Are You A Mutant?

Mutants do exist! I’m one, but not in the extraordinary sense of the word that I have these superhuman powers meant to fight the dark forces of evil- how I wish! Quite the opposite, being a mutant most often rendered me powerless of my super human strength, and the villains were the symptoms that robbed me of my way of life.

For the record, I’m not… really… a mutant, but I do have some mutations (or transcriptions errors) in my DNA that affect my ability to detoxify my body. It’s called an MTHFR genetic mutation. Personally, the best way I remember it is this: The “Mother-Effer” gene. Why? Because dealing with this mutation cost me money, time, and plenty of confusion and pain when it came to pinpointing the actual health problem.


What is the MTHFR Gene?

Based on what I’ve researched, we are all carriers of this gene in our DNA, but for some reason, 40% -50% of the world’s population, especially if you are not Caucasian, have the mutation. This doesn’t mean that everyone will experience health problems. Certain lifestyle habits like chronic stress, emotional overeating, the consumption of certain foods can trigger the symptoms mentioned on my first post and will create a toxic environment in the body that can lead to symptoms like inflammation as the ones I described on my previous post. As I started learning more about MTHFR, I found it difficult to make sense of my sources. Many had enough technical terms in them that made my head spin. It seemed like every time I read something new on the topic, I needed to reach for a medical science dictionary just to make sense of it, as most of the information I found was geared for scientists and medical professionals. If you've found this to be true in your situation, hopefully, this post will help explain what this gene does in layman’s terms.


MTHFR Function

According to the Genetics Home Reference, the MTHFR gene provides instructions to make an enzyme. This enzyme’s job is to assist in the processing of certain amino acids, particularly homocysteine, which is needed to make methionine.[1] Homocysteine is a naturally occurring amino acid that is vital to life, but when there is an excess amount of it in the body, the arteries damage, plaques form, and that condition can lead to other degenerative diseases that can be devastating to our health.[2] Excess levels of homocysteine keeps B-vitamins from getting absorbed into the body as well. This also decreases the levels of methionine in the body. Methionine is essential for protein production, utilization of antioxidants, and uses your liver to process fats.[3] It also helps with depression, reduces inflammation and is essential to hormone production (211).


MTHFR Mutation

When there is a mutation in the gene (currently there are 40 known mutations), there isn’t enough folate in the body to create the chemical reaction that will process homocysteine properly, and people with this problem may develop some or all of the following symptoms illustrated in the picture to our right. My doctor best explained it this way: imagine that every car runs on 4 cylinders to run efficiently. Most people with an MTHFR mutation are running on 3 cylinders, so there are bound to be some problems with the engine, depending on how hard you’re running it and what type of fuel you are putting into your engine, which is why I have to be very wary of what I’m putting into my own body and ensure that I also manage my stress levels.

Folic Acid vs. Folate

So what’s the solution to all this? Well, while there is no simple answer. After all, the study of genetics and how it contributes to illness is still at the cusp of new discoveries and is consistently changing. There are some things, however, that I have done that seem to be getting me on the right track to healing like: Restoring my sleep was the first step; balancing my hormones was another; then came reducing stress, eating better, controlling negative emotional responses, and even changing the type of exercise I engaged in (all of which I promise to talk about on future posts). It's important to note that all these actions are interrelated and each one contributes to a state of balance when achieving good health. Additionally, the big game changer was getting the right type of supplementation for my condition. 

After getting tested for this mutation, my doctor prescribed me L-Methylfolate, and that REALLY helped. It is still unclear as to why L-Methylfolate helps some and doesn’t with others, but it seems that people with the C77T mutation heterozygous seem to fare much better. It made a HUGE difference with me, because I noticed that it curbed food cravings, perhaps because it opened pathways to get the nutrition I needed, since I never really felt satiated when I ate and I would end up over eating instead.  As a plus, when I’m on this supplement, I don’t feel the need to take a mid-afternoon nap in order to get through the day. I have to eat well, of course, with foods that are rich in folate, and ensure that I’m also eliminating what I eat. To put this bluntly, the more I poop, the better I feel when it comes to my energy levels. So I’ve noticed a significant improvement by taking this supplement. One important thing to note is not to confuse folate with folic acid, since folic acid is a synthetic, man-made substance and for people with an MTHFR mutation, it can actually build up in the system and may be harmful.[4] With that in mind, many of our vitamins, food and grains are fortified or enriched with folic acid, so that’s something I look for and try to avoid when I go shopping. 

