“I know there is something wrong with me but my doctor said everything is normal. I just feel off.” This is a common theme for people suffering from a variety of symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, undiagnosed mood disorders, chronic allergies, and digestive disorders like IBS. More and more research on chronic disease is now pointing to a mutation of the MTHFR gene.
MTHFR polymorphisms, or gene mutations, have been linked to infertility, certain cancers, migraines, birth defects, heart disease, hypertention, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, depression, ADHD, fibromyalgia, multiple schlerosis, alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue syndrome; and that’s the short list. When our body’s methylation reactions are impaired, our body is unable to function optimally and protect our DNA from damage, reduce our histamine/ allergic reactions, and create strong cell membranes, protecting us from toxins and inflammation.
No, MTHFR is not a new kind of texting swear word. MTHFR is a gene that produces an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, which converts folic acid to its active and usable form called methyltetrahydrofolate, or methylfolate for short. Methylfolate is a key compound that helps make 1) neurotransmitters (chemicals signals in your brain) that help control mood, addictive behaviors, sleep, and focus, to name a few, and 2) SAMe (s-adenosylmethionine), one of the key generators of cellular energy and the regulator of over 200 enzyme reactions in our body. Without SAMe, your body would shut down and die.
You are not alone! MTHFR polymorphisms have been around for generations, and have an incredibly high prevalence, affecting one in two people! Poor food choices, polluted environments, stressful lifestyles, and medication over-use have increased the expression of these polymorphisms. So how do you know if you have a methylation defect? Ask your health care provider about genetic screening test for MTHFR C677T and A1298C mutations. The MTHFR test is covered by some lab companies but even the cash pricing is very reasonable, running between $20- $70, depending on the lab.
Having the MTHFR mutation isn’t the end of the world, rather it is a starting place for transforming your life from the inside out. Here are the top tips for overcoming MTHFR defects.
- Food: Eat whole, organic, non-GMO, free range, wild foods. Avoid gluten and dairy products. Eat foods containing natural folates such as uncooked leafy greens.
- Water: Drink filtered tap water – avoid bottled water in plastics.
- Correct supplementation: Stop ingesting synthetic folic acid supplements and folic acid enriched foods! They make the enzyme defect worse. Use only natural folates such as folinic acid and/or methylfolate. Methylfolate (not folic acid) injections are available at some health clinics.
- Build and foster healthy, positive, loving relationships with your partner, family, and friends, and work environment.
- De-stress! Take a vacation, get out in nature, laugh a lot, breath from your belly, meditate, pray, and think positively.
- Exercise: Move your body every day, participate in team sports, yoga, run, hike, or join me at Taekwondo.
- Detoxify: Participate in a 21 Day cleanse program twice a year, limit exposure to chemicals in the environment, and take saunas.
- Build a medical team with progressive, forward thinking MDs, NDs, DOs and other health professionals.
Author: Dr. Sonja Fung, ND
Dr. Sonja Fung is a naturopathic primary care doctor with a focus on integrative medicine and cancer care at the Live Well Clinic in La Quinta.