toxic products that don't sacrifice quality. It takes a bit of planning, but making the switch will take a huge burden off of your child's toxic load and detox processes. It's important to consider everything, including products that are marketed as being made for children.
11. Encourage exercise that supports lymphatic drainage. There's just something about trampolines that resonate in the hearts of many children. Thankfully, trampolines offer the very best form of exercise to encourage lymphatic drainage, which is integral to detoxification! While the vertical motion on any trampoline will be helpful, "rebounding" on a mini-trampoline will especially support detoxification. Try incorporating this form of exercise into your child's lifestyle, and they won't even suspect they're not just having fun! Swimming is another form of exercise that supports lymphatic drainage.
12. Try epsom salt baths. Mixing magnesium sulfate, also known as epsom salt, into bath water is an easy, gentle way to detox by drawing toxins out of the skin. This detox tip is convenient because it can be incorporated into their normal bath time schedule and requires little additional preparation.
To take a deeper, guided dive into how to thrive with an MTHFR variant, check out Hey MTHFR Academy. This 16-week online course will give you the tools you need to harness the power of epigenetics and befriend your MTHFR gene.