MTHFR and Methylation Explained
What is Methylation?
In its simplest explanation, methylation is the transformation of food into enzymes or ‘active elements’, the body’s cells can directly and immediately use. The 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 is just not available to you in a form that is useful. Alternatively, imagine having Mexican Pesos while on vacation in Japan, you have money, you just cannot 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-5-MTHF for short, 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 cannot properly convert 5, 10-Methylenetetrahydrofolate into L-5-Methylfolate. Instead, a person with an MTHFR gene defect has a mutated version of the MTHFR enzyme floating around in their body that can cause many health problems. It is 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 cellular level, then it cannot produce optimum health. So a person with an MTHFR mutation might benefit greatly by taking a daily dose of the L-MTHF (or 5-MTHF) form of folate directly through a vitamin supplement that has this exact bioactive form. There is a supplement protocol that Dr. Rawlins recommends to optimize methylation in people who have an MTHFR gene defect. And this link will provide you a lot more information about Methyl Cycle NutriGenomics.
What other factors can inhibit Methylation?
A number of factors could be responsible for low methylation, or the body’s inability to get enough absorbable folate at the cellular 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:
Some medical conditions that can interfere with the methylation of folate
- Pregnancy and lactation (breastfeeding)
- Alcohol abuse
- Malabsorption of food (Celiac Disease, leaky gut)
- Diseases of the bowel (Inflammatory Bowel Disease or Crohn’s Disease)
- Kidney dialysis
- Liver disease
- Certain anemias
Some drugs that can 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 like rheumatoid arthritis)
Talk to a doctor before taking Methylfolate if you take any of the above drugs.