Mental Illness, Genetics and MTHFR – Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (MTHFR), it’s a code word, suddenly talked about and the question everyone is asking is does this silly gene and a possible defect really matter? Let me assure you, MTHFR is the new curse word in medicine, because often providers don’t understand its impact and patients are lost with little information about where to seek expertise in how to treat misleading, confusing and detrimental issues related to the gene.
The basics of understanding MTHFR is understanding that variances in this gene cause difficulty in the process of chemical reaction involving forms of the vitamin folate (also called B9). The lack of the normal mechanism of this chemical reaction taking place impacts multiple process in the body, from a role in processing amino acids, making proteins, compounds, hormones, and the trickling of this leads to a domino like catastrophe. In a cascade of problems, the most detrimental is when this impacts the brain, the way people think, act, and function. In a society where we are diagnosing innumerous mental illness like: ADHD, Autism, learning differences, worsening dementias and Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s earlier than ever. Questions regarding a root cause of mental illness and strategic plans for individual wellness must be formulated and executed to promote healing and decrease greater mental decline. Fixing a sequela of events is time consuming, requires health providers and patients to adhere to healing treatment plans and requirements to replenish and decrease further depletion the body. Unfortunately, by the time many are diagnosed with this genetic issue, they have further depleted the body with medications, and their mentation has declined where they need extra help for essential healing.
In practice, school, and seminars for medical professionals there are multiple familial links with specific diseases that affect the brain. Commonly, it is asked and thought the diseases are “passed down” from mothers, fathers, grandparents, even aunts and uncles. As the study of the genome progresses, this is not entirely ludicrous in thought but instead of looking at fixing a gene disruption often patients are receiving the same medications and treatments as their relatives. What if instead of prescribing the medication that a relative took or takes, instead we look at optimizing the gene process and bypassing the defect?
Understanding that the inability to process folate, the resulting abundance of homocysteine and the lack of methionine, resulting deficiencies in S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), then leading to deficiencies of monoamine neurotransmitters may add some clarity to ways to treat many of the neurological disorders that are identified today. The answer may not be the medications that we are readily prescribed, but instead protocol in practice should start leaning toward the deficiencies that can cause these “brain” diseases and altered ways of processing and responding to information.
Basic understanding of the cellular processes that occur in the body show how MTHFR can affect almost every process in the body. An article could be written for numerous disease modalities that can be treated nutritionally as MTHFR impacts so many different areas of the body. The gene dysfunction can be easily bypassed but it takes an acute provider to realize this may be the cause of the allusive symptoms and mental illness. The cycle of dysfunction can create normal functioning mitochondria that repair tissues and promote brain healing as well as healing the havoc of other systems impacted by this gene. From basic cellular biology, most people remember the powerhouse of the cell responsible for cellular energy, detoxification and promoting many processes within the cell. Yes, the mitochondria promote energy and optimal function of the cell. When cells go awry, the mitochondria fail to clean out the pollutants, cause slow processing and delivery of cell output and then cellular function demise causes dysfunction, and cellular disease. Groups of these diseases and defective cells result in tissue dysfunction, then organ dysfunction and whole body dysfunction as understood chemical processes are skewed further and further with resulting demise. This specifically effects the brain as slow neurons (brain cells) receive deficiencies in cellular membranes and what is allowed to cross barriers into the cells, barriers into the brain, with resulting increases in toxicity and decreases of optimal neurotransmitters, hormones, and natural processes of individual cells which then results in suboptimal firing, thought process, functioning and eventually mental illness like dementia.
The following diagram explains much of chemical processes involved and specifically shows the break in the chemical cycles that impact how the brain processes. The complex nature and understanding of these cycles, the individual impacts on all places L-methyl folate impacts helps to see that MTHFR is a building block, for chemical processes, decreased inflammation at the cellular level, but genetic changes related to methylation specifically impact from a basic chemical and cellular level to an abundant brain change impacting neurotransmitters and overall functioning.
This image describes multiple processes, dominoes that affect the brain. Although the chemical processes are rather complex, the breaks in the connected cycles show the sequela of devastation related to the specific gene. Methylated folate in Red shows the disruptions that it may be able to fix, especially for specific genes. The image also indicates that if there are other breaks related to the process of the cellular uptake or conversion of folic acid such as an upregulation this can also impact brain function. Multiple psychologists, understanding this process are beginning treatments in new ways for these specific disorders. The new era of understanding the genome, its effect on processes like above give great hope to the psychological disorders, dysfunctions and the literature showing the increases in disorders related to nutritional issues having to do with folate.
This new era in medicine is going to create a functional approach to health. MTHFR is one of the genetic markers that is paving the way of greater integration of illness, health, and helping to even understand more about the way individuals think and act. The brain, neurotransmitter regulation, understanding the impact within families, and hereditary groups fascinates and indicates the needs for greater research in the areas of genetic markers that might be impacting individuals. The diagram indicates an area to fix in the broken chain of methylation, and gives hope to repair of cells, tissues, and persons suffering from folate deficiency related to their gene processing. The brain, psychiatric disorders, disorders and illnesses of the body can be studied in relation to hereditary, nutritional, and cellular dysfunction and what markers are predisposing illness. The more we understand about the markers of MTHFR, the more we can help the population suffering from mental illness that are not cured but often masked, and supplements can be used to fix the problems faced for those with this genetic marker.
You may order a home test kit for MTHFR here.