Sounds like a prolific acronym and for those who are told they have issues with MTHFR, they probably feel like using those 5 letters it in the same vein. MTHFR stands for methylene-tetrahydrofolate reductase. Basically MTHFR is an enzyme that converts the folate that you eat into the active form (5-Methyltetrahydrofolate). The folate that we eat needs to be converted by a relatively complex sequence of steps to become the active folate 5-MTHFR. It’s important to understand that the MTHFR enzyme affects the last step in the sequence and for those with a mutation in the gene, it will affect how much active folate is readily available for your body to utilise.
You might be wondering what the heck this may have to do with you, your hormones or your health. I’m pretty glad you’re asking, because frankly, it’s an issue for a great number (and increasingly so) of people. Because folate plays a huge role in healthy pregnancy, those who have issues metabolising folate may find themselves in a situation of infertility or recurrent miscarriage alongside an increased chance of chromosomal abnormalities, which may prompt investigation – you may already know you have issues with MTHFR. But it is also associated with:
- Developmental disorders
- Behavioural and cognitive disorders in children (e.g. autism, ADD, ADHD and learning delay)
- Some cancers
- Hypertension and heart issues
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Inflammation (ie. arthritis or endometriosis)
Like every single health issue known to man, there are always steps that can be put into place to ensure your body is thriving under the circumstances. The key is to understand your own unique self and realising that you are not simply a clone of every other human. What makes us unique is a plethora of factors including diet, lifestyle, environment, genetics, thoughts, feelings, beliefs, stress… even your bedtime goes in the mix and the list goes on and on… and on. All of these factors not only make you, you, but they influence how your body works, right down to the cellular level. If you haven’t picked up on the fact that your messy house is amplifying your health yet, best time to consider a ‘spring clean’ in winter.
A diagnosis of mutated genes or dodgy chromosomes to those who may not have heard much about it, may sound a bit X-Files if this isn’t your usual lingo. Hopefully what I do around here doesn’t fall on deaf ears – remember, knowledge is power and it’s my mission in life to get you clued up on your health so you can make informed choices from a place of understanding rather than fearing the worst and making choices fuelled from that same fear. I’m here today to shed a little light on the old MTHFR.
I’m not going to lose your attention and get into the gene itself too much. I’m here to help you steer your body towards better health. All you need to understand is that you may have a gene mutation, which in turn can impact how your body works.
Let’s get clear on Folate. Folic Acid and Folate are not the same.
Folate is Vitamin B9. Folic acid is in fact synthetic and not found in nature. It’s because of this, that it must undergo various transformations to become active and available for use in the body. Generally in life, fakes are never a good idea. This is just another example of that.
Folate is a very important player in everyday body function, not just for those wanting a baby. Folate is necessary for:
- Methylation. Many essential reactions in our bodies rely on various methyl groups to become active. We’ll talk about that more in a sec because it is essential for life in every sense.
- Healthy cells. Folate is responsible for synthesis of DNA, RNA and SAMe . Proper cellular function is the foundation of health.
- Healthy Blood. It’s required for the formation and maturation of red and white blood cells and platelet production.
- Amino acid metabolism (serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine production and detoxification) which all in a chain of events contribute to or influence our sex hormones and therefore our fertility and gynaecological health. Also responsible for the detoxification of homocysteine, another important amino acid.
These functions rely on the body being able to convert folate properly. If you can’t convert it, you might begin to see why you need to work out how you can help your body along.
As promised, we must talk methylation. If you’re not a biochemist or scientist, stick with me here, I’m a lover of making this simple for you. Methyl groups are very frequently called upon to complete an array of body processes, including those above. They basically act like switches, being able to activate or deactivate specific processes. Methyl groups are the bombdiggity – look at what they do:
- They turn genes on and off. WOWZERS! Yes, you can influence your genes. (epic)
- They are switches to turn on/off many cell activities.
- Turn neurotransmitters on and off.
- Turn enzymes on and off.
- Turn off inflammation.
- Turn on tissue repair.
- Turn on and off the stress response.
- They protect telomeres (you know those little caps that sit protecting your DNA that I talk about in the Debunking Stress e-course) that help keep us youthful.
- Assist in detoxification of chemicals and help to break down xeno-oestrogens (we’ve spoken about these many times, they are the chemicals in our body products, cleaning products, skin care, makeup, plastics etc that mimic oestrogen and drive your own oestrogen wild. Hence, methyl groups also assisting with phase-2 liver detoxification.
- Support overall health and provide energy. Methyl groups help our energy cycle (think year 11 chemistry!)
