It is now a month later, Claudia feels so much better. She was able to schedule an appointment with an epigenomic coach and has met with her several times. This has deepened her understanding of the MTHFR gene SNP and what she can do to improve her body’s ability to methylate. She is beginning to implement some of the lifestyle changes her coach has recommended.
Welcome to Week 2 of MTHFR mutation education! This week’s focus is on what you can do if you have the MTHFR variant and how you can use this opportunity to make changes to your diet and lifestyle and optimize your overall health. It’s easier than you think!
First, a quick recap of Part I in case you missed it. MTHFR is a gene SNP. A gene SNP is a piece of genetic material in your DNA. MTHFR gene SNPs influence how well you methylate, which is one of the cellular processes your body uses to operate both physically and mentally. You can read Part 1 here.
Why is Methylation Important for Women in Perimenopause?
Think of methylation as a mechanism in your body that turns switches on and off. Methylation, chemically speaking, is the transfer of four atoms, one carbon and three hydrogens (CH3) from one substance to another. When optimal methylation occurs, your body and brain are operating at peak capacity.
CH3 is provided to the body through a universal methyl donor known as SAMe. The system that produces SAMe relies on one switch being turned on by a B vitamin known as 5-MTHF (also called methyl folate).
If you have enough 5-MTFH, your methylation cycle will be working at peak efficiency. Those individuals who have the MTHFR mutation have trouble creating enough 5-MTHF and thus can experience a number of health problems (see Part 1).
When women find out they have an MTHFR variant, they are often quick to blame everything in their perimenopause experience on THAT. And while it may play a role, it’s not the whole story. The easiest way to improve methylation is to make diet and lifestyle modifications and supplement with the appropriate vitamins.
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6 Ways to Maximize Your Methylation
1) Consume more folate and vitamin B12.
- Adding more folate to your diet can aid in the methylation process. Choose whole food sources of folate such as dark leafy greens, avocado, and lentils.
- Women who have the MTHFR mutation are also at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Look for isolated vitamin B12 or in a supplement in multivitamins or B complex. Methylcobalamin is generally the best choice for B12 in women who have an MTHFR variant. There are exceptions to this (especially if you have COMT SNP variants). If you’re choosing a B complex make sure the folic acid is activated (l-methyl folate or Quatrefolate).
- You can also look for Vitamin B12 food sources such as eggs, nuts, beans, or nutritional yeast.
2) Support your body’s natural elimination pathways because reduced methylation adds to poor detoxification.
- Eat a high fiber diet.
- Get exercise. When you move your body, you sweat more. More sweating equals more detoxification.
- Keep your body well hydrated.
3) Minimize alcohol intake.
4) Double-check your supplements.
- Folic acid is a human-made version of folate. Ensure that you are taking the bioavailable form of folate- methylated folate instead of folic acid. Start low and slow since many people with MTHFR variants can be sensitive to B vitamins.
5) Manage your levels of stress. High levels of stress can exacerbate MTHFR mutation symptoms.
- Spend time outside.
- Take a social media break.
- Turn off the tv and go for a walk.
6) Avoid drugs and medications that deplete folate and B12. These include metformin, methotrexate, nitrous oxide [aka “laughing gas”], acid blockers and antacids, and oral contraceptives.
The Bottom Line
Our bodies are complex machines. The methylation process can be mind-boggling but managing your MTHFR mutation doesn’t have to be. Simply, choose whole food sources of folate, move your body, and manage your mindset through lifestyle modifications. And remember, the presence of an MTHFR variant doesn’t mean it is causing problems. If you are exhibiting signs of undermethylation, your variant may need to be addressed.
Dr. Anna Garrett is a menopause expert and Doctor of Pharmacy. She helps women who are struggling with symptoms of perimenopause and menopause find natural hormone balancing solutions so they can rock their mojo through midlife and beyond. Dr. Anna is the author of Perimenopause: The Savvy Sister’s Guide to Hormone Harmony. Order your copy at www.perimenopausebook.com.
Dr. Anna is available for 1-1 consultations. Find out more at www.drannagarrett.com/lets-