Medical science misguidedly suggests that we are victims of our genetics, but this statement is not entirely true. While our genes help determine how certain disease onset and develop over time, our lifestyle choices can actually manipulate how, or even if, these genes are expressed. Take celiac disease, for example. The National Institute of Health determined that roughly 30-40% of the population in the US have one or both genetic markers for celiac disease, but only about 3% of that population actually actives them, developing celiac disease.
What is MTHFR, and Why is it Important?
Properly referred to as Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase, the MTHFR gene codes for a rate-limiting enzyme used in the methylation process of our body’s elimination of waste, toxins, heavy metals, and more. There are two main mutations, referred to as polymorphisms, which researchers focus primarily on. Both of these mutations can be inherited and occur in different locations of the MTHFR genes.
MTHFR is responsible for the conversion of homocysteine into methionine, which supports the body’s natural antioxidant pathways, as well as the activation of folic acid into folate (required for cellular development, pregnancy, and so on). Methionine gets converted into SAMe, a chemical that metabolizes dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin, and therefore deficiencies are correlated to impaired cognition and mood disorders. Research shows that MTHFR gene mutations have been linked to mental disorders like bipolar, schizophrenia, and depression, as well as migraine headaches . Furthermore, high levels of homocysteine in the bloodstream have been correlated to high blood pressure, ischemic heart disease, and cardiovascular disease like atherosclerosis .
Effects on the Body
As a result, MTHFR mutations can affect the way in which our bodies metabolize various nutrients from foods, beverages, vitamins, and supplements we consume and how they are converted into active minerals, proteins, and vitamins our bodies use to give us energy, fight off infections, and so on.
These mutations further affect how hormone levels and neurotransmitters function within the body, as well as, in certain cases, affect the function of enzymes that influence brain function, cholesterol levels, endocrine functions, and digestion, and may even contribute to the development of certain cancers .
To determine whether you could have an MTHFR mutation, the first thing you should do is get a detailed examination conducted by a naturopathic doctor. One tell-tale sign of this mutation is severe nausea that onsets after taking vitamins, particularly B-vitamins.
There are several underlying symptoms and medical conditions which could contribute to MTHFR mutations, including:
IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome)
Drug and Alcohol Addictions
High Blood Pressure
Keep in mind this is just a sampling of potentially related health problems and conditions and there are others that could be related to MTHFR mutations.
Treating MTHFR Mutations Naturally
There are several natural treatments available to address MTHFR mutations. Your naturopath will work with you to determine which ones would be of the most benefit for your health and well-being. Possible treatment options may include:
Addressing Digestive Problems and IBS – This requires adjusting your diet to reduce foods that cause stomach and IBS symptoms and increase the intake of foods that are considered “gut-friendly.”
Increasing Consumption of Foods High in B6, B12, and Folate – Those that suffer from MTHFR mutations often have lower levels of B6, B12, and folate, all of which are important to maintain proper health. Consume a diet with folate-rich foods such as spinach, asparagus, chickpeas, beans, and broccoli. Avoid folic acid in supplements, which will further burden the methylation pathways.
Making Hearth Healthy Choices – Improving heart health, like quitting smoking, exercising, and consuming more natural and organic foods helps reduce “bad” cholesterol levels, strengthens the heart muscle, and reduces the overall effects of MTHFR mutations.
Detoxing the Body – Supporting oxidation pathways, overseen by your naturopath, helps flush out chemicals and waste from your body and can help.
Reducing Anxiety and Stress – Discover stress relievers, like essential oils and massage, and increase the amount of omega-3 and use other soothing exercises to reduce stress and anxiety.
Getting Sufficient Rest – Most health conditions, including MTHFR mutations, are often linked to people experiencing problems sleeping or not getting sufficient rest.
Reviewing Medications You Take – Certain medications can interfere with the way the body converts and metabolizes vitamins, proteins, and minerals, which could further contribute to issues related to MTHFR mutations.
Most people have no idea they have an MTHFR mutation that could be contributing to other health-related issues.
For testing and diagnosis, or for further information about MTHFR, please feel free to schedule an initial consultation appointment with Dr. Courtney Holmberg, ND by booking online or calling 647-351-7282 today!
Gilbody S1, Lewis S, Lightfoot T. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) genetic polymorphisms and psychiatric disorders: a HuGE review. Am J Epidemiol. 2007 Jan 1;165(1):1-13.
Prasad VV1, Wilkhoo H. Association of the functional polymorphism C677T in the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene with colorectal, thyroid, breast, ovarian, and cervical cancers. Onkologie. 2011;34(8-9):422-6.
Li P1, Qin C2. Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene polymorphisms and susceptibility to ischemic stroke: a meta-analysis. Gene. 2014 Feb 10;535(2):359-64. doi: 10.1016/j.gene.2013.09.066. Epub 2013 Oct 16.
Prasad VV1, Wilkhoo H. Association of the functional polymorphism C677T in the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene with colorectal, thyroid, breast, ovarian, and cervical cancers. Onkologie. 2011;34(8-9):422-6