Did you know that a genetic mutation called MTHFR can affect your ability to heal from any condition? It’s not a curse word – however if you have it, healing may be more difficult.
The function of the MTHFR gene is simply to produce the MTHFR enzyme. However, if the MTHFR gene is mutated, the enzyme produced is not entirely correct and will not function properly. When that happens, it is much more difficult for your body to convert T4 to the active form, T3. This is the basis of the relationship to the thyroid and is critical to healing.
Methylation is a metabolic process in the human body that helps make and eliminate neurotransmitters and this affects cognition and mood, it protects nerves and helps in detoxification and gene expression (think cancer). Methylation occurs in every cell, trillions of times a second, by supplying methyl groups (CH3) to many reactions in the body.
Methylation cause the body to make things like creatine, carnitine, coenzyme Q10, phosphatidylcholine, melatonin, serotonin and many other important substances.
If there is a problem with methylation it can affect mood and many other processes. Autistic children and depressed people are generally poor methylators.
Folate is the main nutrient that starts the methylation process. Methylfolate works with methylcobalamine (active B12) and magnesium to produce SAMe that drives Methylation.
Folate and folic acid are NOT the same. Folic acid is a synthetic form of the natural folate. It is harder to metabolize folic acid. No one should use folic acid.
Folic acid is the form that is not good because the folic acid form actually binds up receptor proteins and eliminates them so they are fewer in number. If the amount of the receptor proteins goes down, then absorption of folate will go down.
The best source of folate is uncooked leafy greens — but this is hard to digest (and raw crucifers should not be eaten by anyone, much less someone with a thyroid problem as they are known goitrogens. Instead, use supplements such as methylfolate, folinic acid, or 5-MTHF.
Thyroid and Methylation
Thyroid hormone, T4 is needed to convert riboflavin to the active form of B2 (FAD) — this controls MTHFR function.
If you have a thyroid problem (low T4) you can become B2 deficient — in which case you need to supplement with riboflavin-5-phosphate. B2 is also very good for adrenal health and you need to support your adrenals when there are thyroid issues.
You may also need niacin, vit C, B6, B12, zinc and and acidic environment to help with absorption. Use betaine HCl if you have low stomach acid. Betaine will also help form 5-MTHF and help produce SAMe along with methylcobalamine and methylfolate.
Other methylation problems include depression and insomnia. The creation of melatonin and serotonin both require methylation (SAMe) and are folate dependent.
Clearly, T4, B2 and MTHFR are all interrelated with many systems and when one doesn’t function properly, the others will not function properly.
It is important to test the amounts of folate that are in the red blood cell, as opposed to the folate that is in the serum. Most lab tests utilize serum folate and this includes all the forms of folate and may not be accurate. You want to test:
- RBC glutatione
- RBC folate
- Methylcobalamin levels
- T4 function
In order to get an accurate test, you must test methymalonic acid (MMA) and holotranscobalamin — this indicates how well the body is getting B12 into the cells as opposed to B12 levels which may or may not be accurate. The standard ranges of B12 are also in question. See more about B12 here.
To supplement use methylcobalamin, hydroxycobalamin or adenosylcobalamin. These forms are better — sub-lingually or injectible by a doctor.
- C677T and A1298C (variants)
- MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase)
If you have the MTHFR and C677T variants you will have a problem. If you also have the other variant genes, you will have only a 30% functioning MTHFR enzyme.
The problem is will the MTHFR gene is —
- You can’t activate natural folate
- You will have trouble making glutathione
- Trouble converting T4 to T3
- You will have trouble in repair and regeneration
- Shunts ability to create creatinine, carnitine, and phosphotydal choline
Autistic children have low creatine, SAMe and methylation defects. Many people with autoimmunity have problems with methylation.
6 Step to Better Methylation
- Never take folic acid supplements — although uncooked leafy greens have the highest amount of folate, I don’t recommend this (see above) – use the supplement forms as outlined above
- Lead a calm and healthy lifestyle as much as possible — reduce stress — sleep well , exercise moderately
- Support thyroid with adaptogens, riboflavin, pantothenic acid, etc. and take methylfolate and methycobalamin if necessary
- Support the adrenals (I like this one)
- Consider glutathione — though there is controversy as to which form actually works
- Take probiotics (like this one)
Medications that Negatively Affect Methylation Even If You Do Not Have the Gene
- Acid blockers and antacids
- Cholesterol binding drugs
- High doses of niacin
- Birth control pills, estrogen containing drug, HRT
- Metformin for diabetes
This was a very interesting topic, filled with a lot of complicated information. For more information on this topic see:
- MTHFR.net — for lists of doctors