As sisters we share a lot of things: childhood memories, a business, our families, and our gene mutations. That’s what I’m here to talk to you about today. One gene specifically, called MTHFR, which stands for Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase.
The mutation can come from one or both parents. If you only have it from one parent (heterozygous) you are less likely like to experience health issues. However, if you have it from both parents (homozygous), it may lead to more serious problems. We hit the jackpot and have it from both parents. 40% of the world’s population has some sort of mutation on this gene and don’t know it.
So why should you care if you have it?
A lot of unexplainable health issues can be traced back to this gene. This is the gene responsible for converting folic acid into a usable form of folate. Many of our foods are enriched with folic acid. In fact, our government mandates that most of our grains such as flour, rice, pasta, and cereal have folic acid added to it. Additionally, since introducing this into our grains in the United States there has been some confusion between the words folic acid and folate.
Folic Acid vs. Folate
Many nutritional labels use them interchangeably, but they are not interchangeable. Folate is naturally occurring in spinach, kale, greens, and many other foods that come from the earth. Folic acid is a manmade, synthetic vitamin added to processed foods. For some of the population this is fine, as they can convert the synthetic folic acid through a process called methylation into folate and their bodies benefit from the nutrients.
Unfortunately, the 40% of the population that have this gene mutation are not able to methylate the folic acid into a usable form of folate. Plus, all of that folic acid floating around waiting in vain to be converted is actually blocking the receptors for natural folate.
This means someone could be taking a multivitamin or eating a bowl of cereal that has folic acid in it thinking they’re doing something good for their body, while in reality that folic acid is blocking the receptors from receiving the nutrients from the spinach they just ate and not giving them the nutrients from the folic acid because they are incapable of converting it to a usable form for their body. Bottom line: folic acid blocks your body from receiving the nutrients from folate.
So what happens if you have this gene mutation?
Your body is treating synthetic folic acid as a toxin. This means all of the other toxins in your life such as alcohol, beauty products, and household cleaners are not processed through your system as efficiently.
Many experts believe the following conditions can be caused by the MTHFR gene mutation:
Cardiovascular and thromboembolic diseases (specifically blood clots, stroke, embolism, and heart attacks)
Chronic pain and fatigue
Recurrent miscarriages in women of child-bearing age
Pregnancies with neural tube defects, like Spina bifida and Anencephaly
For me, I had severe stomach issues and my skin was covered in cystic acne. I tried eliminating different foods from my diet, had endoscopies and a colonoscopy and still couldn’t find the cause. Meanwhile through all of the diets and elimination, I kept taking my multivitamin. It turns out that was the culprit. Finally, one of the many specialists suggested a test for this gene mutation and his theory was correct.
So what do we do about it?
We do not eat any foods enriched with synthetic folic acid. This means that when it comes to cereal, pasta, rice, and flour (and anything made with flour) we make sure that the label does not say enriched and does not list folic acid as an ingredient. We have found imported or organic products are usually safe. We take a specific multivitamin that has folate (or L-Methylfolate) instead of folic acid. We try as hard as we can to stay away from unnecessary toxins.
I’m not a doctor.
I will wrap this up with a HUGE disclaimer: I am not a doctor or a scientist. I have done my very best to try to explain this and I am still a little uncertain if my terminology or explanation of the methylation process is 100% accurate. So if you read this and have something to add or correct, I would welcome the feedback.
We would also love to hear from anyone else that has experience with MTHFR. We hope maybe this can help someone who is struggling with unidentified health or skin issues. We encourage you to ask your doctor to test you for this genetic mutation and do not accept a test for folic acid or folate because people with MTHFR will more than likely test high for these nutrients due to the rogue folic acid floating around in the bloodstream. If you have any questions, we are always happy to communicate with people directly.
Folic acid fortification in foods became required in the United States in 1998. Some studies indicate a rise in autism beginning in the year 2000. You are three times more likely to be diagnosed with an autoimmune disease now than you were 20 years ago. Cancer and infertility diagnoses have skyrocketed. Could there be a relation here? Could pumping synthetic vitamins into our food be a mistake? What do you think?