MTHFR supplements have changed my life without question. While determining if you have MTHFR issues does require genetic testing, it is highly worth testing for anyone as you will soon find out.
And if you have MTHFR gene variants like me, you also may find supplements that help alleviate symptoms that go along with having MTHFR gene variants.
You see, the genes that regulate methylation in the body (MTHFR) are critical every second of every day for each and every person. So getting enough of the right nutrients, often through supplements, makes a whole lot of difference for general well-being if you have MTHFR issues.
If you happen to be one of the many people who also have these gene variants, you should know that there are supplements that can help offset some of the health issues with these genes.
How MTHFR Supplements Changed My Life
The journey to finding out I needed specific MTHFR supplements was a long one, but looking back on my life, there were a lot of clues. The first clue was that I didn’t tolerate common over-the-counter multivitamins like prenatal vitamins.
Back in the day when I wanted to have kids, I took prenatal vitamins which actually made me feel worse, not better. This was about 20 years ago when there wasn’t access to much information about MTHFR. Even if you could read the research about these genes, the supplements on the market weren’t readily available for people like me.
I feel pretty certain that the reason that these prenatal vitamins and other over-the-counter vitamins made me feel worse, such as jittery, nauseated, and anxious, was because they had synthetic vitamins, such as folic acid, added to them. And when you have MTHFR gene issues like me, your body doesn’t effectively use folic acid and other fake vitamins. You can’t convert folic acid into folate in the body well.
In essence, folic acid can build up in your body but doesn’t ever get turned into the activated folate in your body that it can use.
According to the CDC, this science isn’t solid enough yet to prove that there are harms related to folic acid. But ask many individuals with these gene issues like me and they will tell you a similar story that I’m telling you today.
So I switched to a natural vitamin supplement with natural folate, axed the synthetic folic acid, and added other natural B vitamins about 10 years ago. This fixed the digestive issues that came from folic acid, which was a very promising sign.
Digging Further into MTHFR Supplements
Natural vitamins, as described previously, made me feel better.
But, I wasn’t 100% feeling perfect yet.
After conducting a little more research on the topic, I learned that choline is a nutrient that also plays a role in the MTHFR system of nutrients. It does so by helping create the happy mood chemical called SAMe (S-adenosyl methionine). There is some pretty good research behind it to prove that SAMe helps reduce symptoms of depression.
Best Choline Source
In other words, natural B vitamins aren’t enough if you have MTHFR genes. You need choline, which comes primarily from organ meats and you get smaller amounts from eggs. You can also get choline from things like sunflower lecithin. But, I really think it makes the most sense to eat organ meats because of their vast array of other natural nutrients.
I have been aware of the vast benefits of eating organ meats for a long while now. Adding them to my supplement regimen truly made me feel better in ways that are difficult to quantify. These benefits include being more resilient to stress, healthier skin, fewer menstrual issues, and many more benefits when I started taking organ meat supplements.
And I did another thing: I added in Betaine (as trimethylglycine). Betaine works amazingly well for me and for many others who have MTHFR issues.
In fact, it probably is one of the most important things I take that has pretty instantaneous benefits for how I feel. It works so well because I do have the MTHFR gene issues as so many people do.
If you don’t have MTHFR gene variants, Betaine isn’t going to help you and may have some side effects, so I highly suggest you know your genes before taking it.
My latest supplement to add is magnesium. I’ll explain this more soon.
My Symptoms Got Better with MTHFR Supplements
As I mentioned previously, using MTHFR supplements, especially Betaine (TMG) and organ meat supplements, helped me feel better in so many ways. Most aspects of my health improved. Let me explain.
I consider myself a well-adjusted middle-aged adult with a successful career. But, my brain previously didn’t always think the thoughts I wanted it to. Perseveration of negative thoughts would occur more than I like to admit.
When I started taking Betaine, there was a tremendous and almost immediate shift in my thinking towards positive and feeling very relaxed.
And this definitely continues to happen in a positive way when I take it. Not only that, it seems to have some enduring effects over several days, so I only need to take it a couple of times a week to reap the benefits.
When it comes to organ meats, the effects are just as strong, but take a bit longer to work and it’s hormone balance that is the biggest benefit I’ve noticed with these. But along with this I have improved cognition and energy.
Organ Meats Supplements as MTHFR Supplements
Specifically, I take Grass Fed Liver and Spleen, Grassfed Organ Meats, along with Ancestral Supplements Bovine Intestines and Brain. Ok, I know what you are thinking…gross. But, it’s not: humans have been eating organ meats for as long as they have existed. Only recently in industrialized societies have these precious and like-treat-like foods been marginalized. And capsules bypass any need to taste these meats if you are squeamish.
Why I Take Magnesium
Just for good measure, I also take a natural multivitamin with minerals and magnesium. This is because magnesium is a cofactor in several steps in the methylation cycle, including making SAMe and making the major antioxidant in the body called glutathione. The natural vitamin combination gives me methylated vitamins necessary for MTHFR optimization. These vitamins include methyl folate, methylcobalamin (vitamin B12), and vitamin B6 as pyridoxal 5 phosphate (P5P).
L-tyrosine, L-tryptophan, and MTHFR
One last thing, some research points to the fact that other nutrients like L-tryptophan may be helpful with MTHFR variants, and I also believe that L-tyrosine likely has a positive impact on the health of people with MTHFR gene mutation (personal experience rather than clinical research). To get both of these, I take Neurolink.
