“I know there is something wrong with me but my doctor said everything is normal. I just feel off.” This is a common theme for people suffering from a variety of symptoms, such as chronic fatigue, undiagnosed mood disorders, chronic allergies, and digestive disorders like IBS. More and more research on chronic disease is now pointing to a mutation of the MTHFR gene.
MTHFR polymorphisms, or gene mutations, have been linked to infertility, certain cancers, migraines, birth defects, heart disease, hypertention, rheumatoid arthritis, anxiety, depression, ADHD, fibromyalgia, multiple schlerosis, alzheimer’s, chronic fatigue syndrome; and that’s the short list. When our body’s methylation reactions are impaired, our body is unable to function optimally and protect our DNA from damage, reduce our histamine/ allergic reactions, and create strong cell membranes, protecting us from toxins and inflammation.
No, MTHFR is not a new kind of texting swear word. MTHFR is a gene that produces an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, which converts folic acid to its active and usable form called methyltetrahydrofolate, or methylfolate for short. Methylfolate is a key compound that helps make 1) neurotransmitters (chemicals signals in your brain) that help control mood, addictive behaviors, sleep, and focus, to name a few, and 2) SAMe (s-adenosylmethionine), one of the key generators of cellular energy and the regulator of over 200 enzyme reactions in our body. Without SAMe, your body would shut down and die.
You are not alone! MTHFR polymorphisms have been around for generations, and have an incredibly high prevalence, affecting one in two people! Poor food choices, polluted environments, stressful lifestyles, and medication over-use have increased the expression of these polymorphisms. So how do you know if you have a methylation defect? Ask your health care provider about genetic screening test for MTHFR C677T and A1298C mutations. The MTHFR test is covered by some lab companies but even the cash pricing is very reasonable, running between $20- $70, depending on the lab.
Having the MTHFR mutation isn’t the end of the world, rather it is a starting place for transforming your life from the inside out. Here are the top tips for overcoming MTHFR defects.
- Food: Eat whole, organic, non-GMO, free range, wild foods. Avoid gluten and dairy products. Eat foods containing natural folates such as uncooked leafy greens.
- Water: Drink filtered tap water – avoid bottled water in plastics.
- Correct supplementation: Stop ingesting synthetic folic acid supplements and folic acid enriched foods! They make the enzyme defect worse. Use only natural folates such as folinic acid and/or methylfolate. Methylfolate (not folic acid) injections are available at some health clinics.
- Build and foster healthy, positive, loving relationships with your partner, family, and friends, and work environment.
- De-stress! Take a vacation, get out in nature, laugh a lot, breath from your belly, meditate, pray, and think positively.
- Exercise: Move your body every day, participate in team sports, yoga, run, hike, or join me at Taekwondo.
- Detoxify: Participate in a 21 Day cleanse program twice a year, limit exposure to chemicals in the environment, and take saunas.
- Build a medical team with progressive, forward thinking MDs, NDs, DOs and other health professionals.
Author: Dr. Sonja Fung, ND
Dr. Sonja Fung is a naturopathic primary care doctor with a focus on integrative medicine and cancer care at the Live Well Clinic in La Quinta.
Live Happy, Live Well.
www.livewellclinic.org. 78900 Avenue 47 Suite 102 La Quinta, CA. 760-771-5970
The holiday season is a wonderful time of year often spent gathering with loved ones. It is also one of the most stressful times of the year. Chronic stress can wreak havoc on our stress (adrenal) glands, which provide for us one of our major stress response hormones – cortisol. Common signs of adrenal fatigue include brain fog, weight gain, decreased sex drive, chronic fatigue, and cravings. Here are some tips to keep humming along in tiptop form through the holidays:
Sleep: Getting adequate sleep is necessary for a long list of vital bodily functions. Help yourself get the full night of sleep your body deserves by removing all electronics from your bedroom (including that TV). Invest in blackout curtains or a sleeping mask if your room isn’t completely dark and aim for 8 hours of sleep or more every night. If you wake and want to hit the snooze button then you’re not getting enough sleep.
Nutrition: Start your day with breakfast before 10am, including adequate protein and healthy fats, which will help regulate your blood sugar throughout the day. Round your breakfast out with a couple servings of vegetables and a handful of berries. Incorporating a natural, whole foods-based diet in favor of high glycemic foods like a stack of pancakes drowned with syrup or a bowl of cereal can make a world of difference.
Coffee and other stimulants: Cortisol is part of our natural stress response, but when we constantly supplement with coffee and other stimulants it can confuse our body and actually reduce that stress response. If you depend on that morning cup of jo, then you’re probably doing more harm than good. Try eliminating it for three to four weeks. The first couple of days may be a challenge, but most find the end result liberating and invigorating.
