What You Should Know About Your DNA:

by Nita Ewald

 

Gene expression — its effects on health, fertility and your child

DNA

Genetic research has uncovered some amazing new facts about our genes and gene mutation. Did you know that genetic factors can influence genes in ways that significantly affect our health? This month’s blog shares important research findings about gene mutation and what it could mean to you, especially those planning to have children.

Epigenetics: changes in gene activity

The science of genetic expression is known as epigenetics.  Professor Marcus Pembrey, a geneticist at University College of London and the University of Bristol, defines epigenetics as: “a change in our genetic activity without changing our genetic code.”

Scientists are researching how environmental factors and life experiences can leave “epigenetic marks” on our DNA that could get passed on to subsequent generations. Our diets, thoughts and emotions, environmental toxins, lifestyles, and many other factors affect our body’s trillions of cells. Such influences, called epigenetic factors, can modify the expression of a person’s genes, influencing his or her health and wellbeing. Although mutations can occur at any time during our lifetime, it is most likely that we are born with these mutations and will have them throughout our life.

MTHFR gene mutation disrupts methylation

One of the genes impacted by epigenetic factors is the MTHFR gene (Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase). This gene produces the MTHFR enzyme that plays an essential role in processing the folate we eat into nutrients our body needs.

People whose MTHFR gene is mutated are less able to process folate into methylfolate. Depending on the type of mutation, there can be a 40 to 70 percent decrease in the ability to convert folate into methylfolate. This biological process — called methylation — is so important because it regulates the body in many ways, such as:

  • turning genes on and off (genetic expression)
  • building immune cells
  • processing hormones
  • producing energy
  • processing chemicals and toxins (detoxification)
  • building neurotransmitters (serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine)
  • producing protective coating on nerves
  • building and repairing DNA and RNA

Because methylation is disrupted, those with the MTHFR gene mutation are more prone to disease and bodily malfunctions. Remarkably, it is predicted that over 40% of the world’s population has MTHFR genetic mutation that is passed from the mother, father, or both.

There are many MTHFR gene mutations, but the two most studied are C677T (associated with cardiovascular problems) and A1298C (neurological/cognitive issues). One copy of the gene from one parent is called heterozygous. One copy of the gene from both parents is called homozygous. You can be heterozygous or homozygous for either C677T or A1298C, or both.

Some of the risks associated with the mutations include increase risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, blood clots, infertility, miscarriages, congenital birth defects, neural tube defects, cancer, depression, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, dementia, thyroid dysfunction, and autism.  Ninety-eight percent of autistic children are believed to have one or both of the MTHFR gene mutations.

How to discover if you have the MTHFR gene mutation:

  1. First, learn more about the MTHFR gene mutation from experts like Dr. Ben Lynch. MTHFR.net.
  2. Talk to your doctor about getting tested for MTHFR. You may need to find a practitioner who is knowledgeable about it.
  3. Order a DNA genetic analysis kit from 23andme.com. The test is done via saliva. The raw data generated by 23andme will need to be further processed. You can send the data to Metabolic Healing or MTHFR support or Livewello to get your methylation profile.

Ways to manage the risk of MTHFR gene mutation:

  • Avoid folic acid including that in fortified foods such as processed cereals, pastas, store bought flours, drinks and multivitamins.  The terms folic acid and folate are often used interchangeably. However, folic acid is not found in nature and folate is naturally found in abundance in uncooked leafy greens, legumes and livers. In the case of MTHFR gene mutation, not only is folic acid unable to be processed into methylfolate, but it also takes up the receptor sites on cells where real folate is needed.
  • Avoid methylation-blocking drugs. Certain drugs that interfere with the methylation process include Metformin (controls blood sugar in type 2 diabetes), Sulfasalazine (controls Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis), Methotrexate (treats cancer, arthritis and other autoimmune diseases), oral contraceptives, Carbamazepine (anti-seizure), acid-blockers and antacids.
  • Regular detoxification using Infrared sauna or castor oil packs over your abdomen (avoid during menstruation).
  • Take supplements to support the methylation process. Dr. Lynch recommends the following primary nutrients (I highly encourage that you consult with your doctor first prior to taking any of these supplements):

–  Methylfolate (5-MTHF) – Start at low dose.

–  Vitamin B12 (methylcobalamine or hydroxycobalamine or adenosylcobalamine)

–  Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)

–  Vitamin B2 (riboflavin)

–  Choline

–  Potasium

–  Magnesium

–  Zinc

–  N-Acetyl Cystein (NAC)

–  Liposomal Glutathione

Genetics load the gun and environment pulls the trigger.  Your genes are not your destiny. Your environment, personal outlook, exercise regimen, lifestyle and dietary choices determine how your genes are expressed, as well as those of your children.

If you have elevated homocysteine levels or have suffered recurrent miscarriages, both of which are indications of MTHFR gene mutation, consider dietary and lifestyle changes, as well as 6 months of preconception preparation to optimize your chances to conceive and deliver a healthy baby.

If you have been struggling with infertility, I’d like to help you. You don’t have to do this alone; schedule a private Path to Fertility Breakthrough Session now.

Love and blessings,

Nita

 

References:

How does epigenetics play a role in a developing infant?

Methylation problems lead to 100s of diseases

Your preconception diet can shape your baby’s DNA

How folic acid is making us sick

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