Why you’re not getting better. Understanding MTHFR.
Throughout my years as a naturopathic doctor, natural medicine never worked that well for me personally. Now, it worked a lot better than conventional drugs, so I was never disappointed by the approach. And yet I never got the amazing resolution of symptoms that some of my clients did. Eventually if this happens enough, you just start to wonder if there is something about yourself that makes you so difficult to cure. At least it made me wonder what was wrong with me that I couldn’t get the same help that I was able to give my clients.
So of course I just eventually figured it was just me, probably something deep seated and emotional that would require years of therapy. I tried all the various forms of therapy, some with positive effects and some not. Tried all the various diets for my digestive disorder, again some nebulous improvements. And of course I have don’t a ton of herbs, supplements and nutrients. Most of these approaches did little for my digestion or even made me worse.
Now I have had quite a few clients like myself that just didn’t respond great to any approach, either natural or conventional. They would also end up going through this self-questioning process eventually. The question is usually some version of “What is the matter with me that I can’t get better”. Even when I went to naturopathic school and went through all of the doctors there are the school I never had a great response to all of the natural medicine approaches that were supposed to work so well.
Recent improvements in genetic testing are starting to clarify what is the difference between someone that gets better right away, and a person that struggles to recover their health. This testing shows us that we were right that it is something about us that is different that causes us to respond differently to the medicines that seem to work for everyone else. It is not something in our personalty, past, emotional state, subconscious or karma. It is something in our DNA, a variable in our genes.
The current genetic testing that we are recommending to help with these cases is a test called MTHFR mutation. This test checks to see if you have two normal genes, one normal gene and one limited function genes, or two limited function genes. MTHFR stands for Methyl-Tetra-Hydra-Folate-Reductase. This is the enzyme in our body that converts the storage form of folate to the active form. This step of converting from the active to the storage form of folate is required to activate the immune system and to create the signals in our brain that allow us to function properly. Active folate is required to create the active serotonin for example. Active folate is required to activate our defensive T cells. This immune reaction is one of the first lines of defense against bugs (virus and bacterial) invading our system.
Even though the odds say that most people tested should come back normal, I have yet to see one of our clients come back normal. This makes perfect sense and explains at some level why they are my clients. Let me give you and idea of how much influence this one genetic mutation can have on the way your body is working. MTHFR mutation can affect the way our cells produce energy, the production of brain chemicals that affect our motivation, our feelings of wellness and self esteem, and our metabolism. MTHFR affects how many T cells we make and how well they function. T cells main job is to serve as a scout for the immune system to look out for virus or bacteria or to look for abnormal cells like cancer cells. Almost every part of your immune function that adapts to the environment is affected by T-cells. Additionally MTHFR is required for the proper creating of the tissue that surrounds our nerves, called the myelin sheath.
The active form of folate that is required for all of these systems to work is not available in food, rather it is only created in our bodies. If you have normal MTHFR genes you have a super highway for creating active folate. If you have one abnormal gene the process for creating folate is more like crossing a rope bridge. If you have two abnormal genes you are walking a tight rope in creating active folate.
I have seen this mutation in many of my clients with digestive problems (myself included), any type of chronic pain syndrome, headaches and brain-fog, anxiety and depression as well as chronic fatigue and fertility problems. Also these seem to be the clients most susceptible to cancer. This list will probably increase the more testing we are able to do to see what is really going on inside the body.
These are often the cases that have not felt well on other natural approaches. Of course because the can’t utilize normal supplements. Treating each individual as an individual is the key.