Dr. Ben Lynch, one of the most famous and expert scientists on Methylation, defines MTHFR as the gene that gives the input to the methylation cycle. Hundreds of body’s functions rely on methylation, for this reason methyl- donors are necessary, and not just these, but also the conditions for methylations can happen, if there is stress, lack of nutrients, leaky gut, or infections, or dirty genes, methylation cannot happen.
The major donors for methylation come from the methylation cycle and are methyl-folates and methyl-B12, within the methylation cycle there is a switch of methyl groups from a compound to another, one is methylated, and another reduced of a methyl group and transformed in another compound.
Some methylated compounds that body uses for its functions and very common are for example, phosphatidylcholine, very important structural component of the cell walls which comes from methylated choline, or melatonin, the modulator of the sleeping cycle that derives from methylated serotonin. For other compounds instead the methylation process allows to expel them from the body for being toxic and dangerous like, histamine or estrogen or arsenic.
When homocysteine is methylated by a methyl group coming from a methyl-folate it becomes methionine which is a precursor of acetylcholine, major brain neurotransmitter.
Methionine also can give SAMe, or S-adenosylmethionine, SAMe has a very important function in methylation for passing methyl groups on the hundreds of functions the body needs to work properly, if SAMe is too high or too low body functions are severely affected. After releasing its methyl group, it becomes homocysteine, which is the final product of methylation.
Homocysteine when methylated returns in the cycle if everything is working fine, but if there is oxidative stress due to lifestyle choices or other reasons is used to make glutathione, or GSH, the master antioxidant and detoxifier.
High homocysteine levels are associate with a variety of health problems from cardiovascular to cancer and all because of a block in the methylation cycle, this block can come from different reasons like, dirty gens, inflammation, oxidative stress, heavy metals, yeast overgrowth or small intestine bacterial overgrowth or SIBO, infections, lack of nutrients, and folic acid from the diet that blocks the receptors for the folates.
The laboratory levels range for normal values of homocysteine are considered up to 15 micromoles per liter, but for Dr. Lynch the upper limit value is above 7, anything higher or lower than this value shows that something is not working properly, if too high can be for different reasons not just because the body is not methylating properly, and if it is too low or below 7 there is not enough homocysteine for either methylating than making glutathione.
The methylation cycle is not functioning at all and different nutrients and lifestyle adjustments are necessary.
Some key nutrients for a healthy MTHFR and methylation cycle for Dr. Lynch are:
Riboflavin, or vitamin B2, we can find this in lamb, mushroom, spinach, almond, wild salmon, eggs
Folate, or vitamin B9, found in green vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, squash
Cobalamin, or vitamin B12, in red meat, salmon, clams, mussels, crab, eggs. For vegans and vegetarians, the doctor suggests supporting with supplements.
Protein from animal source, eggs and dairy, or from vegetable sources as beans, peas, lentils, broccoli, nuts and seeds
Magnesium from almonds, dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, avocados, whole grains
As we can see not just folate and vitamin B12, the compounds of this cycle are different for more metabolites are required for its function.
Because methylation cycle and deficit of methylation have been associated for the most to deficit of folates and vitamin B12 mainly in the methyl form let’s see reasons why cobalamin might be low. For Dr. Lynch some of the reasons are being vegan or vegetarian, high stress, use of antacids, Helicobacter Pylori or Pernicious anemia.
Either way Dr Lynch despite of owing a company of supplements has been always very clear on the fact that we do not have to rely on supplementation only or even absolutely not if not necessary, and especially in case of blockage of the folate’s receptors.
Methylfolate are very important and fundamental with a methylation deficit or MTHFR SNPs, but those high doses that many doctors recommended or still do are not certainly for everyone and have to be monitored because it can derive very serious side effects from the introduction of high doses of methylfolate. Dr. Lynch has spoken more times in regard of this and has a whole list of side effects and remedies for on his MTHFR.net website.
The doctor also talks of a shortcut that the body takes if not enough folates or methyl-cobalamin are available, he calls the “choline shortcut” which means that to methylate homocysteine in methionine the body instead of the B vitamins rely on choline found in eggs, red meat, poultry and fish, or from vegetables as spinach and beets. This shortcut can only work temporarily.
In regard of laboratory tests, it’s useful to know that results will be not reliable with assumption of folic acid, in a serum folate test the lab measures both artificial folic acid coming from supplementation and enriched food, and natural folates from whole foods.
Some main recommendations for who thinks that its own MTHFR gene is dirty even before of testing are avoiding folic acid which is the worse enemy, filtering drinking water to remove unwanted chemicals, eating leafy green vegetables daily, making sure to get enough vitamin B12 from food sources, avoiding whole dairy milk products, avoiding stress as much as possible and having deep and restorative sleep.
Also very important is to stay way from toxins of all type because in this way we keep the MTHFR gene as clean as possible and we reduce the burden on glutathione so that the body can methylate more homocysteine because this last one does not need to be converted instead in glutathione necessary to neutralize toxins.
In few words avoiding toxins and chemicals we avoid to the body to go through the detoxification process and enhance the methylation process; this way we stay healthy as much as possible.
Always thanks for reading.