Should You Avoid Nitrous Oxide With MTHFR?
If you’re someone who always seems to steer clear of major procedures at the dentist, you’ve likely never had to encounter nitrous oxide before. Commonly referred to as laughing gas, nitrous oxide is commonly used throughout the world. In the United States, dentists will often use it to relieve their patients.
While nitrous oxide has been a common practice and viewed as generally safe, many studies today are starting to denounce the prominence of this pain relief method. With plenty of other alternatives to the traditional nitrous oxide, it won’t be long until something completely replaces laughing gas in dental practices across the US.
A majority of the criticism towards nitrous oxide is geared towards the ineffectiveness compared to other methods, but researchers are starting to learn that it can present significant health concerns outside of that.
One of these concerns is when nitrous oxide is used in a patient that suffers from an MTHFR gene mutation. Since most people with MTHFR won’t know they suffer from it, this can be extremely dangerous considering how often laughing gas is used.
If you suffer from an MTHFR gene mutation, you’re likely wondering how nitrous oxide can negatively affect your body. To help you better understand this process, we’ll detail everything you need to know about nitrous oxide, MTHFR, and what you can choose to do instead.
What Is Nitrous Oxide and How Does It Work?
Laughing gas helps to relieve pain when patients need it most. For the most part, laughing gas won’t lead to the patient losing consciousness. This is a large reason why dentists utilize it in their practice, that way they can still direct and communicate the patient throughout the procedure.
Let’s get to some of the science of it all.
Nitrous oxide is normally transferred to the patient through a tube connected to a small mask put over the mouth and nose. Once inhaled by the patient, the gas will travel to the lungs and enter the bloodstream. It’ll eventually wind up in the brain and will play a major role in the release of neurotransmitters and other natural opioids -- dopamine, endorphins, etc.
One of the reasons nitrous oxide is so popular is because it is fast-acting. Once it enters the brain, the patient will start to feel the effects. Even further than that, it won’t take very long for the effects to wear off once the mask is removed.
The nitrous oxide will generally provide three major effects in the human body, though the severity of each one may differ from one patient to the next.
The first is reducing anxiety, which makes those difficult procedures a lot less scary. The second is reducing pain, which will help comfort the patient. Finally, it provides a euphoric feeling that will make you feel happy rather than angry and hurt.
Believe it or not, nitrous oxide is used in many more places than just the dentist’s office. It’s used as a propellant for dispensing certain types of oils and heavy creams.
For example, it’s used when dispensing whipped cream out of a can by compressing the nitrous oxide into a liquid and combining it with the cream in a can. When released, the nitrous turns to a gas and expands the heavy cream.
What Does This Have to Do With MTHFR?
The MTHFR gene provides the coding that allows the MTHFR enzyme to properly function. This enzyme plays an essential role in methylation, a process that happens constantly in the body. Methylation is needed for the breakdown of neurotransmitters, turning genes on or off, protecting nerve cells, building and repairing DNA, making blood cells, and much more.
An MTHFR gene mutation won’t always provide the enzyme with the right coding, which means it won’t be able to function properly. This can throw off a wide range of normal and necessary processes in the body. Without methylation, you can experience various health concerns like depression, cardiac disease, and other mental disorders.
To bring nitrous oxide into this, methylation also requires a healthy dose of Vitamin B12 to function properly. One of the ways nitrous oxide works in the body is by deactivating Vitamin B12, which results in the methylation process being blocked. For some, this might not lead to serious side effects. For others, it can be extremely dangerous.
Since people with an MTHFR gene mutation already have a blocked methylation process, adding in the negative effects from the nitrous oxide is where the danger presents itself. This can lead to severe Vitamin B12 deficiency, as well as chemical imbalances throughout the body.
What If You Can’t Avoid Nitrous Oxide?
If you know you’ll be exposed to nitrous oxide while visiting the dentist, it’s always best to let them know ahead of time that you have an MTHFR gene mutation. In addition to that, there are a variety of things you can do to help reduce the negative side effects.
First, we’ll have to solve the Vitamin B12 concern, which can be easily achieved through supplementation and diet. Vitamin B12 can be found in a variety of foods, including fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and dairy products. You can also find it in capsules and other man-made supplements.
In addition to Vitamin B12, you’ll want to address the MTHFR gene mutation. Since the mutation will decrease the conversion of folate into its active form, you can help your body bypass this process by supplementing with methylfolate -- the active form of folate.
Ensuring your body has a healthy dose of both these essential nutrients will help it stay strong when faced with nitrous oxide. There’s still a chance you’ll feel some of the effect, but it should be much more manageable than before.
Outside of Vitamin B12 and Methylfolate, anything that will help you relax and calm down before the procedure will benefit your body in the long run. Some people need music, some prefer a massage, while others turn to a light exercise. It doesn’t matter what you choose, as long as you’re put in the right state of mind heading into the dentist’s office.