MTHFR: What the Heck is this?
Well did I get myself into trouble with this topic! I wanted to write about it because I’ve been seeing a lot of talk about it over social media. I prefer to read well researched, thought out articles on matters dealing with health, so that’s exactly why I wrote this blog. I hope it is helpful for those of you saying “what the heck?” like I was!
Some Background Information
So what is MTHFR anyway? Great question! It is the shortened form of methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (bet you’re glad they shortened it, huh?). It is a gene that contains instructions for how to build an enzyme that’s responsible for turning the inactive form of folate (vitamin B9) to its active form, methylfolate. There is a lot of biochemistry that goes along with this, which we will not get into. If your MTHFR gene carries a variant, it may cause the enzyme it creates to become less active, therefore diminishing the metabolism of inactive folate to active folate. We need active folate in our bodies for the production of our cells and without it, a multitude of symptoms may occur.
Unfortunately, studies have not fully proven that having a variant in the MTHFR gene will lead to health problems such as heart disease, cancer, blood clots, stroke, dementia, fibromyalgia, depression, etc. From what we know about genes, our environment plays a huge role in whether or not our genes are expressed and how they affect us. There is still more research being done, and hopefully we will have more clear answers as to what exactly this gene variant affects. But for now, we can take precautions to make sure we are living our best, most healthiest lives.
What Precautions Should I Take?
If you are concerned about MTHFR, you should seek care from a trained professional who is able to test and design a plan specifically for you. If you are worried that you have the variant or have tested positive for it, recommendations usually include supplementing with methylfolate instead of folic acid because it is the active form that the mutation reduces the production of. It is also recommended that you reduce your intake of fortified or enriched foods like breads or other processed foods that add folic acid. Eating dark, leafy green vegetables, organic when possible, and grass fed meats are also highly recommended as this gives your body a better source of energy! Glutathione reduced is also a supplement usually recommended for it’s ability to help the liver detoxify as it’s speculated that the variant reduces the livers full detoxification capabilities.
If you are pregnant, this can be more of an issue because folate is paramount in the formation of the nervous system in developing fetuses. But as long as mom is taking a high quality prenatal vitamin with folate, the risk for neural tube defects is significantly lowered.
MTHFR Test: Should I Get it?
As someone living on a budget but also extremely conscious about my health, I’m stuck in the middle with this choice. Knowledge is power, but I feel you must ask yourself, “will I change my lifestyle based upon the results?”. The recommendations for improving your health with MTHFR is very similar if not exactly the same as what we should all be striving for every day. We should all do our best to eat a healthy diet full of veggies and supplementing with high quality products like methylfolate and glutathione reduced.
My overall philosophy is to invest in your body by choosing to put high quality foods into it. We all know we should exercise, think positively, eat well, reduce stress as much as possible, focus on our mental health, the list goes on. If you are worried about your health or have a symptom(s) that have not been effectively treated after many attempts and different routes of care, then you may want to seek the care of a professional that takes a closer look at your biochemistry and genetics. If not, continue doing your healthy thing and save some money on the test.
Functional Medicine by Dr. Nikolas Hedberg, DC
Global Healing Center
Dr. Eric Berg DC “What is MTHFR…in simple terms!” Youtube video