What is MTHFR?
Methyl-tetra-hydro-folate reductase (MTHFR) is an enzyme that adds a methyl-group (CH3)to a form of folate to create methyl-tetra-hydrofolate (MTHF). This process is called methylation. It is essential to many functions in the body, as it allows MTHF to become a major methyl group donor to other nutrients, and allows the cycle of methylation to continue. These nutrients subsequently can donate their methyl groups to allow for many biochemical reactions in the human body to occur. One of the other most important methyl donors is Vitamin B12, which depends on MTHF tobecome methylB12 (methylcobalamin).
We ingest different forms of B12 and folate from our diet and other vitamin products, but they aren’t always the most biochemically ultized form, the methylated forms. If we have the MTHFR enzyme functioning optimally and do not have a gene mutation for this enzyme, then we are making methylfolate.
Some of the functions of methylation include:
- Gene regulation
- Process hormones
- Build immune cells
- Produce energy
- Protect nerve cells
- Production of neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine)
Specific parts of the body commonly affected by methylation involve:
- Immune cells
You have probably been tested for the MTHFR genetic mutation based on your personal and/or family history of disease, and your current symptoms. You are not alone- roughly, 40% of the human population has some form of mutation that codes for this enzyme to work. Different types of gene mutations determine how active this enzyme is, (ie 35% of the time working, or 70% of the time and determines how “well” you are methylating folate). Knowing what form of mutation you have will help guide your practitioner on how best to supplement you.
Correcting your methylation pathways can have significant health benefits related to:
- Sleep disturbance
- Cardiovascular protection
- Chronic pain
If you have a gene mutation for the MTHFR enzyme, there may be side effects with supplementing the methylated folate and/or B12. This is because many of your biochemical pathways that depend on methylation were not working well prior to supplementation, and now they are being forced to work. If you are lacking certain nutrients to support these biochemical reactions, then your body can have side effects.
It is important to let you practitioner know how you respond to your supplementation, so that we can supplement you with other needed nutrients. Some of the side effects may include:
- Sleep disturbance
- Digestive upset
- Detox-like reaction
This article was republished with permission by Dr. Bobbi Lutack of Evergreen Center for Integrated Health.
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