If you’ve just been told you have an MTHFR issue, or if you’ve started researching it and are pretty sure this is you, then you are in the right place. This is a quick summary with links to more detailed articles if you want to dive deeper. Start here for MTHFR!
MTHFR Basics – What it is, What It Does, and Why It’s Like A Magic Chair
MTHFR, or methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, is a gene that tells your body how to build an enzyme of the same name. An enzyme is like a chair that something common (like folic acid) sits in to be transformed into something valuable (like 5-LMTHF, which is the active form of folate.) So essentially, this chair makes folic acid or folate active. To read more about this, go here.
When you have a “mutation” (I like this word only because it implies eyeball laser beams, but the correct term is “polymorphism”), the chair changes shape so that it’s hard for folate to sit there, so less of it is transformed. And each mutation changes the shape of the chair in different ways. Two variants make a difference in how the MTHFR enzyme works. They are called C677T and A1298C.
So I have a mutation. What Now?
Having an issue with MTHFR means that your body has a hard time activating folate, so all of the things your body needs folate for (which is essentially ALL OF THE THINGS) get a little messy. You can see a complete list of issues that can stem from the MTHFR mutations here, but the biggies are:
- Issues with neurotransmitters – so depression, anxiety, anger, addictions, ADD, autism
- Issues with energy – fatigue, chronic fatigue, hyperactivity, restlessness, or agitation
- Issues with sensitivities and toxins – allergies, food, and chemical sensitivities, toxic-type reactions to smells, perfumes, and actual issues related to the inability to detoxify.
- Issues with cell repair and reproduction – fertility problems, repeat miscarriages, cancer
- Midline problems – these are mostly developmental – hair lip, cleft palate, spina bifida, neural tube defects.
- Issues around aging and oxidative stress – macular degeneration, cataracts, skin, and cellular aging, Alzheimer’s disease,
- Heart and cardiovascular disease – heart attack, stroke, abnormal clotting, high blood pressure, preeclampsia.
So, that’s a lot of stuff. It’s important to remember that MTHFR alone doesn’t cause all these problems. MTHFR is an epigenetic issue, meaning that by using nutrition and lifestyle, you can modify the effect this gene has on your health. So the problems we are looking at are poorly-managed MTHFR problems, but by taking care of your MTHFR, you can help your body function at its best and minimize your risk of those health issues.
MTHFR Comes With Superpowers, Too.
No joke. With the MTHFR gene, you are likely to be:
- Highly intelligent
- Highly creative
- Have stronger and faster than average muscle fibers
- Have a greater than average chance of surviving malaria.
These are just a few of the advantages MTHFR gives us. Granted, it isn’t eyeball-laser beams, but it’s a start.
Managing MTHFR Mutations The Best Way Possible
MTHFR is complex, but managing it doesn’t have to be. I’ll give you a quick list of steps here, then details about the steps in stage 1 below. By the time you get to stage 2, you’ll be much more versed in MTHFR.
Start Here for MTHFR
**If you’re pregnant or trying to get pregnant** If you’ve recently found out that you’re pregnant or you’re trying to get pregnant, you must work with a naturopathic doctor, genetic counselor, fertility specialist, doctor, midwife, or OB/GYN who understands MTHFR and can address it. This is a vulnerable time for your health and your baby’s health.
This list is general steps with links to more in-depth information about each topic. This is a general introduction, but it gives you an easier starting place.
STAGE 1: GENERAL TO ALL MTHFR FOLKS
- Eliminate artificial folic acid from supplements, foods, and prescriptions. Talk with your doctor about prescription alternatives without folic acid.
- Join Genetic Rockstars, the MTHFR Community. This supportive group of folks is on the same journey as you. It’s less than a fancy coffee each month and full of amazing information.
- Add food sources of natural folate.
- Hydrate, Make sure you’re getting eight 8 oz glasses of water (about 2 liters) daily with good electrolytes.
- Find your pattern. Begin to explore your basic state and symptoms, and use a symptom tracker to get to know your red flags and measure progress.
- Clear the toxins out of your house. This is skincare, cleaning products, food containers, cookware, air fresheners, pesticides, weed killers, and that sort of thing.
- Add a multi-B vitamin or Multivitamin that doesn’t have either folate (in any form) or B12 (in any form). The B vitamins work as a group, and to methylate properly, you need all of them. The only ones I know of are from Seeking Health. “B Minus” is the B complex, and “Multivitamin Sensitive” is the multi.
- Talk to your family. You got your MTHFR issue from someone in your family, and your siblings and children might also have inherited it. Is someone else in your family who would benefit from changing their diet and state of health?
- Add some gentle detox to your life. Saunas, anything that induces sweating, castor oil packs, boosting fiber or taking clay internally, dry skin brushing, Epsom salts baths, etc…
- Boost your self-care. Make sure you’re getting good sleep, reducing stress, reducing inflammation, boosting antioxidants, and giving yourself the best foundation possible.
- Learn. Taking a course like MTHFR for LIfe to help you understand the impacts of this mutation, how to talk to your doctor, how MTHFR interacts with prescription medications, and how to get started supplementing with some extra support.
STAGE 2: UNIQUE TO YOUR BASIC STATE GROUP
- Understand your basic state. Are you an overmethylator? An undermethylator? or neutral? Begin to address the common issues for your group.
- Make specific changes for your basic state group.
- Add 5-LMTHF and/or folinic acid and B12 If you tolerate high folate foods.
- Add folate alternatives plus B12 if you don’t tolerate high-folate foods.
- Fine-tune your dosages and dosing patterns
STAGE 3: OPTIMIZE FOR YOUR PERSONAL SYMPTOM PROFILE
- Eliminate your food sensitivities
- Do an antioxidant/oxidative stress review
- Manage your specific symptoms
- Allergies and sensitivities
- Toxic symptoms
- Hormone imbalance
- Energy level
- Cell repair and reproduction
- Heart and Cardiovascular
MTHFR Is For Life
Your genes are your genes – we don’t yet have the technology to change them easily, but we can certainly change their impact on your health. Finding out that you have an MTHFR polymorphism can be an incredible turning point in your life where you get to decide to become the best you possible.
What is Next?
- Sign up for the mailing list to stay on top of all the great tips, tricks, and lifehacks for MTHFR folks, and get a free downloadable version of this document and a symptom tracker along with some other free goodies.
- Join us in Genetic Rockstars – our amazing MTHFR community- other MTHFR folks need to hear your story, and they know exactly what you’re going through. Like you, they are on the same lifestyle path and becoming better humans.
- Take a Course from Dr. Amy. If you’re committed to doing it yourself, then make sure you’re doing it with the best information possible to save yourself some heartache.
- Get one-on-one health coaching with Dr. Amy. If you’re struggling and you need help, I’m here for you. Learn more about all of it here.