If you're new to the MTHFR community, you may be overwhelmed by the amount of information you're receiving. You may now know that folic acid is bad for you, but you may still be fuzzy on what having an MTHFR variant even means. This post will clear that up for you in a way that's simple for anyone to understand.
Everyone carries two copies of the MTHFR gene, which gives our bodies instructions to make an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (also named MTHFR). When you have an MTHFR variant, that means that a tiny, but still impactful portion of the DNA code in that gene varies from the general population. There are two main variants that are possible, C677T and A1298C. Each of those combinations of letters and numbers represent a location in the DNA strand that may contain a variant. C677T is generally associated with more severe health problems than A1298C because it leads to a greater decrease in the MTHFR enzyme.
Because we all carry two copies of the MTHFR gene (one inherited from each biological parent), you can carry a variant on one or both copies of the gene. If you have one variant, you are considered to be heterozygous and if you have two, you are homozygous. I go into more detail on these distinctions in the post, "Homo, Hetero, Huh?" However, being homozygous is associated with more health problems than heterozygous because you have more variants (two variants, versus one).
When you have an MTHFR variant, a very important bodily process called methylation is disrupted. Methylation is a big deal. It's basically the center of many other bodily processes, including energy production, brain chemistry, the immune system, inflammation response, the expression and repair of DNA, and more. Another major impact is a decreased ability to detoxify the body. The hindered process can lead to the long-term storage of toxins in the body, causing further health deterioration over time.
Having an MTHFR variant, along with this impaired methylation, is associated with a wide variety of health problems. A few include:
Blood clotting disorders
Certain types of cancer
Mental health problems
Thankfully, there are steps that can be taken to counter these effects. The first is to supplement with bioavailable B vitamins. Folate is necessary in order to complete the bodily process of methylation. Many people with an MTHFR variant unknowingly supplement with folic acid, not knowing that their bodies can not process it efficiently. Folic acid is a synthetic form of folate that has a different molecular structure. This different structure requires an extra step of conversion into a form of folate that the body can use. The conversion process requires the MTHFR enzyme that those with an MTHFR variant are deficient in. Read more about this topic in, "The Great Folate Mistake." Methylfolate, which is a bioavailable form of supplemental folate, does not require this conversion. Folinic acid is a viable alternative for those who do not react well to methylfolate.
Beyond this, it's important to focus on some other areas of importance, such as:
Consume a healthy diet with lots of folate-rich foods
Eliminate foods that are enriched with folic acid
Minimize processed foods and sugar
Consume lots of antioxidants through colorful fruits and veggies
Try to eat organic and non-GMO as much as possible
Support glutathione stores
Promote gut health
Implement a lifestyle of gentle detox
Switch to non-toxic cleaning products, personal care items, and cosmetics
Manage homocysteine levels
While the process of changing your lifestyle can be daunting, it is well worth the effort! It is very possible to lead a healthy life with an MTHFR variant. It just requires some strategic changes.
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.