For a little while I've had a sneaking suspicion that there was a little mutation on one of my genes, so, like any good nutritional therapist would do, I set off to have a DNA test.
After a month, the results came back, and as suspected, I had a genetic SNP (pronounced snip) at a gene involved in a process called methylation. It's called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, or MTHFR for short.
Whilst I only had a single, rather than a double mutation at this gene, it still means that my enzyme is working about 30% less efficiently than it should do.
What is MTHFR?
MTHFR is responsible for converting folic acid from our food into the folate form we can use for important processes in the body. It is involved in converting homocysteine into methionine, and if this doesn't work effectively, it can lead to heart disease, birth defects, inflammation, difficult pregnancies, mood imbalances, and a reduced ability to detoxify.
Together with other nutrients like B12 and B6, folate is responsible for creating immune cells, eliminating chemicals and toxins, producing neurotransmitters (like happy hormones), creating energy in the body, and processing sex hormones like oestrogen.
In addition, those with a defect in this gene are unable to use synthetic forms of folic acid, and folic acid- enriched foods, meaning it can build up in the body and actually lead to further toxicity.
Not only this, but my genetic test revealed I have another mutation in my FUT2 gene, involved in vitamin B12 absorption and utilisation, which is important for brain and nervous system functioning. B12 is involved in preventing anemia, fatigue, pale skin, irritability, and keeping blood cells healthy.
B12 is essential in the methylation process too... and even if you eat lots of leafy greens and foods rich in folate, if there's not enough B12, the body won't be able to utilise it properly. This is why, if you're on a vegetarian or vegan diet, it is absolutely vital that you take a methylated B12 supplement (methylcobalamin).
Stress can also inhibit the methylation process in general, which is why, in a stressful society, we're seeing a lot more health issues arise.
There are many different health issues and symptoms that may be associated with an MTHFR mutation, and include some of the following:
- Chronic Pain
- Alzheimer's disease
- Parkinson's disease
- Autoimmune conditions and thyroid issues
- Chronic fatigue
- Anxiety and depression
- Bipolar disorder
- Hormonal and fertility problems including PCOS and miscarriages
- Heart Disease
- Problems during pregnancy and post partum depression.
It is estimated that around half the population has a genetic mutation in the MTHFR gene, and 1 in 2 people have a genetic risk of a B12 deficiency, which is a LOT of people.
The great thing about this though, is that once you know, you can start to implement some nutritional strategies to overcome the genetic risk. Your genes are not your destiny!
Nutritional and lifestyle strategies that can help get you back into health:
- Include a methylated supplement: Methylcobalamin (B12) and Methylfolate (i.e. the already broken- down, bioavailable versions)
- Eat lots of folate rich foods like leafy greens (lightly cooked, to prevent issues with thyroid.... That's a whole other article)
- Heal the gut
- Implement stress reduction techniques
- Eat quality proteins
- Boost detoxification by doing a liver cleanse, dry skin brushing, and sitting in saunas
There's so much you can do to look after your health once you get to the route of the problem, which is why I love functional medicine so much!
For more information on how you can get yourself a DNA test, please contact me via www.jodiebrandman.com & I can help sort you out with a testing kit!