Your body needs the methylation cycle to operate properly. If you have an MTHFR gene mutation, it might interfere with your methylation cycles and make it more difficult for you to eliminate toxins causing numerous physical and mental health issues.
What are MTHFR enzymes and MTHFR Gene Mutations?
MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase – a crazy long word!
It is an enzyme found in your liver that helps convert folate (B9) into its active form – 5-MTHF.
We all have the MTHFR gene which programs the MTHFR enzyme to work properly. Mutations in the MTHFR gene can lead to reduced MTHFR enzyme activity leading to poor methylation and an array of health issues. Unfortunately these mutations are very common. Approximately 50% of the US population carries at least one MTHFR gene mutation, including me.
What exactly is Methylation?
Your methylation cycle is one of the most significant metabolic processes occurring right now. Methylation is essential to your body’s ability to detox from exposure to toxins, chemicals, parasites, and mold. There are many different methylation processes that happen in the body, which is why poor methylation doesn’t lead to only one issue. It all depends on which process it affects, how many mutations a person has working against them, and other factors. Let’s take a look at what it is and what exactly it can affect.
The process of methylation is actually a chain reaction in which methyl groups are bonded to different molecules. When a methyl group is added to a molecule, it is converted into a completely different molecule with certain functions. When a methyl group is removed, it deactivates this function.
For example, MTHFR converts the folic acid found in foods (vitamin B9) into folate by attaching a methyl group to it. This folate is the starting point for your methylation cycle.
An important methylation cycle is converting homocysteine to methionine. Methionine helps you detoxify, repairs cells, builds proteins, and supports your inflammatory response.
Your liver then breaks down this methionine into an inflammation-fighting agent called SAM-e (s-adenosylmethionine). SAM-e helps break down neurotransmitters and assists with repairing cells.
The most vital thing to remember is that glutathione, your body’s most powerful detoxifier, is produced from methionine.
More About Methionine, Glutathione, and Homocysteine
Glutathione plays a major role in your phase II liver detoxification, which is the elimination of toxins. Without glutathione, your body is left holding on to many of the toxins you are exposed to. Research shows that people with autoimmune disease and cancer tend to have lower levels of glutathione than those without those conditions, indicating that they may have a MTHFR gene mutation and many toxic substances in their bodies.
The inability to convert homocysteine into methionine leaves the body with low amounts of glutathione and high amounts of homocysteine. High homocysteine can be associated with a number of health issues, including cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, and even certain neurological diseases.
How to Discover if You Have an MTHFR Mutation
There are many ways to test for MTHFR mutations. If you are concerned that you might have a mutation, you can visit your doctor to discuss testing options. The most common types of tests used to determine if you have an MTHFR mutation include:
Blood Test – This test examines your blood for the presence of the MTHFR gene. If it is present, it lets you know that you have a mutation in the gene.
Methylation Pathway Test – This test analyzes five key methylation pathways: cysteine, glycine, dopamine, serotonin and methylation itself. If any of the pathways are impaired, it indicates a mutation on the MTHFR gene.
You also can find tests that you are able to order on your own by doing a simple google search for MTHFR Gene Mutation test at home.
Common Signs that MAY Indicate a MTHFR Mutation
A higher amount of homocysteine (HCYSP) in your blood could indicate that you have a mutation in the MTHFR gene. High amounts of homocysteine can contribute to arterial damage and blood clots in your blood vessels.. Most people with MTHFR mutations are not aware of it. That’s because a lot of the symptoms are actually hidden behind other conditions. Symptoms may include poor response to supplements, fibromyalgia, and anxiety. Other signs of having a MTHFR mutation include: Mood disorders and depression, which can be related to serotonin deficiency in the brain An increase in allergies and asthma, which can be related to a lack of methylation in the body Increased risk of birth defects when pregnant, which can be related to DNA methylation issues.
According to Robin Berzin, MD in this article, some common symptoms of MTHFR Gene Mutation include:
- ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder)
- Autoimmune disease and thyroid issues
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic fatigue
- Colon Cancer
- Digestive Issues, including IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
- Hormonal issues, including PCOS (Polycystic Ovary Syndrome)
The Good News: Our Genes Are Not Our Destiny
Epigenetics is the study of how genes are turned on or off and it has been my favorite topic in my educational journey. Environmental changes such as diet, exercise, exposure to toxins, and medications can influence our genes and traits. Nutrition in particular, influences genetic expression. That is, certain genes can be turned “on” or “off” like a light switch depending on what you eat. This is why personalized nutrition is so important. Studies using identical twins with autoimmune disorders showed the risk of getting an autoimmune disease is only 1/4 dependent on nature (genes) and 3/4 dependent on nurture (environmental factors), which means our genes are not our destiny. There are some steps you can take to decrease complications from MTHFR gene mutation.
Holistic Treatments For The MTHFR Gene Mutation and poor methylation
According to research, it’s possible to aid your methylation process. Here are 5 things you can do.
- Eat Clean & Green
Consume organic folate rich foods such as dark leafy greens, asparagus, calf’s liver, broccoli, cauliflower, beets, celery, avocados, lentils! Fill your diet with a healthy amount of vitamin B6 foods such as spinach, bell peppers, garlic, tuna, bananas, & cabbage. Check out these recipes!
Other supplements that support the MTHFR gene mutation include: magnesium, vitamin d, and glutathione.
(Always check with your provider to see what is best for you).
- Support Detoxification
Because poor methylation contributes to reduced detoxification, it’s important to support your body’s natural detoxification. Feel free to check out my 21-Day Transformational Nutrition Cleanse for help with removing toxins from your body and home. If you are unable to purchase the cleanse, simply follow this guide: Eat Real Food (see more about this in my nutrition philosophy)
- Manage Stress With Lifestyle Changes
An imbalance of neurotransmitter levels, which can affect mood and irritability when stressed, is more likely in those with MTHFR mutations. In fact, high levels of stress can worsen MTHFR mutation symptoms. To reduce overall stress, start a meditation routine, write in a journal, spend time in nature, and volunteer. Discovering the activities that help you unwind, stay grounded, and decompress are the most critical in helping you manage your personal stress levels on a daily basis.
- Decrease Alcohol Intake
Alcohol intake increases detoxification demands on the liver. Methylation processes may already be impaired in those with MTHFR gene mutations, so only consuming alcohol in moderation—up to one drink per day for women and two drinks per day for men—is recommended.
This article will continue to be updated as new information emerges. Be sure to check back frequently if you are on the MTHFR journey, or consider applying for health coaching with me for the latest education in holistic health.
This article and information provided by Jessica Carrier on this website and as part of her products is not meant to heal, diagnose, or treat any medical or mental illness. Jessica Carrier is not a medical doctor and the information contained in this article is meant to be educational. Jessica encourages you to do your own research and talk to your doctor before starting any diet or supplement regimen, as some foods and supplements can cause negative reactions with certain medications. The links contained in this article may be affiliate links and may not be. See the full disclaimer here.