Research indicates that those with an MTHFR variant (especially those who are homozygous for the C677T variant) are more likely to develop an array of autoimmune diseases. An autoimmune disease is basically when the body begins to attack itself. There are autoimmune diseases that are limited to a particular organ, such as Hashimoto's thyroiditis that attacks the thyroid gland. There are also autoimmune diseases the attack the body on a more widespread scale, such as systemic lupus erythematosus.
While there may be truth to these findings, does that mean that having an MTHFR variant is basically a death sentence or that you're doomed to suffer poor health? Does it guarantee that you will develop an autoimmune disease in your lifetime? Or, if you've already developed an autoimmune disease, does it mean that trying to manage it through a healthy lifestyle is futile due to genetics? The answer to all of these questions is a resounding NO!
I won't sugarcoat it - having an MTHFR variant, particularly if you're homozygous for the C677T variant, certainly puts you at a disadvantage when it comes to health. Having an impaired ability to methylate and detoxify is a real problem and can lead to serious consequences. That's the nature part. There's nothing that can be done about it. However, it's not at all that simple...
Nurture accounts for a great deal of our health journeys. In fact, some research indicates it can account for up to 75% of our health status! That's great news! Thanks to epigenetics, which basically means that nurture can change the way a problematic gene is expressed without changing the DNA code, such outcomes can be averted or managed.
The problem is that so many people who have an MTHFR variant have no idea and spend years or decades making decisions that, due to their genetics, are especially damaging. With greater MTHFR awareness, some of these mistakes and outcomes can be avoided.
We all know the basics of what constitutes a healthy lifestyle, such as a reasonable diet, plenty of exercise, managing stress, no smoking, and not drinking alcohol excessively. However, there are many more sneaky ways that those with an MTHFR variant may inadvertently fail to "nurture" their genetics.
A few examples include:
Supplementing with folic acid and consuming enriched foods
Regularly consuming processed foods that are marketed as "healthy"
Consuming products that contain gluten (especially the heavily processed variety)
Purchasing products that are non-organic and contain GMOs
Taking acetaminophen regularly
Having amalgam dental fillings
Using toxic cleaning and personal care products
The list goes on...
If you have already developed an autoimmune disease, all is not lost! By giving your body the conditions that it needs, it has an amazing ability to heal itself. Even if you must remain on medication, it is worth the effort to nurture your genetics. You can potentially decrease the amount of medication you need and greatly improve your quality of life.
As a personal aside, I was diagnosed with Hashimoto's thyroiditis during my freshman year of college. I was told by an endocrinologist that even if I went on medication, my thyroid would always produce antibodies. The medication did improve my thyroid hormone and energy levels, but I continued to produce antibodies, just as predicted. However, it turned out that once I cut gluten from my diet (along with other healthy lifestyle changes), I am no longer producing these antibodies! What was once considered medically impossible became a reality in my life.
It can be discouraging to have a "nature" problem that is out of our control. However, I want to encourage you to invest in nurturing your genetics. I promise that it's worth the effort!
To take a deeper, guided dive into how to thrive with an MTHFR variant, check out Hey MTHFR Academy. This 16-week online course will give you the tools you need to harness the power of epigenetics and befriend your MTHFR gene.