Thursday, May 22, 2014

MTHFR and Folate Conversion

MTHFR is one of a few genes responsible for converting folic acid/inactive forms of folate into an active form that your body can utilize. I've written about it a little in the past, see my posts labeled "Health". It stands for Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. Having this gene, specifically the C667T or A1298C variations, of which I have both, slows down the folate conversion process. MTHFR is not the only gene that can slow it down but is the most well known. I've been reading a lot about this over the last couple of years as I believe it to be related to some health issues that have come up since I had skin exposure to chemicals in epoxy. As more and more people are overcoming illnesses by supporting the folate cycle, the knowledge of it is spreading and more health professionals are starting to learn about it and introducing it into their practices.

The Folate Cycle

Dr. Ben Lynch who has been researching this for many years has put together a new diagram showing 9 other genes involved in the folate cycle. It appears, based on my 23andme results, I have 7 of the 10 genes which I would guess is more than average so I have more of a need for folate than most. I am homozygous (double mutation) FOLR2, SLC19a1, MTHFD1, TYMS and heterozygous (single mutation) MTHFS, DHFR, MTHFR. The other three are FOLR1, SHMT1 and MTR. Even if you have a lot of these genes you could still live a healthy life by wise food choices, low stress and a toxic free environment. If one or more of those isn't right in your life than you are at a high risk of your genes becoming expressed and having to deal with health issues. It's my belief that the epoxy contact triggered some of these genes to express and start causing my health problems.

Forms of Folate

It's important to note that folic acid is just one form of folate and is the most easily found in supplements and foods we eat but it is an inactive, synthetic form and requires those 10 genes to successfully convert it into an active form so that is the last thing you should take. It's best to get your folate from food sources or active forms of folate because taking a lot of the synthetic folic acid will increase your unmetabolized folic acid (UMFA) which could cause a lot of other issues like an increased risk of cancer.

Active forms of folate: 

  • L-5-MTHF = 6(S)-L-MTHF
  • L-Methylfolate Calcium = Metafolin = Levomefolic Acid
  • Metafolin
  • Quatrefolic
  • Levomefolic Acid
Avoid forms that start with a D or 6R because those are not biologically active forms. Also avoid methyl folates that don't start with L or 6(S) because you don't know for sure if it's active or inactive.  More info on the different forms of folate on Sublingual and injections are better absorbed than a pill form. There is also a body cream that is made by Neurobiologix that looks to be a good option that I'm going to try. They list 5-MTHF as the form of folate which drew a red flag so I contacted the company directly and in an hour I got a reply stating they use Quatrefolic which is a good active form. The product also contains active forms of B12 (Methyl & Hydroxy) which you may also be deficient in if you have a folate deficiency. You can get this Neuro-Immune Stabilizer Cream from Amazon or directly from Neurobiologix.

Foods high in folate:
  • liver
  • uncooked leafy greens
  • okra
  • asparagus
  • beans, lentils & peas
  • avocados
  • nuts and seeds

Are you folate deficient?

How do you know if you are deficient in folate and not getting enough active forms?  You can't really rely on a normal folate RBC test because it tests for both active and inactive forms and if you have trouble converting folate like I do your lab test results will most likely be sky high because of all of the UMFA in your system. Metametrix happens to have a lab test that breaks out the UMFA and Active form of folate which can be helpful in determining if you are getting enough active forms and if you need to reduce your intake of folic acid. I haven't taken this test myself since I am no longer taking any folic acid but it looks to be helpful test. I have noticed my RBC Folate numbers are coming down recently (they've always been sky high in the past) which makes me believe my UMFA is going down and my body is using the active folate I've been supplementing with. 

MTHFR and the other folate conversion genes are just one part of the methylation cycle that helps with detoxification, immune function, mood balancing, energy production and controlling inflammation so it is very important to your well being that it is functioning properly.


If you decide to start supplementing with active forms of folate, start very slow because not everyone can tolerate a full dose due to other issues in the methylation cycle that may need to be supported first. If you take it and feel side effects like aches pains or increased irritability stop taking it and take some niacin and the symptoms should subside quickly. You will need to go back and support some of the other pathways in the methylation cycle before supporting the folate cycle. It's always best to work with a practitioner that is familiar with methylation. You can check these sources for doctors in your area: MTHFRSupport, MTHFRease,