What Is MTHFR and Why Should You Care When You Have Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism or Brain Issues?

On your internet searches for managing your low thyroid or brain condition, have you seen references to MTHFR? Just what is MTHFR and why does it matter? About 60 percent of people have a defect in the MTHFR gene, and knowing this can help you better manage Hashimoto’s low thyroid or brain-based symptoms.

MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. This is an enzyme that helps process the B vitamin folate so the body can use it. You also need MTHFR to process folic acid, a man-made form of supplemental folate.

Now that gene testing is affordable and accessible, you can test and find out whether you have a MTHFR defect. If you do, this means your methylation pathways may not be working correctly and this is contributing to your health challenges.

Methylation is a process of adding a methyl group to a molecule. This vital process governs the body’s detoxification and other necessary metabolic processes in the body. This is why knowing whether you have a defect can help you in your journey to manage Hashimoto’s low thyroid or brain-based symptoms such as fatigue, brain fog, or depression.

Methylation’s roles include:

  • Turning genes on and off
  • Detoxifying chemicals and toxins from the body
  • Building brain neurotransmitters
  • Metabolizing hormones to maintain hormonal balance
  • Building immune cells
  • Synthesizing DNA and RNA
  • Creating cellular energy
  • Producing a protective coating that sheathes the nerves
  • Metabolizing histamine
  • Supporting eye health
  • Burning fat
  • Supporting liver health

Appropriate methylation allows you to efficiently make proteins, utilize antioxidants, clear excess hormones, balance brain chemistry, detoxify toxins and heavy metals, and dampen inflammation. All of these processes are vital to managing Hashimoto’s low thyroid and brain symptoms

The inability to process folate can result in elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine. High homocysteine raises the risk of heart disease and Alzheimer’s.

Inadequate methylation also affects other areas of metabolism — the body’s ability to make glutathione, the body’s main antioxidant. When glutathione becomes low, our risk of developing autoimmune diseases, food sensitivities, and chemical sensitivities goes up.                                                           

An MTHFR defect also impacts the brain’s ability to make vital brain neurotransmitters. This raises the incidences of brain-based disorders. This is one reason an MTHFR defect has been linked to depression, anxiety, brain fog, ADHD, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia.

An MTHFR gene defect has also been linked to:

  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • Venous thrombosis
  • Cancer
  • Birth defects
  • Inflammatory bowel disease
  • Mental and mood disorders
  • Autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism

If you are working to manage Hashimoto’s low thyroid or brain symptoms, it’s important to dampen inflammation and raise glutathione levels. An MTHFR defect can make your journey more challenging.

The good news is that it can be easy to address.

You can test for MTHFR gene mutations through companies such as Spectracell or 23andme.com, and get an interpretation at geneticgenie.org.

Multiple MTHFR genetic mutations exist, but the two most problematic are 677 and 1298.

It’s important to know that just because you see those on a test doesn’t mean those genes have been activated.

To manage a MTHFR defect, support your methylation pathways with methylfolate and methylcobalamin (methyl B12). Avoid supplements with folic acid, take a high quality oral liposomal glutathione, and reduce your exposure to toxins. These are also beneficial strategies to aid in the management of Hashimoto’s low thyroid and brain symptoms.