If you’re following along with our step-by-step process, then you’re well ahead of most people who start their MTHFR journey with Dr. Google. Congratulations. This week we’re going to talk about avoiding one of the biggest mistakes that people make in their MTHFR quest for health, and that is, forgetting that methylfolate isn’t everything.
This is truly the mistake most likely to be made, followed closely by trying to change everything all at once and getting into a tangle.
It’s really easy to think of MTHFR as a “folate thing,” forgetting that the twenty other steps in the pathway that have to happen for MTHFR to have any impact, need other nutrients. Even the one step we’re obsessed with needs other nutrients.
While our mutation does have “folate” in its name and that seems like a compelling reason to focus on folate, if folate is all you focus on, it isn’t going to work out.
I’m not sure if anybody remembers S1E1 when we talked about how MTHFR was like a magic chair, but lets revisit that idea.
MTHFR is a gene. A tiny genetic code that help your body to build an enzyme of the same name. Enzymes are a special type of protein that I like to talk about in terms of being a magic chair. The magic that happens in this chair is like alchemy – it’s a lead to gold type of transition. Essentially, the magic chair turns something reasonably worthless into something incredibly valuable. Like I said, alchemy.
The MTHFR magic chair turns folate, folic acid, and folinic acid into the active form of the nutrient that actually does something in your body. This folate-gold, is called methylfolate or 5-L methyl tetrahydrofolate, if we want to be specific. Without the magic chair, the methylfolate never happens. If methylfolate doesn’t happen then things start breaking down.
We see errors in cellular reproduction, problems with turning on or off particular genetic signals, trouble building neurotransmitters, inability to kill off damaged cells, toxins piling up, and big issues with conceiving babies, carrying babies, and building the central nervous systems on which healthy babies rely. The methylfolate gold is vital in helping us prevent cancer, prevent heart disease, reproduce, and maintain our mental, physical, and emotional wellbeing. It really is gold.
So for genetically “wild type” humans, which is what researchers call people with the typical MTHFR genes, this enzyme functions as well as it can given their nutritional status. It can still be compromised by lack of quality folate and lack of cofactors, but those are the only things slowing it down.
For MTHFR folks, the different mutations, most commonly C677T or A1298C, cause the chair to change shape a bit. Essentially, they give the chair a lump somewhere really important, like the seat or the headrest. Something that makes it hard for the folate to effectively sit in the chair so it can undergo the magic that turns it into methylfolate gold.
So as the very basic point, I’m hoping you understand that you need the chair and the folate to click together. What we haven’t talked about, is what is needed for the magic to happen. Remember back to our alchemical change here – we’re making lead into gold and that’s a big deal. So obviously some magic happens, and in this particular case that magic needs another nutrient in order to spark. That nutrient is riboflavin. Riboflavin isn’t in the name of our mutation and Dr. Google doesn’t talk about it as much as he or she should.
So circling back to the initial statement, the biggest mistake that I see in people who have been treating their own MTHFR stuff by themselves, is that they forget about other B vitamins.
I have to point out an obvious fact that is easy to overlook. There are no “C vitamins” or “D vitamins.” There is a vitamin C, singular, and a vitamin D, also singular. So why, then, are there so darn many Bs? The bottom line is that the Bs are all Bs because they function largely as a group. No one B vitamin is involved in any big process that doesn’t also involve some or all of the rest of the B vitamins.
Vitamin C is off doing its own thing as an antioxidant, but the Bs are a team. They are all working together all of the time. Folate is a B. Riboflavin is also a B. Guess how many B vitamins you need for all of the functions related to healthy methylation? Well, the trick answer there, is all of them. Especially when you get off into making things like cellular energy or neurotransmitters and detoxifying things. The Bs always work as a team and if you’re missing Bs, then the process is stalled. Riboflavin is nowhere in the name of our mutation, but it is as necessary as folate because riboflavin makes the magic happen.
Is Riboflavin the only other B vitamin you should be taking? Nope. They’re a team, remember? So as you’re following along with the program, now is the time to start the other B vitamins – preferably in a multivitamin. It’s a great way to get everything in one swift stroke, rather than taking an individual pill for each thing.
The issue is that we don’t want folic acid, because it’s essentially toxic for us MTHFR folks, and we aren’t ready to start 5-LMTHF as a supplement yet either. So what can we do? Well, Ben Lynch, another MTHFR mutant who had the foresight to start a supplement company, called Seeking Health, that caters to genetic issues, made some great multivitamins without anything methylated just for this purpose. They can be a great way to start the journey by giving your body the rest of the “B team” without getting into weird territory with the folate.
If you can’t get those particular products, look for a multivitamin that has 5-LMTHF as the form of folate in the lowest dose possible. One a day multis are not the best choice because they usually have 400 micrograms or more just to meet the daily requirement. Many good multis will be in a two per day or even 4 per day format and a lot of times if you start one of those at the lowest possible dose (like taking 1 out of the 4 pills per day that you’re supposed to take) then you can get a reasonable background of B vitamins with a very low dose of methylfolate. Again, make sure the only folate in the product is methylfolate or folinic acid which is also safe for us.
The goal here is to get ready to start a methylfolate supplement by having a great background of other B vitamins.
By this time you have a couple of weeks of symptom tracking since stopping folic acid and since adding in food sources of natural folate. You may have noticed some changes. From those changes we might be able to predict how your methylfolate start will go.
|Stopping folic acid made me feel:||Adding natural folate makes me feel:||5-LMTHF will probably…|
|Better||Worse||be difficult for me to tolerate so start with none or the very lowest dose possible.|
|Better||Better||be a bit easier for me to tolerate. Still start low, but finding a good dose should be smoother.|
|Worse||– – –||I’ve never actually seen this so I don’t know.|
Interestingly, we can also predict a bit based on your basic state. Last week we talked a bit about basic state so we don’t need to do so again, but overmethylators generally tolerate higher doses of methylfolate than undermethylators do. It’s a guideline and not a general rule so it’s important for everyone to start slowly and carefully.
Make sure you’ve got all the other B vitamins in there first and avoid the most common pitfall people experience when they are relying solely on Dr. Google.
I’m really excited to say that I’m in the process of building a Patreon page, which is a great way for you to show support for this show if you feel like you’re getting something out of it. I love doing the show and I want to keep putting great information out there for free so that it’s reasonably accessible to people of all financial means. But also, at the end of the day, I have to be able to support myself and contribute to my family’s wellbeing. So if you’re able to become a patron on Patreon, I would really appreciate it and I have lots of special content planned. Now, my site isn’t live just yet – I”m in the process of building it out – but when it is it will be found at Patreon.com/thwt. I’ll see what I can do to get it live before next week’s episode.