There's a lot of bashing of Western medicine practices in these types of communities. MTHFRs, I get it! I'll share some of my personal experience on this topic in a bit. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure and Western medicine doesn't do a whole lot in the way of preventing chronic disease, especially for those with the MTHFR mutation. However, what if you haven't been taking the proper preventative measures and years of uninformed decisions led to an acute health event? Or what if you have been focusing on preventative healthcare, but you've still found yourself in a health crisis? Now, you're in a life or death situation and strong action needs to be taken immediately. That's where Western medicine shines and we must not forget to honor the good that they do.
Think of Western medicine like firefighters. If you wake up in the middle of the night to your home ablaze, these brave men and women will charge in with the "big guns," even putting their own lives on the line, to extinguish the fire that has grown out of control. That's who you need to call during such a time. This is not the moment to bust down your walls to reconfigure the electrical wiring. This is not the moment to browse this blog for solutions to your crisis. This is not the time to hire a health coach. You need to be evacuated from the fiery blaze in any way possible. That's what Western medicine does and they do it the best, bar none.
However, if you are on the other side of your health crisis and are trying to prevent a relapse, if you are seeking to avoid such a crisis in the first place, and if you desire to prevent/manage chronic disease symptoms and live your healthiest life possible, that's where other types of professionals come into play. Functional medicine physicians, Eastern medicine practitioners, and health coaches shine in the arena of prevention, wellness, and taking a holistic approach to clients. Think of these types of professionals as electricians and guides in your decision making. They will identify the root problem that caused the fire in the first place. If it was electrical, they will find exactly where the wires crossed in a dangerous way and reconfigure them to prevent another disaster. If it was due to a decision like leaving the stove on overnight, they will guide you in making better decisions. We all know that something like leaving the stove on can cause a house fire, yet many of us leave the stove of our bodies on for years and are never warned by Western medicine practitioners that it may result in disaster.
Before knowing that I'm homozygous for the C677T MTHFR mutation, I didn't understand that I both had faulty wiring and was leaving the stove on, so to speak, in multiple areas of my life. I did know that I had an autoimmune thyroid disease, but I was on medication for it and was not given any advice beyond that. I was in a toxic and psychologically abusive environment at the time that I needed to remove myself from long before I finally did. I was taking supplements that contained folic acid, which was toxic to me due to my genetic makeup. I also consumed a lot of processed foods that contained folic acid and were just garbage, regardless. I knew for a long time that I could not tolerate gluten, but I ate a lot of processed gluten-free snacks. In case you're not aware, "gluten-free" does not automatically equate to healthy. I was not getting sufficient nutrients through my diet at all, as almost everything I ate was processed, even if it was marketed as "healthy." My idea of eating my greens was to order a McDonalds chicken salad, featuring antibiotics, hormones, pesticides, and other chemicals that my body was extra sensitive to. I also used personal products that were stock full of toxins, not knowing that my body had a tendency to store these toxins due to my mutation. My toxic load was so high that one whiff of nail polish would cause an instant migraine, yet I ignored my body's screaming warning signs and pushed on.
It seems that every MTHFR has the potential to manifest a health crisis in a slightly different way. For me, all of the factors I described above led to developing life-threatening and recurring MRSA infections with severe cellulitis. The thing was, these infections did not develop in the way they do for a typical healthy person. I did not have a wound that became infected. It was as if they exploded from within and took over with aggressive inflammation in a matter of a day or two. My immune system was functioning like that of an elderly or terminally ill person. When I found myself with this vicious infection taking over my eye socket and threatening blindness, brain damage, or death, Western medicine saved my life. I needed to be hospitalized and treated with some of the world's most potent antibiotics by IV. Then I was on aggressive oral antibiotics for months once I was released. Yes, I wish that I would have taken a more holistic approach to my health before finding myself in that situation, but it was too late for that. I needed the "big guns."
However, when these terrible infections came roaring back every several months, Western medicine didn't have much to offer me. I was basically told that there was no hope for me to live a normal life again. Once I had acquired this type of infection, it would continue to come back over and over again for the rest of my life until it eventually did me in. Being on these extremely powerful antibiotics did save my life, but the continued use of them was destroying my body in other ways and I was beginning to feel this. My doctors also acknowledged that the antibiotics would become and less and less effective against MRSA each time they must be used. So, basically, the big guns get smaller and smaller over time, until they stop working. "So, how do I prevent this from continuing to happen so that I don't ruin my body and so that we don't ruin the antibiotics' effectiveness?" I remember asking my doctor. He kind of shrugged as if to say, "That's all we got for ya, sorry 'bout it!" I will always be grateful to Western medicine for putting out the fire I found myself in, but it became obvious that I needed to turn to other sources of wisdom in order to escape this vicious cycle.
That's where my functional medicine physician and learning how to view my health from a more holistic standpoint came into play for me. We discovered that I was homozygous for the C677T MTHFR mutation. This was the faulty wiring part. I did a lot of research on this topic and began to understand how it was affecting my body and how my body was overwhelmed by the amount of toxicity of all kinds that was being inflicted on it. I also began to understand how lifestyle changes can "turn off" the expression of this gene through epigenetics - hence, fixing the faulty wiring. I made a lot of changes to my diet and lifestyle, including cutting out folic acid and taking a proper multivitamin with methylated B vitamins. I underwent a vigorous detox program under the supervision of my functional medicine practitioner, followed by a lifestyle of gentle detox that supports my genetics. I also began to understand how psychological toxicity affects the body and the need to practice self-care in that regard. The list can go on and on, because I made a lot of changes. I don't pretend to have 100% control over my genetics and extenuating circumstances, but I can say that taking a holistic approach to my health did help me to escape from the grip of chronic disease and find a solid place of health and wellness - something that Western medicine couldn't provide.
So yes, MTHFRs, I understand your frustration with Western medicine, I really do. However, let us not forget that these practitioners save lives in the way that they are trained to. We need them. We also need professionals in the arena of preventative medicine, such as functional medicine physicians, Eastern medicine practitioners, and health coaches. They save lives in an entirely different way. Let's honor and celebrate both for what they provide to patients and clients! I think the key is to know which type of professional you need at which time.
Have you ever been in a life or death situation where you needed the intervention of Western medicine? Tell us about it!