The MTHFR Gene: “Manufacture” Your Way to Health and Happiness
Featuring “DNA 4 KIDS” with “GENiE”
“We all know how imperfect we are.Why not make ourselves a little better suited to survival?”
-James D. Watson, Nobel Laureate,
Co-Discovered DNA’s “Double Helix”
“DNA + Environment + Triggers + Chance = Your Personal Health Destiny. Bypass genetic mutations in MTHFR to increase the manufacture of your ‘Happiness Neurotransmitters.”
-Bruce Alan Kehr, M.D.
Reader, the beginning paragraphs of a blog are almost unanimously designed to hold their audiences’ attention, to keep their eyes glued to the screen and their hands scrolling for more. But right now, I’m going to ask you to do the exact opposite. Take a moment to gaze slowly around the room you occupy. What do you see? I see a desk, a lamp, a corkboard covered with birthday and Father’s Day wishes from my family, and memorabilia from many of our family trips together. And well over 99% of the time I spend in my office, that’s all I see: But the solid nature of the objects at my fingertips belies people, the machines, and the numerous bits and pieces that went into making them what they are now—not to mention the thousands of processes and procedures that brought them into their finished states. The objects in my office—and in yours—have undergone a complex manufacturing process involving natural resources, raw materials, numerous components, and both human and mechanical design and labor, all of which almost certainly spans the entire globe. In our current economy, even something as seemingly simple as a wood desk is subject to such factors as international diplomacy, politics, and—especially of late, the tricky business of trade and tariffs. Thus, despite its seeming simplicity to the naked eye, each object you see right now is the end-product of a vast supply chain, each link in balance with the others. It’s a beautiful thing when it’s working the way it should. But because all the links are dependent on one another, just a single broken link—like import or export taxes—can send the whole process into disarray.
Could a Simple MTHFR Gene Test Provide Solutions to Depression and Anxiety?
A desk is not just a desk, but rather an intricate array of materials and processes that all rely on one another—and, reader, your body is just the same. Just beyond the touch of your skin lies an impossibly complex interplay of elements that are constantly building and destroying and ultimately working to keep you healthy and prevent disease. But just like the challenges found in running any manufacturing plant, there are times when the links in the manufacturing supply chain of your body and brain break down. A malfunctioning “anxiety gene” or “depression gene” can result in mental distress and cognitive impairment, and may only be discovered through a genetic test – through a simple, painless cheek swab. That’s why, this week, I’m going to tell you about a gene that lies at the center of it all, one which, if broken, can wreak havoc on both your mental and physical health. We’re talking about the MTHFR gene: the first of many links in a genetic supply chain that—if broken—can lead to dire mental and physical health consequences. While we can’t repair the gene, we can modify its expression to provide novel solutions to treat anxiety and depression.
I want to stop here and clarify: manufacturing supply chains are certainly designed to follow a predefined path—but aside from that, there are a nearly infinite number of variables that can determine the final outcome. Likewise, those variables can be manipulated in a nearly infinite number of ways. When we simply take the objects that make up our lives at face value, and don’t look beneath the surface, we rob ourselves of the immense gift of not only understanding but appreciating their complexity. Similarly, when we don’t take a look under the proverbial “hood” of our own bodies, we risk losing the opportunity to make informed choices about our very DNA—like deciding to seek out depression solutions, anxiety solutions, or MTHFR gene testing—we rob ourselves of the opportunity to take control of our very destiny and play a role in determining the health outcomes that will shape the rest of our lives and the lives of those around us.
How does a “Broken” MTHFR Gene Help Cause Anxiety and Depression?
So let’s take an up-close look at the “MTHFR supply chain,” and then let’s talk about what you can do to modify that chain to better benefit your health. The MTHFR gene (short for Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase variant) serves a critical purpose: The production of the MTHFR enzyme. Now, the body has a number of “raw materials” that must be processed into a new form before they can be used by the body. Folate (Vitamin B9), a nutrient, is one of those “raw materials”—and the MTHFR enzyme is the ingenious tool the body’s built to process it. In perfect circumstances, the MTHFR enzyme works its magic to transform folate into an ingredient the body can use; with the enzyme’s help, folate becomes methylfolate. Here’s where the story gets interesting. Methylfolate is a crucial element in our biology responsible for building the ingredients that determine how good we feel. Let me explain: Methylfolate enables our bodies to convert the amino acid homocysteine into another amino acid, methionine. And methionine is used to make brain chemicals essential for a number of aspects of our mental health—these include the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. Bottom line, for our purposes: Without methylfolate, these neurotransmitter levels decrease, leading to, among other things, depression and anxiety.
How do Doctors Treat a Mutated MTHFR Gene to Alleviate Anxiety and Depression?
It is estimated that up to 40% of all individuals have a genetic mutation in their MTHFR gene, leading to a low production of the critical enzyme responsible for beginning this whole process. Now, in most people, the implications are negligible. However, those with certain specific mutations can suffer for decades without knowing what’s wrong. People who suffer from MTHFR gene mutations typically do not respond well to standard SSRIs—a common medical treatment for depression and anxiety. If a genetic test is administered and their medical practitioner is able to determine a mutation with their MTHFR gene, they can prescribe L-methylfolate along with an SSRI and enable significantly better outcomes for their patients.
MTHFR is a subtle gene, and one that so many of us know so little about. And yet it holds the keys to better health outcomes for millions of people—and who would want to deprive themselves of the opportunity to feel better at last? In my practice, I am committed to doing Whatever It Takes to help my patients—and I have seen many positive results firsthand from individuals who take control of their genes through that initial cheek swab.
Supply chains run the world, whether we like it or not—in fact, logistics account for nearly 10% of our GDP! The more we understand them—both outside of our bodies and within, the more freedom we have to make choices that lead to greater happiness, longer lives, and a happier, healthier civilization.
Genie I’d wish that I could go to the Lego Factory
Once again, your wish is already granted. In your body, you have incredible factories that are able to assemble important building blocks out of the nutrients you get from the food you eat and multivitamins you take every day.
There is a particular factory called MTHFR that uses a special recipe to turn a vitamin (called Folic Acid) into the essential Lego building block that is used to build the chemicals in your body that make you happy (called L-Methylfolate). Some people are lucky enough to be born with several talented Master Builders that can quickly assemble the building blocks, but others are born with Builders that aren’t so gifted—which means they aren’t able to make enough of the essential Lego building block, so then can’t make enough of the feel-good chemicals. Not to worry, when you get genetic testing, you can find out if this is a problem. If it is, then you can easily fix the problem by taking special pills (like Deplin) containing the essential Lego building block…. so that “Everything is Awesome.”
From The Lego Movie: “Everything is Awesome”
If you would like to feel better and function more effectively through genetic testing and improve your love relationships, order Dr.Kehr’s new book, five-star ratings on Amazon and Goodreads, Becoming Whole: A Healing Companion to Ease Emotional Pain and Find Self-Love.
Proceeds from your purchase of my book will be used to directly help victims of child abuse.
(*Drs. Kehr and Novitsky hold no ownership interest in Genomind)