Understanding MTHFR

Many diseases including depression, heart disease, and Alzheimer’s disease have been linked to faulty methylation. This is a chemical process happening within our cells at a pretty constant rate – about a billion times per second. Poor methylation may be a contributing factor not only in chronic disease, but also in birth defects of the brain and spine that occur early in pregnancies (neural tube defects), which have been traced to folic acid deficiencies.

In order to understand what’s happening in our bodies, we have to take a look at what’s happening in our cells.  A lot of work happens converting food to energy and clearing out toxins within our cells. Methylation is the process of adding a methyl group to a molecule.  When a methyl group is added to DNA, it can change the activity of a DNA segment without changing the sequence.  Methylation helps us clear excess estrogen and histamine, detoxify, and produce energy within cells, not to mention regulate how our genes are expressed.

Our genes have specialized jobs, and they get their marching orders from the DNA in our cells. Not all of our genes are active all of the time, and methylation plays an important role in determining when a specific gene gets to work.

MTHFR (methyl-tetrahydratefolate reductase) genes provide instructions for making the MTHFR enzyme work.  Mutations in the genes effect enzyme production, and, thus, the conversion of folate and folic acid to the active form of 5-methyltetrahydratefolate.  Alterations in the MTHFR genes are common and passed to us from our parents.  While these genetic alterations don’t necessarily make you unwell, they may cause you to have an exaggerated response to a poor diet and lifestyle.

Homocysteine is an amino acid broken down by l-methylfolate that is tested at conventional laboratories.  It is considered an independent risk factor for heart disease, stroke, and other forms of cardiovascular disease.  It is looked at as a risk marker for having an alteration in MTHFR genes.  However, through nutrition and lifestyle, someone who carries alterations in her MTHFR genes may have normal homocsyteine levels.  So, homocysteine is not totally reliable as a screening test for MTHFR alterations.

MTHFR can be tested through a conventional lab or through direct-to-consumer genetic testing called 23 and Me.  There are also functional labs that provide MTHFR testing.

Having a healthy lifestyle is the primary treatment for alterations in MTHFR genes.  This means eating lots of vegetables, decreasing toxins, and sweating.  Nutrient support includes methylfolate and methylcoabalimin (vitamin B12).  With a focus on wellness, even if we carry the gene for Alzheimer’s, there is the potential that supporting methylation could prevent the gene from being activated.  For more information about methylation, go to www.drkarafitzgerald.com/our-clinic/ebook/.

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It’s a New Year

It’s a New Year. Forget the resolutions. They usually go unfulfilled or are, at best, short-lived. Think more about creating a sustainable lifestyle that supports your physical, emotional, and spiritual health. Skip jumping on a bandwagon. Forget the diet. Learn how to eat for life. Forget 5 days a week at the gym. Nobody starts, . . . → Read More: It’s a New Year

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Love Your Breasts

I’m not one to jump on the monthly awareness bandwagon. And I am particularly not a fan of the pink ribbon bandwagon synonymous with October. I care about breast cancer awareness, of course I do. I take care of women before, during, and after treatment. It’s the focus is on breast CANCER instead of . . . → Read More: Love Your Breasts

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What You Can Do To Support Good Brain Function

I’d like to walk you through a functional medicine perspective of neurodegenerative disorders in an effort to empower you to take some preventive steps. Neurodegenerative disorders include dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and Parkinson’s disease. A functional medicine practitioner asks, “Why?” Why does an individual experience a shift in physiology that results in a constellation of . . . → Read More: What You Can Do To Support Good Brain Function

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Choice

I am out of the breastfeeding loop. It’s been roughly 11 years since I breastfed my daughter and 10 years since I attended a birth and cared for a new mom and baby. Distance from a particular time of life affords perspective. Thank goodness.

During some vulnerable new-mom moment long, long ago, a lactation . . . → Read More: Choice

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Catch the Wave

A client recently asked me if I think functional medicine is ‘catching on,’ and I found myself struggling to respond to her question. My exposure to what’s happening in mainstream healthcare is limited. I practice alone, at a home-based clinic, on the coast of Maine, where women self-select for my services. And yet, each . . . → Read More: Catch the Wave

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