S2E8: The Preliminaries with MTHFR

This week you’re continuing to symptom track and continuing to have patience because right now you are laying the foundation for a good methylfolate start. This phase, what I like to call the preliminaries, is all about priming your system for the giant load of methylated goodness that is going to come in and without this, things can get really rough down the road.

The “Preliminary Phase,” is the first of three phases for that MTHFR folks go through when they start working on this. This phase lasts through a successful 5-LMTHF start and means your body is opening up the metabolic pathways that are dependent on methylfolate. Once these pathways start spinning reliably, then you will enter another phase, which I like to call “Burning Through The Backlog.” When your body has caught up with its mountain of backlog, which can take months or years, then we enter the “Maintenance Phase.”

Each of these three stages is equally important, but the preliminaries are relatively undramatic and underrated next to something as exciting as backlog. Giving your body the luxury of a solid start will help the backlog phase go much more smoothly and hopefully allow it to be faster, although that is my own conjecture.

With MTHFR, our bodies often have a backlog of unfinished business that needed methylfolate, but your body didn’t have enough resources at the time the business got started. These items go onto the physiological equivalent of a to-do list. In some ways the backlog shows up on a day-to-day basis – these are the unmanufactured neurotransmitters, the deficiencies of nitric oxide and glutathione and the excess of homocysteine. Most of these, however, are largely silent.

Toxins that can’t be methylated and therefore get diverted to long-term storage, unmethylated bits of DNA, unmethylated proteins and fats, and generally tasks that need doing. These build up and build up and as they accumulate, your body gets more and more desperate to start doing something about it.

The “something” your body wants to be doing can start to happen once you have reliable methylfolate and the background of other B vitamins, and once your body is confident about that, you enter the second phase, the “Burning Through The Backlog” phase. This is the heavy-lifting of the MTHFR journey and we’re getting ready for it right now.

So for this week, the best thing you can do is to keep tracking your symptoms. If you notice weird energy changes, strange new symptoms, anxiety, nightmares, intrusive thoughts, or any kind of wound-up feeling, reassess the vitamin B12 you started last week or previously with the other Bs. Remember that even though the methyl form is the most biologically active form, it is also the one most likely to cause symptoms. Actually, it causes symptoms specifically because it is the most biologically active form.

At this point you should also be maintaining the good MTHFR lifestyle things that we’ve talked about in the past. This means keeping up those food sources of natural folate – the natural folate, even though it does have to go through the MTHFR enzyme, will begin to get the wheels turning. Especially if you’re getting it in the absence of folic acid, which is known to block up the works. Unfortunately, many people who have had high folic acid exposure for years will continue to have high blood levels of folate on lab tests that we can only assume are mostly unmetabolized folic acid. It seems clinically as though it is difficult for your body to get rid of and so hangs around, cluttering up the works for a while.

Don’t be discouraged – just taking the folic acid out of your diet and supplements is a huge step forward for your body and allows some off that natural folate to reach receptor sites.

Other things to focus on this week are simple steps like hydration. We will talk more about the importance not only of water, but of hydration in a few weeks, but for now, just make sure you’re getting a lot of water. Anything that allows your methylation cycle to begin to move more freely is also going to encourage some detoxification, and you can’t get anything clean without water.

Also, sleep. As your body is able to methylate more, it is going to want the time and rest to do so. Prioritize both sleep and rest this week and through the coming months as your body really digs into this work. Sleep is when a lot of your detox processes happen and you’re going to be doing a lot of that.

I know this week doesn’t feel like we’re doing much, but it really does matter to create a good environment for all of the methylation processes to start happening, and also to open up these pathways in a slow and controlled manner. This is basically building the frame of a house before you put in the tiles and hardwood. The tiles and hardwood are far more interesting and way prettier, but without the frame, they’re useless. The 5-LMTHF start can feel strange at the best of times, but it’s way stranger if you aren’t ready for it.

Next week, we’ll talk about the actual 5-LMTHF start, what you might expect to see, and what weird feelings are “normal” versus the weird feelings that indicate a problem.

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MTHFR Questions From Listeners.

MTHFR is such a strange journey, and it seems like no two people’s experiences are the same. I kind of backed into MTHFR by accident. I found a multivitamin that I then told all of my clients about because it was the only multivitamin that had ever worked for me, ever. Turns out, I felt such a difference because it happened to have 5-LMTHF in it, as opposed to lesser forms of folate. I didn’t know that at the time. It was a few years after that that I heard about MTHFR and discovered my own polymorphism. Others find out about MTHFR as a part of their search for symptom relief and tackle it that way.

The weirdest part about it, as we’re finding in the MTHFR community Genetic Rockstars, is that small experiences often overlap, but big overarching patterns can vary widely.

This week, we’re tidying up some unfinished business. A few of you have been kind enough to leave questions for me on the website. Let’s get to those!

Does Amy Still Take Appointments?

First, we’ve got one from Sandy. She writes, ” I would like to know if Amy sees patients. I have an interesting combination of issues, one being severe folic acid/folate/B12 intolerance. Such great information on these pages, but I wonder if she takes appointments. Thanks very much, Sandy.”

In good news, we have so many options, Sandy! First off, it sounds like you’ve got a definite challenge on your hands, which is always fun. Secondly, here are the options. There are three ways to work with me, Amy.

  1. Join the MTHFR community, Genetic Rockstars: I know a lot of people consider this to be less of a therapeutic option and more of a social one. I can honestly say, it’s much more than that. The community is a place to connect with other people who have the same challenges, talk as a group and get questions answered – including by me. The goal is for the community to be both joyful and real-life helpful.
  2. Join the MTHFR Academy: This is an in-depth group coaching circle. We are all MTHFR folks and three weeks out of four we’ll be having coaching talks about specific topics and/or classes as a group. We also have office hours, which is group zooms with Amy to ask any and all questions, especially questions about where or when you get stuck on your MTHFR journey. As a part of this, you’ll have free access to the 10 week MTHFR 101 class and every other course, workshop, or masterclass that Amy puts out during your membership.
  3. Get one-on-one coaching: I do still see some one-on-one clients. I actually think group coaching is more effective long-term because the amount of time together and the focus on learning is so much greater, but having some one-on-one visits can be really helpful if you’re deeply stuck or have concerns that you don’t feel comfortable talking about about in a group setting. If you’re interested in this option, the first visit is always an hour and a half and you can find out more about scheduling and frequently asked questions at tohealthwiththat.com/about/ or click the Amy + Coaching link at the top of the page.

