Have you had digestive issues for a long time? Are you extremely tired or forgetful? Have you suffered from anxiety and depression for an extensive amount of time?
If so, you could have an MTHFR gene mutation.
Now, the MTHFR gene mutation seems to be on the tips of many health gurus’ tongues these days, but is this just another health industry fad or is there real substance behind this?
If you’re skeptical about the MTHFR gene mutation, you may be surprised to learn just how much influence this one little gene can have on your health.
But What Exactly is the MTHFR Gene Mutation?
If it helps, think of the MTHFR gene like a set of instructions to a piece of Ikea furniture. And just like Ikea furniture, the protein the MTHFR gene codes for, is extremely functional because it does so many different jobs.
According to Dr. Edward Group, there are three main jobs the MTHFR gene helps the body accomplish:
1. The conversion of vitamin B9 (folate) into methyl-folate, a form of folate that is more easily used by the body. This is achieved through a process called methylation.
2. The conversion of homocysteine into methionine, which is needed for growth and repair.
3. Detoxifying heavy metals and other toxic wastes.
Some of us were born with a defective set of instructions in the form of an MTHFR gene mutation. Instead of the nice wardrobe we were expecting, we get something more like a few pieces of plywood hammered together. Our half-completed wardrobe works, just not as well as the complete version.
Unfortunately, there can be repercussions for living with an MTHFR mutation, including higher incidences of chronic disease.
What is Methylation?
As I discussed earlier, the MTHFR gene uses the process of methylation to convert vitamin B9 (folate) into a form of folate that is more easily used by the body. But what exactly is Methylation? Methylation is the mechanism by which a methyl group is added to a compound.
Now, this sounds like a basic process, but did you know that methylation is critical to many of the processes that we take for granted? Methylation is involved in:
- Fixing your cells, tissues and DNA.
- Ensuring your genes get expressed and your proteins are working.
- Making chemicals that control your mood, sleep and functioning of your brain.
- Keeping your homocysteine (a substance that causes inflammation) levels under control so that your blood vessels don’t get damaged.
- Controlling inflammation in your body.
- Helping your liver process fats.
- Controlling your immune system.
- Detoxifying your body by modifying heavy metals and toxins.
So, methylation is very important! What does this mean if you have an MTHFR gene mutation? You can expect to produce 30 – 70% less methyl-folate (the end-product of folate methylation) than people without the mutation. As a result, you can expect to experience various symptoms and disorders related to this mutation.
What are some Symptoms of an MTHFR Gene Mutation?
Wondering if you possibly have an MTHFR gene mutation? Here are some common symptoms:
- Elevated levels of homocysteine due to poor methylation.
- Folate deficiency: Symptoms include being very tired, feeling light-headed and having trouble with your memory.
- Having had one or more miscarriages.
- Suffering from autoimmune diseases such as Fibromyalgia and Hashimoto (hypothyroidism).
- Having longstanding digestive issues or IBS.
- Having a long history of depression or anxiety.
How the MTHFR Gene Mutation Can Affect You
Research has already shown the connection between the MTHFR mutation and a number of diseases including:
Heart Disease: A study conducted by The American Heart Association discovered that subjects with two copies of the MTHFR mutation experienced an increased risk of coronary heart disease. The study’s authors concluded that higher circulating levels of homocysteine were contributing to arterial damage.
Stroke: The presence of an MTHFR mutation also resulted in an increased likelihood of stroke. In one study, subjects who experienced a stroke were 22% more likely to have had one or two copies of the mutated MTHFR gene than a group of control subjects.
Cancer: The MTHFR mutation has been linked with various cancers. In one study, depending on the type of MTHFR mutation they had, premenopausal women’s chances of getting breast cancer increased by 1.9-4.5 times!
Mental Illness: The British Women’s Heart and Health Study found an increased risk of depression among women with the MTHFR mutation. Other mental health conditions linked with the MTHFR mutation include bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia.
