If you haven’t heard about the MTHFR gene mutation, you need to, so please read on.
The MTHFR Genetic Defect
Methyl-tetra-hydro-folate reductase or MTHFR is an enzyme that adds a methyl-group (CH3) to a form of folate to create methyl-tetra-hydrofolate (MTHF). This process is called methylation. It is essential to many functions in the body, as it allows MTHF to become a major methyl group donor to other nutrients, and allows the cycle of methylation to continue. These nutrients can then donate their methyl groups to allow for many biochemical reactions in the human body to occur. One of the other most important methyl donors is Vitamin B12, which depends on MTHF to become methylB12 (methylcobalamin).
If our MTHFR enzymes function optimally and don’t have a gene mutation, we make methylfolate.
Methylation is important for:
- Gene regulation
- To process hormones
- Building immune cells
- The production of energy
- To protect nerve cells
- For the production of neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine)
The MTHFR genetic mutation is something that some doctors are just now starting to test for, as it has become a prominent issue in the last couple of years and it is believed that one in every two people may have the variance.
If you’ve had the following issues, which haven’t been ruled out as something else and haven’t already been tested, you should get tested:
From the Global Healing Center:
“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.
In the case of an MTHFR mutation, an inability to process folic acid (vitamin B9) can have serious effects. For one, a developing fetus can suffer brain defects like spina bifida or anencephaly if the mother has a severe defect in the gene. Folate deficiency can also result in lethargy, impaired cognitive function, and mood disorders.”
A defect with the MTHFR gene can cause an abnormally high level of homocysteine in the blood and high levels of homocysteine are associated with cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, glaucoma, ischemic stroke, and atherosclerosis. There is also research out which links migraines and mental disorders (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression) to inadequate methylation.
As if that’s not enough, other research examines the effects of the gene defect on the development of certain cancers (the free radical damage and toxic buildup that result from poor methylation, are thought to contribute). And people with hypothyroidism may also find they have problems because the thyroid produces hormones needed by the MTHFR gene.
The first thing you need to do, if these symptoms are ringing a bell, is get tested. The next best thing you can do is address dietary and nutritional deficiencies. Make sure you are eating enough folate-rich foods (spinach, asparagus, chickpeas, beans, and broccoli), avoid folic acid, avoid exposure to environmental toxins which can tax the liver, and think about performing a liver cleanse to help your body remove toxins and wastes. You may also need to supplement yourself with methyl folate so talk to your doctor about what your levels are, as it may not be necessary.
The MTHFR gene defect isn’t a death sentence but something you should be aware of and something you should watch carefully.