Thanks so much for your question, Sandy.

Contrast in MRIs

The second question comes from Sam. She writes, ” I am a mama of boys with the homo 677T mutation. I’m curious about contrast in MRIs when you have this mutation and also if I the mom should avoid a contrast MRI when nursing a baby with the homo 677 mutation?”

This is a great question and not one that is easy to answer. First, there are a number of contrast mediums for MRIs and the selection of those depends partly on the area, organ, or body part that is being studied. There are other factors as well.

Each different contrast medium has to include a magnetic component (it is magnetic resonance imaging, after all). Often the magnetic component is some kind of metal atom. Generally, many of the heavy metals do need to be methylated in the detoxification process, so this has the potential to be more difficult for MTHFR folks.

Many MRI mediums also contain what is called a chelating agent, which is something that helps your body to enhance excretion of the substance, reduces storage in body tissues, and reduces toxicity. Some, however, do not.

To make the conversation a bit more complicated, there isn’t actually any research that I am able to find that addresses MRI contrast mediums and genetic polymorphisms of any kind.

I would say, find out everything you can about the specific contrast agent your doctor plans on using, including the pharmacokinetics and any information they have about how the substance is cleared from your body. Also, the average rate of clearance if that data is available.

In terms of having an MRI while you’re nursing, there are several factors to consider. Certainly, nursing mamas can pass toxins, especially fat-soluble toxins, down to their kiddos through breast milk. If the MRI is potentially life-saving or treatment-altering (as it could be in tumor-related MRIs) then it is probably worth the risk. If it can be delayed without major health consequences, then that would be the most prudent option.

If you do choose to have an MRI while breastfeeding, see if you can pump and store milk before the procedure enough to feed your baby for a while after the procedure and pump and dump any potentially contaminated milk during that time. Work with your doctor to find the most critical period of time after the procedure in which excretion via breast milk is most likely.

Thanks for the great questions, and if anyone who is listening right now happens to have a question, go to tohealthwiththat.com and about half-way down the page you’ll see me asking for your questions in a video – you can ask your questions there in video, audio, or written form.

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The Bucket Theory and MTHFR

The Bucket Theory isn’t a new thing – it’s been around for a long time in a lot of different forms. It is, however, incredibly relevant to the MTHFR problem and many of us have lived out the stages of the theory unknowingly. Here it is.

A Bucket Theory Fairy Tale

You’re born and for the most part, your body is clean, undamaged, fresh with promise. You’ve got a bucket, and it’s clean, shiny, and empty.

Life starts, you get skinned knees, your first emotional wounds, pick up a few viruses and a drippy nose along the way. Your family has a pretty clean diet and you live next to a farm. Your bucket starts to pick up a few things inside of it. Some toxins, some viruses hanging around, a few emotional stressors.

There is a tiny hole in the bottom of the bucket where the contents are being processed, and released from the bucket, but it’s pretty small. Doesn’t matter – the bucket doesn’t have much in it.

You are growing up and life is great. Sure, high school kind of sucked but you’re off to university and all the fun that goes with it. You get hit with mono, but you got it from your first love, so it was totally worth it. You maybe drink more than you should and ramen noodles are your go-to meal because you only have a kettle and a microwave, but things are amazing.

Your first love leaves to study animals in the Galapagos, or to party in Ibiza or to join a big firm in New York. Your heart breaks. You spend a few months mooning around eating carbs and going on dates.

Now you are entering the work force but the hours are long and god knows you don’t want to miss out on social time, so you’re burning the candle at both ends. Plus, that old soccer injury is playing up. You aren’t aware of your bucket at all – you’ve never even thought about it – but you’ve piled on enough tiny stressors and damage to your body, that your bucket is getting close to full.

You meet the love of your life and get a promotion – everything is golden. You buy a fixer-upper and spring for new carpets. You have a big deadline coming up at work and you’ve got to pay the mortgage and you’re often up at midnight, trying to make sense of the latest spreadsheet. Then, you find out that you’re going to be a parent – hooray! Then, to nobody’s surprise, you get the flu.

The flu lingered and you couldn’t get your pep back, but this is no time to take a break. Besides, you’re out of sick days at work and your deadline is looming so you jump back in full-throttle. You have no energy, but who really does? Except now it’s turning to summer and you still feel down.

You notice that you can’t work out anymore without feeling winded and your sleep is suffering because your mind races at night and you can’t seem to turn off. You know your life is really good, but you just can’t seem to connect with that because you’re so very tired.

Does any of this sound familiar?

This person’s bucket reached full with the flu. Now, there is no more room in their bucket so every little thing causes overflow – it is all, quite literally, too much.

This is one of the most common MTHFR stories I hear. “I was always so healthy, never though about my health at all – it was just there. Then I got the flu/a divorce/new carpets/a promotion/married and the wheels fell off the cart. It’s like overnight, everything changed. I feel like my body betrayed me.”

Your body didn’t – it’s just that your bucket filled up and now every little insult comes out as a symptom because it’s all overflowing over the top of the bucket. Your bucket is full.

This is usually where people start desperately looking around for help, going from doctor to doctor, practitioner to practitioner, and testing all of the things. Often, this is when people find out about their MTHFR issues. And this is totally normal.

The ultimate goal in working with your MTHFR, is to empty out your bucket. The more room you have in your bucket, the more you can cope with additional stressor without noticing that they take your body down. Emptying your bucket is a lot like filling up your bank account – it gives you some protection when crisis strikes. Granted, an emptier bucket won’t help you pay to fix your car when it breaks down, but it helps your body cope with the stressors that inevitably come. A little virus floating around at the office, a cut that gets infected, a new car with the formaldehyde-related new car smell, relationship trouble, worries and stresses, life changes.

Stressors don’t have to seem big or important to you, it isn’t about what you consciously acknowledge as stressful. It’s the accumulation of all of the extra work that your body has to do. It has to process toxins, fight off bacteria and viruses, manage stress hormones, cope with tiny nutritional insufficiencies, and deal with all of the physiological changes that come with strong emotions.

In terms of MTHFR – optimizing your methylation pathway, doing your slow detoxification, cleaning up your diet and helping yourself to regulate your emotions all help to empty out your bucket.

A full bucket doesn’t empty overnight. All you can really do is make that hole at the bottom a little bit bigger so that you can process your junk a tiny bit faster. Giving yourself buffers takes time and patience. You have to be willing to play the long game.

