An MTHFR mutation is a problem associated with poor methylation and enzyme production. MTHFR mutations affect every person differently, sometimes contributing to hardly any noticeable symptoms at all, while other times leading to serious, long-term health problems.
Although the exact prevalence rate is still up for debate, it’s believed that up to 30 percent to 50 percent of all people might carry a mutation in the MTHFR gene, which is inherited and passed down from parent to child. (1) Around 14 percent to 20 percent of the population might have a more severe MTHFR mutation that impacts overall health more drastically.
The MTHFR gene mutation was discovered during the completion of the Human Genome Project. Researchers realized that people with this type of inherited mutation tended to develop certain diseases, including ADHD, Alzheimer’s, atherosclerosis, autoimmune disorders and autism,more often than those without the mutation.
There is still a lot to learn about what this type of mutation means for people who carry it and go on to pass it along to their children. As the website MTHFR.net states, “Research is still pending on which medical conditions are caused by, or at least partially attributed to, the MTHFR gene mutations.” (2)
To date, there have been dozens of different health conditions tied to MTHFR mutations, although just because someone inherits this mutation doesn’t mean that person will wind up experiencing any problems.
What Is a MTHFR Mutation?
According to the Genetics Home Reference Library, MTHFR is a gene that provides the body with instructions for making a certain enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. In fact, “MTHFR” is the shortened name for this enzyme. (3)
There are two main MTHFR mutations that researchers focus on most often. These mutations are often called “polymorphisms” and affect genes referred to as MTHFR C677T and MTHFR A1298C. Mutations can occur on different locations of these genes and be inherited from only one or both parents. Having one mutated allele is associated with increased risk of certain health problems, but having two increases the risk much more.
An MTHFR gene mutation can change the way some people metabolize and convert important nutrients from their diets into active vitamins, minerals and proteins. Genetic mutations can also alter neurotransmitter and hormone levels. In some cases, although not all, changes in how this enzyme works can affect health parameters, including cholesterol levels, brain function, digestion, endocrine functions and more.
Natural Treatments for MTHFR Mutation Symptoms
1. Consume More Natural Folate, Vitamin B6 and Vitamin B12
Acquiring more folate (not folic acid, which is synthetic vitamin B9) can help with methylation. Getting more folate is very different than taking folic acid supplements, however. Some research even suggests that people with MTHFR mutations might have a harder time converting folic acid into its useable form and actually experience worsened symptoms from taking supplements containing folic acid.
Getting enough folate is especially important before and during pregnancy. The period three months before conception and during the first trimester of pregnancy, mothers who get enough folate lower their children’s risk for various health problems. Look for the bioavailable form of folate in supplements called l-methylfolate and consume plenty of foods with folate.
Having more folate in your diet means you’re better able to create the active form of 5-MTHF. Some of the best high-folate foods include:
Beans and lentils
Leafy green vegetables like raw spinach
Bright-colored fruits, such as oranges and mangoes
Those with a MTHFR mutation are also more likely to be low in related vitamins, including vitamin B6 and vitamin B12. These are easier to obtain from supplements, but food sources are always best. To get more B vitamins, focus on eating enough quality protein foods, organ meats, nuts, beans, nutritional yeast and raw/fermented dairy products.
2. Treat Digestive Problems, Including Leaky Gut and IBS
Digestive complaints are common among people with MTHFR A1298C mutations. Many things affect digestive health, including nutrient intake, inflammation levels, allergies, neurotransmitter levels and hormone levels. For people who are already prone to nutrient deficiencies, leaky gut syndrome can make problems worse by interfering with normal absorption and raising inflammation.
To improve digestive/gut health, the following dietary adjustments can be very beneficial:
Reduce intake of inflammatory foods, such as gluten, added sugar, preservatives, synthetic chemicals, processed meats, conventional dairy, refined vegetable oils, trans fats and processed/enriched grains (which often include synthetic folic acid).
Increase intake of probiotic foods, which are fermented and supply “good bacteria” that aids in digestion.
Consume other gut-friendly foods, including bone broth, organic vegetables and fruit, flaxseeds and chia seeds, and fresh vegetable juices.
Focus on consuming healthy fats only, like coconut oil or milk, olive oil, grass-fed meat, wild-caught fish, nuts, seeds, and avocado.
3. Reduce Anxiety and Depression
Because of how it can negatively affect levels of neurotransmitters and hormones like serotonin, testosterone and estrogen, MTHFR mutations are tied to higher incidences of mental disorders, including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia and chronic fatigue. High levels of stress can also make MTHFR mutation symptoms even worse. Tips for dealing with these conditions include:
Supplementing with omega-3 fatty acids: Help to reduce inflammation and are beneficial for cognitive health.
Regularly practicing natural stress relievers: These include meditation, journaling, spending time outside, giving back or volunteering, praying, etc.
Regularly exercising: Helps to improve hormonal balance and sleep quality.
Using soothing essential oils, including lavender, chamomile, geranium, clary sage and rose.
Eliminating use of recreational drugs and reducing alcohol intake, which can both make symptoms worse by interfering with methylation. (4)
4. Protect Heart Health
Studies show that homocysteine levels tend to rise with age, smoking and use of certain drugs, so the first step is to focus on taking care of yourself as you get older and limiting use of harmful substances. (5) Other tips for keeping your heart healthy include:
Eating a healthy diet, especially one with plenty of high-fiber foods
Getting regular exercise and keeping your weight in a healthy range
Managing stress to prevent worsened inflammation
Consider taking the following supplements, which can help improve blood flow, cholesterol and blood pressure: magnesium, omega-3s, CoQ10, carotenoids and other antioxidants, selenium, and vitamins C, D and E.
article by dr.ax