The purpose of this article is to explain how your MTHFR (MethyleneTetraHydroFolate Reductase) gene mutation may affect your immune system, and how addressing your MTHFR may help you directly fight the coronavirus. Additionally, you will learn what you should do about your MTHFR mutation to be safe during these exceptional times. As it turns out, MTHFR and methylation are extremely important in fighting COVID-19. I am sure when many of you tried to learn more about MTHFR and your immune system, you got lost in heavy, complicated language that almost requires a PhD in biochemistry to understand it. Therefore, I will try to explain everything in simple language, whenever possible, except for when I quote sentences from research studies.
What is MTHFR (MethyleneTetraHydroFolate Reductase)?
MTHFR is a gene that activates an enzyme in our body responsible for converting the storage form of folate into the active form or methylated form of folate. We don’t get active folate from food; it needs to be metabolized and broken down to a methylated form for use by our body. If you have a MTHFR gene without any mutations, your body has no problem to generating the methylated folate. However, if you have a MTHFR mutation, your body will partially lose its ability to generate methylated folate. Now let’s look at the statistics. Eighty percent of the population has at least one mutation in one of the two main alleles (positions) of the MTHFR gene. The main alleles are C677T and A1298C. Depending on the mutation, a person may lose a percentage of their ability to generate the methylated form of folate necessary to fuel the methylation process. The breakdown of this loss is 20 percent for a single mutation (heterozygous mutation) on the A1298C position to 70 percent for a double mutation (homozygous mutation) on the C677T position.
Now let’s understand what this means for your health and how it affects the ability of your body to protect against viruses. Methylated folate is the main ingredient needed to fuel a complex biochemical process called methylation. In simple technical terms, methylation creates methyl groups (CH3 – one carbon, three hydrogens) to be placed into molecules. When methylation happens, your body has the ability to control gene expression and suppress unwanted genes. Additionally, methylation controls intracellular detoxification and affects the immune response controlling T-cell production, fighting infections and viruses and regulating the immune response among other functions.
An article by Leo Pruimboom – May 26, 2020, states, “The results by (Corley and Ndhlovu, 2020) reveal that the ACE2 gene activity, based on the methylation pattern of the several promotor CpG isles, is associated with age and gender. ACE2 is present in multiple human tissues and organs, including the lung, the gut, the liver, the pancreas, the brain, and blood. The methylation rate in lung epithelial cells was the lowest compared with all the other tissues, which suggests that lung tissue has the highest transcription and expression rate of ACE2. At the same time, it was evidenced that the ACE2 gene in neurons and leukocytes is hypermethylated and that the protein seems not to be expressed. Age correlates in this study with hypomethylation of the ACE2 gene in lung tissue, which could provide a partial explanation for aging as a risk factor for SARS-CoV-2 fatality, whereas male gender shows a trend in hypomethylation [5th paragraph]”.
In simple terms, if you have a healthy and strong methylation, then you have a much higher chance to neutralize the COVID-19 virus!
I could list many more studies and articles here, but the bottom line is, you have to support your methylation!
Now, the new question is, how am I going to support my methylation? Below, I have listed several steps for you to take and have made many recommendations for you to follow to support your methylation.
Step one: Get tested for the MTHFR gene mutation right away. Our website provides a noninvasive MTHFR cheek swab home-testing kit that you may purchase without a doctor’s prescription. The test gives you results, usually within two weeks from the time we receive your specimen. The cheek swab saliva test is noninvasive, safe, and secure, and you can do it from the comfort of your home.
Why do you need to get tested? There are several possible mutations for the MTHFR gene, (six to be precise) and for each one, your body may need a different amount of methylated folate to support your methylation. We are talking about a very precise biochemical system in the body. For methylation to function properly, you need to have enough methylated folate but not too much. There is a fine line between hypermethylation (slightly higher methylation that makes your methylation wheel turn a little faster without any negative results) and overmethylation (your methylation is out of control and throws your body off, breaking down your health).
As mentioned previously, if your methylation is not supported, you are more prone to serious viral issues, and on top of it, your body is slow to produce the activated folate molecule. You have to do some biochemical work and, give your body some cofactors, such as B12, B6, B2, and folate, to push the methylation process along.
Now, you ordered your test. Should you wait for the results? Absolutely not!
