MTHFR

MTHFR is Tied to Mood Disorders, Autoimmunity, Cardiovascular Disease & Dementia

If I say MTHFR, do you think I am swearing at you? I hope not? Well, hopefully after reading this, you’ll see more than a swear word that caught your attention.

What if I mention depression, bipolar disorder, miscarriage, rapid mood swings, anxiety, heart disease, strokes, macular degeneration, mast cell disorder, autoimmunity and estrogen related cancers such as breast, prostate or uterine cancer – do you think these have anything in common with each other. Well they do! It is all about MethyleneTetraHydroFolate Reductase – better known by its abbreviation – MTHFR.

MTHFR is a gene and like all genes, it acts like a light switch – turning on or turning off various body processes, genetic activities and chemical reactions. In this case, MTHFR takes folate (vitamin B9) and converts it to methylfolate (5-methylTHF).

MethylWhat?

But you can think of methylation as a series of chemical reactions that regulate other actions in the body. Each of these cogs or gears produce or detoxify or build your body chemistry regulating specific chemical reactions. If you have a glitch or mutation in the genetics that that affect this gene from doing its job, the cogs on both sides of the picture are going to grind to a halt. Instead of the light switch being on or off, it’s stuck in some sort of dimmer switch mode, functioning, but not nearly as well as it should be.

MTHFR (Methylation) is Vitamin Dependent

The proper interaction of methylfolate and s similar form of B12 called Methylcolbalamin (Methyl-B12) is what drives your body’s ability to fuel every cell in your body with energy. These two forms of B-vitamins with other cofactor vitamins and minerals fuel most of your bodies important chemical reactions, detoxification and building blocks of brain chemistry. Improper methylation can also raise your levels of homocysteine. This can greatly increase your risks for heart disease, stroke, macular degeneration, dementia and some cancers (e.g. lung, colon and leukemia). It also impedes your ability to manufacture glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant (the “anti-aging king”) that plays a critical role in detoxification and slows cellular aging.

Insufficient levels of methylfolate are linked to neural tube defects, which is why pregnant women are told to take supplements of folic acid. But if your body has a faulty MTHFR gene and can’t properly convert folate into methylfolate, and may lead to other unintended consequences and increased histamine.

MTHFR plays a direct role in how well the BH4 cycle works – and the BH4 cycle controls those two neurotransmitters that are so essential to people with behavioral and emotional challenges – serotonin and dopamine.

The proper interaction of methylfolate and s similar form of B12 called Methylcolbalamin (Methyl-B12) is what drives your body’s ability to fuel every cell in your body with energy. These two forms of B-vitamins with other cofactor vitamins and minerals fuel most of your bodies important chemical reactions, detoxification and building blocks of brain chemistry. Improper methylation can also raise your levels of homocysteine. This can greatly increase your risks for heart disease, stroke, macular degeneration, dementia and some cancers (e.g. lung, colon and leukemia). It also impedes your ability to manufacture glutathione, the body’s master antioxidant (the “anti-aging king”) that plays a critical role in detoxification and slows cellular aging.

In the U.S., it’s estimated that roughly 45% of the population may have at least one mutation of MTHFR, though your heritage can increase or decrease your individual risk. While exact numbers are hard to verify, one mutation on the MTHFR C677T or A1298C gene means you’re probably methylating (converting) folate into methylfolate at 40-60% efficiency. If you have two mutations, that number drops to approximately 20% efficiency. That means that your chemical cogs in the MTHFR wheel have almost ground to a halt and the chemical reactions they control are hindered – the diseases listed above may be the indication to look further into your MTHFR status.

Those, like Ben Lynch, Amy Yasko and myself who’ve studied methylation extensively have developed various protocols depending on what ailment they’ve focused on. The common thread for those with a MTHFR mutation is that if your body can’t convert folate into methylfolate properly and B12 is also a significant player along with other co-factors. You can help your body around this hurdle by taking a supplements that have the form of methyl-folate or Methyl-B12 to override the failure of the enzyme to keep the cogs turning smoothly.

Because this is an emerging field of research, little guidance is out there regarding dosage and step-by-step how-to’s. There’s no clear standard for everyone. The manipulation of these pathways are an art form and it is best to work with someone that not only knows this pathway inside and out but also tests for the metabolic activities to balance the entire system and not just one cog in one wheel.

MTHFR & Mood

Your brain chemistry is made of amino acids derived from your diet or made on your body called neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitter levels can be excessively high, low or unevenly balanced. With excessively low levels the mood can be flat, apathetic with a loss of interest, emotion and motivation. With excessively high levels the mood can become erratic and unpredictable with extremes of emotion and the dreaded mood swings. When unbalanced your mood can become quite erratic and quite serious behavioral problems can oocur depending on how out-of-whack they become.

Neurotransmitter balance is influenced by nutrition, health status, environmental factors, genetic factors and external emotional variables like work stress, family issues or money problems. Our neurotransmitters are our “deal with it chemistry.” When our life requires more deal with it chemistry, our chance of imbalances increase.

Neurotransmitter production is dependent on many factors and can be highly unpredictable. It’s not just a matter of eating the right foods and taking the right supplements, although those things can help you but many other factors play a role such as genetic influences, foods, chemical exposure and health issues all may have a huge impact on neurotransmitter balance. Methylation is a process that makes neurotransmitter building blocks.