Ok, so this subject is annoyingly complex. However, in this article, I’m going to attempt to make it as simple as possible because I believe understanding MTHFR and what to do about it might be one of the most important things you ever do in your life as a highly sensitive person.
An Overview of Why MTHFR Matters to Highly Sensitive People
- The MTHFR gene controls the production of the MTHFR enzyme.
- The MTHFR enzyme is critical to a process in the body called the “Methylation Cycle”, which occurs about once per second in every single cell of your body.
- Among many other things, the Methylation Cycle is directly involved in the production and balancing of neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters directly affect how you feel and think.
- The Methylation Cycle is also involved in regulating how much physical energy you have.
- Mutations in the MTHFR gene can impair methylation supported processes in the body by up to 90%!
- In the U.S., approximately 1 in 2 people carry at least one MTHFR gene mutation. (So this is extremely common)
- You can get tested, determine if you have the mutation, and then take steps to compensate for the mutation – resulting in a potentially significant improvement in the way you think and feel every day.
Here’s what we’re going to cover:
- What is MTHFR?
- Why does it matter for highly sensitive people and gifted individuals?
- How to get tested
- What to do if you are positive for this gene mutation
What is MTHFR?
The MTHFR gene (not to be confused with the MTHFR enzyme) is one of the 20,000 genes in the human body. It is a “master instruction sheet” for the production of the MTHFR enzyme.
Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR), is an enzyme that works as a catalyst for important biochemical reactions in your body. It converts vitamin B9 (folate) into methyl-folate which is essential for the Methylation Cycle.
The Methylation Cycle protects your body by repairing damaged cells and optimizing DNA cell function. It also processes toxins and hormones, metabolizes B vitamins, and regulates neurotransmitters. The neurotransmitters including dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine control mood, behavior, sleep, and your overall mental health.
More than two hundred of your body’s vital functions rely on methylation, including:
- Creatine Production: skeletal muscle contraction
- DNA & RNA synthesis
- Epigenetic Gene Regulation
- Hormone regulation and detoxification
- Energy production
- Cell membrane repair
- Lipid metabolism
- Neurotransmitter production
- Nitric Oxide production: vascular endothelial function
- Immune function
As you can see, methylation is an incredibly important process in the body!
In his book Dirty Genes, Dr. Ben Lynch describes the situation this way:
Think of those two hundred functions, or processes, as two hundred gardens located throughout your body. Just as gardens need water, so do those processes need methyl groups. The Methylation Cycle is like an irrigation system that draws water from a clean, clear lake and distributes it to all the gardens. If something blocks or disrupts or dirties your Methylation Cycle, some or all of your body’s processes either won’t get the methyl groups they need or won’t be able to use them properly. (Dirty Genes, pg. 80)
Why Does MTHFR Matter for Highly Sensitive People and Gifted Individuals?
As a highly sensitive person, do you ever have the experience that you can’t rely on your body? Do you feel that your physical energy comes and goes? Do you sometimes feel on top of the world, able to focus and see deeply into things, then at other times, barely able to function? Do you experience mental and emotional suffering that seem like too much?
If so, these may be signs that you have the MTHFR gene mutation and that it’s interfering with your body’s functioning at a foundational level.
The Neurotransmitter Reservoir – The Well of Life
In this article, we’re focusing on neurotransmitter production and regulation, one of the many, many processes that rely on the Methylation Cycle. Neurotransmitters are the alphabet of the nervous system. Without them, the body cannot form the words that it needs to speak to itself, the words of its internal language. Thoughts, emotions, and other signals become stuck along the electrochemical pathways of the body’s nerves, or cannot form properly in the first place.
Dr. Elaine Aaron has stated that the depth of processing that highly sensitive people experience has a physiological cost, or price. Part of that cost is neurotransmitters. Neurotransmitters are needed to process experiences, to think about things, and to feel emotions.
Neurotransmitters are a “non-infinite, renewable resource.” What does that mean? It means that the body can always make more neurotransmitters, but that you can use them up faster than your body can make them. This is particularly true for highly sensitive and/or gifted individuals.
In the case of the MTHFR gene mutation which impairs neurotransmitter production, that can mean that your resource pool of neurotransmitters is more limited than in other people. So in this case you are:
- Burning through neurotransmitters more quickly due to depth of processing
- Have a reduced reservoir of neurotransmitters to draw from
As highly sensitive people, we need that reservoir to be as full as possible, not running low all the time. That is why knowing if you are dealing with the MTHFR gene mutation is so important!
The Research Study
There is a Highly Sensitive Person & MTHFR research study currently being put together. Please check back soon for details.
If you are interested in having your MTHFR gene tested for mutations, please check the research study page for instructions on how to get tested.
What To Do If You Are Positive for MTHFR
We’re going to cover this in the next article which is coming soon. Please check back in a week or two.