There are short cuts – I am pretty sure a month of fasting and cleansing in a health center in India or Thailand would give you a little bit of wiggle room in your bucket in one short month. Given that most of people don’t have that luxury, we’re left with slower options. Also, the month long detox can be undone pretty quickly, too. This is the point where you make a commitment to life-long change.

I think the Bucket Theory is important to understand with MTHFR because it gives you a concrete way to visualize your progress, and also helps you to recognize what an achievement it truly is when you begin to be able to cope again. When a bad night of sleep doesn’t set you back for a week you know your bucket has got a little bit of space in it. It’s a really big deal.

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What Is The Goal With MTHFR?

I know this sounds like a bit of an odd question – the goal is to get healthy, right? And yes, of course it is. But sometimes people have mistaken ideas about health goals, so I think it deserves a little bit of a conversation.

First off, What Concrete Goals Are We Looking For?

This is actually pretty simple.

  • Normalize lab values like homocysteine, B12 and folate levels.
  • Feel reliably better
  • Minimize the risk of chronic illness both related to and unrelated to MTHFR.

Simple, right? Except that we are a society used to taking a pill to fix things and then eventually being done with that pill. That is where we get into trouble with MTHFR.

MTHFR Is For Life

This isn’t a get balanced and then go back to ignoring it kind of problem. MTHFR is a genetic difference. It has always been with you and it will always be with you. There is no quick fix for that. I believe we can achieve the goals above – get your basic numbers back in line, get you feeling great, and reduce your risk down the road. Absolutely all of that is possible, but it is also ongoing.

Your body and your health are dynamic. You respond to changes in diet, in stress level, in weather, in close relationships, in sleep quality in very real ways that might be easy to perceive or might be hidden. Still, every one of those factors and hundreds of others besides add up to your total state of health on any given day or in every moment. Essentially, it’s a lot of moving pieces and in any day there could be hundreds of small factors that determine how your body functions. That is a lot.

For example. Say you get up in the morning, have an extra coffee because your dog/cat/spouse/hookup decided they wanted to sleep on your pillow. You grab a whole grain bagel with cream cheese and run out of your door, only to get stuck behind the slowest driver on the face of the planet. You can feel your blood pressure escalating and you try to take a few deep breaths so that you don’t just run into the back of their car four or five times to vent some spleen. When you get to work your boss pulls you aside and thanks your for the amazing job you’ve done on your latest project. Nice! After work you go to the gym but the parking lot is full and you end up driving around for 15 minutes before you decide you’re too tired anyway and head home…

This day is filled with pretty normal things:

  • not ideal sleep
  • extra coffee
  • food choices
  • rush and stress
  • frustration and maybe a bit of road rage
  • surprise good news
  • inconvenience
  • sedentary lifestyle

Plus, there were all the things you weren’t aware of that your body was dealing with – that tiny little pocket of inflammation in your arteries, the virus that has been lurking around the office causing your immune system to ramp up, the low-pressure system that is floating in, the minor vitamin C deficiency you never knew you had, and the lingering emotional stress that comes from a strained relationship with auntie Mabel. Add to all of that your hundreds to thousands of polymorphisms.

Every one of those seemingly tiny factors affects your physical state of health in some way. We all know the emotional impact, of course, but physically every one of those factors affects your cortisol and sex hormone levels, inflammation, metabolic pathways, neurotransmitters, parasympathetic functions like digestion, and gut flora. Every small thing ripples out into the much larger picture of who you are and how your body feels and functions. Frankly, it’s a wonder any of us can get out of bed in the morning.

Outside of Goals, What Is The Actual Aim?

This, to me, is a whole different thing. The goals are tangible. We can check them off of a list and be done. The aim, is perhaps a bit softer than that. In my opinion, the aim of working with your MTHFR and your methylation pathway is about reaching potential. Every human has strengths and weaknesses, we all have ups and downs and as far as I can tell, that is the crux of being human. I know precisely zero people who have perfect states of being. We just have to slog through the mud sometimes. So my aims in my own MTHFR journey, and for you as well are:

  • Live up to our potential as flawed humans. This isn’t about being superman or superwoman. It’s not about being a TV character – glossy and perfect. I actually think fostering the idea that we CAN be that is damaging. This is about feeling well, have a positive impact on the people around us, and feeling like we’ve done something worthwhile.
  • Maximize health for whatever years we have. Nobody, even with a perfect diet and self-care, can actually predict what their health is going to be like throughout their life. People with perfect diets get cancer too. We can work to make it better than it might have been, but that doesn’t mean we’ll all be blessed by the perfect health fairy. It doesn’t work like that. When we reach the end, I want us all to be able to look back and know we cherished ourselves and treated our bodies like they mattered.
  • Have more good days than bad days. Of course, we want good days – lots of them. But it is also important to live into the bad ones and not be discouraged by them. This means continuing to develop a toolkit of coping strategies for the not-great days.

Aiming for perfect is misguided

amy neuzil, tohealthwiththat.com

The point is that aiming for “perfect” is misguided. People reach for it in health, looking for a meaningless continuity of perfect days. Culturally we reach for it in goal setting, and self-perfect and it becomes both unattainable and deeply damaging. There is no perfect. Ever. Embracing that is freeing. What there is, is BETTER.

Thanks for listening this week – don’t forget to rate me on your favorite podcasting app, and tune in next week for some gentle detox strategies, because god knows we MTHFR folks need them.

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These Vitamins Are Absolutely Essential for MTHFR.

The Methylation pathway seems relatively minor. Your body moves a 1-carbon group around. Big deal. And yet, it ties into the major processes of cellular energy formation, waste excretion, neurotransmitter formation, antioxidant recycling, and utilization of key nutrients. This can lead one to believe that folate is the most important nutrient in the universe, but the truth is – there is another vitamin that is necessary for MTHFR. A whole group of them! In fact, we need all the B vitamins for methylation to happen. So let’s take an in-depth look at not only the pathway but also the other nutrients (outside of the main player, folate) which are necessary.

the MTHFR lifestyle matters because of the way these cycles all interconnect.

The Methylation And Folate Cycles In Gory Detail

The image below shows the methylation pathway and the folate cycle in all their glory, with the cofactors necessary showing in color (click on the image to see a bigger version because it’s eye-crossingly small). You will notice that although folate, which we’ve spent eons talking about, shows up twice, riboflavin, which we haven’t even mentioned yet, is in there four times. With MTHFR issues, it’s easy to start to think it’s all about folate. The truth is, B vitamins function together. MTHFR folks need other B vitamins. Folate doesn’t ever function in isolation and before someone with an MTHFR issue even begins to supplement folate, they should supplement the B vitamins that aren’t directly involved in methylation. This is B1, B2, B3, B5, B6, and B7.