HIITs > Long Duration Cardio: Cardio is great in moderation, but keep in mind that long duration cardio is pro-inflammatory and can cause an increase in cortisol and tissue break down (like your muscles and your cartilage). Lean muscle is vital for strong bones and proper hormone regulation including boosting libido, keeping insulin levels low, and balancing blood sugar. Give maximum effort for 30 seconds, and then rest for 90 seconds. Repeat x8. Lift heavy stuff, your body will thank you. For more information check this out: http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2014/09/26/intermittent-fasting-hiit-workout.aspx.
MTHFR: You adrenal fatigue symptoms may be part of a larger problem such as a genetic defect. Genetic mutations to the methylenetetrahydrafolate-reductase (MTHFR) gene can cause poor metabolism of food into energy and may require specific supplementation. Mutations such as this are far more common than realized and both the lab work to find out and the intervention are relatively inexpensive. Supplementation for this genetic defect is readily available with a Naturopathic doctor.
I believe these are some of the first steps in restoring your adrenal health and with that, lowering your stress level. When taken as a whole, you may be well on your way towards a healthier, better you. Happy holidays!
Author: Dr. Brian Myers
Dr. Brian Myers is a naturopathic primary care doctor with a focus on integrative medicine, pediatrics and natural foot health at the Live Well Clinic in La Quinta. 760.771.5970
Our bodies are natural healing vessels. We cleanse and restore on a daily basis, processing the foods we eat, the air we breathe, the dyes we color our hair with, the alcohol we consume and the products we lather on our body. Sometimes however, our ever busy, ever stressed, over consuming lifestyle leads to a buildup of toxins in our bodies.
Here's a brief look overview of our own extraordinary detoxification system:
The skin: The largest of the detoxifying organs is responsible for releasing toxins through our sweat and also absorbing chemicals and pollution through the pores of our skin. Cells are sloughed off on a daily basis and but regenerated at the same to keep this organ system functioning efficiently.
The colon: Essentially a lengthy tube that interfaces the external world with the internal body. The cells that line the intestine function as a defense barrier and a carrier tube for dumping toxins through elimination. Regular bowel movements are important to eliminate toxins before they build up and harm you.
The liver: This hardworking organ allows nutrients from your food to enter your bloodstream while sequestering toxins like pesticides and heavy metals. The liver then excretes those toxins in bile, which eventually flows into the intestines to be eliminated.
The lungs: The lungs are our 24 hr purification system, filtering out damaging pollutants and particulates. Tiny filaments called cilia line airways and help prevent pollutants from passing into your blood.
The kidneys: We have two kidneys responsible for filtering all of the blood in the body every 45 minutes. The filtered toxins are then excreted in your urine.
In optimal health the above organs function in synergy to keep you feeling your best. Unfortunately, for most of us we have a weakness or “backup” in one or more of our detox organs.
The list of symptoms caused by impaired detox ability includes but is not limited to:
- Acne and rashes- Again as the largest elimination organ of the body it is most prone side effects from chemicals and toxins
- Decreased energy- A key role in energy production requires methylation (an aspect of detoxification) in the liver.
- Female hormone imbalances- Defects in detoxification cause hormones to become partially metabolized, blocking the action of active hormones and throwing off natural feedback mechanisms.
- Depression and mood disorders. A healthy gut and liver are crucial for proper synthesis of the brains “natural feel good” chemicals.
- Brain fog and cognitive decline.
- Digestive distress and irregular bowel movements
A cleanse program is generally a good idea to do 1-2 times per year. A program can range from one week to one month. In our experience, a program that is a minimum of 3 weeks is optimal. It takes 3 weeks to break bad habits and the same time to learn new habits. A cleanse program helps us re-establish the basic health guidelines we should align our lifestyles with on a consistent basis.
Most cleanse programs are designed to remove all poor quality food and toxins from your diet. This means ditching processed foods, industrial seed oils, and refined sugar, as well as common food allergens, grains. Secondly a cleanse program reminds you to reduce your exposure to chemicals at home. This means choosing non-toxic household cleaning, beauty and hygiene products. Finally, it is important to support a cleanse program with herbs and nutrients that support phase I and phase II detox in the liver. One of the biggest problems with many commercial cleanse products is that they only contain nutrients that regulate Phase I cleansing. This is disadvantageous because for every toxin that is converted in Phase I an equally toxic free radical is generated. These free radicals are neutralized in Phase II, but if you boost Phase I cleansing without addressing defects in Phase II, you’ll increase the amount of free radicals produced without improving the body’s ability to deal with them. Consider a physician approved cleanse to boost your health from good to optimal.