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Genetics, Epigenetics, Nutritional Genomics

I recently had a new client sign up for care. She’s had thyroid cancer, and her thyroid removed. She has the MTHFR gene mutation (homozygous), but what does that mutation really mean?

First, let’s start with what we know. We know that MTHFR gene mutations are single gene, or double. We know that what this means is that MTHFR is involved in methylation. Methylation basically turns our genes “on” and “off”, to put it simply. In other words, methylation can determine our epigenetic fate. While we understand the basics of genetics, not as many are familiar with epigenetics. Epigenetics is about HOW genes can be activated or deactivated, and this can be impacted by nutrients, toxins, behaviors, environmental exposures, etc. It doesn’t change our DNA, but it essentially becomes the “storyteller” of our genes. Sort of a “choose your own adventure”, in a way.

Now, what we know specifically about MTHFR is that the gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase - but all you really need to know is that this enzyme plays an important part in processing amino acids, which we know are the building blocks of proteins, and proteins are needed to make numerous things in our bodies. The good news is, even though it SOUNDS like having a gene mutation would have a dramatic impact on our lives, we can EMBRACE epigenetics, and support our bodies to have healthy, normal lives, and healthy children! But it may require some food and lifestyle changes. Let’s talk about those.

A lot of information out there suggests individuals take folic acid. What they DON’T tell you, is that folic acid is a SYNTHETIC form of folate, and while I don’t recommend taking any synthetic supplements if it can be avoided (it can’t always), I especially do not recommend folic acid to those that know they have an MTHFR gene mutation. Also see this BirthFit article for more information on this! There are MANY ways to support this with food, which is rich in folate, and exactly what the body needs. The Birthfit article recommends that pregnant or breastfeeding women supplement with methyfolate of at least 2mg per day. (I personally like Thorne for this and will provide you specific recommendations). For women with the homozygous mutation, the recommendation is at least 3mg per day.

Nutrition Genome is a fabulous way to get genetic testing done for anyone who ISN’T sure of their MTHFR state. 23andme also sites SEVERAL studies that illustrate both sides of the pregnancy and miscarriage argument you’ve found regarding MTHFR, and what I love is that 23andme essentially explains that regardless, low levels of folate are linked to recurrent miscarriage (see article here!). The determination of the gene and level of mutation do not supersede the need to ensure folate levels are adequate during pregnancy. So why do I recommend Nutrition Genome testing OVER 23andme? 23andme is great for general genetic and ancestry information. Nutrition Genome gives a WHOPPING 85 page report on your genetics and how to EAT to best support your genes. To get your test today, click HERE. If you are a current client and would like for me to have access to your reports, make sure you include me as your practitioner!

For foods, first, avoid foods that have been fortified with folic acid, as your body will struggle to process folic acid. Foods like grains, crackers, most wheat products, should be avoided. Secondly, I would also recommend increasing folate-rich foods like bok choy (my favorite), asparagus, spinach, endive, and if tolerated, chicken liver (pasture-raised, please!). Liver can often be chopped up and “hidden” in other ground meats if that bothers you. Companies like Force of Nature Meats also provide pre-blended ground beef that includes heart and liver in the meat already! Lastly, I would encourage you to incorporate some choline-rich foods into your diet. While we haven’t discussed it, choline can be a “methyl donor”, meaning it can help support methylation overall. Choline is especially rich in eggs (again, pasture raised, please!), particularly the yolk. It can also be found in wild caught shrimp, scallops, and pasture raised chicken.

I hope that’s helpful information!

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