How MTHFR Supplements Help
If you have MTHFR mutations, which are not truly a mutation but a variety of “normal” genes, your risk for certain health conditions increases. These health conditions include mental health disorders like anxiety and depression, cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, migraines, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, hearing impairment, recurrent pregnancy losses, hormone imbalances, and more.
You have to remember that people used to eat nutrient-rich whole foods and now that is very hard to do- and even find. So, our MTHFR genes probably caused less harm in the past than they do in today’s industrialized world.
The main reason that people seem to have increased disease risk is that MTHFR gene defects cause an increase in an inflammatory compound called homocysteine. Having elevated homocysteine levels is generally a bad thing. But, the truth is, there is probably more to the story than you can imagine.
Taking methyl folate, which is a natural form of folate (vitamin B9), is a smart idea because it is properly metabolized compared to folic acid if you are MTHFR “challenged”. Methylfolate is more bioavailable and more effective than folic acid according to research. While no research has directly looked at the effects of methyl folate on neural tube defects, research does show that methyl folate is safe and effective in pregnancy.
Additionally, Betaine decreases homocysteine levels, which means that betaine reduces the risks of diseases that go along with the MTHFR gene.
Related post: Which is Better? Methylfolate vs Folic Acid
What are the MTHFR genes?
The MTHFR ( methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) genes are two different genes that control how the building blocks of proteins in the body are made. MTHFR is also an enzyme in the body that helps process vitamins and amino acids in the body, including homocysteine, folate, and vitamin B12.
Just so there is no confusion, an MTHFR “gene mutation” is rarely a true mutation and is usually a variation of normal genes. So for clarity purposes, it is more accurately an MTHFR variant for the majority of people.
Many people, between 30-60%, have at least one or more variants in this gene, and it’s actually a normal gene that got pegged as a variant.
As gene testing continues to grow in usefulness due to advanced research in this area, we know that it is critical to eat well for your genes if you have this common gene.
Some people have 1 variant in the genes, but you can have up to 4 variants in the gene. The more variants you have, the more severe the health issues you can have. For example, I have 2 variants of the gene, which is 1 variant on each gene.
The MTHFR C677T variation is typically related to more health issues than the MTHFR A1298C gene variant because it is related to reduced MTHFR enzyme activity. If you have one A allele, you have a 35% decrease in enzyme activity, but if you have an AA allele, there is a 70% decrease.
My MTHFR Gene Variants
In case you are wondering, I have MTHFR compound heterozygous polymorphisms MTHFR rs1801131 (A:C) and MTHFR rs1801133 (C:T).
Additionally, I also have an MTHFD1 variant and an MTRR variant which are both also involved in folate metabolism and are also linked to choline deficiency. This is true even when people eat normal amounts of choline in their diets. And choline helps make betaine in the body.
Betaine greatly reduces the harmful and inflammatory compound called homocysteine as reviewed above.
So these nutrients are very related to the MTHFR genes. Yet another reason gene testing is very useful! You can know whether or not you need to take choline (I recommend using organ meats to get extra choline).
If you haven’t done gene testing already, you can simply do that through 23 and Me and then upload your data into Found My Fitness.
Foods to Eat if You Have MTHFR Variants
One of the best things you can do if you have MTHFR gene variants is to eat fresh foods that are minimally processed. Focus on healing the gut by eating a lot of healthy protein, probiotic-rich foods, and fresh vegetables and fruits.
Specifically, you should eat plenty of protein from unprocessed meats, eggs, chicken, fish, and especially organ meats for their nutrient-dense benefits.
MTHFR Foods to Avoid
People with MTHFR gene variants aren’t able to eliminate toxins from their bodies well, so it is best to eat foods that are free of pesticides and herbicides. The best way to go about this is to choose organic foods as much as possible.
You should also avoid processed foods because they almost always have artificial ingredients, including folic acid, in them. Especially limit or avoid processed grains in foods like bread, cereals, rolls, buns, and snacks.
Also, gluten is problematic for many people suffering from MTHFR genes.
MTHFR Supplements to Avoid
Whether you have MTHFR genes or not, it makes sense to choose natural vitamins and minerals as much as possible because natural is almost always more readily used by the body.
But if you have MTHFR, it becomes extra important to avoid synthetic vitamins, including folic acid, pyridoxine hydrochloride (synthetic vitamin B6), cyanocobalamin (synthetic vitamin B12), and dl-alpha-tocopherol (synthetic vitamin E).
Vitamins to Choose if You Have MTHFR
Instead, the best vitamins for MTHFR are natural and include methyl folate (natural folate), pyridoxal-5-phosphate (natural vitamin B6), methylcobalamin (natural vitamin B12), and d-alpha tocopherol (natural vitamin E).
For organ meat supplements, MK Supplements, Perfect Supplements, and Ancestral Supplements are your best bets. They are natural multivitamins that also contain choline, which is critical to get enough of if you have MTHFR variants.
Another supplement you could try for added tyrosine and tryptophan is called Neurolink.
And most importantly, I recommend that you try Betaine TMG. You almost undoubtedly will feel better taking it than not if you have MTHFR issues.
Heidi Moretti, MS, RD is The Healthy RD. A registered dietitian for 23 years as well as a book author of the new book Gut Fix and The Whole Body Guide to Gut Health, Heidi has a passion for functional nutrition and natural medicine. She has researched supplements and natural medicine throughout her career. One of her biggest loves is helping people gain function and vitality by tackling the root causes of illness.