The MTHFR gene is part of your DNA. It tells your cells to make an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. Say what!!! Methyl-en-tetra-hydro-folate reductase. That’s a mouthful! So what’s the big whoop? Well 40% of the general population have at least one form of MTHFR mutation to their DNA.
This enzyme plays a critical role in processing folate (vitamin B9). It’s an important step in the methylation pathway. The methylation pathway is a multistep process that converts folate into the active form your body can use. The MTHFR enzyme converts a molecule called 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate to the active usable form for the cell called 5-methyltetrahydrofolate. This is not the same as Folic Acid. Folic acid is the pharmaceutical form of folate, meaning it’s synthetic. In certain individuals with an MTHFR gene mutation, when folic acid is ingestion it is actually blocking the body’s natural ability to uptake folate.
The problem lies in when you have a MTHFR gene mutation. Unfortunately, you won’t become a member of the X-Men, but a gene mutation can cause problems with your methylation pathway and function.
A gene mutation is a permanent change in your DNA (you get ½ chromosomes from mom & ½ of your chromosomes from dad). However, if there’s damage or alteration to the joining of those chromosomes (Hereditary mutations), you grow with a mutation to that chromosome. Another form of mutation is called an Acquired mutation from environmental exposure (UV exposure, chemicals, vaccines, radiation, etc). This occurs some time during a person’s life and usually results in a mistake made as the DNA is copying itself during cell division. There are several types of MTHFR gene mutations that are to extensive to dive into, but you can check out MTHFR.net and check them out. You can also check out the U.S. National Library of Medicine for more information on single neuclotide polymorphisms A.K.A. SNP’s (pronounced snips).
Why is Methylation Important???
Methylation is a multistep process essential to the functioning of your body systems and cells. Methylation is responsible for making, maintaining, and repairing your DNA. It regulates turning on and off genes like a light switch. When functioning properly, your good genes will stay on and your bad genes will stay off. Bad genes? What are you talking about here? We don’t want to trigger genes that can cause cancer, neurological illnesses, mental health issues, etc.
Ok, let’s break it down…Methylation defects can cause the following issues:
- Infertility/recurrent miscarriages
- Neurotube defects
- Parkinson’s Disease
- Alzheimer’s Disease
- Memory loss
- Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder
- Certain Cancers
- Cardiovascular Disease/Stroke
- Inflammatory Bowel Diseases
Having a well-functioning methylation pathway helps the body to:
- Detoxify toxins out of the cells
- Detoxify heavy metals out of the cells
- Decreasing inflammation
- Help nerves to communicate faster
- Neurotransmitter synthesis
Two important things I would do…First schedule an appointment with a functional practitioner who can help you figure out if you have one of the MTHFR gene mutations and how you can support your methylation, ultimately functioning and feeling better. Check out MTHFR.net for resources.
Second thing…examine your lifestyle and genetics. You are in control of the “light switch” of your genes. Take control of your life and choose wellness!