Are you dealing with mood issues? Digestive problems? Hormonal issues? Always seem to catch whatever ‘bug’ is going around? If you answered yes to any or all of the previous questions, there’s a great chance you’re dealing with a methylation issue.
Methylation and MTHFR SNP
Methylation is a process used by our cells to turn certain genes off. Neurotransmitters, hormones, our DNA, proteins and many other bodily substrates are methylated. While the traditional medical establishment would have you believe that the exponential increase in auto-immune, hormonal, and digestive disorders is due to genetics that are out of our control, an emerging field referred to as epigenetics transfers the balance of power back into the patients’ hands by allowing one to bypass any ‘genetic hiccups’ with dietary changes and nutritional supplements. You were probably taught that if you have a genetic defect, there was nothing you can do to alter this situation in your favor. But our genes get switched on and off by environmental cues—stress levels, dietary habits, sleeping patterns, toxin exposure, and many, many others.
One genetic alteration– referred to as a SNP—that can have immense biological implications takes place on the MTHFR, or methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, gene. A SNP is a fancy way of saying that there was a letter switcheroo on that gene. There are two main versions of the MTHFR SNP: C677T and A1298C. The number simply represents the position on the gene where either a C was replaced by a T or an A was replaced by a C. Ultimately, this alteration decreases the efficiency of the enzymatic end-product. In the previous example, that person has a difficult time converting folic acid into methylfolate. Now, there are literally thousands of SNPs in most peoples’ genetic code. So, why is an MTHFR SNP special? It affects pretty much every system of the human body, including:
- Detoxification: may lead to an accumulation of environmental toxins, such as heavy metals
- Hormonal metabolism: may lead to an increase in certain hormonal metabolites
- Neurotransmitter (brain chemicals) production
- T-cell production: these are the cells crucial for proper immune reactions to invading pathogens
- Protection of our DNA: may predispose to certain types of cancer
- Cardiovascular health: may predispose to a heart attack or stroke
- Glutathione production: a decreased level of this molecule leads to increased free radical damage and premature aging
- Thyroid health: the methylated B vitamins are needed to convert T4 to T3
- Pregnancy: You’ve likely heard of women being advised to take folic acid during pregnancy to ensure that their DNA is copied accurately. But if you have one of the MTHFR SNPs, that folic acid supplement may do you more harm than good since you are unable to metabolize it
You can be tested for this MTHFR SNP through your local lab or doctor’s office. However, I highly encourage everyone to do the “23andme” test to look at other potential SNPs that can also impact metabolism. So, what can be done about this, you ask? People who test positive for one or two copies of an MTHFR SNP will benefit from taking L-5 methyltetrahydrofolate, the active form of folic acid, along with vitamin B12 on a daily basis to help bypass this genetic hiccup. I would also recommend working with a holistic health practitioner who is well-versed in epigenetics and how it can influence our biochemistry.
About Dr. Tim Jackson:
Dr. Tim Jackson received his undergraduate degree in Health science and chemistry from Wake Forest University in 2003. He completed his Doctorate in Physical Therapy(DPT) from the Medical University of SC in 2009. Realizing that manual therapy and orthopedic care helped only some of his clients, he began studying functional medicine, digestive health and environmental medicine in an effort to help others achieve wellness. Dr. Tim is educated in nutritional biochemistry, digestive health and its’ systemic effects, as well as functional endocrinology. He recently completed the Spine portion of the Active Release Technique methodology, a system that addresses musculoskeletal trigger points and helps to expedite the healing process. Currently, Dr. Tim is currently working on his Functional Diagnostic Nutritionist certification.
Dr. Jackson trained with Dr. Kendal Stewart, M.D. to learn the far-reaching implications of methylation deficits and their role in Neuro-immune syndromes. He combines his background in integrative health and wellness with the emerging field of epigenetics to help others. He is part of the MTHRSupport group (www.MTHFRSupport.com) of healthcare professionals helping to educate the healthcare community and the public about the role of methylation in both health and dis-ease. Dr. Tim can be reached at drtim072981 (at) gmail (dot) com.