On the cutting-edge of medicine is a field of study called epigenetics–a study of the factors that influence how our estimated 20,000 genes are expressed. While we’ve been led to believe our genes predetermine the fate of our health, the truth is, with the help of diet and lifestyle, we are actually able to work with our genes to optimize our health. If, that is, we are able to understand them.
A key aspect of epigenetics is the study of single-nucleotide polymorphisms–also known as SNPs. A SNP, essentially, is a variation/mutation in a gene and, despite each of us having over one million SNPs, most don’t significantly affect our health. A few, however, can have a substantial impact.
A variation in the MTHFR gene is one such SNP. And with nearly 30 to 60 percent of people possessing this variant, it’s also the most common. With associated health disorders ranging from Alzheimer’s disease to blood clots to birth defects, determining whether you also have a MTHFR variation could be crucial to improving your health.
Here’s what you need to know:
What is a MTHFR SNP?
The MTHFR gene has a significant impact on both our mental and physical health. The gene’s main role is to aid in producing an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). When we consume leafy greens and other foods containing the nutrient folate, our MTHFR gene converts it into folate’s active form–methylfolate. Methylfolate then initiates the methylation cycle by which our body receives the methyl groups necessary to properly function and perform crucial tasks such as producing DNA, detoxing, and metabolizing hormones.
Variations in this gene may cause significant health issues and affect neurotransmitter levels, hormone levels, digestion, brain chemistry, detoxification, inflammation, antioxidant production and more.
Symptoms of MTHFR SNP
Symptoms of an MTHFR mutation vary substantially from person to person. The severity of symptoms also depends on whether one or two abnormal variants are present (the more variations, the more issues one will experience). The following are some of the health conditions associated with an MTHFR SNP:
Mental health disorders including anxiety, depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia;
Autoimmune diseases such as fibromyalgia;
Colon, bladder, gastric, thyroid, and breast cancer and leukemia;
Digestive issues such as IBS; and
Hormonal issues such as PCOS and male infertility.
Less pressing signs you may have an MTHFR SNP can be expressed via personality traits. Persons with a mutation in this gene often: have a hair-trigger temper, are productive, focused, and alert, often experience moodiness and depression, generally feel/seem tired, and have difficulty falling asleep.
Managing your MTHFR SNP
An MTHFR variation is not a death sentence for your health. In fact, knowing you have this SNP provides you with the opportunity to work with and provide support for your genes to optimize your health. The following are important changes to make if you suspect you have an MTHFR SNP:
Diet: consuming more folate (leafy greens, avocado, and lentils) will support the methylation cycle. Additionally, consuming a wide range of nutrients–especially B vitamins, vitamin D, protein, and magnesium–will help as well.
Reduce stress: high levels of stress can exacerbate MTHFR symptoms. Ensuring you get an adequate amount of restorative sleep is the most crucial step in reducing stress. Also consider meditation, journaling, and spending time in nature.
Chemicals and detoxification: avoiding chemicals and heavy metals will prevent any additional burden on the methylation cycle. Furthermore, supporting the body’s detoxification pathways by eating fiber to keep the bowels regular and exercising to sweat is important as well.
Gut Health: as with just about anything, a healthy gut is imperative to improving methylation.
Supplementation: choose supplements containing methyl-folate (not folic acid) as it helps the body absorb the nutrient more efficiently. It should be noted folic acid is the synthetic form of folate and, when consumed, blocks our body’s folate receptors thereby preventing us from absorbing this crucial vitamin. As such, folic acid should be avoided.
If you believe you may have an MTHFR SNP that may be affecting your overall wellbeing, Total Body Health can help. Utilizing a simple genetic test, we can help identify potential mutations in your genes and teach you how to use diet and lifestyle to optimize your health. Call today for your FREE consultation.