I previously wrote about learning that I have a homozygous (from both parents) mutation in my MTHFR C677T gene, and that I was going to a new doctor who wanted to have my blood tested to see which nutrients were actually getting into my cells.
Why is getting tested for nutrients important for people with this mutation? The mutation, which affects 40-70% of the population, impairs a cellular process called methylation, which can create deficiencies in nutrients. This can affect metabolic processes including cell repair, immunity, detoxification, inflammation, neurotransmitter production, and fat processing and result in serious disease.
Health conditions that can be influenced by nutrient absorption include addiction, miscarriages, birth defects, autism, diabetes, mental illness including anxiety and depression, ME/CFS, fibromyalgia, cardiovascular disease, neurological disease like Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, thyroid disease, certain cancers, hypertension, inflammation, migraines, and many more. These health issues are common.
If you could take the right supplements and eat the right foods to recover from or prevent problems, would you do it? I would. When you have your health, life is definitely better.
SpectraCell Laboratories offers testing for 31 micronutrients (vitamins, minerals, amino and fatty acids, antioxidants, and metabolites) to learn about functional deficiencies within cells. (It’s not just what you ingest, it’s what your cells actually absorb and utilize.) The test reflects micronutrient status in your lymphocytes (white blood cells that are part of the immune system) over a period of months, so it’s not reflective of what you ate right before the test. The test results also indicate immune function, detox function, and carbohydrate metabolism.
Last week I got my SpectraCell results, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought it might be. I was deficient in three micronutrients and borderline in five. I’ve been fairly conscious about what I consume, and I’ve also been working on improving my gut health , taking digestive enzymes, Betaine HCl + pepsin, L-glutamine, collagen, and eating/drinking something fermented every day as well as taking probiotics. Food is medicine for me. It is for everyone, but not everyone knows it.
The test results show that my immunity is healthy. My detox ability is almost borderline, and my carbohydrate metabolism is impaired. That was surprising and concerning.
My integrative physician Dr. Vinay Parameswara of Oak Hill Wellness Clinic in Austin went over the SpectraCell results with me, answered my questions, pointed out what to know about balancing certain nutrients, and recommended how to get the micronutrients I need: either take supplements, choose between food and supplements, or get the nutrients from food.
I’ve now acquired my supplements and am modifying my diet to get those other nutrients. More sardines, Brazil nuts, and spinach, anyone?
The plan is to do the SpectraCell micronutrient test again in 6 months and see what’s happening then. I hope by then every single nutrient is in the healthy range, and I am detoxing and metabolizing carbs properly. I imagine I will feel great, have more energy, and my health issues will be healing or healed.
Rather than relying on conventional Western medicine, with its penchant for treating symptoms by prescribing pharmaceuticals but not looking for the cause, the relatively new fields of integrative and functional medicine take a deeper look at what constitutes health and what repairs it. Combining new information about our genetics with the ability to do nutrient absorption testing, we now have the ability to target our food and supplements to optimize our health with more precision.
I realize that I am very, very fortunate to have a local, highly educated, integrative (and nice) physician who listens and who takes insurance, and I’m also fortunate to be able to afford the 23 and Me and SpectraCell testing, which insurance does not cover. If you’re in the Austin area and suspect you may have issues with your metabolism, go see Dr. Vinay.
If you suspect you might have an MTHFR mutation — you have any of the health conditions listed above, or they run in your family, or your microbiology/metabolism seems off for whatever reason — I would recommend getting the 23 and Me genetic testing, running the data through Genetic Genie (very simple), and doing the SpectraCell testing. Learn as much as you can about the mutation (I like this article for an overview and this site for more depth) and work with a medical professional qualified and experienced with this.
You’re probably wondering how much this costs. My out-of-pocket expenses so far (for testing, not including supplements) have been about $500. Is your health worth spending that amount? Mine is.
If money is an issue, 23 and Me offers discounts from time to time, and my daughter and I took advantage of that. Genetic Genie takes a $10 donation. SpectraCell testing can be done without a physician, but it may cost less working through one. You can always call a doctor and ask what they charge. Your insurance may also cover it. Ask.
Here’s someone else’s link-laden post on nutrient deficiencies and the SpectraCell micronutrient testing.
If you suspect you have an MTHFR mutation and there’s absolutely no way you can get genetic and micronutrient testing done at present, I would recommend supplementing with a vitamin B-complex specially formulated to work with MTHFR mutations (with folate, not folic acid, and methylated versions of B-6 and B12). The B vitamins are water soluble, so I don’t think it could hurt to take them not knowing whether/how much you’re deficient, but if you know differently, please let me know.
