With new genetic testing available at our fingertips, more people are uncovering gene mutations like MTHFR. Here’s what to do if you’re one of them.
About one-third of the world’s population has the MTHFR gene mutation, putting them at risk for problems like anxiety, metabolic dysfunction, digestive health issues, cancer, and infertility. (1, 2, 3, 4)
Here’s what it means to have the MTHFR gene mutation, and why you’ll want to avoid folic acid if you have it.
Fight inflammation and create easy, healthy meals! We've created a FREE 7-Day AIP Meal Plan
Get Your FREE 7-Day AIP Meal Plan here.
What is the MTHFR Gene Mutation?
In order to understand the MTHFR mutation, it’s important to understand the role that this particular gene plays in the body.
The MTHFR gene helps the body convert folic acid into its active form, methyl-folate. Methyl folate plays a huge role in your overall health; supporting detoxification, hormone balance, and metabolism. (5, 6, 7)
This gene is also responsible for helping the body break down an amino acid called homocysteine. When you have the MTHFR gene mutation, your body is unable to properly break down built up homocysteine, which can lead to high blood pressure, an increased risk of stroke, and problems with the eyes, joints, and cognition. (8)
When it comes to the MTHFR gene mutation, there are two particular variations that cause the biggest issues: A1298C and C677T. It’s possible to have a mutation in both variations.
Signs and Symptoms of the MTHFR Gene Mutation
There can be a number of different symptoms associated with the MTHFR gene mutation, and many of them are vague and can be linked to any health condition. This is why this gene mutation often goes undetected.
- Anxiety or depression
- Difficulty falling pregnant
- High blood pressure
- Low folate levels
How to Verify That You Have the Mutation
Genetic home testing is readily available, and many can detect an MTHFR gene mutation. One of the most popular options is 23andme. You can also ask your doctor to run a blood test and check for your homocysteine levels.
The Dangers of Folic Acid with MTHFR
Since the MTHFR gene helps the body convert folic acid into its active form, problems can arise if you have the mutation and your body cannot make this conversion.
When it comes to understanding the difference between folate and folic acid, it’s important to know that the body can use folate even in the case of an MTHFR gene mutation, but not folic acid. Here’s the difference between the two: Folate is a water-soluble B vitamin that helps with the production of red blood cells in the body and plays a super important role in preventing birth defects. (17) Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate that is commonly found in supplements.
If you have the MTHFR mutation, your body is not able to convert folic acid into usable methyl-folate. This can lead to a buildup of folic acid in the body, causing cardiovascular and other health issues. (18, 19) Because your detoxification process is also compromised, the body is also unable to get rid of the excess folic acid. That’s why it’s so important to avoid folic acid supplements – your body is taxed enough!
How to Avoid Folic Acid – and Get More Folate Instead
Since it’s important to avoid folic acid with the MTHFR mutation, it’s important that you check the label on all of your supplements. Folic acid is commonly included in multivitamins and prenatal vitamins. You will also want to check the label of your protein powder, fortified dairy-free milk, cereals, bread, pastas, rice, and even nutritional yeast.
Instead, look for supplements that contain methyl-folate, which is sometimes listed as 5-MTHF. Some excellent brand options include Seeking Health and Jarrow Formulas.
Be sure to get lots of folate-rich foods in your diet as well. Any of the following are excellent options:
Foods in their natural state like the ones listed above are going to ensure that you are getting folate. So, stick to as many whole foods that are rich in folate and steer clear of anything that says “fortified with folic acid”.
Since your detoxification process is compromised with the MTHFR mutation, it’s not a bad idea to get lots of naturally detoxifying foods into your diet. Try any of these:
- Bell peppers
Natural Treatment Options for MTHFR
While there’s no way to rid your body of the MTHFR gene mutation, there are some steps you can take to better support your body through proper detoxification. Try any of these natural treatment options to best support your unique health needs:
Boost Gut Health
Those that have the MTHFR gene mutation are likely to have digestive issues. Support the gut with probiotic-rich foods like sauerkraut, kimchi, kombucha, and full-fat unsweetened coconut milk yogurt. This might help improve symptoms while making it easier for your body to use dietary folate.
Supplement with Folate
If you take a multivitamin or prenatal vitamins, make sure your supplement contains the active form of folate, 5-MTHF, and not folic acid.
Get Enough B12
The MTHFR gene mutation might also predispose you to lower levels of vitamin B12. (20) You can take a B12 supplement, or eat more eggs, pasture-raised animal products, and add nutritional yeast to your diet. Just be sure that the nutritional yeast you choose contains folate and not folic acid, and when taking a B12 supplement, choose methylated B12.
Help your body detox better by exercising, taking Epsom salt baths, reducing stress, drinking plenty of water, and eating a clean diet.
The Bottom Line
While the MTHFR gene mutation often comes with a handful of symptoms, diet and lifestyle play a huge role in how it affects your body. While you can’t change the genes you have been born with, you can support your body by eliminating all supplements and fortified foods that contain folic acid, eating more folate-rich foods, reducing stress, and getting lots of exercise. The better you practice self-care, the better your chances of minimizing the health effects of the MTHFR gene mutation.
(Read This Next: Nutrigenomics – Discovering What Your Genes Want to Eat)