Conventional science wants us to believe that we are merely a product and victim of our genes, but these “facts” aren’t entirely true. While genetics do play a role in the initiation and development of some diseases, our choices determine how (or if) they are expressed. By learning simple lifestyle modifications, you can gain the information you need that will enable you to take control of your genes and your health.
What is the MTHFR Gene?
Also known as methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, the MTHFR gene is a genetic polymorphism, or what is seen as a genetic variance or flaw in today’s science. One in every two people may have this variance — about half of the population.
Is this genetic “defect” dangerous? Well no, not really; however, any sort of genetic mutation or variance does have the possibility of affecting your health. Knowing what this gene is and how it could affect you is the knowledge you need when seeking to protect your health.
What Does the MTHFR Gene Do?
The MTHFR gene instructs the body to make an enzyme necessary to convert vitamin B9 into a usable form. This enzyme is also important in the process of converting homocysteine into methionine — an amino acid the body needs for growth and metabolism. Methylation, a process involving a methyl group activating an enzyme, is also associated with the MTHFR gene. Proper methylation enables the body to detoxify toxic metals, toxins, and other wastes more efficiently.
Effects on the Human Body
The process of methylation and the conversion of homocysteine to methionine play an important role in protecting both physical and mental health. Methionine is essential for producing glutathione, the body’s primary antioxidant. The liver also converts methionine into SAM-e, a chemical that helps metabolize brain chemicals dopamine, serotonin, and melatonin. Therefore, it is possible that a defect in the MTHFR gene may promote high levels of homocysteine levels in the
blood, negatively affecting mental health and mood.
In the case of an MTHFR mutation, an inability to process folic acid (vitamin B9) can have serious effects. For one, a developing fetus can suffer brain defects like spina bifida or anencephaly if the mother has a severe defect in the gene. Folate deficiency can also result in lethargy, impaired cognitive function. and mood disorders. [1 ] [2 ]
Other Health Effects
As mentioned previously, a defect with the MTHFR gene can cause an abnormally high level of homocysteine in the blood. High levels of homocysteine are associated with cardiovascular disease. high blood pressure, glaucoma, ischemic stroke, and atherosclerosis. [3 ] Research links migraines and mental disorders (schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression ) to inadequate methylation resulting from variances of the MTHFR gene. [4 ] [5 ]
Some research has also examined the effects of the gene defect on influencing the development of certain cancers. The free radical damage and toxic buildup that results from poor methylation, for example, may contribute to certain cancers. [6 ] Those with hypothyroidism may experience problems associated with a MTHFR defect, mainly because the thyroid produces hormones needed by the MTHFR gene.
Whether your doctor has determined that you have the MTHFR gene defect or you are experiencing similar symptoms related to the disorder, there are a few steps you can take to protect yourself. First, address any dietary and nutritional deficiencies. Consume a diet with folate-rich foods such as spinach, asparagus, chickpeas, beans, and broccoli. Avoid folic acid, exposure to environmental toxins which can tax the liver, and perform an occasional liver cleanse to facilitate the removal of toxins and wastes. Methyl folate may be an important supplement to implement in your daily health regime if you are suffering from methylation, so speak to your doctor about possibly adding this to your current supplement plan.
-Dr. Edward F. Group III, DC, ND, DACBN, DCBCN, DABFM