This is why MTHFR folks need other Bs. It isn’t just about folate.

With MTHFR issues, it’s easy to start to think it’s all about folate. The truth is, B vitamins work together. MTHFR folks need all of the B vitamins, and they should start the other Bs before they even begin to supplement with folate (B9) or cobalamin (B12).

Amy Neuzil, tohealthwiththat.com

What About The Kreb’s Cycle?

I’m pretty sure that is a question that no-one has actually ever asked, but still. The Krebs Cycle is how your cells generate energy and so we kind of have to discuss it because without the kreb’s cycle, your cells have no energy and if your cells have no energy, you don’t either. Turns out, the feeling of no energy is a common issue for MTFR folks, so this really matters. Take a look at the full cycle below.

As you can see, the various B vitamins in this cycle don’t even include folate – although the folate cycle does join up, so MTHFR folks aren’t out of the woods yet. This figure was taken from: Kennedy, David. (2016). B Vitamins and the Brain: Mechanisms, Dose and Efficacy—A Review. Nutrients. 8. 68. 10.3390/nu8020068. and adapted with color.

If Folate is MTHFR’s Wife, Riboflavin is the Other Vitamin For MTHFR. Riboflavin Is The Mistress.

In fact, Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, is actually a cofactor in the MTHFR reaction itself. Meaning that if you are low on riboflavin it doesn’t matter if your MTHFR is working perfectly, it still isn’t going to happen. For this reason, MTHFR folks need riboflavin just as much as we need folate. Maybe even more so.

Start The Other B Vitamins First.


It may sound counterintuitive, but when you’re starting on your MTHFR journey, it really matters to do things in the right order.

  • Step one (as we’ve discussed) is eliminating the toxic folic acid from your diet and supplements. It’s a good idea to start up an MTHFR lifestyle here too – get a little cleaner, take out as many chemicals as you can, and generally start to avoid toxins.
  • Step two is to incorporate food sources of natural folate.
  • Step three is to add a B vitamin supplement that has all of the other B vitamins, but not any form of folate or cobalamin because MTHFR folks might have different reactions to those and so it’s nice to add them separately. At this time, I believe the only one on the market is B Minus from Seeking Health
  • .After this we can try to optimize your dose of the different types of folate, as well as the different types of cobalamin to make your health perfect.

If You’d Like To Order:

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Please note this is an affiliate link which pays me (Amy) for the referral. Thanks!

It’s easy to forget that nutrition is best when it isn’t just bits and pieces, but rather a complete and balanced diet and supplement routine. Preferably, diet. In an ideal world, we would get all of this from our food, but of course, it’s the real world and sometimes we need to supplement. Regardless, don’t get so hyper-focused on folate that you miss the rest of the B vitamins. B vitamins for MTHFR are all necessary – these are your basic building blocks..

If Folate is MTHFR’s Wife, Riboflavin is MTHFR’s Mistress.

– Amy Neuzil, tohealthwiththat.com

Thanks for listening and join us next week for a deep dive into MTHFR and glutathione, the master antioxidant.

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What To Eat For MTHFR Mutants

We’ve been talking a lot about natural folate and its food sources vs. synthetic folic acid (which is toxic in high doses.). So in theory, we’ve got it. But in reality, what does this actually look like? Let’s dive in right now.

How Much Folate Are We Talking? Do I Have To Bathe In The Stuff?

Not at all. Although MTHFR folks might need to adjust based on their own responses, generally we’re aiming for the same targets as everyone else. The units are in “dietary folate equivalents” because absorption of folate and folic acid are different. Natural folate is about 50% absorbed and folic acid about 85%. If you want to geek out on it:

1 mcg DFE = 1 mcg natural folate = 0.6 mcg artificial folic acid.

According to Harvard University School of Public Health, daily folate needs are:

  • Adults: 400 mcg
  • Pregnant women: 600 mcg
  • Lactating women: 500 mcg
  • People who regularly drink alcohol: 600 mcg (because alcohol impairs absorption).
  • Children – from 65 mcg up to 400 mcg at 14 years old.
Assuming 1 whole avocado and 1 cup of fresh-squeezed orange juice (juice from about three oranges) this breakfast has approximately 300 mcg of natural folate. BOOM. Photo by Ba Tik from pexels.

Food Sources of Natural Folate

Naturally occurring folate is present in lots of the foods you might already eat, and also in some that might be new to you. Here are the 10 foods highest in natural folate according to USDA nutrition data:

FoodFolate per 100g (3.5 oz)Folate per cupRelated foods?
Edamame311 mcg482mcgPeas, soybean sprouts
Lentils (cooked)181 mcg358 mcgRoman beans, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, chickpeas, black beans
Asparagus
(cooked)
149 mcg268 mcgArtichokes, beets, okra
Spinach146 mcg263mcgTurnip greens, pak choi, collard greens
Broccoli
(cooked)
108 mcg168 mcgBrussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, cauliflower
Marmite (yeast extract)100 mcg per 8 g servingUnhelpfully, the makers of Marmite have listed the folate as “folic acid” because the terms are used interchangeably. It is actually natural folate.
Avocados81 mcg163 mcg
Mangos43 mcg71 mcgGuavas, pomegranate, papaya, kiwi, durian
Romaine lettuce136 mcg64 mcgEndive, butterhead lettuce, garden cress
Sweet corn42 mcg61 mcg
Oranges54 mcg30 mcgStrawberries, cantaloupe, blackberries, honeydew, pineapple
So many yummy choices…

With MTHFR Mutation, If You Can Eat Your 400 mcg and Avoid Folic Acid, You’ve Pretty Much Nailed It.

Of course, there are lots of times when it isn’t quite so simple, but this is a nice easy benchmark to strive for. So – What to eat for MTHFR? Lots of beans, veg, and fruit. No problem. The much harder part is what not to eat.

Don’t make getting your natural folate harder than it has to be! Photo by alleksana from Pexels

With MTHFR mutation, if you can eat your 400 mcg of natural folate and avoid folic acid, you’ve pretty much nailed it.

– Amy Neuzil

What Not To Eat For MTHFR Folks

There is a small list of fortified foods that have added synthetic folic acid that should be avoided (also, all vitamins and supplements with folic acid). The list is short but impactful. Here it is:

  • Enriched wheat flour
  • Enriched corn flour

There – That wasn’t so hard, was it? Except it turns out it is hard because here are all the foods that are made with those two things.

