How to Biohack MTHFR for Better Health
Research indicates that at around 45% of people have an MTHFR gene mutation, which affects their ability to methylate properly.1 This mutation not only changes the way people metabolize and convert nutrients, but also negatively impacts detoxification, neurotransmitters, hormones, DNA transcription, and RNA replication.
MTHFR and the methylation process
Methylation is a unique process that helps us repair cells and detoxify. The MTHFR (methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase) gene is responsible for coding all the enzymes in the methylation pathway. It codes the enzyme for the conversion of folic acid into bioavailable folate which powers the methylation process. You have to be able to convert your B vitamins adequately with the right coding in the right amounts, and you have to be able to break down protein into usable amino acid forms.
With methylation, the body produces a byproduct called homocysteine. A buildup of this substance can be problematic if we don’t convert it and recycle it. With the help of B vitamins and N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), the homocysteine is converted back up into the methionine cycle where it is used to create SAMe. This substance is important for our brain health and is also converted into the body’s major antioxidant, glutathione, which is used for detoxification in the body.
In addition to the MTHFR gene mutation, other factors can impact our methylation pathway negatively. Oxidative stress is a major factor because it creates toxicity in the body. There are many sources that cause this stress including diet, sleep, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
What is MTHFR mutation?
Our body depends on thousands of little proteins to do its job right. A mutation can cause a protein to malfunction or be missing entirely, and it can set off a cascade of issues. One little thing in your entire genetic code can be off which can cause severe dysfunction—anywhere from 30 to 70% loss of efficiency depending on the type of polymorphism.2
There are over 50 variants of the MTHFR mutation, but the two that are the most notable are the C667t and A1298c mutations. A person could be a carrier of one of these so they have some reduction in methylation, or they could have both types of the mutation and have some serious issues. So we have to look at more than just a generic protocol and use an individualized approach with testing and tools like ZYTO scanning.
Although an MTHFR mutation can cause serious issues, the important thing to remember is that we can biohack around it with various interventions. So there is hope—you just have to give the body the right things to keep the methylation pathway open. Below are the 5 steps I follow with my clients to biohack this common mutation.
1 – Focus on lifestyle foundations
Whether you have an MTHFR mutation or not, it’s important to start with the foundations of health:
- Nutrition – Eat organic, non-genetically modified foods
- Hydration – Drink plenty of pure water
- Movement – Exercise every day
- Sleep – Get enough sleep so your body can recover
- Elimination – Go through a good cleansing protocol once or twice a year
- Emotional wellness – Manage stress, connect with others, etc.
Keeping these 6 things under control will help to keep the methylation pathways open and functioning.
2 – Take the right supplements
B vitamins are one of the most important supplements you can take to biohack around the MTHFR mutation. These allow your body to get the bioavailable folate directly rather than relying on the body to produce it. There are some great supplements out there that contain what we call activated or methylated B vitamins. You’ll want to look for a third- or fourth-generation methyl tetrahydrofolate reductase and either calcium or glucosamine salt.
Probiotics are another important supplement because they help identify things in your body that shouldn’t be there before the adaptive immune system kicks in. This is important especially for people that have the MTHFR mutation. They need to reactivate those tool-like receptors, and they absolutely need the neurotransmitter production because they’re not doing it on their own. It’s really important to get a broad-spectrum probiotic with at least 12 strains and that is guaranteed to expiration.
Enzymes are another important factor for those with MTHFR. They play a major role in the building blocks that we need for the methylation pathway and for rebuilding DNA/RNA immune-system hormones and neurotransmitters. Even if you take all the B vitamins in the world in the right forms, you will not have the right amino acids for them to attach to. A high-quality enzyme supplement will ensure that you are breaking down proteins in the right forms and that they’re not just hanging out in your system causing all kinds of fermentation and overgrowth of candida.
Along with B vitamins, probiotics, and enzymes, other staples I recommend for MTHFR are NAC with vitamin C (or liposomal glutathione), and l-glutamine for leaky gut. Full-spectrum CBD from hemp is also great for clearing many different pathways and balancing high estrogen.
