Eating foods high in folate and vitamin B2 is the best diet for MTHFR if someone has the MTHFR gene mutation as the function of the MTHFR gene is to convert folate into the active form called methylfolate.
For the MTHFR enzyme to function and convert folate into methylfolate, the MTHFR gene requires vitamin B2 as a co-factor. It is crucial for someone with an MTHFR gene mutation to eat foods high in folate and vitamin B2 as the two nutrients work in tandem.
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You can see how important it is to get enough folate and vitamin B2 in the diet for the MTHFR gene to work and produce the active bioavailable form of methylfolate. If someone with an MTHFR gene mutation is not getting enough folate through the diet, then there will be a limited supply of folate available to be converted into methylfolate.
Some plant foods already contain the bioavailable form of methylfolate, which is why eating natural foods high in folate is 100 times better than supplementing with synthetic folic acid.
The same is true for vitamin B2. The MTHFR gene requires B2 for the conversion of natural folate found in foods into methylfolate. Even if folate levels are high, the MTHFR enzyme will not be able to produce sufficient amounts of methylfolate if vitamin B2 levels are too low.
The best diet for MTHFR needs to include foods high in folate and B2 for the MTHFR gene to function.
Providing adequate amounts of both vitamin B2 and folate through the diet ensures that at least the MTHFR gene has the nutrients needed to function. If either folate or B2 is low in someone with an MTHFR gene mutation, then there will be an additional reduced MTHFR enzyme activity.
At this point, you may be wondering what’s the big deal about an MTHFR gene mutation…. well, it’s a big deal. The MTHFR gene is only one gene among many in the methylation pathway, but having an MTHFR gene mutation can significantly inhibit the production of SAMe.
SAMe is a co-factor for another 200 enzymes to function from making neurotransmitters, producing phosphatidylcholine to prevent fatty liver and gallbladder problems, and breaking down intracellular histamine.
The implications of an MTHFR gene is a big deal that has ripple effects throughout the body. Understanding the connection between MTHFR and SIBO is something that is often missed in the digestive health community.
If you have an MTHFR gene mutation, it is necessary to include the following MTHFR dietary recommendations as your body already has a decreased ability to produce methylfolate. You do not want to exacerbate this problem by not getting enough natural folate and B2 through the diet.
Foods high in folate include:
Leafy greens (kale, arugula, mustard greens, romaine)
Seaweed such as kelp and wakame
Beans such as pinto beans, navy beans, mung beans, and chickpeas
Foods high in riboflavin (vitamin B2) include:
Foods to avoid with MTHFR
Another crucial factor to consider for the MTHFR diet is knowing what not to eat and avoiding the synthetic form of folic acid.
Synthetic folic acid is found in so many processed foods, breakfast cereals, bread, and enriched fours with folic acid. Be sure to read your labels and watch out for the synthetic form of folic acid. But, if you eat a whole food diet as nature intended, you won’t have to worry about synthetic folic acid in your food.
If you have the MTHFR gene, you are already struggling to convert folate into methylfolate, let alone the synthetic and inactive form of folic acid. According to Dr. Ben Lynch (the author of Dirty Genes, which I highly recommend reading), folic acid can bind to the folate receptors and block the absorption of the natural folate found in foods.
You can think of the synthetic form of folic acid as binding to the folate receptors like a key fits in a door, blocking the natural folate from getting in while in the meantime not having the ability itself to function the same and open the door.
I have met several women who had the MTHFR gene and couldn’t fall pregnant, would miscarry or have babies that were tongue-tied when supplementing with synthetic folic acid. When they stopped supplementing with folic acid and switched to methylfolate, they were able to fall pregnant and have healthy babies. So please watch out for folic acid.
Learn more about the best prenatal multivitamin in this post.
Why you need to eat anti-inflammatory foods on the MTHFR diet
Reactive oxygen species (inflammation) inhibits the function of the MTHFR gene. Antioxidants found in plant foods and pigmented fruits and vegetables help to neutralize reactive oxygen species. Eating an anti-inflammatory diet is one of the best ways to reduce inflammation so that the MTHFR gene can function better.
Identifying and eliminating the source of inflammation is essential for optimizing the function of the MTHFR gene. Inflammation can come from the immune system reacting to food sensitivities due to leaky gut, parasites, SIBO, gut infections, viruses, and inflammatory foods.
The best diet for MTHFR needs to focus on eliminating common inflammatory foods such as gluten, cows dairy, and sugar while including foods that are high in anti-inflammatory omega 3’s such as wild-caught salmon, walnuts, and chia seeds.
Best MTHFR supplemenents
If you are looking for additional MTHFR support, you can supplement with the end product and bypass the MTHFR gene by taking methylfolate. The best forms of folate for the MTHFR gene is folinic acid or methylfolate.
Methylfolate is the most active bioavailable form of folate. Folinic acid is easily converted into methylfolate and is a better option for people who are sensitive to the methylated B vitamins or methylfolate.
If too much inflammation is present in your body, you may not tolerate methylfolate or any of the methylated B vitamins. Folinic acid is a better form of folate for sensitive individuals (and I am one of those sensitive individuals)
I got itchy skin when I tried to support my methylation with the methylated B vitamins. I stopped taking the methylated B vitamins and instead switched to the optimal multi-minus one. This multivitamin contains folinic acid, which is better for sensitive individuals that have increased inflammation.
It is always best to start with the MTHFR diet, then learn how to support the MTHFR gene with supplements as needed and find the best form of a nutrient that works for you.
The MTHFR gene is also only one gene in the methylation pathway. Many other clinically relevant SNPs in the methylation pathway require other nutrients including, additional B vitamins, particularly vitamin B2 and vitamin B12, and magnesium to function.
Optimal Multivitamin Minus One is a great supplement that contains all the B vitamins without the methylated B vitamins, which are better for anyone who has inflammation in their body as the forms used are often well tolerated in sensitive individuals.
You can also indirectly support the MTHFR gene by supplementing with Optimal PC, which contains phosphatidylcholine to help take the load off the methylation pathway and MTHFR gene.
The MTHFR gene is involved in the pathway responsible for making the methyl donor SAMe. Up to 70 percent of SAMe is used to make phosphatidylcholine. The production of phosphatidylcholine puts a heavy demand on the MTHFR gene and methylation pathway. You can indirectly support the MTHFR gene and methylation pathway by taking phosphatidylcholine, which frees up the need to produce so much SAMe.
Do you have the MTHFR genetic mutation, or are you interested in genetic testing for MTHFR?
If you are interested in genetic testing, you can order the StrateGene DNA test kit through seeking health. Upon purchase, you will also receive your StrateGene Report, a complete Dirty Genes Course, the Dirty Genes book, and educational videos to help you understand your unique genetics.
The StrateGene report now comes as a package with the DNA test kit, but here is a glimpse of what you can expect from your StrateGene report.
If you need help reading your report with a tailored nutritional program, contact me for a FREE 20-minute strategy call to see how nutritional therapy can help you!
Dirty Genes by Dr Ben Lynch