  • Bread
  • Cereal
  • Pasta
  • Crackers
  • Cookies
  • Corn chips
  • Tortillas
  • Baked goods
  • Baking mixes for cakes, cookies, brownies and whatnot.

This is very much where the wheels fall off the cart because, in the West, most people don’t really know how to eat without hefty doses of bread, pasta, crackers, and cereal. It is just how we are used to eating.

What to eat for MTHFR? Yeah. It’s not doughnuts. Lovely photo by Sharon McCutcheon from Pexels

What to Eat for MTHFR – Substitutions

With every substitution, be sure to read the label. If folic acid is listed in the ingredients (or fortified or enriched flour), then it’s a no-go. Also, remember that if you’re just buying flour and making it yourself (go you!), then you still have to make sure you get un-enriched flour – usually, this is gluten-free, organic, or specialty.

Fortified FoodMTHFR-Safe Substitution (usually. Read your labels.)
BreadOrganic bread, 100% rye bread, gluten-free bread, sprouted bread, rice cakes
CerealOrganic cereals (sometimes), oatmeal (sometimes – usually not the instant ones),
PastaRice noodles, gluten-free noodles, organic pasta (don’t forget, rice and potatoes are still on the menu!)
CrackersRice crackers, rice cakes, Some rye crackers, most organic crackers
CookiesGluten-free cookies, organic cookies.
Corn chipsOrganic corn chips, bean chips,
TortillasOrganic tortillas or sprouted tortillas.
Baking flourOrganic flour, brown rice flour, gluten-free baking mix, wheat alternative flours like buckwheat or sorghum.
You’ve got options!

This Sounds Like a Big Change

It is a big change from the typical Western diet, but it’s a very doable change – especially now when there are so many products designed for people with gluten sensitivities or people looking for organics. Still, it takes some commitment, especially at first, while you’re getting used to your new normal.

Why Do This?

The payoff from this one change can be really significant. Many people report better energy, more stability in moods, reduced brain fog, increased attention, and even better hormone balance. Also, if you’re trying to get pregnant, this sets you up for a healthier pregnancy. That still doesn’t make it easy, but it does make it worth it.

This is The Foundation For a Healthy Life With MTHFR Issues

Many of us MTHFR folks can reduce or resolve any MTHFR related issues just by following this diet. There are a few exceptions.

  1. MTHFR folks with very low serotonin – sometimes these folks can’t tolerate any folate intake and have to avoid folate-rich foods along with fortified foods (although cutting out the fortified foods will make a huge positive difference). We’ll talk about this in detail next week.
  2. Some overmethylators – MTHFR folks with symptoms usually fall into one of two categories. Overmethylators or undermethylators. Undermethylators are more common and usually need higher doses of folate to manage symptoms. Overmethylators are less common and sometimes need very low doses of folate to manage their symptoms. I happen to be an overmethylator but I still eat a very high-folate diet and occasionally supplement so it’s very individual. We will talk more about over- and under- methylators in September.

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This Vitamin Could Be Hurting You

It makes sense that if your body has a difference in its ability to process folate, like the MTHFR variants, then you just flood the system so that even if the enzyme is moving slowly, you’ve still got enough. There is a problem with this logic – the form of folate that we usually see in supplements, foods, energy drinks, and everywhere else is FOLIC ACID and there is compelling evidence that it’s toxic.

First off, What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is the first synthetic form of folate, which is a group of related compounds found in food that we group under the label Vitamin B9. There are many different forms of folate in foods, but most of them are unstable and degrade quickly and so can’t be used in vitamins or supplements.

Folic acid was first developed in 1948 – the first synthetic form of folate available and it was a revolution. Natural forms of folate, with the exception of folinic acid, are pretty unstable and certainly won’t keep if you add them to foods or vitamins. Folic acid has solved so many problems in undernourished populations and kept the rates of cleft palate, cleft lip and neural tube defects like spina bifida far lower than they would be without it, so it isn’t that it’s an entirely bad thing – when you have a choice between folate deficiency and not having that deficiency because of folic acid, then the choice is easy to make. It’s when you’re not in an undernourished situation that you have to be careful.

At high doses, folic acid is toxic.

I’m Fuzzy – Why Would Folic Acid Be Toxic? They Add It To My Vitamins!

Vitamins and food additives must be shelf-stable, and naturally occurring folates aren’t. The crystalline form of folic acid was first synthesized in 1943 by Bob Stokstad at the American Cyanid Company (!!) What a name! And researched for use in human disease by 1945. It was shown to be useful in the same anemias and diseases of pregnancy for which folate was discovered to be useful by researcher Lucy Wills in 1931. Folic acid is not toxic in small doses and it can help correct a folate deficiency, but high doses are a problem.

Risks Associated With High-Doses of Folic Acid – Not Just For MTHFR Folks!!

Many of us have a chronically high intake of folic acid (not folate) because of the combination of fortified foods, energy drinks, and supplements. In the U.S. the recommended daily intake is 400 𝝁g, but actual consumption can be much higher due to fortified foods.

 Folate has a dual effect on cancer, protecting against cancer initiation but facilitating progression and growth of preneoplastic cells and subclinical cancers, which are common in the population. Thus, a high folic acid intake may be harmful for some people.

Smith AD, Kim YI, Refsum H. Is folic acid good for everyone?. Am J Clin Nutr. 2008;87(3):517-533. doi:10.1093/ajcn/87.3.517
  • Cancer – this is a risk nobody wants to face. Many studies have shown a link between high-dose folic acid and cancer, especially, as with the above quote, in terms of promoting the growth of cancerous cells that are already in the body.
  • Cognitive Decline – like cancer, this seems to be a double-edged sword. See the quote below.
  • Diabetes and thyroid disease – two conflicting studies have shown associations between high folate status in pregnant mothers and metabolic syndrome or diabetes in the children. The results of each study are opposed to each other, and so inconclusive. (See this review article for more details).
  • Hypersensitivity like childhood allergies, eczema, and asthma – this is thought to be through the mechanism of DNA methylation.
  • Autism, twinning, heart disease, mortality (that’s death), immune issues, neurological issues, and fertility problems – these have all been shown in various small studies without larger research studies to back them up.

