Managing MTHFR and Other Methylation Mutations

The MTHFR Gene Mutation, along with several other methylation cycle mutations, are now thought to be the underlying factor of numerous health conditions plaguing our society. Ever wonder why Autism, ADHD, and depression are on the rise? Why does cancer seem to be so prevalent? What’s causing the drastic increase in Alzheimer’s, dementia, and MS? Why do some develop scoliosis or severe arthritis? Why is the western society hit so hard with osteoporosis? Is there a medical explanation for miscarriages? Why is it that everyone I know is battling Hashimoto? What causes birth defects (tied tongue, cleft lip/palate, congenital heart disease, spina bifida, anencephaly, Down Syndrome, etc)? The answer to these questions is now thought to be directly related to our body’s ability  (or inability) to complete the methylation cycle. Want to understand the science behind this, then read this post for a quick review of biology and the life of our cells (wikipedia version) and watch this video. For a quick tutorial on the Physical Signs of Methylation, watch this video.

The harsh reality for carriers of these mutations is that individuals with an active mutation are hindered from naturally detoxing environmental toxins, causing a gradual accumulation of heavy metals, pesticides, and the like. They in turn trigger an immune response that shows up in one or more of the conditions previously mentioned. This is scary stuff, and yet manageable if not preventable all together. Be diligent. Educate yourself. Believe in finding answers. Don’t stop searching for your cure! Watch Understanding MTHFR for a very easy to follow overview of what MTHFR is and how we can adjust our lives to manage it well.

* How do I know if I have a Methylation Cycle Mutation?

If you haven’t already collected your genetic data through your doctor or 23andme.com, you will want to do that soon. Genetic testing through your doctor may be very expensive, depending on how much of it is covered by your insurance company. Paying for these tests through your doctor range from $300-1200. There’s a cheaper option, and it’s through 23andme.com. For $99 you can do your own testing and acquire your own methylation report using KnowYourGenetics. Once you have your methylation report, you can start researching the variants that may impact your life, making lifestyle choices that are best for you.

* How do I know if my Methylation Cycle Mutation is active?

That’s a very good question, and currently there are no specific tests available to actually check for this. But, there are a few indicators and symptoms you and your doctor can watch for in your blood work and regular physical exam.

Blood work:
Because the these mutations impair the methylation cycle, we can look at the homocysteine, cystathionine, taurine, ammonia, adenosine,  B12, and D3 levels in the blood. If your blood work shows any of these to be too high or low, your doctor should investigate, may suggest supplements, and you should strongly consider adopting more lifestyle changes to assist your body in detoxing. (See suggestions below.)

Symptoms/Conditions:
There are numerous symptoms that may indicate you have an active methylation mutation and some general practitioners are urging patients to get tested if they have a digestive disorder (bloating, inflammation, IBS, Crohns, difficulty digesting specific foods, constipation, long-term diarrhea, etc.) or a history of pregnancy related complications including miscarriages. Additional illnesses/conditions resulting from these active mutations include Autism, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Fibromyalgia, Birth Defects, Down Syndrome, Multiple Sclerosis, Alzheimer’s, Bipolar Disorder, Blood Clots, Stroke, Chemical Sensitivity, Depression, Hyperactivity, Osteoporosis, Arthritis, Scoliosis, Brain Fog, etc. See the Helpful Resources section at the bottom of the page to read more about how these conditions are related to methylation cycle gene mutations.

* What can I do to manage my active methylation mutations?

There are several factors involved in helping maintain an active mutation including our diet, supplements, routine blood work, minimizing pesticide and environmental toxins, healing our gut, avoiding fluoride and heavy metals, and actively seeking to detox our bodies. Regardless of whether or not your mutations are active, it is in your best interest to adopt these changes in your lifestyle now.

Diet:
1. Avoid eating conventionally grown or GMO foods as they may be very high in pesticides. The EWG has wonderful consumer guides to help you choose foods that are low in pesticides. Ideally, you should focus on eating organically raised foods.

2. Avoid any and all exposure to synthetic folate, known as folic acid. This is found in supplements and vitamins, protein shakes or meal replacement powders, snack foods, cereals, store bought OJ and other juices, etc. The only folate you should be consuming is what is naturally found in fresh produce by eating the actual (unprocessed) fruit/vegetable.

5. Avoid any and all fluoride. This includes city drinking water that is fortified, which is likely used to make bottled beverages. To avoid fluoridated water, you will need to purchase a reverse osmosis filtration system for your home or purchase filtered water from your local dispensary. Primo and Glacier offer dispensers in stores through the country. Fluoride is also added to many dental hygiene items, so check your current products and make some switches. Suggested toothpastes are Toms w/o fluoride and Young Living Thieves Toothpastes.