Step 2: Start supplementing right away! Because we don’t know your mutation yet, or whether you have one, take the minimum dosage of methylated folate while waiting for your results. By taking the minimum dosage, you are beginning to support your methylation without running the risk of going into overmethylation.* Once you receive the results of your MTHFR gene test, you may adjust your intake of methylated folate according to your MTHFR mutations. I like a well-balanced formula that incorporates multiple B vitamins in addition to methylated folate (B9). Our methylation support formula contains: methylated folate (B9), methylated B12, B6, vitamin C, vitamin E, riboflavin (B2), magnesium, Choline, trimethylglycine, betaine, MSM, and beet (root). I have found this to be a well-rounded formula tolerated well by most patients.
Below is a recommendation table of our product of choice to support your methylation:
Directions for our methylation support dosage according to your MTHFR mutations (adults and children over twelve years of age):
- No mutations or MTHFR A1298C heterozygous (one mutation) take one capsule once a day with a meal;
- MTHFR A1298C homozygous (two mutations) or MTHFR C677T heterozygous (one mutation) take two capsules per day with meals; or
- MTHFR C677T homozygous (two mutations) or compound heterozygous (one mutation of C677T and one of A1298C) take 3 capsules per day with meals.
Alternatively, you can take it as directed by your healthcare professional. For children less than twelve years old, consult their pediatrician.
Always increase the amount slowly. Start with one capsule per day. You may increase the dosage by one capsule every three days according to your MTHFR mutations; however, do-not exceed the daily recommended for your MTHFR mutation. If you have any unwanted reactions, stop taking the supplement immediately, and consult your healthcare professional for advice.
To precisely understand how much folate you really need, I have written an article that teaches you how to calculate folate levels based on your MTHFR mutation. You would need to get a blood test for serum folate to calculate it. The test should be conducted with at least eight hours fasting and without taking any supplements for at least three days previously. I recommend you ask a MTHFR expert to help you interpret the results and to make sure you do not make a mistake. However, this article explains in detail what is needed.
Let me underline a very important point here: Your genes will never change, and this means if you have a MTHFR gene mutation, then you will carry this for the rest of your life. Additionally, this means you will need to supplement your diet for the rest of your life with a methylated form of folate, according to your own MTHFR mutation. During this time with the coronavirus, I recommend you take a little extra methylated folate to keep your body on a slightly hypermethylated state without going into overmethylation.
Step three: What else supports your methylation? Vitamin D
A very recent study by Ilie and Smith (2019) shows that the low levels of vitamin D in European countries correlates with mortality rates from COVID-19, which strengthens my recommendation for the intake of vitamin D from a functional level of 60 to 120. I like to see an ideal level between 80 and 100. Additionally, vitamin D has been shown in many studies to be anticancer (Castronovo 2015, Skrajnowska 2019, Sun 2017). Aside from getting vitamin D through food and sunlight, I always recommend my patients a liquid form of vitamin D intake between 5,000 IU to 10,000 IU per day, depending on various factors, such as, MTHFR mutation, risk factors for coronavirus, vitamin D levels, and blood chemistry work.
Step four: Another nutrient that has been found by research to support methylation is curcumin. A great study by Hassan 2019 shows how curcumin inhibits DNMT activities and modifies the pattern of DNA methylation. Another example is the 2015 study by Boyanapalli & Kong that shows the epigenetic regulatory mechanisms of curcumin.
There are also more than 1,500 papers published on curcumin that has revealed that curcumin has a potential in the treatment of wide variety of inflammatory diseases including cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular diseases, arthritis, Alzheimer’s disease, and psoriasis.
The benefits of curcumin could be the subject of a whole article. However, what really matters for the purpose of this article, is that curcumin supports your methylation. Just pay attention to your sources and how they extract the curcumin out of turmeric. There are many curcumin products on the market so be careful when you choose this supplement. Studies have shown that when the curcumin is standardized to 95 percent curcuminoids and mixed at the right proportion with black pepper, it is the right recipe to support methylation as well as to benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties. I personally like and recommend our product: (Turmeric/Curcumin) to my patients because of the quality of the ingredients and the research behind this brand.
