As if we don’t have enough to worry about, now there is a genetic defect that can also cause health-related havoc. The MTHFR gene mutation also known as methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, is a genetic polymorphism, or what is seen as a genetic variance or flaw in today’s science. One in every two people may have this variance — about half of the population. It is not a dangerous condition on its own, but may contribute to fatigue as the mutation affects the body’s ability to absorb folic acid (B9). Folate deficiency has been shown to result in lethargy, impaired cognitive function, and mood disorders.   How does this happen?
The MTHFR gene instructs the body to make an enzyme necessary to convert vitamin B9 into a usable form. This enzyme is also important in the process of converting homocysteine into methionine — an amino acid the body needs for growth and metabolism. Methylation, a process involving a methyl group activating an enzyme, is also associated with the MTHFR gene. Proper methylation enables the body to detoxify toxic metals, toxins, and other wastes more efficiently.
The process of methylation and the conversion of homocysteine to methionine play an important role in protecting both physical and mental health. Methionine is essential for producing glutathione, the body’s primary antioxidant. The liver also converts methionine into SAM-e, a chemical that helps metabolize brain chemicals dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin. Therefore, it is possible that a defect in the MTHFR gene may promote high levels of homocysteine levels in the blood, negatively affecting mental health and mood.
So, a defect with the MTHFR gene can cause an abnormally high level of homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine are associated with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, glaucoma, ischemic stroke, and atherosclerosis. Research links migraines and mental disorders (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression) to inadequate methylation resulting from variances of the MTHFR gene.
Some research has also examined the effects of the gene defect on influencing the development of certain cancers. The free radical damage and toxic buildup that results from poor methylation, for example, may contribute to certain cancers. Those with hypothyroidism may experience problems associated with a MTHFR defect, mainly because the thyroid produces hormones needed by the MTHFR gene.
Tips for offsetting the effects of MTHFR:
- Avoid taking folic acid blocking or depleting drugs, such as birth control pills or Methyltrexate
- Avoid taking proton pump inhibitors, like Prilosec or Prevacid or antacids, like Tums, which may block essential Vitamin B12 absorption
- Have your homocysteine measured, which if elevated may indicate a problem with methylation or a deficiency of B12 or folate. If your homocysteine is elevated, limit your intake of methionine-rich foods
- Avoid eating processed foods, many of which have added synthetic folic acid. Instead eat whole foods with no added chemicals or preservatives.
- Get your daily intake of leafy greens, like spinach, kale, swiss chard or arugula, which are loaded with natural levels of folate that your body can more easily process.
- Eat hormone-free, grass-fed beef, organic pastured butter or ghee, and eggs from free-range, non-GMO fed chickens.
- Remove any mercury amalgams with a trained biologic dentist. Avoid aluminum exposure in antiperspirants or cookware. Avoiding heavy metal or other toxic exposure is important.
- Make sure you supplementing with essential nutrients, like methyl-B12, methyl-folate, TMG, N-acetylcysteine, riboflavin, curcumin, fish oil, Vitamins C, D, E, and probiotics. If you are double homozygous for MTHFR mutations, you should proceed very cautiously with methyl-B12 and methyl-folate supplementation as some people do not tolerate high doses. Introduce nutrients one by one and watching for any adverse reactions. Use extreme caution when supplementing with niacin, which can dampen methylation.
- Make time for gentle detox regimens several times per week. These could include infrared sauna, epsom salt baths, dry skin brushing, and regular exercise or sweating
- Ramos Ml, Allen LH, Mungas DM, Jagust WJ, Haan MN, Green R, Miller JW. Low folate status is associated with impaired cognitive function and dementia in the Sacramento Area Latino Study on Aging. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2005 December;82(6):1346-52.
- Williams E, Stewart-Knox B, McConville C, Bradbury I, Armstrong NC, McNulty H. Folate status and mood: Is there a relationship? Public Health Nutrition. 2008 February;11(2):118-23.