4. Eating a diet consisting of foods low in methionine is optimal so that your methylation cycle is not hindered by an overload of methionine. Note a serving of top round beef is 0.912g, chicken breast has 0.859g ,whole milk has 0.075g, romaine lettuce has 0.015g, and a raw apple has .003g methionine. You can check the methionine level of foods using TITI Tudorancea Nutrition. The amount of methionine you can tolerate may be dependent on how active your mutation is. For help in adopting a low methionine diet, use the 80/10/10 Diet or the Alkalizing Cleanse.

5. If you absolutely cannot eat a low methionine diet, then you will need to work with your medical doctor to determine the level of methylfolate supplement right for you. Note: Most doctors currently work on the principle that MTHFR patients must take a prescription strength methylfolate. This supplement is expensive, typically not covered by insurance, and is very strong. They currently fail to realize the connection between the methionine levels in our diet and the amount of methylfolate needed. Please work with your doctor to slowly increase the amount of methylfolate taken until you find your optimal level. This may take time, and like thyroid meds, will be a guessing game. Also note that if your mutation activity should change (becoming more/less active), the amount of methylfolate needed will change. If this is the route you wish to pursue, please read about its side effects so you are ready to counter them as best as possible.

Supplements:
1. Use Dr. Yasko’s KnowYourGenetics Feel Good Methylation Report for a general list of suggested supplements based on your genetics as a guide for selecting supplements you and your physician choose to add to your diet. Note: You will not need all of the supplements listed. Please read the Feel Good Companion Guide and the Genetic Bypass for a better understanding.

2. You will want to work with your doctor to monitor and check your B12 and D3 levels. Active mutations tend to deplete these which cause a whole list of debilitating conditions. If you are using a low methionine diet, then you will most definitely need to supplement. The Global Healing Center and HolisticHeal.com have high quality options as well as wonderful YouTube educational videos to help you understand the dangers of not supplementing (B12 and D3). Please reference your methylation report and Dr. Yasko’s texts to select the best B12 for your genetic make-up. Not everyone is able to tolerate the same form of B12, and selecting the right one can be critical.

3. As mentioned in the Diet section, you may also need a methylfolate or folinic acid supplement to help your methylation cycle work efficiently. Please work with your medical doctor to determine how much you need. Note: Methylfolate has a risk for harsh side effects.

4. There are additional supplements, not directly related to managing these gene mutations that you may need, especially if you are following a low methionine diet. They include Zinc, Spirulina, L-glutamine, and a strong probiotic. The later two aid in the healing of the gut, which is believed to be a focal point in managing our overall health.

Let’s talk about Zinc. Our Zinc and Copper levels need to be in balance with one another. Low methionine diets tend to provide us with an overload of Copper and thus, not enough Zinc to balance it. You can check your ratios by using Cronometer.com to track your food/nutrient intake. If your Copper levels are not equal to your Zinc levels, you will want to supplement. Not supplementing can result in hair loss, a weakened immune system, leaky gut, allergies, diarrhea, etc. Additionally, if you should happen to be dealing with an Epstein-Barr Virus that’s wreaking havoc on your body, Zinc is listed as one of the recommended supplements to help kill it. Likewise, so is Spirulina.

Routine Blood Work:
Individuals who know they are carries for mutations of the methylation cycle should plan to have routine blood work done to help them monitor their homocysteine, B12, and D3 levels. Your doctor may also choose to monitor your thyroid and hormones. Work with them and be diligent. Catching a deficiency or high/low level of homocysteine may save your life and prevent a major medical condition from developing.

Minimizing Pesticides and Environmental Toxins:
If you are actively mutating and your methylation cycle is hindered, you no longer have the ability to naturally detox from the exposure of pesticides and other environmental toxins. This means you will need to do everything you can to avoid unnecessary exposure.

1. Replace shampoo with a baking soda and water mix. (1 cup water per tbsp baking soda)

2. Replace conditioner with a vinegar and water mix. (3 tbsp water and 3 tbsp vinegar)

3. Replace household cleaners with a vinegar and water mix. (1 part water to 1 part vinegar)

4. Avoid all exposure of your food to plastics. Use glass or stainless steel for your water/beverages. Avoid non-stick pans and replace them with cast iron. Avoid canned foods as they are coated with plastic to prevent rusting. Avoid cartons of liquid foods such as broth, juice, milk, etc. as they too are coated with plastic on the interior. This will be a difficult one when eating out as many restaurants are using canned or pre-packaged ingredients that are quick and ready to serve. Just be as diligent as you can. Use glass gallon size containers for purchasing filtered water. They can be easily acquired from a home brew supply store for about $5.

