MTHFR is an enzyme that adds a methyl group to folic acid to make it usable by the body. The MTHFR gene produces this enzyme that is necessary for properly using vitamin B9. This enzyme is also important for converting homocysteine into methionine, which the body needs for proper metabolism and muscle growth and which is needed for glutathione creation. The process of methylation also involves the enzyme from the MTHFR gene, so those with a mutation may have trouble effectively eliminating toxins from the body.
In addition, the MTHFR gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). This enzyme plays a role in processing amino acids, the building blocks of proteins. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase is important for a chemical reaction involving forms of the vitamin folate (also called vitamin B9).
Identifying a potential MTHFR defect is especially important for women of childbearing age, as this defect can increase the risk of many problems in an unborn child, including folate related disorders like Spina Bifida.
With the MTHFR gene folic acid can’t be converted into the usable form, it can build up in the body, which can raise levels of homocysteine. High homocysteine levels are associated with a higher risk in cardiovascular disease. This also affects the conversion to glutathione, which the body needs to remove waste and which is a potent antioxidant.
In short, we are just learning the extent to which this can affect health, but there is strong evidence that because of the affect on methylation, it can increase cancer risk, cardiovascular disease risk, risk of fetal development problems and more. It can also possibly contribute to or exacerbate other problems like autoimmune disease, mental issues and more.
Though it isn’t possible to change a gene, there are things that can be done to minimize the potential for problems or to help avoid problems in children (before and during the mother’s pregnancy). As I said, the research is still developing on this, but some things that I find personally helpful are:
• Focusing on gut health: Especially when the body has impaired ability to use certain nutrients, it is important to focus on gut health so that the body can absorb the nutrients from food as effectively as possible. I personally avoid antibacterial soaps, vegetable oils, processed grains and refined sugars and support my gut with fermented foods and homemade broth. This also helps avoid candida, which can make MTHFR related problems worse.
• Avoiding environmental toxins as much as possible: Those with an MTHFR gene defect have an impaired ability to eliminate toxins. I avoid plastics, chemicals in beauty supplies and cleaning products, and scented candles, which can all release harmful chemicals. We use houseplants and other methods of cleaning our indoor air, and filter our drinking and shower water.
• Not taking anything with Folic Acid: As I explained in this post, folic acid is the synthetic form of folate that cannot be used by those with a MTHFR defect and which can be very toxic. I avoid any supplements with folic acid and only take the methylated forms that my body can use.
• Lots of Leafy Greens: According to Dr. Ben Lynch, dark leafy greens contain the methylated forms of folate that those with a gene defect need. As if we needed more reasons that it is important to consume green veggies… I try to work in green veggies at every meal.
• Avoid Processed Foods: Again, as if anyone needed another reason to avoid processed foods… Many processed foods have synthetic folic acid added.
• Avoiding things that can block or deplete folate levels: Certain medications, including hormonal contraceptives can interfere with folate levels, and medicines like antacids can interfere with B-12 absorption.
• Avoiding Heavy Metals: Heavy metals in diet or environment are harder to remove from the body for those with a gene defect, so I’m careful to avoid these.
• Help a Body Out: Since those with a MTHFR defect have an impaired ability to eliminate toxins, I do things to help support my body in this process, such as: detox baths, sauna use, drinking enough water, dry brushing my skin and exercise (sweating).
If you want more information please see my blog entitled “Methylation: Why It Matters for Your Immunity, Inflammation and More” or call and make an appointment today 517 721 1904.