Method Over Madness: Managing MTHFR Naturally
If you suspect that you have a methylation issue and/or the MTHFR gene variant, you can be proactive and take charge of your health in order to feel better and reduce your risk of chronic and serious diseases.
The first step is testing. Testing for the MTHFR gene variant can help rule out other health issues and provide you with the initial information on the path to wellness.
Because Western medicine does not always acknowledge the potential risks of possessing the MTHFR gene variant or understand how to manage it, it’s best to find a holistic health specialist in your area. This might be a functional medicine practitioner, integrative doctor, naturopath or even chiropractor with experience in MTHFR, methylation issues, nutrition and toxic overload.
DNA Methylation Pathway Profile:
This blood test can specify which single nucleotide polymorphism (SNPs) mutation in your DNA, which can help you understand how they impact methylation. This test is the most specific and able to address the individual imbalances and weaknesses that impair your ability to absorb nutrients and properly detoxify your system.
Test Your Homocysteine Levels:
Since high homocysteine levels are connected with poor methylation, getting your homocysteine levels checked can be a tool in addressing systemic inflammation and sluggish detox pathways. Chronic elevation of homocysteine levels has been linked to higher risk for heart disease and other inflammatory illnesses. Reducing homocysteine levels can be addressed with tackling the root cause, such as poor methylation as a result of the MTHFR gene variant.
Stool Sample Microbiome Test:
Digestive issues such as SIBO, IBS, Leaky Gut Syndrome, Crohn's may be connected with an underlying methylation issue or MTHFR gene variant which affects your gut microbiome. Even susceptibility to chronic bacteria and parasite infections is connected to MTHFR. Nutrients required for proper methylation, such as methyl folate (B9), methylcobalamin (B12), CoQ10, biotin and vitamin K are created in the gut by a healthy microbiome. When your microbiome isn’t healthy, poor methylation as well as chronic gut issues may occur and produce systemic inflammation and more symptoms and illness. Testing imbalances in your microbiome as well as the presence of candida overgrowth can provide some answers regarding the root cause of poor methylation.
Hair Analysis for Heavy Metals:
Since detox pathways are impaired with poor methylation and an MTHFR gene variant, heavy metals that we are exposed to on a regular basis--dental fillings, cookware, contaminated food sources (seafood) and vaccine adjuvants can contribute to your toxic load and block detox pathways, resulting in a multitude of symptoms: joint pain, insomnia, hair loss, gut issues, brain fog, autoimmune disease, neurological disorders and more.
Heavy metal toxicity puts additional stress on the body and methylation process. Mercury, in fact, can negatively impact nearly 250 cellular processes vital for proper energy production and utility. If toxins aren’t eliminated effectively due to a methylation issue or MTHFR gene variant, a domino effect of symptoms may result in chronic illness.
Heavy metals may be tested through blood, urine and hair analysis, but the most accurate testing is hair analysis. Hair analysis can paint a picture of both toxicity levels as well as nutrient deficiencies such as magnesium, selenium, zinc, copper and chromium. Many of these trace nutrients are important for enzymatic function, which elicits vital functions instrumental in multiple systems such as the digestive system, central nervous system and cardiovascular function. Many serve as co-factors in glutathione upregulation, necessary at the cellular level. Hair analysis shows concentrated levels of toxic elements up to 300 times more than heavy metal testing through blood and urine.
If you’ve been diagnosed with a MTHFR gene variant, there are some lifestyle changes and supplement recommendations that may help you feel better, reduce inflammation and lower your potential risk of developing a serious illness by increasing your nutrient absorption and ability to detoxify.
Check Your Pharmaceuticals:
Are you currently taking birth control pills? They can inhibit folate and B12 metabolism. Same goes for antacids. Blood pressure medications and diabetes medications such as metformin also interfere with B vitamin absorption.
Check Your Vitamins:
Be sure your vitamins and supplements are free from fillers, flow agents, excipients and junk that may further interfere with absorption and bioavailability of nutrients. Choose supplement lines that don’t include gluten, soy, corn and other known allergens in their products, which may increase systemic inflammation.
Choose natural forms of B vitamins instead of synthetic forms. Folic acid, for example, is the synthetic form of vitamin B9, and it’s everywhere on the market and pushed heavily. Those with MTHFR and methylation issues, cannot properly utilize this form, and it can build to toxic levels in their system. It’s also important to read food labels and avoid “enriched” foods, which include folic acid in their ingredients. This is common in grains and cereals.