I’m taking Vitamin Code Raw B-Complex from Garden of Life, which is food based. I believe it’s better to get your nutrients from whole, organic foods whenever possible. Take one daily for 3-6 months to see if you feel better.
If you know of a better methylated B-complex supplement, please share in the comments.
Caution: More is not better. From what I’ve read, some people, especially those with the homozygous mutation, may benefit by ramping up slowly on the B vitamins to avoid side effects until your body tolerates them. Try one and wait a couple of days to notice how you feel, then if you feel okay, take one and wait one day, and then if you tolerate that, go daily. My body has done fine with one a day from the start.
People with the MTHFR mutation are also often deficient in specific key minerals. Actually, most everyone is. Without testing, it’s impossible to know which ones you’re deficient in, but if you can’t get the testing done, it seems wise to take a multi-mineral supplement.
I like Mega Multi Mineral from Solaray. It seems to have a decent amount and balance of minerals. Note that a daily dose is four capsules. Minerals are like that. If you’re a menstruating woman or anemic, get extra iron; otherwise, avoid iron.
If there’s a multi-mineral supplement you really love, please share in the comments.
I take an extra standalone chromium supplement because I’m deficient in it, and this brand doesn’t provide 100% of the RDA. This is why testing is important. Get tested and work with a qualified professional if you can.
I am not a doctor, but I understand the difficulty of maintaining health insurance for many people and have gone without it myself. Working without a doctor means you need to think like a good doctor. Before starting, note all of your health problems in detail: symptoms, duration, intensity, changes. Start the supplement regimen, and note changes.
Some changes will show up almost imperceptibly. That’s why it’s important to continue the regimen for at least three months, preferably six.
Note everything! For instance, after a few weeks of eating and supplementing for my MTHFR mutations, I noticed that when I meditate, I sometimes experience spontaneous visions. That’s new. I’ve never thought of myself as a visually gifted person.
We humans are so weird, complex, and fascinating.
Other tips if you have or suspect you have an MTHFR mutation:
- Avoid eating folic acid, of which there is much in fortified processed foods. Maybe why so many do better on the Paleo diet: it excludes processed foods, especially grains. If you are taking supplements with folic acid, stop. Your body needs folate (natural), not folic acid (manufactured).
- Pay special attention to detoxing. Sweating, infrared saunas, taking activated charcoal and bentonite clay, dry brushing your skin, coffee enemas — there are numerous ways to help your body remove toxins.
- If you have cavities, do not get mercury fillings (if they even do that any more), and if you have mercury fillings, have them carefully removed and replaced with a non-mercury substance. I’ve got four more to be removed.
- The rest of these tips are for everyone who wants good digestive health. Eat at least a cup of dark greens every day. If you don’t have time to cook, put them into a green drink and blend with good water, lemon juice, ginger, flax seeds, chia seeds, and other healthy additions.
- Take digestive enzymes before meals and Betaine HCl + Pepsin after, especially if you’re over 40, because production declines with age. It will help you get more nutrients from the food you eat.
- Chew thoroughly. Digestion starts with saliva, and thoroughly chewing your food makes it easier to digest. This will also help you eat more slowly and realize when you’re full sooner, avoiding overeating.
- Staying hydrated is important! I do bodywork using a massage license, and we all tell you to drink plenty of water — for good reason. Drink half your body weight in liquid in ounces per day, more if you sweat. Or drink enough so your urine is almost colorless. Put simply, dehydration creates problems. We are meant to be juicy.
- Fast to let your digestive system rest and heal. Find something that works for you, whether intermittent or longer fasts.
- If you should feel worse, back off on the supplements, do more research, and see a professional for help. You may need to get your mineral and protein levels adequate before adding methylated B vitamins.
I’ll post again in a few months to see how it’s going. Meanwhile, your questions and comments are welcome.
In my opinion and due to research, I believe about everyone can trust that they too have the mutated genes. On the safe side, follow your guidelines above and save yourself the $500.
In hindsight, it doesn’t matter that much what a genetic analysis says. Some people with MTHFR mutations have no issues, and some have serious issues. It’s complicated, and there’s a lot we don’t know yet.
It does matter what nutrients you’re deficient in, because everyone is probably deficient in something, and that affects your organs, your energy, your quality of life. I feel that if money is an issue, spend it on micronutrient testing rather than genetic testing. You can do something about the foods and supplements you consume. You can’t do anything about your genes.