What is MTHFR?
(No, its not a swear word, but thats a good way to remember the order of the letters!)
MTHFR is an abbreviation for a gene called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. More than 40% of the world’s population  have a variation of this gene, although most people dont know whether or not they have it.
Specifically, the MTHFR gene codes for an enzyme that helps our bodies convert vitamin B9 (also known as folate) into a usable form called methylfolate. This process is called methylation.
Why is this important?
When you eat foods that contain folic acid (vitamin B9), MTHFR converts it into methylfolate, folates active form. This process is super important because methylfolate plays a role in just about everything your body does.
Those of us with the MTHFR variation have an altered MTHFR enzyme. We produce 30 to 70% less methylfolate than someone without the variation does .
Methylfolate is involved in :
- Repairing and regenerating your cells, tissues, and DNA
- Regulating gene expression and protein function
- Synthesizing neurotransmitters that influence mood, sleep, behavior, cognition, and memory
- Controlling homocysteine (an amino acid that can damage blood vessels)
- Keeping inflammation in check
- Assisting your liver in processing fats
- Activating and regulating the immune system
- Modifying toxins and heavy metals
With all that at stake, methylation is hugely important!
What if I have the MTHFR variation?
Researchers are just beginning to study the connection between MTHFR variations and different conditions, but so far it has been linked to quite a few. Heres a short list of conditions that have been studied. [2,3]:
- Tongue and lip ties
- Heart disease
- Recurrent miscarriage
- Prostate cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Multiple Sclerosis-like symptoms
Now, if youre thinking, Oh, no problem! Theres folate in my multi-vitamin, its important to note that the folate in most foods and vitamins is folic acid, which researchers believe is actually harmful to those with MTHFR variation. For them, the unconverted folic acid attaches itself to the same receptors in the body used to absorb folate, effectively blocking the bodys ability to absorb any usable folate that is floating around.
Side note: Many lab tests do not distinguish between folic acid and folate when measuring blood levels. The results may show an individual has adequate amounts of folate when in fact what they actually have are high levels of unusable folic acid (but very little folate), and so are really deficient.
How do I know if I have the MTHFR variation?
If your body is not properly processing folic acid, you could have these symptoms :
- Foggy thinking
- Irritability and/or depression
The first step to find out for sure is to get tested to see if you have this marker and which variations affect you.
So what do I do?
Knowing that you have the MTHFR variation provides an opportunity to improve your overall health. You can eliminate tipping-point factors that lead to disease, maximize your methylation, and optimize your diet and nutrition to change how your cells function.  You determine your future.
People with the MTHFR variation will benefit from these lifestyle tips:
- Dr. Ben Lynch says, Repairing the digestive system and optimizing the flora should be one of the first steps in correcting methylation deficiency, which includes treatingcandida (yeast) because of the toxins it releases, inhibiting proper methylation and leading to the symptoms listed above.
- Check your supplements. If any contains folic acid, stop taking that supplement or switch brands. Your body wont process the folic acid well, and it can build up inside you, leading to the symptoms listed above.
- Avoid processed foods that have synthetic folic acid added to them.
- Get your folate from natural sources, including cooked, dark leafy greens such as spinach, kale, bok choy, and Swiss chard. You should aim for at least 1 cup or more of dark greens every day.
- Get your homocysteine (see above) levels measured. If your homocysteine levels are high, you may have a methylation issue or a B12/folate deficiency. If so, supplement with methylcobalamin (Vitamin B12), Vitamin B2, Vitamin B6, and methylfolate (an already activated form of folate).
- Eat hormone-free, grass-fed meats; grass-fed butter or ghee; and organic free-range eggs.
- Have a trained biological dentist remove mercury amalgams from your teeth.
- Avoid aluminum exposure in antiperspirants and cookware.
- Supplement your diet with essential nutrients such as methyl-B12, methyl-folate, TMG (betaine), N-acetylcysteine (NAC, an amino acid), riboflavin, curcumin, fish oil, Vitamins C, D, E, and probiotics. Avoid taking high doses of niacin (vitamin B3), which can hinder methylation.
- Make time for gentle detox regimens throughout the week. Those can include infrared sauna sessions, Epsom salt baths, relaxing tea breaks, and regular exercise or sweating.
- Avoid exposure to toxins such as chemical-based house cleaners. They can inhibit methylation, among other things.
Before adding any supplements to your diet, be sure to consult your physician. Making smart choices in diet, supplementation, and lifestyle provides a great antidote to the MTHFR variation.