In particular, anxiety and depression are linked with homozygous mutations of 677T MTHFR genes. In one study, women with the MTHFR mutation were up to 2 times more likely to suffer from depression.
Gut Health: In addition, the presence of an MTHFR mutation has been linked with various gut disorders such as ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease. In one study, patients with either ulcerative colitis or Crohn’s disease were more than twice as likely to have an MTHFR mutation as those without these disorders. And yet another study found a link between the presence of an MTHFR mutation and colon cancer.
Other conditions including:
- Parkinson’s disease
- Alzheimer’s disease
- High blood pressure
- Preeclampsia (high blood pressure during pregnancy)
- Glaucoma has also been linked with having the MTHFR mutation.
- Recurrent miscarriages
Here is a short video that explains MTHFR and symptoms and conditions that can occur with a mutation of this gene. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=L76PaoGaPx0
Getting Tested For MTHFR
Although the previous information may have sounded a bit scary, it doesn’t need to be. Getting tested for the MTHFR gene mutation is the first step you need to take to determine how to keep your body healthy.
Getting tested will allow you to learn whether you have a mutation or not, and what type of mutation you have.
Although there are many variations of the MTHFR mutation, the main three are:
Heterozygous Mutation: This is the most common and least severe of the MTHFR mutations. You have one normal MTHFR gene and one mutated gene.
Homozygous Mutation: A homozygous mutation means you’ll have two mutated genes in either the 677 or 1298 position (but not both).
Compound Heterozygous Mutation: This mutation is more severe. You’ll have one mutation at the 677 position on one gene, and a mutation at the 1298 position on another gene. 98% of autistic children have a compound heterozygous mutation.
I Have the Mutation, Now What?
Maybe your test results came back positive for the MTHFR gene mutation, and you’re starting to panic!
Calm down because up to 60% of the population does too, so you’re in good company. And just because you’re at a higher risk for getting a disease than someone without the mutation, it doesn’t mean it’s your destiny to become sick.
Although you can’t change your DNA, there’s still a lot you can do to compensate for your under functioning gene. One thing you can do is follow an MTHFR Diet.
What is the MTHFR Diet?
The MTHFR Diet is a diet that will boost your folate levels. The more folate you have in your diet, the more chances you have of creating the active form of folate; the form of folate that your body can more easily use.
To get the highest value per serve, choose the following food sources of folate:
- Chickpeas: One 100 gram serving provides 43% of your daily requirements.
- Beans: One 100 gram serving provides 43% of your daily requirements.
- Asparagus: One 100 gram serving provides 37% of your daily requirements.
- Spinach: One 100 gram serving provides 37% of your daily requirements.
- Romaine lettuce: One 100 gram serving provides 34% of your daily requirements.
- Artichokes: One 100 gram serving provides 30% of your daily requirements.
- Rocket/Arugula: One 100 gram serving provides 24% of your daily requirements.
Aside from folate, you will also want to consume other B-vitamins such as vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) and vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine) as they are helpful in converting folate into the active form of folate.
You can increase your vitamin B2 intake by choosing the following food sources:
- Almonds: One 100 gram serving provides 87% of your daily requirements.
- Feta cheese: One 100 gram serving provides 65% of your daily requirements.
- Beef: One 100 gram serving provides approximately 65% of your daily requirements.
- Mackerel: One 100 gram serving provides 42% of your daily requirements.
- Lamb: One 100 gram serving provides 42% of your daily requirements.
- Duck: One 100 gram serving provides 36% of your daily requirements.
To optimize your vitamin B6 intake, choose the following food sources:
- Pistachio nuts: One 100 gram serving provides 131% of your daily requirements.
- Salmon: One 100 gram serving provides 72% of your daily requirements.
- Turkey: One 100 gram serving provides 62% of your daily requirements.
- Pork: One 100 gram serving provides approximately 56% of your daily requirements.
- Hazelnuts: One 100 gram serving provides 48% of your daily requirements.
