Do You Have "Dirty" Genes? A Look At MTHFR

Our DNA is made of 20,000+ genes. Genes are turned "off and on" depending on how we eat and nourish our bodies, the toxins we eat, drink, smear on our body, and breathe, how much sleep we get, etc. In his book, Dirty Genes, Dr. Ben Lynch says our genes can be born "dirty" or they can just act dirty. Either way, we will experience adverse effects. In this post, I want to focus on one gene in particular. When it's dirty, it can cause tremendous trouble. That gene is MTHFR.

MTHFR, which stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase is a gene and an enzyme. The function of the gene is to produce the enzyme and the function of the enzyme is a biochemical process called methylation. Methylation is one of the body's main detoxification pathways.

Our bodies MUST detoxify or all the toxins build up and create the perfect environment for disease. When the MTHFR gene is dirty and our bodies are unable to properly detoxify, we can experience one or more of the 650+ illnesses believed to be induced by the MTHFR gene/enzyme. Here's a partial list of those illnesses:

  • Many different types of cancer

  • Hypertension/Heart Disease/Stroke

  • Diabetes, type 1 and type 2

  • Infertility and recurring miscarriages

  • Mental health problems like schizophrenia, bipolar disorders, depression, anxiety

  • Rheumatoid arthritis

  • Preeclampsia

  • Cleft lip/cleft palate

  • Down Syndrome

  • Alzheimer disease and dementia

  • Kidney failure

  • Obesity

  • Migraines

  • Parkinson's

  • B12 deficiency

  • Eye problems like glaucoma, diabetic retinopathy

  • Osteoporosis

  • Alcoholism

  • Hearing loss

  • High cholesterol

  • ADHD

  • Crohn's disease

  • Memory problems

  • Celiac disease

  • Anemia

  • Malnutrition

  • Seizures

  • Vitiligo

  • Pancreatitis

  • Impotence

  • Lactose intolerance

  • Rhinitis

  • Spina bifida occulta

  • Sleep apnea

  • Thyroiditis, autoimmune

  • Tooth abnormalities

  • Addictions like smoking, drugs, alcohol

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Blood clots

  • Low HDL cholesterol

To see a more comprehensive list of diseases brought on by a dirty MTHFR gene, click here.

Methylation is important for more than just detoxification. It is involved in over 200 enzymatic reactions and occurs billions of times per second in our cells. It is integral for DNA repair, energy production, mood balancing, glutathione production, and inflammation control. The MTHFR enzyme, which creates methylation, is an extremely important part of the body's ability to process amino acids and vitamin B9, also known as folate.

The most active form of folate is methylfolate or 5-MTHF. The process of methylation changes the folate you take in when you eat leafy, green veggies and changes it to methylfolate, the most bioavailable form of folate, so your body can use it. Besides leafy greens, folate can also be found in fruit, beans, nuts, peas, seafood, eggs, etc. It's pretty easy to find it in a relatively healthy diet.

In order for proper methylation of folate to occur, you need vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin. B12 is mainly absorbed in the stomach. Things like coffee, smoking, stomach medications, diabetes medications, birth control pills, blood pressure medications, cholesterol medications, and antipsychotic medications can inhibit the absorption of B12. The methylated version of B12, which is methylcobalamin, is necessary for proper methylation of folate to occur. Without it, folate deficiency occurs causing problems like:

  • Getting sick often due to low immunity

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Digestion problems like constipation and IBS

  • Birth defects like spina bifida and stunted growth

  • Anemia

  • Sores in the mouth

  • Changes in mood

  • Pale skin

  • Premature graying of hair

30-60% of the population has the MTHFR gene mutation which has contributed to disease in their bodies and most people don't even know they have it.

Many processed foods and supplements have the artificial version of folate, which is folic acid. This form of folate is unstable and inactive. These foods and supplements also provide the artificial form of vitamin B12.

For a person with MTHFR, these artificial versions cannot be used by their body. The MTHFR gene is not functioning properly and cannot convert folic acid into a usable form of folate. These synthetic versions can actually hinder the body from being able to use the real versions of the vitamins.

When lab tests are done to check the levels of folate and B12, the stored amounts are measured, not the active forms. Therefore, your levels may show up as normal on a blood test when you are actually very deficient.

