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 and is not getting enough folate through the diet then there will be a limited supply of folate available to then be converted into methylfolate. Some plant foods already contain the bioavailabe 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. Since 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. You can see how the best diet for MTHFR needs to include foods high in folate and B2 for the MTHFR gene to function.
By providing adequate amounts of both 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. While the MTHFR gene is only one gene among many in the methylation pathway, having an MTHFR gene mutation can significantly inhibit the production of SAMe which 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 I see being missed in the digestive health community.
If you have an MTHFR gene mutation it is increasingly important to include the following MTHFR dietary recommendations as your body already has a decreased ability to produce methylfolate and you do not want to exacerbate this problem by not getting enough natural folate and B2 through the diet. The best MTHFR diet needs to include foods high in folate and B2.
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:
What foods to avoid of you have MTHFR
Another important factor to consider if you have the MTHFR gene is knowing what not to eat and avoiding the synthetic form of folic acid that 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… although if you just eat a whole food diet as nature intended you won’t have to worry about synthetic folic acid being found 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 but when they stopped supplementing with folic acid and switched to methylfolate which can be found in Seeking Health’s Optimal Prenatal, they were able to fall pregnant and haven healthy babies so please watch out for folic acid.
Lowering inflammation in the body by avoiding inflammatory foods and eating an anti-inflammatory diet that is high in antioxidants found in plant foods and deeply coloured vegetables and fruits is another crucial component of the MTHFR diet as reactive oxygen species aka inflammation inhibits the function of the MTHFR gene. Antioxidants found in food can help to counter reactive oxygen species.
Identifying the source of inflammation whether it is the immune system reacting to food sensitivities due to leaky gut, parasites, SIBO, gut infections, viruses and inflammatory foods are super important for optimizing the function of the MTHFR gene.
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 the anti-inflammatory omega 3’s such as wild caught salmon, walnuts and chia seeds.
If you are looking for additional MTHFR support you can supplement with the end product and bypass the MTHFR gene by supplementing with methylfolate. The best methylfolate for MTHFR is folinic acid or methylfolate. But also know that in the presence of inflammation in the body you may not tolerate methylfolate of the methylated B vitamins which is why attempting to “treat” a genetic SNP such as the MTHFR gene is not as easy as just take this supplement for this gene. Folinic acid is a better form of folate for sensitive individuals (and I am one of those sensitive individuals)
It is always best to start with the MTHFR diet then learn how to supplement 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 and there are many other clinically relevant SNP’s that require other nutrients including additional B vitamins, particularly vitamin B2 and vitamin B12 and magnesium to function.
ultivitamin 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 production of phosphatidylcholine puts a heavy demand on the methylation donor SAMe so you can indirectly support the MTHFR gene by bypassing the methylation pathway and freeing up the production of SAMe that is used to make phosphatidylcholine.
Do you have the MTHFR genetic mutation or are you interested in genetic testing for MTHFR?
If you are interested in genetic testing including MTHFR you can do an at home saliva test through Ancestry DNA, download your raw data when your results come in and run your raw data through the strategene report to find out what clinically relevant SNP’s you may have along with a 20 + page report with biochemical pathway planners to help you understand your genetic profile. 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