Do you ever think about how your genes impact your health? We may only think about our genes if a chronic disease runs in our family. But they can reveal much more than a likelihood of getting a disease. Sometimes when we experience less than optimal health, our genes can reveal a big part of the puzzle. That’s where b vitamins come in. More on those a little later. First, let’s talk a little more about genes.
Over the years, I have heard countless health stories from individuals. They’re often stories about the inability to regain health after a decline. I’m not talking about infections or injuries. But stories of brain fog, lack of energy, weak immune systems, anxiety, depression, and the list goes on. And despite the efforts of a traditional physician, they found nothing wrong. Leaving the patient wondering why they still felt bad.
These situations remind me of the story of the old man looking for his watch under a street light. When a passerby stopped to help he asked the man exactly where he remembered losing the watch. The gentleman said, “Across the street.” The passerby asked why he was looking under the streetlamp if he lost it across the street. And the man replied, “Because that is where the light is.”
Often, we must force ourselves to look where it is more challenging and dark to find the answers. And this applies to our genes. For the past 20 years, I have studied the gene MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate) and how it works in the body. It reminds me of the importance of looking in the right place for answers even if it’s not easy.
What Are Genes and MTHFR and Why Do They Matter?
Genes are blueprints of our bodies that configure all our functions from birth to death. If our genes are perfectly balanced (or, in the sweet spot of being active or silent), we age gracefully and rarely get sick. But our lifestyle habits can interfere with this process.
Often the MTHFR gene is out of balance. The MTHFR gene regulates something called methylation. Methylation regulates a host of systems in our body. Like, the ability to detox harmful chemicals, building neurotransmitters for our brains, formation of important molecules, increased risk of Alzheimer’s, regulation of DNA, and dozens of other processes vital to our healthy functioning.
Our body has one BILLION methylation reactions every second!
There is an MTHFR variation that affects between 40% to 60% of our population. This variation does not allow those affected to methylate properly. It is a common variation in our society.
MTHFR creates negative effects on our bodies and minds by not allowing the proper processing of Folic Acid. When ingested by people who cannot methylate properly, Folic Acid disrupts many of our systems that maintain health. It is almost like taking the wrong exit ramp on a trip. And without altering your path you will end up where you do not want to go. The same applies to those who are not managing this gene. Do not expect most traditionally trained health care workers to know about this topic. It is not their fault as they were not trained.
Synthetic folic acid is a concerning supplement ingredient when it comes to MTHFR. Read more about supplement safety here.
What Can You Do?
The question everyone asks me is what they can do about this issue. Genes are hardwired. But the truth is that we can affect genes with nutrition and lifestyle that either silences or activates this gene. The answer is nutrients that allow proper methylation by balancing the gene. Cue those b vitamins!
Sometimes it does require experimenting with individual nutrients or formulas. But I often recommend a very low-cost yet often very effective formula by Life Extension. Life Extension’s B-Complex – taken twice daily can reopen those important methylation pathways!
These b vitamins allow optimal methylation:
B-9 methylfolate (note this is the active version of folate and not folic acid)
One of the markers to help us know if our MTHFR is not controlled is a blood test called homocysteine. Between 6 and 9 is the best time for this test. You can get your blood work done at Nutrition World every 4th Friday of the month or you can order a test here.
Learn More About Methylation
If you’d like to learn more about methylation in simple terms, listen to my interview with Dr. Rountree. He is a wonderful, informed physician who further explains this issue for those desiring more information.