My Homemade California Roll:
Future blog posts will include
recipes to homemade foods featured
on this blog!
Also, I’ve made a HUGE lifestyle change by ensuring that I cook everything from scratch as much as I can, even dabble in container gardening so that I’m growing my own fresh herbs and vegetables. This way, I know exactly what I’m putting into my foods, and that I am not consuming excess chemicals my body does not need. I’m even leery with nutritional supplements as some may contain synthetic sugars or ingredients that I may not be able to eliminate. If we go out to eat, my family and I have a list of restaurants in my city that offers organic food choices or freshly cooked meals. I will be addressing more of that in future posts, as well as discuss what foods rich in folate are helping me with this problem. I will mention that some do well taking active, methylated B vitamins, and while I have tried the sublingual kind, I felt like I needed to take several throughout the day just to feel the way I did with taking one L-Methylfolate pharmaceutical grade, prescribed by my doctor, so I’m going to stick with that for now. Since my vitamin D levels were low, I'm also on 50,000 unit capsules of vitamin D2, and I supplement with DHA oils to help with my inflammation. Magnesium, SAM-E and probiotics assist me with detoxification, but I will discuss those supplements at length on another post as well. The main thing I wanted to mention was that L-Methylfolate, or Deplin, as it is also called, helped tremendously with my general overall feeling of wellness. 
Delicious Lemongrass Chicken:
Recipe will also be featured on
future blog posts

Getting Tested

So you’re probably wondering, “How do I know if I have this mutation?” The answer is that it can be found in a blood test. I stumbled onto this information when my doctor suggested that I test my kiddo for an MTHFR mutation. She began to exhibit symptoms of ADHD, and my doctor informed me that there seemed to be a correlation with children who were carriers of this gene and those who had ADHD. When she tested positive, he also knew enough to run a test on me considering that I had already been through a host of tests from previous doctors for rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, Celiac disease, Hypothyroidism and they had all come back negative, despite the fact that I was experiencing symptoms like joint pain, inflammation, chronic fatigue syndrome, memory loss, and irritable bowel syndrome. 

On a side note, and I don’t know if anyone else has experienced this, but when my kid is on L-Methylfolate, she goes through a growth spurt, her nails and hair seems to grow at a faster rate, and she doesn’t seem as anxious or emotional as to when she is not taking it. This could be a placebo affect to seeing changes in my child, so I'm leery of saying this, but I have noticed that my nails are not as brittle and my hair feels thicker. Take that information with a grain of salt. I will say that this pill is not cheap, which is why I held off as long as I did to get mine, but it was completely worth it.

So, there it is… MTHFR explained. If there are doctors knowledgeable about this mutation who are reading this, who feel I missed something, please feel free to chime in. As I mentioned on my first post, I’m a patient on the road to recovery and learning more and more about restoring my health each day. This journey to healing has been challenging, but I’ve been through much worse, and I’m determined to get back to myself again, stronger and healthier—one day at a time, one step at a time. Not bad for a forty-six-year-old mutant.







[1] https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/MTHFR#resources
[2] Frankel Ph. D, Paul. The Mehthylation Miracle: Unleashing Your Body’s Natural Sources of SAM-e. St. Martin’s Paperbacks, 2014, pg. 214, 285.
[3] Purser M.D., Dan. The 85% Solution: MTHFR is Overpowering Our Medical System- Chances Are You Have It Too. Medutainment, Inc. and DP Publishing, 2016, pg. 205
[4] http://mthfrliving.com/health-tips/mthfr-avoid-folic-acid-in-food/

Comments

  1. I found this article on Consumer Reports about this over use of supplementation, particularly those dealing with weight loss and body building. I don't know if this is the case for everyone, but I noticed a significant improvement in health when I cut down to minimal supplementation use. I generally stick to using only the ones I mentioned on this article. It makes sense, however, that if the people with an MTHFR mutation are already struggling to detoxify the body, then an excess of supplementation may be making it more difficult for the liver to process such supplements. Just something to think about if you are taking massive doses of supplements.

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    1. I forgot to link the Consumer Reports article: http://www.consumerreports.org/health/liver-damage-from-supplements-is-on-the-rise/

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