By Yvonne Gattung, Naturopath, Medical BHerbalist, Natural Fertility Specialist and MTHFR Consultant
MTHFR is a gene, which produces the methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) enzyme. Both are called MTHFR, so this can be confusing.
The MTHFR enzyme converts folate (5, 10-Methylenetetrahydofolate) into its activated form called 5 Methlylenetetrahydrofolate or 5MTHFR. This is achieved by a process called methylation. 5-Methylenetetrahydrofolate then converts homocysteine into methionine.
Our bodies use methionine to produce proteins and it is also an important antioxidant in the body to the production of healthy ovum and sperm. If the genes that instruct MTHFR to convert homocysteine to methionine are mutated, then this important function is impaired.
What is Methylation?
Methylation is the transfer of a methyl group (1 carbon and 3 Hydrogen atoms –CH3) onto amino acids, proteins, enzymes and DNA in every cell and tissue within our bodies.
Methyl groups are ‘on/off switches’ of the activity of the cell (other cells grab that methyl group and say thanks a lot I can now activate!). They give the cell its ‘orders’ for example. This is how a cell knows it has to grow into an eyeball rather than a toe nail! They are the cells messengers, when reduced or not working the enzyme or protein or gene does not turn on and off – it is deactivated.
Why is Methylation Important?
• Helps to regulate healing at a cellular level
• Has a role in the expression of our DNA
• Is necessary for neurological functions, supports neurotransmitters
(dopamine, serotonin, ephinephrine) prevents depression, anxiety, insomnia.
• Essential for liver detoxification, helps make glutathione
• Helps build immune cells – T cells, NK cells.
• Processes hormones especially oestrogen – oestrogen is broken down when methylated
• Reduces the stress response
• Has a role in the processing of chemicals and toxins called biotransformation
• Produces energy (CoQ10, carnitine, ATP)
• Produces the protective coating on our nerves – myelination
How is Methylation Regulated?
Methylation is regulated by functioning enzymes and how much substrate (end result) is produced.By functioning enzymes we mean ‘has to be able to do work’ and needs co-factors which are not mutated. DNA produces enzymes and if that DNA is altered then the enzyme is changed. It may not work at all, or may have reduced function.
Co factors are derived from vitamins and minerals, without co factors methylation is not complete. Co factors are required to turn off the methylation process. Excessive substrate may turn off methylation, this is called feedback inhibition. Sometimes this is good, we might not want it on all the time.
What Affects Methylation (slows it down)?
• Environmental Toxins – especially pollution and Bisphenol A, chemicals and heavy metals especially
lead, mercury and aluminium
• Stress – both mental and physical stress. When stressed, the body uses methyl groups very quickly
and if we don’t have enough methyl groups we stay in the hyper stressed state
• Medication – especially antacids and methotrexate
• Aging – methyl groups decrease with age
• Dietary choices – important to be dairy and gluten free
• Lack of co factors – like zinc, magnesium, B 6
• Alcohol – decreases B vitamins and methyl groups, toxin to mitrochrondia
Conditions Associated with Reduced MTHFR Activity (under Methylation):
• Addictive behaviours – alcoholism, drugs, video games, pornography
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Autoimmune disease
• Bipolar disorder
• Chronic fatigue
• Cleft plate/tongue tie in children
• Cardiovascular disease
• Chronic viral infection
• Downs Syndrome
• Joint stiffness/pain/swelling
• Obsessive compulsive disorders
• Reoccurrant miscarriage
• Thyroid disorders
In the next article we will discuss the gene involved and start to look at the role of folate.
If you have the reduced MTHFR activity and you would like help with conception, then contact me here. We can help.
Are you looking for a natural way to improve your chances of having a baby? You can book here for an appointment to see us