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What is MTHFR and Do You Need to Test For it?

The MTHFR gene regulates homocysteine levels. There are two mutations or variant that can occur on a person’s MTHFR gene. It should be noted that these variants are quite common and that nearly all of them can be managed with supplementation.

Heterozygous or Homozygous?

The MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) gene, on its own, helps your body convert folates from homocysteine into methionine, an amino acid. We need amino acids, as they’re the building blocks on protein. Folates are key to a healthy brain, from conception to death.

If you have one (heterozygous) or both (homozygous) of the variants on position C677T or A1298C of your genetic structure, you may develop high levels of homocysteine in your blood. You may also struggle to maintain healthy levels of B12 and B6 vitamins.

Again, mutations on this gene are quite common, particularly among those of Hispanic or Caucasian descent. Many people live their whole lives without being aware that they have either a variant on either of these genetic positions.

Your Age Matters

For women of child-bearing age, MTHFR testing is critical, particularly if you’ve suffered a miscarriage. Folate levels are extremely important to the health of the fetus in the early stages of pregnancy.

If you’re pregnant or planning to become pregnant, talk with your doctor about the best supplements to boost your folate intake. In addition, strive to increase your intake of foods high in folates, includes

  • beans
  • dark green vegetables
  • berries
  • orange juice
  • peanut and sunflower butter

Another nutrient to seek out is betaine. Betaine can help your body break down high levels of homocysteine that would otherwise become toxic and place an additional burden on your kidneys. Betaine can be found in beets, dark leafy greens such as spinach, and whole earth grains including quinoa.

Older women can also struggle with MTHFR symptoms. These can include symptoms of low levels of vitamin B12, even if you’re supplementing. Conditions such as

  • eczema or dermatitis
  • low energy
  • constipation
  • constant muscle pain

Additionally, unrelentingly high levels of homocysteine can lead to brain risks, including dementia, hypertension, depression, and schizophrenia. Older women may suffer from an increased risk of breast cancer, the inability to maintain muscle mass, peripheral neuropathy, and muscle cramps after consuming alcohol.

Blood Test Results that Indicate MTHFR Variants

Detailed blood tests can be undertaken to determine your risk of MTHFR variants, so you can check your supplementation plan and boost your folate and B vitamin intake. For example, you may have low hemoglobin, or struggle with a low white blood cell count.

If your B12 level is low no matter how much you supplement, your body may not be using it properly. This improper utilization of B12 is common for those with variants on the C677T genetic position.

More Than Physical

Folates in pregnancy are crucial to proper brain development. As we grow, our brains require effective use of folates, including all products of the Vitamin B group, and essential fatty acids for proper brain function. If you have variants on your MTHFR gene, you may struggle with mental challenges, such as learning disorders and ADD.

Some who struggle with MTHFR variants develop full blown mental illness. Anxiety and depression can result, as can bipolar disorder and schizophrenia. Most worryingly, these conditions can lead to suicidal ideation. If your blood tests are showing high levels of homocysteine or a low white blood count, check with your doctor about MTHFR testing.

Deciding on Genetic Testing

If you’ve struggled with infertility, an MTHFR test is a good idea. You can get information on the risks to you and your offspring, as well as your likelihood of conception.

If you’re past your childbearing years but struggle with high levels of homocysteine, it’s a good idea to get tested so you can protect your brain and body from the risk of under- or over-methylation. Methylation refers to the body’s ability to put homocysteine to work. If your body isn’t using it effectively, you may struggle with thyroid problems and other low-energy life challenges.

MTHFR mutations are quite common. If your blood tests show high levels of homocysteine and dietary changes and supplements aren’t helping, it’s time for genetic testing to help you customize a treatment plan to protect your future health.

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