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MTHFR and Your Mental Health

MTHFR has been a common buzzword for the last few years. Many people believe it’s these methylation genes that are responsible for the colossal rise in so many diseases and serious health conditions like:

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Anxiety
Fibromyalgia
Infertility
Multiple Sclerosis
Dementia
Chronic Inflammation
Alzheimer’s
Bipolar Disorder
Blood clots
Stroke
Depression
Chemical Sensitivity
Brain fog
Low energy
ADD/ADHD
Insomnia and other sleep issues
…And many other conditions

While variations in MTHFR genes (or mutations as many know them) can contribute to these serious conditions, they may not be the bad guys or the sole cause of why you may struggle with brain-related issues or other symptoms or conditions.

First, let’s zoom out and look at the bigger picture to understand how the concept of epigenetics works and how to approach using your genetic blueprint as a roadmap in your healing plan of action.

First of all, our genes are not our fate! 

In fact, only 1% of diseases can be blamed on our genetic factors. This means we can no longer blame our genes for our health issues because updated science now proves that 99% of the time, WE HAVE CONTROL OVER HOW OUR GENES FOR WORK FOR OR AGAINST US!


Our thoughts, beliefs, and environment determine how our genes ultimately behave. We CAN learn to control our minds (thoughts), we can change our beliefs when we become aware they may no longer be serving us, and for the most part, we have control over our environment.

This powerful truth puts the sovereignty of our health and healing back into our own hands in a really BIG way!


And second, when it comes to the MTHFR genes, we must look at the bigger picture, not just these two genes, to truly understand how these methylation genes contribute to our wellness or sickness.

Remember, ALL our body cells, tissues, and organ systems work together, and so do many different genes that help direct the functionality of our biology.

There are MANY more methylation genes and other genes we must look at if we want to truly understand how our MTHFR genes may be contributing to an altered biological functionality.

Did you know that your methylation genes drive over 250 chemical reactions in your body?

Your methylation genes are not just responsible for regulating your brain chemistry, hormones, and your detox pathways, they are also responsible for many other biological functions in your body, from your gut health and your red blood cell health to your thyroid function, mitochondrial health, and so much more.

Together your many methylation genes and other genes play a very important role in your health. In fact, your methylation genes can be thought of as your “main engine” that drives all your other genetic engines. However, if some of the other genetic engines also contain variants, sometimes these other genes must be addressed FIRST before you start supporting your methylation genes.

As you can see in the image below, there are more methylation genes than just MTHFR. These all play an important role in your methylation pathways, optimal function of other genes in your body, and the regulation of virtually all your organ systems as well. While the image below does not show every single methylation gene, it gives you an idea of some of the other bigger players in your methylation pathways.

 

This next image shows an example of the COMT gene, one of the many other genes that works closely with the methylation genes. If any of these genes also has variants, these need to be considered as well.

Let’s break down the mechanics of a couple of genes to better understand their individual contributions to our biology and some of the ways they interact with each other that contribute to our overall optimization or lack of wellness.

We’ll start with a gene that has a double mutation, which has the most significant effect of the MTHFR genes, the MTHFR C677T (+/+), also labeled as “homozygous” (shown as +/+).

The homozygous variant of this gene can cause a big change in our body chemistry, specifically in enzyme activity. Enzymes are like the “ingredients” that make chemical reactions happen, so when we think about our body chemistry, enzymes are an important part of that.

MTHFR C677T (+/+) is shown to reduce expected enzyme activity by 70%. The main enzyme affected is TetraHydroBiopterin [BH4], a critical cofactor for making the neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin.

This creates a BIG impact on our normal biochemical reactions in our body and brain. This variation in our genes, if not supported by the right environment and foods, can lead to alterations in mood, attention, pain, sleep, chronic inflammation, and so much more. 

But it doesn’t end there. Once the dopamine is made, some of it stays as dopamine, but some converts to another very important brain chemical called norepinephrine. 

So if the production of dopamine is reduced from the enzyme activity caused by MTHFR C677T [+/+], we can then experience other additional symptoms like increased pain perception or exacerbation of brain-related conditions like mind racing, anxiety, or ADHD.

