Updated: Jun 29, 2018
Perhaps you’ve heard about one of the latest health studies when it comes to mental health? Everyone is talking about a enzyme known as MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase).
If you have a mutation in this gene then it can cause your methylation processes to work too much, too little, or not enough at all.
Methylation is essentially a process that occurs where DNA gets tagged with a ‘methyl group’ which lets the rest of the body know not to read that particular bit of DNA. It’s also involved in the production of neurotransmitters, detoxification of chemicals, nerve health and processing of certain hormones and nutrients, to name just a few.
When the MTHFR genes is working optimally, you have adequate enzyme activity and that means you can more efficiently make proteins, use antioxidants, metabolize hormones, enjoy more stable brain chemistry, better eliminate toxins and heavy metals, and manage inflammation in the body.
So if you’ve got a problem with this gene, it really disrupt your inner balance. Here are three main body system that MTHFR can have an effect on.
1. Central Nervous System disorders – some of these come from not having enough SAMe. SAMe is responsible for creating Serotonin & neurotransmitters responsible for mood, motivation, and to some degree energy levels. If these neurotransmitters are low, then Depression is often the result, but even aggression and alcoholism are symptoms sometimes found in men. Pregnant women may encounter extreme Post-partum depression. In addition, things like Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Migraines, IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome), Memory loss with Alzheimer’s and Dementia as well as other psychiatric problems can be tied to this issue (OCD, Bipolar, Schizophrenia, and more). These challenges are sometimes associated more with the 1298 gene mutations.
2. Cardiovascular problems often occur when Homocysteine levels in the body are too high. Heart attack, Stroke, Blood clots, Peripheral neuropathy, Anemia even Miscarriages, and Congenital birth defects can be related to this issue among other symptoms. These problems are typically more related to the 677-gene mutation, but seem to be worse for people who have a double mutation (two copies of the 677 or two copies of the 1298). Some doctors think the worst combination is someone with one 677 variant and one 1298 variant (referred to as compound heterozygous).
3. Environmental poisoning can increase when not enough Glutathione is present to detox the body. Glutathione is responsible for detoxifying the body of heavy metals, toxins, and BPAs, etc. that we encounter in the environment. Glutathione is our body’s most powerful antioxidant. When a body gets too burdened by heavy metals and toxins, a lot of unexpected health problems emerge. Some symptoms of this can be: Nausea, Diarrhea, Abdominal pain, Liver and Kidney dysfunction, Hypertension, Tachycardia, Pulmonary fibrosis, Asthma, Immune problems, Hair loss, Rashes and much more.
Multiple cause disorders
Sometimes diseases/disorders fall under a ‘multiple-pronged’ cause, meaning the causes of it stem from genetic, environmental, microbial and/or bacterial problems.
Autism is a big one that falls into a ‘two-pronged’ cause category along with Fibromyalgia, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Lyme Disease and more.
MTHFR is at the top of a list of 16 genetic defects for Autism. Another study showed 98% of children with Autism had one or both of the MTHFR gene defects (677 and/or 1298).
A recent clinical study indicated that mothers with MTHFR who didn’t take folate
(Not Folic acid the synthetic version, which if found in most prenatal vitamins, we will talk about this later) during pregnancy were 7 times more likely to have an Autistic child than mothers without the MTHFR gene defect [Epidemiology, July 2011, Vol. 22, Issue 4, pg 476].
How does MTHFR gene affect your mood?
Many people with the MTHFR gene can experience mood imbalances if the gene is not working optimally.
A reduced MTHFR enzyme means that you cannot make and recycle a very important antioxidant, glutathione effectively. Glutathione is responsible for a vast array of activities in the body and low levels have been associated with conditions such as depression, inflammation, bipolar, chronic fatigue syndrome, PMS, Endometriosis, PCOS, Autism. the list is large.
If your body cannot methylate the chemical homocysteine (you can find out if this is too high via a blood test) that results in decreased production of SAMe. This leads to decreased production of dopamine, serotonin and norepinephrine, neurotransmitters all responsible for mood balance. If there is a reduced ability to detoxify chemicals and heavy metals (which is a factor for those with the MTHFR gene) this can also affect your mood.
Digestive and liver health can have a large part to play in your mental health, for several reasons, such as the health of your gut flora, increased inflammation, leaky gut all will have an impact on your neurotransmitters. Digestive health problems and gut dysbiosis have been linked to mental health problems in multiple of clinical studies.
A lot of people with MTHFR gene may also have a condition called Pyroluria (also known as Pyrolle disorder, Mauve factor, Kryptopyrrole or Kryptopyrroluria). People with this condition produce excess amounts of a substance called Pyrolles which bind to certain nutrients such as Vitamin B6, Biotin Zinc and GLA (an essential fatty acid). There are several conditions associated with this disorder but namely it is involved in several mental health conditions such as Bipolar, Schizophrenia, Manic depression and ADD/ADHD. This condition is also strongly linked to the state of the digestive system.
Can Folate help MTHFR production?
One of the main issues we have come to understand with MTHFR is that people with this gene cannot process folic acid, I'm going to say that again FOLIC ACID (not folate). Here is the difference. Folic acid is synthetic and will inhibit the methylation process leading to mental health issues, this is found in a number of processed foods including your store bought bread.
Folate on the other hand is natural and can assist with the methylation process and balancing mental health symptoms.
Clinical findings have also find that deficiencies of folate can be linked to miscarriages and neural tube defects. Recent studies are showing this is also linked into MTHFR gene production.
People with MTHFR variation would benefit from activated nutritional assistance to assist the methylation process and support cofactors for optimal production. This can be found naturally in some foods and he activated forms can be sourced from practitioner nutritional supplements.
The key here is to support dietary and lifestyle changes, this can have a big impact on long term mental health – I have treated many clients with MTHFR and with minor changes and education around the gene expression it is possible to be a optimal health.
In Australia the closest to natural folate that we have available is folinic acid (calcium folinate) supplements, however this may still be difficult to metabolise for those who have very poor methylation.
Would you like to be tested?
If you are concerned that you have this polymorphism gene expression, then please feel free to contact me, The Modern Day Naturopath and book yourself in for an assessment, pathology report and a treatment plan to get
you back to optimal health.