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!
The MTHFR enzyme helps convert folate (B9) into its active form – 5-MTHF, and we all have the MTHFR gene that makes this happen. But, if you have a mutation, you might not get enough MTHFR enzyme action, which means your methylation process gets all messed up, and you’ll start to see a whole bunch 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 important AF, it’s like the MVP of your body’s ability to detox from the baddies like toxins, chemicals, parasites, and mold. If your methylation is messed up, it can affect different processes in your body, and you could end up with a ton of different issues.
The process of methylation is a chain reaction that involves bonding methyl groups to different molecules. These methyl groups turn one molecule into a totally different molecule with specific functions. When a methyl group is removed, it deactivates that function. For instance, MTHFR converts the folic acid found in food (vitamin B9) into folate by attaching a methyl group to it, which is the starting point for your methylation cycle.
One critical methylation process is converting homocysteine to methionine, which detoxifies your body, repairs cells, builds proteins, and helps with inflammation. Your liver then breaks down the methionine into an inflammation-fighting agent called SAM-e (s-adenosylmethionine), which helps to break down neurotransmitters and assist in repairing cells.
The most important thing to remember is that glutathione, your body’s most powerful detoxifier, is produced from methionine. So, if you can’t convert homocysteine into methionine, you’re stuck with low levels of glutathione and high levels of homocysteine and your body is left holding on to many toxins that you are exposed to, which can lead to a ton of health problems like heart disease, osteoporosis, and some neurological diseases.
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 an MTHFR gene mutation and many toxic substances in their bodies.
How to Discover if You Have an MTHFR Mutation
To find out if you’ve got an MTHFR mutation, you can visit your doctor to talk about testing options. You can get a blood test to see if you have the MTHFR gene, and if it’s present, it tells you that you’ve got a mutation. You can also do a methylation pathway test, which analyzes five key methylation pathways, including cysteine, glycine, dopamine, serotonin, and methylation itself.
Common Signs that MAY Indicate a MTHFR Mutation
The signs that you might have an MTHFR mutation are hidden behind other conditions, but some of them include poor response to supplements, fibromyalgia, and anxiety. You might also experience mood disorders and depression related to serotonin deficiency, increased allergies and asthma due to a lack of methylation, and increased risk of birth defects when pregnant due 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. It basically means that even if you have crappy genes, you can control how much that impacts your health by making better choices today! 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 dang 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!
Pre-methylated B vitamins: folate in its pre-methylated form (5MTHF) and B6+B12 in their active form.
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.
It’s worth noting that not all MTHFR gene mutations are created equal, and some may be more clinically significant than others. If you’re concerned about your MTHFR status, it’s best to consult with a qualified healthcare professional who can help guide you through the appropriate testing and treatment options.
I will update this article as I learn more. 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.