Because the MTHFR gene and enzyme are not functioning properly, they can cause over methylation, known as histapenia, and under methylation, known as histadelia. Both scenarios lead to problems in the body and the mind.

Over Methylation Symptoms Tendencies

(Histapenia causing low histamine levels of <40)

  • Overproduction of serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine in the brain

  • High anxiety and panic tendency

  • Sleep problems

  • Dry mucous membranes, dry eyes, and dry mouth

  • Estrogen intolerance

  • Self-mutilation (including multiple tattoos and piercings)

  • Nervous legs, pacing

  • Obsessions, without compulsions

  • High energy, hyperactive, bodies move a lot

  • High pain threshold

  • Low motivation in school

  • Talks a lot

  • High musical and artistic ability, very creative

  • Believes everyone thinks bad of them

  • Very sensitive emotionally

  • Food and chemical sensitivities

  • Intolerant of anti-histamines

  • Low libido

  • Has a lot of body hair

  • Cannot handle anti-depressants, SAMe, methionine

  • Elevated SAMe/SAH ratio in lab tests

  • Diagnosis of ADHD, bipolar disorder, depression, paranoia schizophrenia

Under Methylation Symptoms and Tendencies

(Histadelia causing high histamine levels >70)

  • Low serotonin and dopamine

  • Strong-willed, stubbon

  • Highly competitive in sports

  • Obsessive/compulsive

  • Perfectionism

  • Ritualistic behaviors

  • Seasonal allergies/environmental allergies

  • Low pain tolerance

  • Frequent headaches

  • Addictive behaviors

  • High libido

  • Family history of high accomplishment

  • Calm on the outside but high tension on the inside

  • Very little body hair

  • Watery discharge from eyes, excessive saliva

  • Not compliant with therapies

  • Low SAMe/SAH ratio in lab tests

  • Diagnosis of autism, depression, obsessive/compulsive disorder, oppositional defiant disorder, PANDAS/PAN, schizoaffective disorder

These are a few of the most obvious tendencies when methylation is compromised.

So, can this be fixed? Yes!

To fix the problems with MTHFR and to help this gene function properly, you have to get back to the basics.

  1. Eat a diet full of green, leafy vegetables, fruits, legumes, lentils, beef liver, citrus, avocado, and asparagus. Eat the green vegetables raw or lightly steamed in order to keep the folate intact.

  2. Stop eating foods "fortified" with folic acid, the artificial version of folate. Avoid supplements with folic acid as well. Look for supplements with methylfolate or 5-MTHF.

  3. Stop eating foods "fortified" with cyanocobalamin, the artificial version of B12. Avoid supplements with cyanocobalamin as well. Look for supplements with methylcobalamin.

  4. Many people with the malfunctioning MTHFR gene have gluten sensitivities or intolerances so eliminating gluten may be necessary.

  5. Drink plenty of fresh, clean water. 50% of your body weight in ounces of water is best.

  6. If you are undermethylated, eat plenty of protein. Protein provides amino acids like glutathione, which is necessary for the breakdown of nutrients so the body can use them.

  7. If you are over methylated, limit protein in order to lower the amount of methyl in the body.

  8. An unhealthy gut hinders health because nutrients cannot be absorbed. Be sure to take probiotics. Eating or drinking probiotics is best, like the ones found in sauerkraut, kombucha, kimchi, kefir, and water kefir. Taking digestive enzymes helps break food down for easier absorption.

  9. Drink organic bone broth. This helps repair connective tissue, which makes up the lining of the gut.

People who are severely undermethylated may do better eating vegetables cooked at first, especially if the gut is unhealthy. Cooked veggies are easier to digest. Add raw vegetables over time.

People who are over methylated will likely thrive on raw folate-rich foods.

How Much Folate is Needed

  • Adult men and women need 400mcg per day

  • Pregnant women need 600mcg per day

  • Breastfeeding women need 500mcg per day

Pregnant and breastfeeding women should take a multivitamin with methylfolate and methylcobalamin.

If you see a lot of your symptoms or illnesses in the lists provided above, you may have the MTHFR gene mutation. There are tests available to find out for sure. Even if you choose not to get tested, following the guide above can make a big difference.

If you need help figuring out what to do and how to do it, I can help you navigate your way back to health. Message me today!


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