5. Avoid all exposure to aluminum with food/beverages and in your hygiene products. Use parchment paper instead of aluminum foil. Avoid all canned foods and beverages. Change your deodorant to one that is coconut oil and baking soda based. Schmidt’s has a great product, and Lucky’s keeps it in stock.

6. Choose to eat organic foods or conventional foods that are low in pesticides like melons.

7. Choose natural/non-toxic pesticides for managing your home and yard.

8. Avoid vaccinations that contain heavy metals and any pollutants that cause you to have concern regarding their ingredients. Dr. Lynch’s recommendations are posted on his website where he states he does not recommend any infant/child to receive vaccinations if they are homozygous MTHFR. Remember the MMR and flu vaccines are known for adverse reactions. Talk to a MTHFR knowledgeable doctor about what is best for you and your family. Do you own research and become educated on the topic. Choose what is best for you based on your situation.

9. Make your own laundry/dish soap or buy safe cleaning products from Young Living or Seventh Generation.

10. Purchase chemical free personal hygiene products such as Seventh Generation’s pads and tampons or use a menstrual cup.

11. Have your mercury fillings replaced with a non-toxic filling and avoid root canals.

12. Do daily oil pulling for 10-20 minutes. Bonus, it will naturally whiten your teeth too!

13. Replace beauty products (lotions, make-up, creams, sunscreens) with an EWG approved product or make your own. A simple and effective body lotion and face cream can be made using a high quality coconut oil or EVOO and a few drops of your favorite essential oils. Saporito offers the highest quality of Olive Oils available in town. Young Living offers the highest quality of essential oils. (Use 1 cup coconut or EVOO and 3-10 drops of Lavendar, Frankincense, Grapefruit, and/or Lemon oil.)

14. Replace the use of sunscreens with rash guards. Remember, SPF 30 UVA/UVB is the best. When rash guards are wet, their SPF protection factor decreases. Make the best choices you can with what is available.

Actively Detoxing the Body:
Following all of the suggestions listed above is a huge step in the right direction towards helping your body detox. The Gerson Therapy and the 80-10-10 Diets are excellent methods to help your body do the majority of the detoxing needed. Taking a focused approach towards healing your gut will allow the body to begin detoxing. Sweating and dry-brushing are additional activities that aid the body in the detoxing process. You may also want to actively work to do a liver and kidney cleanse.

Healing the Gut:
The absolute first step in healing your gut is to adopt an anti-inflammatory cleansing diet consisting of foods that are alkaline during digestion. As mentioned several times above, the 80-10-10 and Alkalizing Cleanse diets are the best option and will provide the quickest healing.

Inflammatory foods wreak havoc on our gut and eventually trigger other conditions that are quite painful and challenging to live with such as arthritis, IBS, Crohn’s, Hashimoto, and many others. The short list of these foods to avoid includes fats/oils, meat/eggs, casein/dairy, gluten/wheat, sugar, artificial sweeteners, soy, nuts, coffee/caffeine, alcohol, seasoning mixes, food coloring, and MSG. Depending on the actual condition of your colon, you may or may not be able to tolerate cooked foods. As Dr. Klein suggests in Alkalizing Cleanse, you will simply need to invest in healing your gut before slowly trying to reintroduce foods to determine if they are a trigger for you. Some people are highly sensitive and live on a more strict version of the 80-10-10 by pushing to a 90-5-5 diet, for short periods of time (1-4 weeks), providing them with the highest level of detox. Note: Ibuprofen (and other similar pain relievers) should also be avoided as they destroy the intestinal wall, weakening it until it is brittle. 

The second step is to add L-glutamine (500 mg daily or as advised by your doctor) and a strong probiotic (40-80 billion cultures daily or as advised by your doctor), as previously mentioned. This is a key components for healing your gut. Prior to taking your probiotic, it is advised to prep the stomach by eating a prebiotic. An 80-10-10 approved prebiotic is ripe bananas. Consider eating 2 ripe bananas just before taking your probiotic.

The third step, which may not be an option for everyone, is to drink Alkaline Water. Some choose to buy the system for their home. That’s great if you can afford to do it. Others find it at their local health food store. Earth Origins is such a store, offering reverse osmosis filtered alkaline water.

Helpful Resources:

Guide to Nutrigenomic Testing

Autism: Pathways to Recovery by Dr. Yasko

Methylation for Dummies

Dr. Ben Lynch – MTHFR Mutations and the Conditions They Cause

Reversing Auto-Immune Disease and Healing the Thyroid

Beginner’s Guide to MTHFR

Depression and the Methylation Cycle

Genetics Home Reference – MTHFR

Genetics Home Reference – Help Me Understand Genetics

MTHFR Living – Preparing for Pregnancy

Fruity Healing

Raw Food Romance

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