Basically if you are short of methyl groups your body cannot respond to whatever nutrients, vitamins, minerals or herbs you put in your body. So chronic disease may come knocking sooner than later.
Unfortunately it doesn’t just end there. Our current lifestyle contributes massively to how our bodies react and how methylation occurs. This is one of the main reasons I’m forever banging my little old drum over here, encouraging you to choose wisely when it comes to the day-to-day stuff. There are so many factors in our environment which cause it to become toxic – think radiation (mobile phones, microwaves, planes and so on), pollutants in our water and air, toxic body products and cosmetics – all these contribute and add to the pile to the point where it builds up so high, our body’s own inner alarm system breaks down and illness and disease occur. It doesn’t stop there – add to it our diet and lifestyle, stress (oh STRESS) which effectively exhausts many methyl groups to the point where there isn’t adequate supply. Where there is shortage other vital parts of your body will in turn be starved, like the brain or the thyroid. Each system relies on the next.
SO HELP! What do we do? First things first, if you are experiencing fertility issues, recurrent miscarriage, developmental disorders in babies, or are simply curious so you can steer your body towards better health, it’s a good idea to get tested. There are a variety of ways you can do that under your health care professionals guidance or you can order a test here (I’m not affiliated, just simply sharing the love). However, I would say that everybody can implement and be mindful of just how much our day to day activities influence how our body works and use this as much as any known hurdle to realign your health to you end goal – wellbeing.
Once you know for sure that your body needs a little re-direction with the presence of a genetic mutation, first things first. It’s not an opportunity for a freak out or a pity party. This information is crucial for you to turn things around, say a little prayer of thanks and implement a new way of living to support your body. It’s time for change! It’s important to also enlist the help of an expert but it’s also what you do at home that makes a huge difference also. Bottom line is this, you can’t change your genes, but you can make your body work better so that your genes play the game too. This is the science of both epigenetics and nutrigenomics – that is your environment will influence the way you cells behave and your diet and lifestyle will do the same with your genes.
Before you rush off to track down a truckload of methylfolate (the type you may be able to absorb), stop. There are many events involved in methylation. It doesn’t necessarily mean this is where you start. You may have other issues going on and adding methylfolate to the mix in the presence of other issues can make things worse.
It’s important you tick off these boxes – this is where you can safely start in your own home:
- Detoxification (presence of chemicals – think body products, cleaning products etc)
- Gut Health
- Nutrient Deficiencies
- Unknown Infections
I have an ENTIRE carousel of information to help you and it’s now more important than ever that you get the wheels in motion and do the work from the foundation. I didn’t set out when writing this post to direct you to my shopping cart. But the reality is so much of what you need to set the wheels in motion is right here. So, here’s your checklist;
- Diet – now more than ever, it needs to be on point. I have Well & Good set out to help you there BUT before that you might like to consider if your body needs a wee overhaul. Beauty of this read – it ticks off much of what your body needs from a lifestyle perspective also.
- Cleanse – think of it like a little holiday for your insides. The 5 day Cleanse Yourself program may be great to get the wheels in motion at which point once you’re done, you can head to the steps outlined in Well & Good. It’s ALL about getting your body happy.
- Stress! Oh STRESS! Debunking Stress is your friend. It’s my 2.5 hour ecourse that helps you identify stress (because it’s much more than a deadline or running behind) and give you tangible tools you can use to regain control in your life and not let stress run the show. It helps to tick off boxes when it comes to lifestyle too.
- Acupuncture! One of life’s little gems that helps your body work better, supports healthy pregnancy and fertility. I can absolutely vouch for its benefits. How does it work? There are many ways it’s believed to weave it’s magic as it increases blood and nutrient flow, it helps to reduce stress and it’s believed to interrupt the messages sent to the brain. I’ve written about it here before. I’d love to invite you to my clinic The Pagoda Tree where a team of experts (including myself) is at your ready!
Now is probably a good time to let you know there is currently 40% off ALL products (excluding the membership) when you use the code ‘EOFYS40’ at checkout! To shop, click on the products tab in the menu bar.
There is indeed a lot of information to churn through. In the July Wellness Collective Radio Show, we chat with scientist Dr Denise Furness whose specialist area is nutrigenomics – that is how your genes are influenced by your diet and lifestyle and Dr Bruce Lipton, the godfather of epigenetics. You want in? Come check out all the goodness on offer! It’s right over there that we dig into this kind of information in detail, you can pick my brains and we can get to the bottom of those niggly health issues! Click on the images below to learn more. IF you can’t wait until July (or you’re just super keen to make your life sweeter) you might like to check out the FREE podcast here.