Another trickle-down effect of the Homozygous MTHFR C677T [+/+] variant is sleep issues. Because of the decrease in the cofactor of the BH4 enzyme which can lead to a decrease in both dopamine and serotonin, we typically also see a decrease in melatonin because melatonin is made from serotonin. When we don’t make enough melatonin, we often see symptoms of poor sleep. Melatonin is not just necessary for good sleep, melatonin also serves as an anti-inflammatory chemical in our bodies. 

What do we do if we are experiencing the trickle-down effects of MTHFR C677T [+/+]?

The answer would be simple if this was the only gene variant that significantly affected our body and brain chemistry! The workaround would be to take L-methyl folate (not regular folate) to help support the poor function of the BH4 enzyme and bypass the slow-functioning MTHFR.

However, a mistake we often see is that our clients are given this supplement, L-methyl folate (5-MTHF) to address their MTHFR C677T +/+, and instead of the person feeling better, they react negatively to it. This is likely because other genes that work closely with the MTHFR genes were not also addressed. 

Many just test for the MTHFR 677 and 1298; if any variants appear, they likely are told to take L-methyl folate (5-MTHF). Sometimes this works, but sometimes people will notice a “sensitivity” and exacerbation of their brain-related symptoms. Why is this? Because there are other genes that also need to be addressed! This is why looking only at the MTHFR genes doesn’t always work. 

If taking L-methyl Folate [5-MTHF] bothers you and causes anxiety, depression, nervousness, or even paranoia, then you likely have some other genes that must be looked at and addressed too. 

For example, the COMT gene may have a variant in it that is causing reactions or side effects. 

If COMT is the issue, you’re likely to have a slow-functioning COMT variant that can block up your COMT enzyme with SAH, which is the body’s master methyl donor and is what is left over after SAMe (an important compound naturally found in your body) gives away its methyl group as a part of its normal chemical reaction in your body. 

SAH essentially blocks up COMT from breaking down dopamine and converting it over to norepinephrine. 

To make this simpler, if you have a COMT variant, this can lead to higher levels of dopamine which can cause increased anxiety, mind racing, sleep issues, nervousness, etc. So as you can see, it’s not always just an MTHFR issue that can cause brain-related symptoms. 

If COMT is indeed a factor, then specific supplementation would need to be added to first correct the problem related to the slow COMT enzyme. For example, taking Niacin or NAD+ can help support the COMT gene variant so that the L-methyl Folate doesn’t cause a problem. 

As you can see in the above image, there are other therapeutics that can support COMT as well. Working with a practitioner who understands the mechanics of how to look at and support the body and brain based on comprehensive genetic testing will help you determine which therapeutics would work best for you. 

This is an example of why you want to look at a broader picture of methylation genes as well as the other genes that interact directly with the methylation genes so that you can understand what supplementation will really help you. 

And let’s remember not to get too deep into the weeds… we also want to look at other biomarkers in the body, not just the genes! 

There can also be other reasons why a person may not be able to tolerate L-methyl Folate if they have the MTHFR C677T [+/+] variant. 


Toxic mold and certain bacterial overgrowth in the body could also be a reason why one might not get the expected result when supplementing for MTHFR C677T [+/+]. 


Why is this? Because just like SAH (the byproduct of SAMe) can prevent dopamine from converting to norepinephrine, leading to excess dopamine in the brain and causing various symptoms and conditions, toxic mold and certain strains of clostridia bacterial overgrowth can also do the same. 

This is why looking at a much broader picture and using a methodical approach to uncovering all root causes of symptoms or illnesses leads to better outcomes for recovering health. 

Even if someone cannot afford to do all the testing, broader all-encompassing approaches like the ones we have developed will work for most people. 

For example, when our clients work with us in our programs, we not only address any possibility of the MTHFR gene variants, but we also have other supplement ingredients in our protocols to address any possibility of other genes that might need to be addressed. 

In addition, the ingredients that are contained in our proven supplement protocols not only address the functionality of the most common gene variants but also support multiple other cells, tissues, and organ systems in the body for detoxification, inflammation reduction, mitochondrial support, gut support, and healing. 

If you want to know more about epigenetics, MTHFR, and other causes of dopamine or serotonin imbalances and what approaches or testing you can do to learn more about your own unique “genetic blueprint,” schedule an appointment with one of our biological coaches by going to our website, www.modernholistichealth.com, and clicking on “Work With Us.”

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