MTHFR and Methylation
What is Methylation? In its simplest explanation, it's the transformation of food into enzymes or 'active elements' the body's cells can directly and immediately use. This food transformation takes place in the body's metabolic pathways and may go through many different stages before the conversion to 'usable enzyme' is complete. Imagine having a can of soup without a can opener – you have food, it’s just not available to you in a form that's useful. Or imagine having Mexican Pesos while on vacation in Japan, you have money, you just can't use it. At least not until you convert it to Yen. Well it’s the same with the body’s need for certain enzymes, the food we eat has to be activated or converted into the enzyme form your cells can actually use. Some people think of this as absorption.
What does MTHFR have to do with Methylation? Basically an MTHFR gene mutation(s) thwarts the activation or conversion process in the folic acid metabolic pathway. Folic acid normally goes through 4 different conversion steps before it can actually become 'active Methylfolate', L-MTHF (or 5-MTHF) and be used by the body's cells. And the MTHFR gene defect is responsible for hindering this process between steps 3 and 4. It can't properly convert 5,10-Methylenetetrahydrofolate into L-Methylfolate. Instead, a person with an MTHFR gene defect has a mutated version of the MTHFR enzyme in their body that causes a lot of health problems.
It's important to know that increasing folic acid is not going to solve the problem and may even make it worse. Because a person with a mutated MTHFR gene will not be able to properly convert that folic acid into the active form of folate (L-MTHF or 5-MTHF) the body needs to use. If the body is not getting enough activated folate at the cell level, then it cannot produce optimum health. So a person with an MTHFR mutation should be taking a large daily dose of the L-MTHF (or 5-MTHF) form of folate directly through a vitamin supplement that has this exact bioactive form (food sources with the 'right' folate). There is a supplement protocol that Dr. Rawlins recommends to optimize methylation in people who have an MTHFR gene defect. Learn more about the Methyl Cycle Genomics.
What other factors can inhibit Methylation? A number of factors could be responsible for low methylation, or the body's inability to get enough usable folate at the cell level to be optimally healthy. An individual with any of the below would most likely benefit from a Methylfolate (L-MTHF or 5-MTHF) supplement:
Medical conditions that interfere with the methylation of folate
Pregnancy and lactation (breastfeeding)
Malabsorption of food (Celiac Disease, leaky gut)
Diseases of the bowel (Inflamatory Bowel Disease or Crohn's Disease)
Certain drugs that interfere with the methylation of folate
Dilantin, Phenytoin, and Primidone (anticonvulsant medications)
Glucofage or Metformin (to control blood sugar in type 2 diabetes)
Sulfasalazine (to control Crohn's disease and ulcerative colitis)
Triamterene (a diuretic)
Barbiturates (used as sedatives)
Methotrexate (used for cancer and other diseases, rheumatoid arthritis)
* Talk to a doctor before taking Methylfolate if you take any of these drugs
Doctor Explains MTHFR
What happens if cells are not getting enough active folate (L-MTHF) to keep the body healthy (under-methylation)?
See Symptoms of MTHFR.
See Symptoms of MTHFR.