Do you feel a lack of energy? Confused, sometimes? Depression that you cannot link to any other cause?
A range of seemingly unrelated symptoms may be the result of the way that your body processes folate, or vitamin B9. Folic acid is an essential vitamin, and while supplements can make up for a lack of vitamin B9 in the diet, some otherwise healthy people have a genetic mutation that interferes with the body’s ability to process it, called methylation. This can be treated.
Folate, folacin or vitamin B9 is an essential vitamin. We need it to metabolize amino acids, which are needed for cell division, part of the process of growth and maintenance of body tissues.
Folate deficiency can lead to a certain form of anemia, in which red blood cells are enlarged and immature. Symptoms include feeling tired, heart palpitations, shortness of breath and open sores on the tongue.
Pregnant women are often prescribed folic acid supplements to prevent miscarriages as well as certain birth defects in their babies, including neural tube defects, spina bifida and congenital heart defects. This is especially important in the first trimester.
Some studies have found that folic acid supplements for pregnant women reduced the risk of autism spectrum disorders by 23%. Folic supplements have been linked to reductions in rates of heart disease, stroke and congenital heart defects. Folate deficiency has also been linked with diarrhea, depression, confusion, Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of cognitive decline. Long-term insufficiency may increase the risks of colorectal, breast, ovarian, pancreas, brain, lung, cervical and prostate cancers.
Because humans cannot make folate, we must get it from food. The recommended daily intake of folate for adults is 400 micrograms. Dark, leafy vegetables such as lentils, asparagus, spinach and lettuce are good sources of folate. Peanuts and sunflower seed kernels are also very rich sources of folate, as are chickpeas, soybeans and walnuts. Chicken liver and calf liver are meats that are excellent sources, as well.
The MTHFR mutation
Methylation, the process in which the body uses folate, is controlled by the gene MTHFR. It’s responsible for producing an enzyme called Methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), which is a catalyst, or trigger, for the production of DNA and RNA and in cell division.
There are a number of possible mutations in the MTHFR gene, most of which are benign. However, one called C677T can interfere with the methylation process, leading to puzzling and often serious symptoms of a condition called hyperhomocysteinemia, or excels levels of a hormone called homocysteine.
Our research has found a number of conditions and symptoms either caused or made worse by the MTHFR mutation, from autism to asthma, to male infertility to various cancers.
As with all treatments at Proactive Wellness Centers, we begin with a comprehensive assessment of your health and your body. This includes a complete lab panel of blood and other fluid tests. We also perform an advanced genetics panel, Cartoid Intima-Media Thickness (CIMT) tests to measure the thickness of the inner layers of the arteries and, if indicated, food sensitivity testing. These tests give us a full picture of your overall health and needs.
With this, we can develop dietary and lifestyle guidelines suited to your health needs, age and sensitivities. For example, we may recommend adding a green smoothie to your daily diet. We may also recommend reducing or eliminating consumption of:
- dairy products
- processed foods
Depending on the lab results, symptoms and age, we may also recommend adjustments to your lifestyle. These could include:
- eliminating carpeting from your home
- filtering chlorine from drinking water
- using an electric rather than a gas stove
At Proactive Wellness Centers, we have found that nutritional supplementation is key to advancing a patient’s overall wellness. But treating a long-term folate deficiency caused by the MTHFR mutation requires more than a simple folic acid pill once a day. Each patient requires the right supplements at the right time.
For example, methylated folate can make inflammation worse, so in a patient with a folate deficiency, inflammation must be treated before adding folate supplements.
Other possible supplements could include:
- broad-spectrum intravenous vitamin therapy
- multivitamins (excluding B9 or folic acid)
- fish oil
- vitamin C
- vitamin D3
Then, we would consider adding methylated folate, as long as the patient is not inflamed.
The right solution
Every body is unique, and that means that every treatment regimen must be uniquely tailored to the patient’s needs.
Imbalances in one part or one system of the body may manifest symptoms in other parts. Rather than focusing on one system or symptom, as specialists do, we take a functional medicine approach to find the root causes. In this way, we can develop a protocol that works for each individual.
If you have symptoms that you cannot account for or that successive specialists have failed to address, book an appointment for an assessment to put you on the path to optimal, life-long wellness.