An observational study of data collected in the NHANES found that “In seniors with low vitamin B12 status, high serum folate was associated with anemia and cognitive impairment. When vitamin B12 status was normal, however, high serum folate was associated with protection against cognitive impairment.”

Morris MS, Jacques PF, Rosenberg IH, Selhub J. Folate and vitamin B-12 status in relation to anemia, macrocytosis, and cognitive impairment in older Americans in the age of folic acid fortification. Am J Clin Nutr. 2007;85(1):193-200. doi:10.1093/ajcn/85.1.193

Another Problem is The Extra Unmetabolized Folic Acid Found Hanging Out In The Blood

What with all this food fortification, many people have more folic acid than their bodies can handle. Folic acid must be converted into something else to even begin to become useful, and it uses an enzyme (just like the MTHFR magic chair, only it converts a different valueless thing (folic acid) into something more valuable), called dihydrofolate reductase. We’ll call it DHF. DHF is a little bit slow, and can’t always keep up so we see folic acid hanging around in the blood stream, being harmful. Here’s a great study showing the link between fortified foods and unmetabolized folic acid.

The problem with this unmetabolized folic acid in the bloodstream is that it is associated with reduced Natural Killer Cell cytotoxicity. Your natural killer cells (NK) are your main patrol against cancer, so we want these guys to be as potent as possible – this is another potential explanation for the tendency of high folic acid levels to cause cancer.. Here’s a full research article from the Journal of Nutrition.

So, If Folic Acid is Toxic In Normals, What About MTHFR Folks?

Great question. With MTHFR issues, the folic acid situation becomes even dicier. This specific question hasn’t actually been studied in humans yet, and there are a lot of ethical considerations that would go into that (it’s frowned-upon to give humans potentially toxic doses of something for the sake of science.) There is a really great mouse study (we’re allowed to poison them) and the name mostly sums it up.

High folic acid consumption leads to pseudo-MTHFR deficiency, altered lipid metabolism, and liver injury in mice.

My work here is done.

Let me give you the run-down of key points from this study:

  • Mice were fed either a normal diet or a high-folate diet (10x the normal level).
  • Normally fed mice worked out normally so this is the last we’ll talk of them.
  • Folic Acid-fed mice had abnormally weighty livers and spleens
  • Folic Acid-fed livers were fatty in a pattern typical of Non-Alcoholic
  • Fatty Liver Disease (often seen in MTHFR folks, BTW).
  • Folic Acid-Fed mice showed signs and symptoms of megaloblastic anemia, worse in MTHFR+/+ mice (this is usually caused by folate deficiency)
  • Folic Acid-Fed mice showed high white blood cell counts, which were even higher in these same mice with MTHFR issues.
  • MTHFR activity is inhibited by high levels of folic acid in mice, even in genetically wild-type mice.
  • The livers of Folic Acid-fed mice had reduced ability to methylate toxins as compared to the other mice.
  • The amounts of SAMe (the product of the methylation pathway) and methyl-THF (active folate) were reduced in the Folic Acid-fed mice, especially in those with MTHFR issues.
  • The expression of other genes involved in the methylation pathway was also altered in the Folic Acid-fed mice. (Mtr, Chdh, Pemt, and Mat1a)

We suggest that high folic acid consumption reduces MTHFR protein and activity levels, creating a pseudo-MTHFR deficiency. This deficiency results in hepatocyte degeneration, suggesting a 2-hit mechanism whereby mutant hepatocytes cannot accommodate the lipid disturbances and altered membrane integrity arising from changes in phospholipid/lipid metabolism. These preliminary findings may have clinical implications for individuals consuming high-dose folic acid supplements, particularly those who are MTHFR deficient.

Christensen KE, Mikael LG, Leung KY, et al. High folic acid consumption leads to pseudo-MTHFR deficiency, altered lipid metabolism, and liver injury in mice. Am J Clin Nutr. 2015;101(3):646-658. doi:10.3945/ajcn.114.086603

So For MTHFR Folks, Folic Acid is… TOXIC.

Or at least, very, very bad. The bottom line is, don’t take it and avoid it in foods. We’ll cover foods in more detail because naturally occurring folate are great and should be eaten, but fortified foods – like breads, cereals, and grain products, should be avoided.

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Why Is Methylation Important Anyway? Gene Regulation.

MTHFR is the rate-limiting enzyme in the methylation cycle, so the whole cycle turns into a bottle-neck at this point very easily. The methylation cycle is something we’ll talk about in greater detail later on because methylation matters. At its most basic it converts homocysteine, which is inflammatory, into methionine and ultimately SAMe. SAMe is the universal methyl donor and is necessary for almost all methylation reactions.

One simple way to illustrate the importance of methylation is to talk about gene expression. The processes in your body are essentially run by your genes. In order to turn on or off certain genes, they must be methylated. If we’re talking about the gene function of apoptosis or programmed cell death, then you really want it to be working when it should be.

Apoptosis is one of the ways your body protects itself from damage. When the gene is on (or unmethylated), the cell will self-destruct if it gets damaged. That is a good thing. If it is off (or methylated), then the cell will continue to replicate out of control even when it’s damaged. We have a word for that – it’s cancer. This could be one reason why MTHFR polymorphisms have been linked to so many different types of cancer – because your body just can’t methylate or unmethylate properly.

A methylated gene is inactive, while an unmethylated gene is active.

Outside of the methylation of genes, you also have to methylate some toxins in order to eliminate them, which means people with MTHFR mutations have differences in the way they process things like alcohol, formaldehyde, certain pharmaceutical drugs, hormones, and many other things. Methylation is also crucial when you’re building neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.

Perhaps now it is easier to see why the internet is abuzz with news of MTHFR. A lot of this information is incredibly beneficial and helpful and accurate and some of it is a little bit crazy-making. The echo chamber of the internet does tend to amplify noise.

Why is Methylation Important? Methylation Matters For…

  • Gene Expression
  • Toxin Elimination
  • Hormone Balance (because hormones get detoxed too)
  • Neurotransmitter Formation.

That pretty much sums up why MTHFR matters so much and why methylation is important – because those four things, combined with nutrition, are literally the foundations of a healthy human. We’ll talk about the last three in seperate topics, but today I want to focus on gene expression.

What IS Methylation? Really?

Methylation is so anti-climactic when you really get down to the nitty-gritty. It’s the addition of a methyl group to whatever you’re methylating. That begs the question what is a methyl group?

The Demented, three-eared Mickey Mouse of Methylation

Um… What Am I Looking AT?

