That’s right. I am a bad MTHFR, and I want you to know about it. It’s a simple fact and perhaps the number one reason I pursued an education in natural health. Of course, unless you’re a bad MTHFR too, I need to clarify.
I have a few key genetic mutations that limit my ability to process certain nutrients. I’m at a higher risk for a constellation of health conditions from depression to infertility to dementia. Awesome, right? I guess I’m in the right profession.
It was about 6 years ago when I heard a lecture by Dr. John Berrardi on genetics and nutrition. He figured the future of individualized nutrition would involve the complex web of genetics, using the term nutrigenomics, I believe.
Having studied along side Dr. Ben Lynch, one of the foremost researchers in the area of nutrigenomics, I’d personally been intrigued by the possibilities. But the moment Dr. Ben transitioned his entire practice and focus to nutrition and genetics, I knew this was going to be big. For the past couple of years, I have taken a special interest in discovering how diet and lifestyle, even individual nutrients influences the expression of our genes. I see this frequently in practice so, “Why does one person thrive off a certain diet while the next person tanks?” “Why do certain nutrients completely resolve one person’s health issues and create symptoms in the next?” Resolving a client’s health issues takes on a new level of depth when you consider individual genetic make-up. Now we can and it’s fascinating, confusing, complicated… I’m convinced it can’t be overlooked.
When 23andMe came out with their ridiculously detailed (and inexpensive) genetic test, I was on board from the start with my family and me. This is how I discovered I’m a BAD MTHFR… and so much more.
I’ve written extensively about the MTHFR gene mutations in the past. [Related Articles]. So today, I won’t bore you with the details, but to bring you up to speed, methylation plays an essential role in how you feel (I think the 23andMe test gives about 70 genetic markers just for your methylation). Methylation occurs billions of times per second in your body and everything from your energy levels and your mental health to your success at getting pregnant and having a healthy kid are affected.
I was surprised to learn, out of the 2 most well characterized methylation genes, MTHFR C677T and MTHFR A1298C, meaning I only have 1 good copy of each. This is currently considered the most severe of the methylation defects and probably explains my interest in this field from such an early age. I was young when I realized that I have to take better care of myself than the average person to feel well.
People think it’s scary to discover issues with their genetics. Admittedly, I was scared when I first learned about my increased risk of Type 2 Diabetes and other conditions. But now I’m grateful because there’s so much I can do to change or prevent the outcomes. My genes contain potentials not confirmed diagnoses. I’m convinced if you’re scared of your genetics, it’s at least in part because you’re unaware of the recent advances in the understanding of genetics. I have good news. Whether your genetics (good or bad) express themselves in health or dis-ease, is a function of a constellation of influences in your lifestyle, not just their presence in your genes.
Knowing your genetics allows you some control over whether you remain healthy or become sick. I feel that’s pretty cool and find it very empowering. I can now take more preventative measures and order more detailed preventative labs and stave off blood sugar issues years before they would ever become problematic. In the end my genetics revealed my individual needs in a way no other test can, as yet.
I find myself interpreting other doctor’s 23andMe results frequently because there are so few experts across the nation. With a recent well-known doctor/author’s 23andMe raw data results, I was able to describe her health complaints without even having met with her. She had complex health issues, which like myself, brought her into the field of medicine. To her credit and thanks to her training, she had managed over 30 years to tweak her diet and lifestyle enough to manage many of her issues. She had arrived at the conclusions about some of the foods she needed to avoid, supplements and meds she should avoid and which ones to take. The difference is that it took her the past 30 years of research, self exploration and clinical experience with patients to find her answers. We were able to sum it all up from 1 genetic panel. This is just remarkable to me.
So, I am a bad MTHFR and I am proud of it. I am blessed because knowing my genetic potential started me on a course of health and wellness at a young age. And now that technology is catching up, I finally have a blueprint to help me understand some of the health concerns I’ve had over the years. I can finally see why I have a low tolerance for stress, am sensitive to many meds and supplements, have never done well with coffee, alcohol or green tea. I can see how to focus my plan on prevention of diabetes and how to optimally process hormones.
I hope you’re not afraid of your genetics and that you want as much information about your health as you can get. We only have one body in this life and we want it to function at it highest level. When we know better we can do better.