3 – Adjust supplement amounts as needed
Sensitivity to supplements is one of the things you’re going to experience with MTHFR. That’s why it’s important to not only use the right supplements, but also use the right amounts. Adding supplements and cleaning up your lifestyle is like stepping on the gas in a car. You’re revving the engine and you’ll feel great for a couple of weeks, and then all of a sudden it becomes too much. So you’ll need to monitor how you feel and bring it back down and then up as needed.
Adjusting supplement amounts makes sense because when you start getting the right forms in the right amounts and start to feel better, the methylation pathway is going to increase and become more efficient. Eventually, you can reduce things down to a much lower dose as the body begins to take over.
4 – Remove toxicity
One of the best ways to remove toxins from the body is to do a whole-body cellular cleanse. These types of cleanses will go in and open elimination pathways. Along with this cleanse, some people may need a candida or parasite or heavy metal cleanse. But a whole-body cleanse should include an activated form of B vitamins and NAC with buffered vitamin C or glutathione in it. And with vitamin C, you’ll want to make sure that it isn’t derived from corn.
I will have a client do this cleanse after they’ve built up their methylation process with supplements for the first 30 days. It’s important to wait until you’ve built up the methylation pathways before introducing the cleanse. Otherwise, the cleansing process will be harder on your system and create more issues.
Another thing I want to mention regarding toxicity is glyphosate. This is a common toxin found in many types of foods that can build up in your body and is very problematic for MTHFR especially. I recommend eating organic, non-GMO, and gluten-free foods to avoid this harmful substance because it can easily disrupt methylation and make it extremely difficult to detoxify.
To reduce toxicity, I also recommend things like getting quality air filters, going outside and breathing fresh air, and reducing EMF exposure from things like cell phones and WiFi.
5 – Heal leaky gut
It’s not a question of if you have leaky gut; it’s a question of how severe that leaky gut is. Anyone who has the MTHFR mutation has leaky gut, so we absolutely need to heal and seal the digestive tract in conjunction with boosting methylation.
There are many things that cause leaky gut—anything from stress to pesticides to antibiotics—but people with MTHFR are more likely to experience it in a severe form. What happens after a period of time is that those with a mutation will start to have histamine responses because they have a hard time breaking down histamine. And as the problem worsens, they may also experience histamine intolerance.
One of the best supplements I’ve found for healing and sealing leaky gut is l-glutamine, which I mentioned earlier. A few other supplements that can assist with leaky gut include licorice root, aloe vera, and slippery elm bark. I wait for 60 days into a methylation protocol before introducing these types of supplements to soothe and heal the GI tract.
A general protocol for biohacking MTHFR
A MTHFR test will determine what type of MTHFR mutation exists, if any, and can be a good first step to take. This will assist in customizing an individualized wellness plan. Alternatively, anyone can start with the protocol below and adjust and get further testing as needed. Just remember that dosage will need to be adjusted based on the type of mutation and sensitivity.
Phase 1 (Day 0-30)
- B-vitamin complex
- NAC & buffered vitamin C or liposomal glutathione
Phase 2 (Day 31-60)
- Add whole-body cleanse supplement
Phase 3 (Day 61-90)
- Remove whole-body cleanse and add gut-healing supplements
About Dr. Tracey Stroup
Tracey Stroup is a naturopathic doctor with 25 years of experience in the health and wellness field. Along with a BS in Exercise and Sports Science, she is a Level 2 Digestive Specialist from the Food Enzyme Institute. Dr. Stroup is the Director of Education for Nutritional Frontiers. To learn more, visit nutritionalfrontiers.com.
1.. Cannito, Jeannine. “Folate Deficiency and Depression.” Compassionate Mental Health, LLC. Compassionatementalhealth.com.
2.. Wilson, Doni. “Understanding the Methylation Cycle and Its Effect on Health.” Doctor Doni. Doctordoni.com.