Outside of a mutant mouse head, it’s actually the chemical structure of a methyl group. One big carbon and three hydrogens bonded to it. This methyl group is the functional part of 5, L-methyltetrahydrofolate, or 5, L-MTHF, which is the valuable thing that you get out of the magic chair after the less valuable thing (folic acid) sits down. If this is all gibberish right now, read this post here or listen to the podcast from the beginning.

The mutant mouse, with labels. It’s mutant Mickey for us mutants.

If you’d like a fancier, more chemistry-looking version, it’s here. This is the entire molecule of 5, L-methyltetrahydrofolate, courtesy of PubChem, with the methyl group circled.

The Mutant Mouse Head is Causing All This Fuss?

Yup.

If you picture your body like a vast, complex lego structure that moves little lego pieces around to get things done, then the mutant mouse head methyl group is one of the foundational pieces that moves around all over the place. It’s a simple on/off switch for genes, but as it happens, being able to turn genes on and off is crucial.

Why Do We Need To Turn Genes On And Off?

We have the tendency to think of our genes like a recipe out of a recipe book. The directions to follow to build (or maybe to bake) a human. This is both accurate and not complete. Your genes are the recipe to build you, but they’re filled with stretches of information that has come from outside of you, like from viruses, or information that isn’t directly used to build anything. There are also lots of bits that we don’t fully understand.

45% of your genome is composed of transposable or viral DNA. Transposable elements are called “jumping genes” and are not fully understood. They do contribute to mutations as well as a number of diseases including hemophilia, severe combined immunodeficiency, porphyria, muscular dystrophy, and Alzheimer’s disease. Viral DNA is literally leftover from viruses, and so methylating these elements well allows your body to silence them. If you aren’t methylating properly, then these genes can start to express, causing genetic errors, and potentially disease.

Some of the most critical DNA methylation happened during embryonic development, well before you were born. There is also ongoing methylation that happens as cells divide and it is especially relevant within brain cells. We don’t know a lot about it, but we do know this:

  • Methylation within brain cells can be altered by drugs like cocaine, stress, and seizures.
  • Childhood stress or abuse has a carry-over to the way adult brains methylate their DNA
  • DNA methylation changes are associated with, among other things, major psychosis.
  • Altered DNA methylation in the brain is linked to psychiatric disorders including schizophrenia and bipolar disorder.
  • DNA methylation is especially crucial when you’re making babies. Human eggs, sperm, and ultimately the embryos that they produce are all new cells, meaning that lots of DNA needs to reproduce (and methylate) for this to work out.

Can We Actually Impact This By Optimizing Methylation?

According to sperm studies, we can. Sperm seems like a bit of a random thing to analyze, but the fact is; men make sperm fresh daily. It’s a great way to measure current activity vs. what happened during growth and development.

This study, published in Human Molecular Genetics, of infertile men with a variety of MTHFR statuses (wild type, homozygous or heterozygous for C677T polymorphisms) shows high-dose folic acid changes sperm DNA methylation across the genome.

This study provides evidence that high-dose folic acid supplementation leads to genome-wide alterations in sperm DNA methylation…Homozygosity for the MTHFR C677T polymorphism was demonstrated as a factor that can modify the response to high-dose folic acid supplementation.

Aarabi M, San Gabriel MC, Chan D, et al. High-dose folic acid supplementation alters the human sperm methylome and is influenced by the MTHFR C677T polymorphism. Hum Mol Genet. 2015;24(22):6301-6313. doi:10.1093/hmg/ddv338

While I’d love to see the same study repeated with a more bioavailable form of folate than folic acid, this is still great data. I take it to mean that we can influence the methylation of our DNA by optimizing our methylation cycles. That is a really big deal.

Next week we’ll talk about methylation and detoxification because when we’re talking about optimizing methylation, you have to understand why “detoxing” and also toxin avoidance are so important for MTHFR mutants.

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Who Should Care About MTHFR Mutation?

On the internets, it seems like everyone cares about MTHFR right now, but honestly, it isn’t necessarily important for everyone. Not even for everyone with a known mutation.

Just having a polymorphism is not a cause for panic. Having an MTHFR mutation, even one that is considered significant will never have any symptoms, signs, or health risks from the polymorphism. Just having the gene doesn’t mean anything at all in terms of supplements you should take, things you should do, or really anything else. In fact, over supplementing can be as harmful to your health as under supplementing.

This girl thinks you should care about MTHFR mutations.

Two Main Factors Make MTHFR Matter

  1. Your circumstances
  2. Your symptoms

Let’s review what MTHFR might do, and then we’ll talk more about circumstances and symptoms.

Possible Health Consequences of the MTHFR mutations

MTHFR mutations have been implicated in at least one research study in:

  • Midline Abnormalities: neural tube defects, anencephaly, spina bifida, cleft palate, cleft lip, and facial asymmetries.
  • Cancer: including breast, lung, brain, stomach, head and neck, and kidney.
  • Cardiac disease: including thrombosis (increased tendency to clot), deep vein thrombosis, high homocysteine levels, pre-eclampsia (high blood pressure in and around pregnancy), vascular dementia.
  • Fertility issues: including miscarriages or multiple pregnancy loss, low sperm count, history of children with birth defects.
  • Neurological issues: including migraines, autism, Alzheimer’s dementia.
  • Mood and Psychological issues: including anxiety, depression, obsessive-compulsive traits or tendencies, bipolar disorder, and schizophrenia. Also, reduced reactions to certain medications like SSRIs for depression, and increased tendency toward addictions.
  • Abnormal Reactions to Medications and Therapies – including methotrexate, FOLFOX (a combination chemotherapeutic agent), SSRI medications for depression, some vitamins including folic acid, methyl-B12, betaine, and others.

When Should You Be Concerned?

This is simple. These are the circumstances that matter:

  • Fertility and Pregnancy – if you suspect you or your partner might have an MTHFR issue and you’re considering having a baby, it matters to know so you can get your health right before you build a baby.
  • Treatments for Depression and Anxiety aren’t Working – this is a strong indicator that there is something underlying the issue that isn’t being addressed, and none of the medications out there manage MTHFR issues.
  • You Have a Strong Family History of Early Cardiac Death – it might not be related to MTHFR, but if it is then knowing your MTHFR status gives you something you can work on, instead of waiting for the ax to fall.
  • You Have Three Known Bad Copies of MTHFR – this is three compromised copies of significant MTHFR SNPs (C677T and A1298C) out of four.

Who Should Care about MTHFR Polymorphisms?

