We all do our best to make sure we raise healthy and happy kids. One of the most important places we look to do this is through the food we feed them and the supplements we may give them. As a student in a nutritional therapy consultant program through the Nutritional Therapy Association, I’ve learned a lot about basic nutritional foundations. And since MTHFR is something I’m personally invested in, I’ve also discovered how these nutritional foundations relate to MTHFR. So, what are the nutritional foundations for MTHFR Kids and how can we apply them to improve our children’s health? Here’s an introduction to help give a basic understanding…
The Nutritional Foundations are where optimal health begins. Without these five foundations in place, the body is unable to function properly which can lead to dysfunction and an inability to absorb and utilize nutrients. Through proper nutrition — eating nutrient-dense, properly prepared foods — and proper digestion, we’re establishing a good foundation to absorb and utilize nutrients… leading the pathway to good health.
Nutritional Foundations for MTHFR Kids
1. Nutritional Foundation: Digestion
What: The mechanical and chemical break down of food into molecules so small that their nutrients can be used by the cells. If digestion isn’t working well, no amount of quality nutrients can optimally be absorbed and used. All macro- and micronutrient absorption and utilization hinges on proper digestive function.
Why it matters for your MTHFR Kid: Water, carbohydrates, fats, proteins, vitamins and minerals will not be optimally absorbed and used. This includes our critical methylation dependent B-vitamins like folate and B12, as well as their co-factors (think of co-factors as helpers or supporters for something like a vitamin to do its job).
Simple Tips to Improve: Check out this “Chew Your Food! And Other Important Digestion Tips for Kids” blog post for starting tips on how to improve digestion.
2. Nutritional Foundation: Blood Sugar Regulation
What: Our bodies are designed to run on a balance of unrefined carbohydrates and good fats and proteins for energy. When blood sugar becomes too high or too low, when it becomes a rollercoaster between these two states, it can have negative effects on the body. Blood sugar is meant to go up and down throughout the day, but it’s the extreme highs and lows that are problematic.
Why it matters for your MTHFR Kid: Hormones involved in blood sugar regulation have an effect on methylation and other physiological functions. For example, high levels of the glucose releasing hormone glucagon reduces hydrochloric acid. Hydrochloric acid is needed to release B12 from the proteins it’s bound to in food. Further, blood sugar imbalance depletes B vitamins.
Simple Tips to Improve: The thing to remember here is blood sugar balance. A general rule of thumb to start out with is meals with a ratio of 40% carbohydrate, 30% protein, 30% fat. The source of the carbohydrates will ideally be unrefined, complex carbohydrates. And skip carbohydrate heavy snacks like crackers and chips, reaching for fat and protein packed snacks like sprouted nuts and seeds, or pastured hard boiled eggs instead.
3. Nutritional Foundation: Fatty Acid Balance
What: High quality, healthy fats are an important source of energy and act as building blocks for cell membranes and hormones. They aid in the absorption of fat soluble vitamins, allow for the proper use of proteins, and aid in healthy liver function by making quality bile. Contrary to the low and no fat diet craze, a fairly high percentage of diverse, good quality fats are required for optimum health.
Why it matters for your MTHFR Kid: MTHFR variants can negatively affect neurotransmitter and hormone production which in turn can negatively affect mood and mental health. Kids with ADD/ADHD have been shown to utilize less omega-3s, and supplementation of this essential fatty acid has proven beneficial for some, though results are varied.
Simple Tips to Improve: Incorporate a variety of healthy fats into your diet. Coconut oil, butter and other animal fats are suitable for high heat cooking. Olive oil is suitable for minimal heat and non-heated dishes. Flax oil should never be heated and is great for salads. A high quality fish or algal oil supplement rich in omega-3s is a good place to start to balance the omega-3 and omega-6 ratio consumed. (Most people have a disproportionate amount of omega-6s which is associated with negative health outcomes.)
4. Nutritional Foundation: Mineral Balance
What: Minerals act as co-factors for enzymatic reactions. They also help transport nutrients across cell membranes, and maintain proper nerve conduction. Minerals are not produced in the human body, so the only way we can get them is through food and supplements.
Why it matters for your MTHFR Kid: Cobalt is important for B12 — without it, the body can’t uptake (absorb) B12. Calcium and Magnesium are required for the conductivity of nerves. Lithium (low dose orotate or vegetable culture sources — not the drug which is lithium carbonate) is mentally balancing, and is often recommended by health care practitioners for kids with ADHD.
Simple Tips to Improve: Make dark leafy greens, soaked and sprouted nuts and legumes part of your day to day.
5. Nutritional Foundation: Hydration
What: The most important nutrient for the body, accounting for 55-60% of total body mass. Water plays many important roles in the body including cellular hydration, removal of wastes and flushing toxins.
Why it matters for your MTHFR Kid: MTHFR variants can cause issues with detoxification and staying hydrated can help with this process. Water helps facilitate regular bowel movements and urination, helping little bodies flush appropriately.
Simple Tips to Improve: Make sure your kids have their water with them and remind them to take sips throughout the day.
We’ve briefly covered the five nutritional foundations for MTHFR Kids. In the future, I’ll be deep diving into each of these foundations individually for a more in-depth exploration of how they coincide with MTHFR. In the meantime, for more information take a look at the references I used in part to author this post: