MTHFR Mutation & Women's Health
What is MTHFR?
MTHFR is short for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, an enzyme that helps the body modify proteins and activate folate. Folate is also known as vitamin B9 and it is essential in the production of DNA.
Your genes are constantly communicating with each other. Essentially, you do not treat single SNPs or target just one SNP and expect a quick fix. Naturopathically, we would treat you as a whole person. In some cases, one supplement targeting one genetic SNP can work wonderfully if your diet and lifestyle are supportive. However, using a single supplement to target an SNP can sometimes wreak havoc on your condition because it doesn’t address other SNPs, especially without altering your overall diet or lifestyle.
If you have an MTHFR SNP, it means that your ability to activate folate, in a process called methylation, is compromised. It can result in elevated levels of homocysteine (which is indicated in cardiac conditions), impair your ability to produce neurotransmitters (causing mood instability), and even play a role in those who have experienced recurrent miscarriages or struggle to conceive.
It all begins with your DNA
Your DNA is a very long sequence of tiny acids which provides instructions about various cellular activity. The genetic code or DNA sequence determines what your cells do and how they behave; additionally, it gives instructions to cells about which amino acids to make.
Single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) are genetic variants in DNA. A variant is a part of a gene’s DNA that varies from person to person. Each SNP represents a difference in a pair of DNA building blocks. These polymorphisms will affect the instructions for the cell and influence cellular actions. Genetic variants determine what we look like, metabolic processes and even our predisposition to certain illnesses.
For easier referencing, the term SNPs is often pronounced "snips".
Single nucleotide polymorphisms in specific genes have gained increased popularity as of late. A clear example is the MTHFR gene, which has been quite a buzz word in the natural medicine community.
In women with hormonal, mood and gynaecological conditions, the most common SNPS I see are those involving methylation, histamine, and oestrogen metabolism.
Having compromised methylation can cause issues tolerating histamine, and also potentially experience issues with estrogen metabolism. In addition to MTHFR, The SNPs associated with histamine sensitivity/intolerance is DAO and HNMT, and the SNP specifically associated with estrogen metabolism is COMT.
If you have all of the above, it is worth working with a naturopath or clinical nutritionist to address these, as these may be part of the root cause of what is driving your health issues.
You may need to avoid specific forms of Vitamin B12 and B9 such as cyanocobalamin, and folic acid, experiment with a low histamine diet, and use herbal medicine for liver support to aid with estrogen metabolism.
Detoxifying your environment, eating well, sleeping well and moving your body are super important too.
If you have an MTHFR polymorphism, these are my top 15 naturopathic tips:
Only take Vitamin B9 in the form of methylfolate, or folinic acid
Only take Vitamin B12 in the form of methylcobalamin or hydroxocobalamin
Take Vitamin B6 in the form of P5P
Avoid food that is fortified with folic acid (including breads and wheat based products)
If possible avoid pharmaceutical medicines which can deplete and/or antagonise folate and Vitamin B12 including antacids, the oral contraceptive pill methotrexate (amethopterin), sulfadiazine, pyrimethamine, sulfacetamide, trimethoprim and triamterene, nitrous oxide (a gas often used for dental procedures).
Eat an anti inflammatory, colourful, whole food diet, opting for organic produce where possible (read more here: https://happyhealthyyou.com/blogs/articles/what-are-inflammatory-foods)
If you have amalgam mercury fillings, get them removed.
Cook with an electric stove instead of gas.
Sweat at least 3 times per week
Eat dark leafy greens almost daily, as they are a natural source of folate.
Test your homocysteine levels
Avoid using plastic containers for your food, and definitely do not heat anything up in plastic.
Drink filtered water.
If you live somewhere with high levels of pollution, consider getting an air purifier for your home.
General nutritional supplementation for MTHFR SNPs
- Methylfolate Vitamin B9
- Methylcobalamin Vitamin B12
- Betaine in the form of TMG
- Pyridoxal-5-phosphate Vitamin B6
- Riboflavin Vitamin B2
- Curcumin from turmeric
- Vitamin E
- St Mary’s Thistle
- Omega 3 EPA/DHA
- Vitamin C
- Vitamin D3
- Comprehensive multivitamin/multimineral
MTFHR is a common genetic variation which can have deep reaching impacts on your overall health. Like all genetic variations you can minimise the impact on your health by following a healthy diet and lifestyle. Implementing the tips in this article will minimise the expression of the gene variation and your health will respond as a result.