I have been promising to write about MTHFR for a loooong time now. I know some in my audience have been waiting for months. I’m going to be really, really honest here . . . I have struggled with how to approach this topic more than any other topic I’ve ever tackled on this blog. I was less afraid to write about infertility, despite it being a very private struggle. If you could only see how many drafts I’ve started for this topic or how many hours of research were wasted, because I was paralyzed to write after reading.
I sat down again tonight to write and found myself in the same vicious cycle. Then my husband said something perfect (’cause he’s perfect!), “You are not a research blogger. You don’t need to present a flawless scientific write up. You’re audience wants to know the human side. Write about MTHFR from that perspective.” He was 100% right, so here we go . . .
So, we need to start with the basics. MTHFR stands for “methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase.” Our MTHFR gene produces the MTHFR enzyme. The enzyme works with folate (also known as B9 or folic acid) to convert the amino acid homocysteine into another amino acid that is used for multiple important processes in our bodies. Basically, if this process is working correctly, your liver works better at eliminating toxins, inflammation is better controlled in your body, your immune system works better, you produce more of the neurotransmitters your brain needs to function well, and your cardiovascular system is healthier. If you have a defect (called heterozygous) in this gene, you are at higher risk for many conditions, like coronary heart disease, venous thrombosis, dementia, fatty liver disease, anemia, increased inflammation, depression, a variety of cancers, stroke, miscarriages, migraines, and chemical sensitivities. If you have a double defect (called homozygous) you are at an even higher risk for these conditions. There are different ways the gene can be defective, two of the most common mutations are C677T (which is very serious) and A1298C (which is less serious). Autoimmune disorders and MTHFR genetic mutations are pretty clearly linked.
I am homozygous C677T. Yep, you got it. I have two copies of the worst mutation. This is where we get to the human side of the story . . . it’s scary. The science on how these genetic mutations effect us and how to treat them is BRAND NEW. Many doctors know nothing about this topic. The information I read about MTHFR changes literally every day. There does seem to be more and better information all the time, but how can I interpret all that data, when my doctors don’t even know what to do with it? I can’t write about how to approach treating this issue for my readers, because the experts are still learning how to do it. What’s more, it is a very delicate process with potentially serious side effects.
This genetic issue is probably at the root of my infertility. It was playing a role when I was in the depths of daily panic attacks. Just like all of you, I find myself overwhelmed with how to approach it and where to turn for accurate help.
And all of that is okay . . . here’s why: I can’t control everything. Ultimately, my journey with MTHFR has been primarily about accepting the things I cannot change. You know the serenity prayer, the one they use in Alcoholics Anonymous? Sometimes I think that is a good prayer for those of us on the healing path. I have come a long, long way and I can do my best to go further every day, but it is okay if there are parts of this journey that involve traveling at a pace I didn’t set for myself.
You see, choosing to accept that this is scary, that there is simply too much information for me to realistically synthesize at this time, that the experts are still trying to become expert on this topic, that this genetic defect is probably at the root of many health problems for me, and may very well cause more serious ones . . . accepting all that has given me alot of energy for courage. “Having the courage to change the things I can” is the other important line of that AA prayer. If I am not bogged down about the things I can’t handle, I have alot more courage to tackle the things I CAN handle.
This is what I am doing with MTHFR:
1) I spend a small (small is the key there) amount of time every month learning the latest info on it and listening to the leading doctors trying to treat it. At the very least, this info lets me be a good advocate for myself when it comes to discussing this topic with my doctors. Being a strong advocate for my own health is a VERY high priority for me.
2) I have begun a basic treatment method. I chose one that I am able to understand and that was recommended by my doctor, based on her understanding. This involves taking activated B vitamins.
3) I continue to focus on a very clean diet and a lifestyle that avoids, as much as possible, unnecessary exposure to things my body struggles to process (too much stress, too many chemicals in my environment, etc) due to my MTHFR defect.
What do you think readers? Do you have the MTHFR defect? MTHFR or not, is there a portion of your health journey where applying the principles of serenity has resulted in greater empowerment for you?