MTHFR and your health

What to do if you have MTHFR

 MTHFR and Methylation

MTHFR and methylation are involved in many different functions in the body, here is a list from Dr. Ben Lynch’s website www.mthfr.net

  • Turn on and off genes (gene regulation)
  • Process chemical and toxins (biotransformation)
  • Build neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine)
  • Process hormones (estrogen)
  • Build immune cells (T cells, NK cells)
  • DNA and RNA synthese (Thymine aka 5-methyluracil)
  • Produce energy (CoQ10, carnitine, ATP)
  • Produce protective coating on nerves (myelination)

As you can see the methylation process is involved in many different functions in the body so it is important that it is working efficiently. MTHFR does not stop this process from working but there are a few steps that you need to do to make sure that it is working efficiently.

What to do if you have MTHFR!

1/ The first step is to remove Folic acid from your diet. Folic acid is found in fortified foods and many different supplements, the good news is that you will feel a lot better of from removing over processed foods from your diet which provide little nutritional value, despite the healthy claims made on many of these products. It is only since the 1990’s that folic acid was added to processed foods to reduce birth defects, which it has done but now 20 years later it has been linked to an increase in autism and certain types of cancer.

These products will include all flour products like breads, biscuits and cereals, muesli bars, energy drinks, protein powders and many more, you need to look for Folic acid or Folate on the label …. don’t be confused by seeing folate on a label which is the healthy form of folate found in fresh foods like your leafy greens, as all fortified foods contain the synthetic form of Folic acid which is poorly absorbed by the body and is often mislabeled on products.

You will have to look at supplements and medications that you are taking to see if they are fortified with Folic acid, if they have been prescribed to you then you will need to talk to your doctor or naturopath about switching to a different form of folate or whether it is actually necessary for you to keep taking them.
2/ While having an MTHFR snp means a reduced ability to convert folate to the active form of 5-MTHF, which is important for the function of methylation … this does not mean that your having problems with methylation. Besides having a MTHFR polymorphism there are so many other factors that influence methylation like diet, environment, toxins, medications, stress, digestive function, virus and bacterial infections and other illnesses.

A good starting point is to test your folate levels, B12 and homocysteine levels, as whether these are high or low can indicate if everything is working fine. Have the results assessed by somebody experienced in treating MTHFR, (as many doctors will just check to see if you are in the range according to the labs but this does not mean they are healthy levels) and if everything is fine the only treatment that you may have to follow is to eat a quality diet without processed foods, maintain good digestion, a good lifestyle and  especially avoid all products with folic acid.

If you are experiencing health problems or the first lot of testing was not ideal it may be necessary to do further testing of urine amino acids and a urine organic acids test to pinpoint the exact nature of the methylation problem. While supplementation maybe necessary it is still important to address diet, digestion and your environment first to get the best results.

 

3/ If you have diarrhea, constipation, bloating, excess gas, reflux or other digestive symptoms this is not normal and can be a sign of poor digestion and absorption of nutrients, and poor elimination of toxins. There are many reasons for poor digestion including food intolerances, medications, stress, bacterial and parasitic infections and this needs to be addressed. The process of digestion of our food is quite simple the absorption of nutrients and elimination of wastes but with modern diets being so processed and nutritionally poor and our environment filled with more toxins than ever it is no wonder that this is compromised in many people.

Probiotics, prebiotics and other herbs and nutrients can also help to improve digestive problems like irritable bowel, candida, leaky gut and bacterial overgrowth, to get the best results these should be professionally prescribed using quality products not the supermarket variety.
4/ I have already mentioned the importance of diet and to eliminate all processed foods that contain folic acid, this for many people eating cereals, sandwiches, burgers and pasta’s has cut out half their diet … so what is left to eat? I recommend getting back to basics to start with, which includes eating quality unprocessed foods. This includes grass fed meats and poultry, wild caught fish, free range eggs, nuts, seeds and lots of fresh vegetables, salads and fruits.

The foods that I would be strict on eliminating are all gluten containing grains as these can be quite harsh on your digestive tract, gluten stimulates the release of a chemical called Zonulin which leads to leaky gut, this can be the trigger for a range of health issues. Eliminating all forms of sugar is also a priority, by eliminating gluten and sugars you eliminate nearly all processed foods.

 

5/ Many medications affect folate metabolism and if you have MTHFR this makes the issue worse. Some of the medications that affect folate include the oral contraceptive pill, methotrexate, anti-epileptic drugs like dilantin, ant-acids, SSRI’s which are used for depression, Metformin used for diabetes and antibiotics.

It’s important not to stop any medications without talking to your doctor and in cases when you cannot stop a medication supplementing with active forms of folate maybe necessary.

Further Testing

It’s important not to just treat MTHFR in isolation as there are many other genetic SNP’s that can cause issues, you can get a comprehensive genetic test done through Smart DNA or 23andme.

It’s important to remember not just to treat the genetic SNP’s with specific protocols  but to treat each individual person!

About the Author Michael

Michael is head consultant at Planet Naturopath - Functional Medicine and Nutrition Solutions. As Seen

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