Do you have MTHFR?

July 28, 2015

As medicine continues to advance and science continues to add layers to the mechanisms behind public health, new research has emerged that could be at the root of a large portion of people’s health ailments.  This would be research on what’s known as MTHFR mutations, and this article will highlight what MTHFR is, why it may be relevant to you, and how to test for it.

First, what is MTHFR?  MTHFR is an abbreviation for the name of an enzyme known as methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, which can be a bit of a mouthful, so it is referred to as MTHFR for short.  This enzyme is responsible for converting folic acid (an inactive B-vitamin that needs to be activated to function) to its activated form: methyl folate.  This is important because methyl folate is involved in a whole host of various functions:

  • Used to synthesize DNA
  • Repairs damaged DNA
  • Important for cell division and growth, this is especially important during infancy and pregnancy.
  • Produces healthy red blood cells and can prevent anemia
  • Plays an important role in what’s known as methylation, which brings me to our next topic…

What is methylation?  Biochemically, methylation involves what’s known as a “methyl group”, which is composed of one carbon, bonded to three hydrogen atoms (CH3).  Methylation is involved in nearly every bodily biochemical reaction!  These methyl groups are so important because they’re responsible for:

  • Detoxification
  • Immune function
  • Maintaining optimal DNA repair (which helps prevent cancer)
  • Energy production
  • Mood balance
  • Controlling inflammation

All of these processes are critical for maintaining optimal health.  That’s why this area has been more in the spotlight as of late, because if any of these processes are thrown off due to poor methylation, this can lead to many chronic diseases such as: cardiovascular disease, cancer, diabetes, neurological conditions, autism, chronic fatigue syndrome, miscarriages and fertility issues, allergies, depression, anxiety, and frequent colds or infectious disease to name a few!

Why this matters to you:  Do you suffer from any of the health conditions listed above?  Then you may want to look into testing to see if you have this MTHFR mutation.  Especially since research is suggesting that up to 40-60% of the population has this mutation! That would be another reason why MTHFR is becoming more and more of hot topic as well, it is very prevalent in our society!

How to test for MTHFR:  A large number of lab companies will test for this mutation; you can ask your doctor, naturopath, or functional medicine doctor to order you one.  You can also order one yourself through a lab known as “23&Me” (www.23andme.com) .  This will test for not only MTHFR mutations, but other mutations you may have as well, and it’s only $99!  That’s a steal!  It may take up to a month or two to get your results, but this is where it gets a little squirrely: they no longer give you an interpretation with your results.  So I recommend once you get your results, to schedule an appointment with a functional medicine doctor or naturopath who can interpret them.  You will have to obtain your data from a third-party site such as “Genetic Genie” (www.geneticgenie.org ), “MTHFR Support” (www.mthfrsupport.com) , or “Livewello” (www.livewello.com) .  For a small fee (ranging from $10-$20), you can copy and paste your file from 23&Me and paste it on one of these websites and it will break down your genetic mutations in a more comprehensive and concise format.

I found out I have MTHFR, now what do I do? First off, don’t stress it!  You’ll be happy to know that all of us are “mutants” on some level, unfortunately not the kind that fly or shoot lasers out of their eyes, but mutants none-the-less!  There are treatments for this, and as more and more research unravels, the more progress practitioners are making.  There are various protocols you can do, but the best route is to work with a professional that is well-versed in the subject to help manage your condition, symptoms, and dosing of various methyl-support nutrients you may be in need of.  Since this mutation alters the conversion of folic acid into activated methyl folate, what you can do in the meantime is simply: avoid folic acid.  If you are having issues converting folic acid into methyl folate due to one of these mutations, your body can accumulate what is known as unmetabolized folic acid.  This is bad-news-bears because unmetabolized folic acid is linked to a whole host of other health issues, so we want to avoid folic acid at all costs.  Plus, folic acid is a synthetic nutrient.  It does not naturally occur in foods.  To successfully avoid folic acid, be sure to:

  • Read labels and avoid any supplements or multi-vitamins that contain “folic acid” in the ingredients. Make sure it is methyl folate or 5-MTHF.
  • Avoid grains, cereals, pastas, or any other foods that have been “fortified” with folic acid.

Methylation is a crazy complex subject, but I hope I did a good enough job emphasizing the basics and why it is important, and may even be at the root of your chronic health condition.

Now I would like to hear from you.  Do you or someone you know have MTHFR?  Do you have any questions regarding MTHFR that weren’t addressed in this post?  Leave a message in the comments!

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