While there is still much to be discovered and understood in the medical community, there is one complication related to having the MTHFR mutation that everyone seems to be able to agree on...a higher likelihood for elevated homocysteine levels and therefore an increased chance of cardiovascular events. You are particularly at risk if you are homozygous for the C677T mutation.
Is this a death sentence? Absolutely not! In fact, although I am homozygous for the C677T mutation, my homocysteine levels have never been in a dangerous range. I believe this is likely due to discovering my condition at a young age after developing other health complications that pointed to it. My Mom, on the other hand, has the same diagnosis and did have elevated homocysteine levels from many years of leaving the problem untreated. Thankfully, this issue can be managed once you understand what is causing it.
Homocysteine is an amino acid that is mostly obtained through eating meat. It is then broken down by vitamins b12, b6, and b9 (folate) into other substances your body needs. In a typical healthy person, homocysteine won't be a problem unless they're not getting enough B vitamins in their diet. However, when you have the MTHFR mutation, folic acid (the synthetic form of folate often found in fortified foods and supplements) can not be converted properly into a form that your body can use. This leads to both a deficiency in folate and a buildup of toxic and unusable folic acid. Consequently, homocysteine levels may rise out of control. This can lead to artery damage, blood clots, and ultimately cardiac arrest. High levels of homocysteine are also connected to osteoporosis, stroke, dementia, and Alzheimer's disease.
So what's a MTHFR to do? The first step is to cut out sources of synthetic folic acid. To be clear, folic acid and folate are not one and the same. Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate. Folic acid is often found in fortified foods, such as cereals, bread, and other processed snacks. Folate, on the other hand, is nature's form of vitamin b9. Common sources include leafy greens, asparagus, broccoli, papaya, oranges, avocados, seeds, nuts, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower. Try to cut out processed foods and anything that contains folic acid and replace it with a clean diet that is rich in folate.
It's also important to discontinue any supplements that contain synthetic folic acid. Unfortunately, most supplements on the market do indeed contain this synthetic form. Supplementing with folic acid will only further deplete your body's folate stores and contribute to toxic buildup. Eventually, elevated homocysteine levels will likely result. The solution is to choose a B complex supplement that specifically uses methylated B vitamins. In the case of folate, it will will use "methylfolate." However, some people can still not tolerate methylated B vitamins. Another option is folinic acid, which is another natural form of folate to try.
Between shifting your diet away from processed foods filled with synthetic folic acid to a natural diet rich in folate and supplementing with the proper form of B vitamins, you will be well on your way to reversing or preventing elevated homocysteine levels. This blog is also full of ideas to further support natural detox processes and aid in your healing journey.
Do or did you ever have elevated homocysteine levels? Tell us about it!