- Walnuts: One 100 gram serving provides 42% of your daily requirements.
When increasing your folate intake, you should also increase your vitamin B12 intake. Try these food sources:
- Atlantic herring: One 100 gram serving provides 548% of your daily requirements.
- Wild Rainbow trout: One 100 gram serving provides 263% of your daily requirements.
- Sockeye salmon: One 100 gram serving provides 229% of your daily requirements.
- Beef: One 100 gram serving provides approximately 160% to 75% of your daily requirements.
- Eggs: One 100 gram serving provides 30% of your daily requirements.
Are There Any Other Dietary Tips I Should Follow?
Yes! Aside from boosting your intake of the B vitamins listed above, you need to control the levels of homocysteine in your body. Because of the MTHFR gene mutation, your body cannot keep your homocysteine levels under control. This leads to a build-up of homocysteine in your blood, which increases your risk of heart disease.
As a result, you need to control your homocysteine levels through diet. You can do so by:
- Not eating too much animal protein: Animal protein contains a lot of methionine which your body converts into homocysteine.
- Drinking bone broth: This helps balance your methionine with proline and glycine.
- Keeping your blood glucose under control: The higher your blood sugar, the higher your levels of homocysteine.
- Not drinking too much caffeine: Caffeine is thought to increase the levels of homocysteine in your blood by working to suppress vitamin B6.
- Eliminating alcohol: Chronic alcohol use is linked with increased homocysteine in the blood.
- Consuming more fruits and vegetables: Fruit and vegetable consumption has been shown to decrease homocysteine levels.
- Avoiding processed foods: Processed foods such as potato chips contain acrylamide which has been shown to increase homocysteine.
Aside from Diet, what else can I change?
According to Dr. Jill Carnahan, removing amalgam fillings, and taking key supplements to boost your detoxification pathways are just a few of the things you can do to give your MTHFR gene a helping hand.
Below are some lifestyle modifications you can implement:
- Reduce your stress!
Are you always stressed? Chronic stress can diminish your B vitamins and cause your symptoms to be more obvious. You can reduce your stress by performing activities such as deep breathing, positive visualization, spending time in the sun and in nature, keeping a gratitude journal, and laughing more. I also use herbal medicine with clients to help reduce stress, like Withania/Ashwagandha and Rhodiola.
- Detoxify your body on a daily basis
With an MTHFR gene mutation, you naturally have a harder time getting rid of toxins. If you don’t get rid of toxins on a continual basis, this can lead to a variety of issues. As a result, you should detoxify your body on a daily basis by performing activities such as fasting, sweating, drinking lots of fluids, and reducing your exposure to environmental toxins.
- Get some sunlight
Sunlight is good for your brain and helps control your blood sugar; factors that can keep your symptoms in check. Some tips for healthy sun exposure include exposing enough of your skin, not looking directly at the sun and limiting your exposure to 20 minutes to start with.
- Give your medications an overhaul
A number of health professionals believe antacids, various blood pressure medications, metformin (a drug used to control type 2 diabetes) and many contraceptives may decrease the absorption of B Vitamins.
- Optimize the health of your gut
MTHFR mutation expert Dr. Ben Lynch believes that one of the first things you should do when you discover that you have this gene mutation is to optimize the function of your gut.
This could involve adopting a Paleo-style diet or the GAPS diet, along with probiotic-rich foods, and candida-killing antifungals to bring your digestive system back into balance.
The Bottom Line…
Testing for the MTHFR gene mutation is an excellent tool you can use to support your body and prevent chronic health conditions.
Although you can’t change your DNA, knowledge is power. You can use that knowledge to make dietary and lifestyle changes that will keep your body in top health now, and into the future.
If you want to learn more about the MTHFR gene mutation and its impact on your health, then check out this video featuring MTHFR mutation expert Dr. Ben Lynch.
The MTHFR gene mutation is only one of several areas I look at with nutrigenomics testing .
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