MTHFR in Children: What is it and what can we do?
MTHFR. That word that people read and take a second glance. What exactly does this acronym mean?
MTHFR stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase; an enzyme that is responsible for multiple functions in the body. When you hear someone say they have MTHFR, they generally mean they have an SNP.
“Single nucleotide polymorphisms”, or SNPs, are what scientists call mutations that occur within DNA. You may also hear them referred to as “variants” or “mutations”. I typically refer to them as variants in practice, as many people have variations in their genes. This terminology works well when explaining to children. We are all unique genetically!
Why so much concern about MTHFR?
These small variations in the DNA can affect an array of systems in the body– how a child may react to vaccines, how they react to drugs, repair of DNA, detoxification, the formation of blood cells that fight infection, or how well they build neurotransmitters like serotonin or dopamine. MTHFR variants have been linked to congenital cardiac diseases and cleft palate in children. There is even a subtype of seizures called folic acid responsive seizures (FARS). You can see why the spotlight is on MTHFR, even when there are millions of other SNPs in existence.
It has been said that as many as 40% of people have some form or combination the MTHFR mutation. Some people may have no symptoms at all, others may have more serious complications like increased risk for heart disease, sluggish detox, miscarriages, and more. Children may be at a more increased risk for ADHD, learning disabilities, autism, or autoimmune disorders. However, just because one inherits the mutation- it does not necessarily mean they will have the problem.
How the Variant is Detected
In our practice, when it comes to children, we find that evaluating MTHFR status is an essential piece of creating a plan for long-term health, and it can be highly valuable information when it comes to tackling a variety of conditions that plague children today. The MTHFR gene variant can affect the way children convert many vitamins into their active forms, folic acid to folate being one of them. Without these conversions taking place, one can see how nutrient deficiencies could occur and lead to problems. For example, we would not want a person with an MTHFR variant to have vitamins with folic acid, as they would not be able to process it well, and turn it into a usable form of folate for the body. This is just one example! Vitamins B6 and B12 are in the mix too!
How do we treat MTHFR variations?
MTHFR mutations can affect several body systems with gut, brain, and stress response being the top players. Addressing these areas gives us the best chance at eliminating the trickle down affects MTHFR has on these areas of the body.
We may add in supplemental active B vitamins and increase them in the diet; leafy greens for folate for example. We also educate patients on an anti-inflammatory diet tailored to them (food allergy testing is important here) so the gut can work more efficiently and absorb the available nutrients. High levels of stress can exacerbate MTHFR, affect the gut, it is a two-way street, and one responds to the other.
We offer a variety of services for children ranging from CranioSacral therapy to laser acupuncture, and the use of essential oils to help keep stress at bay while we work on the underlying causes. Please let us know if you have any questions about your child and MTHFR. Knowing their status can help us pave the way for a more individualized healthy roadmap into the future!