Step five: Take glutathione. The by-product of methylation is glutathione and if there is a chance you have a methylation that is not working well, chances are you don’t have enough glutathione in your body and you should also supplement with glutathione.
Glutathione is the major anti-oxidant in the body. In addition to have an anti-inflammatory effect, glutathione also supports the immune system. Not all glutathione products are the same. Make sure you take the form called S-Acetyl L-Glutathione.
For convenience we carry glutathione in capsules and patches. Our liquid form is almost as strong as an intravenous glutathione, with one difference; the intravenous form usually comes with strong side-effects. When taking this supplement orally, there are no side effects.
Glutathione is rapidly absorbed by the liver in our body so I suggest that whenever taking glutathione it is important to take precursors to glutathione to help your body make more of it. We have a glutathione builder product that contains the main element necessary to help the body to produce glutathione: N-Acetyl L-Cysteine.
Step six: As a Chinese medicine practitioner I have to mention about the power of Chinese herbs, especially when it comes to strengthening the immune system. I have developed an herbal tea called Immune Boost. This herbal tea contains natural herbs that strengthen the immune system and have strong anti-viral properties. We have been able to assemble a formula that is strong and delicious at the same time. The ingredients are: Astragalus Root, Liquorice Root, Ginger Root, Jujube Fruit, Goji Berry.
Step seven: Supplementation is a must for your methylation. However, you still need to have a balanced, healthy diet. Make sure to include dark green leafy vegetables in your diet, which provide you with natural folate (a methyl donor). Eat whole foods, and avoid processed foods. Review your life-style and see where you can make positive changes. Avoiding excessive alcohol or quitting smoking will remove tremendous pressure from your body.
Step eight: Exercise is and always has been one of the key components for longevity. With our focus on supporting methylation to fight the coronavirus, we have to include regular exercise in the recommendations. According to Voisin 2015, an analysis of twenty five studies has shown that acute and chronic exercise significantly affects DNA methylation.
When I talk about exercise, I include any physical activity that gets your muscles to work and promotes your blood circulation. It does not have to be, in a traditional sense, going to a gym or riding a bicycle. Other forms of nontraditional exercise may include gardening, dancing, cleaning (yes, even cleaning your home if you have to bend and stretch your body), hiking, fixing things around your house, and more. The key is consistency. As long as you do one of these things on a regular basis, you will support your methylation. Exercising three to four times per week is ideal.
Step nine: While we are talking about our life-style, which is the base of epigenetics, we should point out a very important factor that will reduce your methylation, stress! According to Harrison Wein, Ph.D., studies have shown that stress hormones called glucocorticoids alter gene expression in the brain. The researchers added that corticosterone decreases Fkbp5 methylation levels. I recommend everyone start activities that brings joy to your lives. At least once per week, do one thing that you love to do. You cannot underestimate the power of happiness! Additionally, I recommend small activities on a daily basis, such as meditation, breathing exercises, yoga, and positive affirmation. All you need is five to fifteen minutes a day to make a great change in your life and health.
Step ten: One last thing on this subject, gratitude! This is, perhaps, the most important of all. Every day you should give thanks to God or the universe, whatever is the most appropriate to your belief system. Give thanks to everything you have, and give thanks for everything that happens to you. Trust God or the universe that whatever happens in your life will eventually lead to something better. If you lose your job, give thanks that perhaps a better opportunity will show up in your life and that will eventually lead to something bigger and better.
A summary of the tips to support methylation to fight COVID-19:
- Test for the MTHFR gene mutation
- Supplement with methylfolate
- Vitamin D
- Glutathione (capsules, patches) and N-Acetyl L-Cysteine.
- Chinese herbal tea
- Immune boost
- Eat healthy
- Do any stress relief activity
- Do “one thing” that makes you happy at least once per week
*For the vast majority of the population, the minimum dosage of methylated folate will not throw the body into overmethylation however, on rare occasions the patient may only handle a small portion of the minimum dosage or none at all. Usually, in these cases, as soon as the patient starts taking methylated folate, they have unwanted side effects, such as fatigue, diarrhea, anxiety, and more. If that happens, stop taking methylated folate immediately and, take a small amount of niacin (100 mg), which will neutralize the methylated folate, and consult your doctor. In these cases, you should only take supplements under the care of a doctor who understands methylation.