These are the symptoms that matter. If you or your genetically related family members have more than three of the following, then your life might get better by addressing your methylation, whether you know about your MTHFR or not.

  • Anxiety
  • Overachieving tendencies
  • Perfectionism
  • Obsessive thoughts
  • Insomnia
  • Cleft lip or cleft palate
  • Spina bifida
  • Abnormal or unexplained clotting
  • Bad reaction to birth control pills
  • Alcohol intolerance
  • Schizophrenia
  • Bipolar disorder
  • Repeat miscarriages
  • Unexplained low sperm count
  • Alzheimer’s dementia
  • Addictions
  • High homocysteine levels
  • Food or chemical sensitivities
  • Intense competitive drive
  • Serum folic acid tests is abnormally high or abnormally low
  • “New car smell” gives you a headache or other symptoms.
  • Taking B vitamins sometimes makes you feel depressed

Who Should Not Be Worried About MTHFR Polymorphisms?

  1. People who know they have no bad copies.
  2. People who know they have one bad copy but have no related symptoms or family histories.
  3. People who don’t know their genetic profile who also don’t have related symptoms or family histories.

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MTHFR Testing and Results – What Does This Mean?

Not everyone who suspects they might have a mutation needs to test. Also, for some poeple with health-related anxiety, testing might actually increase anxiety without giving you positive benefits.

You can boost your nutritional status and your methylated folate without testing, and essentially act as though you have an MTHFR mutation, know you’re doing everything possible to mitigate symptoms and risks, without actually knowing your genes. If you’re ready to get started on that, then check out our Start Here for MTHFR page.

You can boost your nutritional status and optimize your methylation without testing for MTHFR. The only people who really need testing are people who suspect MTHFR issues who are trying to have a baby, and people with treatment-resistant anxiety or depression.

– Amy Neuzil, tohealthwiththat.com

In some circumstances, your doctor will order testing, but it is usually done outside of your insured health care providers, so the bottom line here is, is it worth it to pay for this?

When Will My Doctor Order MTHFR Testing?

Typically, doctors do not test for this because technically there isn’t an approved treatment, which is inconvenient. There are a few exceptions to that rule:

  • Situations involving abnormal clotting without documented causal diagnoses, although the American College of Medical Genetics is now discouraging this.
  • Fertility situations involving repeat miscarriages, repeat late-term miscarriages, repeat stillbirths, or neural tube defects such as spina bifida.
  • In some treatment situations because MTHFR can cause differences in the way people react to certain pharmaceutical agents. Notably, the most commonly used drug for rheumatoid arthritis, which is methotrexate, and the chemotherapeutic agent FOLFOX, which is a combination of Fluorouracil (FU) and oxaliplatin.
  • In some cases of high homocysteine levels, especially with a family history of early heart disease.

Some doctors will also order testing if a patient requests it, but many will not because typically it is outside of their usual scope of practice and they would have a hard time justifying it to insurance.

When Is It Worth Paying for MTHFR Testing?

Since testing is expensive and supplementation for suspected MTHFR issues isn’t, it doesn’t always make sense for people to test. Here are some situations in which you might want to consider it:

  • Fertility – If you are trying to get pregnant and you and/or your partner have either multiple personal or family history factors that are suspicious for MTHFR, you’ve had repeat miscarriages, a previous baby with a neural tube defect, or some combination of these.
  • Treatment-resistant anxiety or depression – if you’ve tried everything your doctor has given you and haven’t seen good results, especially if there is similar anxiety or depression in genetically related family members.
  • Geekery – because you geek out on information and you just like to know.

How Can I Test for MTHFR?

There are a number of tests that you can order for yourself at home.

  • 23andme: By far the best for general geekery, this test is for your genetics as a whole and also has ancestry information, health reports and heaps of random, but fun information like how likely you are to get bitten by mosquitoes relative to the people around you, and what percentage of your DNA came from Neanderthals. The cost today is $199 USD and $117 of that can be paid by an FSA or HSA if you’re in the U.S. This test doesn’t give MTHFR results directly, so you have to download your data and run it through a processor. There are bunches of different processors, but the one I like best is from Genetic Genie here. They do ask for a small donation.
  • MTHFR doctors: This is a simple C677T and A1298C test for $129 USD. You can also add a related gene, called COMT.

Again, use your best judgement if you’re exploring testing. For some people, like myself, who thrive on information, testing is a boon. For others, it just adds to the anxiety burden. Remember, you can address these issues without knowing for sure whether or not you have them.

I Tested, I Got My Results, And They’re Gibberish! Now What?

Right – so reading results isn’t always easy. First, if you opt for the 23andme option, you won’t directly see MTHFR results listed. You do have to run them through some kind of a processor, like genetic genie (their “Methylation Profile”), in order to see MTHFR. Here’s an example:

This is a sample of what a Genetic Genie Methylation profile looks like. Also, part of the reason why MTHFR testing can be a little bit anxiety-inducing.

I love the way Genetic Genie uses the stoplight-type coding to give you a quick idea of what is going on. Remember for each gene, you have two copies. One from your mom and one from your dad. Results are reported in a positive or negative (+ or -), backslash, positive or negative (+ or -) format. Here’s the code:

This is the results from Genetic Genie, who use the helpful color coding. Other companies will use the positive and negative symbols the same way.

My Doctor Gave Me Results in Words? I’m Stumped!

The words around this can be really confusing. Here’s the breakdown:

Hetero = Different, so heterozygous means one good and one bad copy.

Homo = Same, so homozygous means two bad copies because nobody is concerned about the good ones.

Wild type = the typical version of this gene, meaning no bad copies.

The MTHFR stoplight, with the confusing terminology to go with it.

Now, when you get your results, you will know what all of those infuriating little plus and minus symbols mean. Also, you’ll notice that the methylation panel shown above tests a third MTHFR polymorphism, called MTHFR 03 P39P. It isn’t one I discuss at length because so far, the research doesn’t show any significant compromise for polymorphisms, nor does it show any significant health correlations.

Fun Genetic Fact Unrelated to MTHFR

According to this fascinating article on kqed.org, the DNA packed into your body could stretch to the sun and back, 61 times.

  • Each cell has approx. 6 feet of DNA spooled up inside of it.
  • Each human has, conservatively 10 trillion cells.
  • If you do the math, that means 60 billion feet or roughly 10 billion miles of DNA inside of each and every person.
  • The sun is 93 million miles from earth.
  • Your DNA could stretch there and back roughly 61 times.
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