If you have the MTHFR gene variant, you may also find that B12 supplementation is an issue if you’re relying on the synthetic form, cyanocobalamin, which is mass produced and the common form used in B12 injections. Methylation issues may hinder the body’s ability to synthesize B12 into the active form via the liver, so choose a bioavailable form that requires no conversion. Methylcobalamin is an active form of B12. You may also benefit from other natural forms of B12 due to their cellular detoxifying effects, such as hydroxocobalamin and adenosylcobalamin.
Clean Your Terrain:
Toxins in personal hygiene products, cleaning products, laundry detergents, perfumes and more may contain harmful chemicals that are difficult for those with the MTHFR gene variant and methylation issues to detoxify. These crowd your detox pathways and cause inflammation and cellular damage. Reducing your toxic load by cleaning your terrain helps your body to better manage toxin exposure and reduce their effects on your system.
Choose Your Food Wisely:
Increase your natural folate levels by getting plenty of organic leafy green vegetables, such as spinach and turnip greens. Grass Fed organic beef liver also has high amounts of B vitamins. Stick with non GMOs. GMO foods may be inflammatory and cause further health issues, particularly for those with poor methylation.
Cruciferous vegetables can help to naturally increase your glutathione levels due to their sulfur content. Glucoraphanin in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli convert to sulforaphane in your body, helping to protect and detoxify your system and support the methylation process. Adding natural sources of myrosinase such radishes helps increase sulforaphane conversion.
Supplements That Can Help:
Poor methylation is linked with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue, which may be symptoms of low GABA levels and excess glutamate. Elevated glutamate levels cause insomnia, nervousness, anxiety and mood swings. Herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm and passion flower may help manage this imbalance as well as supplementing with GABA.
Glutathione, the master antioxidant, can help the body to detoxify and reduce systemic inflammation by increasing antioxidant activity. Keep in mind, however, that not all glutathione is the same. If you have poor methylation and an MTHFR gene variant or chronic health issues, it’s likely your glutathione stores are already depleted. This means that taking a glutathione precursor, such as N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), will likely not produce the benefits you’re hoping to experience. Pushing the body to produce something it can’t may produce additional stress and poor outcomes. Many liposomal forms of glutathione on the market today are in the reduced form, which is broken down by stomach acids and not readily absorbed by your system. Fillers and other additives in supplements can further inhibit the absorption rate. Sourcing is also a concern, since many glutathione supplements today are sourced from China. This is why it is important to read labels carefully and choose s-acetyl glutathione, which withstands stomach acids for greater absorption by the small intestine.
If you have the MTHFR gene variant or a methylation issue, your body may not properly upregulate glutathione, even in the s-acetyl form. In fact, it is estimated that 33% of the population has this issue. You may need additional help with glutathione upregulation due to enzyme depletion and malabsorption. Molybdenum, riboflavin, selenium and alpha lipoic acid are all instrumental in proper glutathione utility. Supporting the liver during the detoxification process is essential, as well, since toxic overload can weaken liver and gallbladder function and further impact methylation.
Poor methylation can block detox pathways, initially requiring them to be re-opened before beginning a detoxification protocol. Think of a clogged drain--you first have to remove the clog before anything can go through. Certain herbs and nutrients have the power to open detox pathways, such as the Nrf2 pathway, allowing for improved detoxification. These include curcumin, black pepper, green tea and resveratrol.
Mind Your Stress:
According to research, stress can negatively impact methylation and activate the expression of genes, resulting in chronic illnesses such as autoimmune diseases. This is why it’s so important to manage stress. Chronic stress also affects hormone and neurotransmitter levels; imbalances are linked with mood disorders. Exercise, meditation, yoga, hikes in nature, getting plenty of restorative sleep and reducing stressors from your life can help reduce inflammation and help support methylation.
Practice gratitude by keeping a journal. Simply keeping a daily gratitude journal for several weeks has positive outcomes on depression, reducing depressive symptoms by 35%, according to a study on gratitude journaling.
Research on gratitude’s effect on stress showed a reduction in cortisol levels, demonstrating that stress hormones are influenced greatly by our thoughts. The hypothalamus is responsible for managing stress. Gratitude positively influences activities of the hypothalamus, which regulates emotions. Gratitude also affects the hippocampus and amygdala, which activate emotions and memory. In addition, when we express and receive gratitude, our brain releases the “feel good” neurotransmitters, dopamine and serotonin.
Having the MTHFR gene variant means you need to be wise, well-researched and bit of a detective when it comes to living well. Your strange symptoms are not in your head, they're not psychosomatic, they're not attention-getting behaviors. A methylation issue is real and can cause some dire health consequences if you don't live carefully and mindfully. Once you detoxify properly, address absorption issues and provide your body with the proper nutrition and support, you will begin to notice the positive changes in your overall health and wellness.