MTHFR

MTHFR. WTH?

What the _ _ _ _ is MTHFR? I've found myself explaining this to several clients recently.

 

I felt like I had a never-ending influx of clients with skin problems, and now MTHFR is popping up.  There are some connections, because of course things are always connected. If you've been following me you're probably aware of this!

 

We tend to look at our symptoms as isolated problems, and this is why we don’t get better. Our symptoms are our body’s attempt to tell us something is wrong. Instead of listening to our bodies, we shut them up with medications.  All this does is mask symptoms, allowing underlying dysfunction to continue. Until we address it, deterioration continues, and now we are unaware this is happening because symptoms are covered up… until new symptoms pop up. And they will, because remember everything is connected, and that underlying dysfunction is still present and still causing further deterioration. 

 

MTHFR is a gene that makes an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. This enzyme is involved in what are called methylation reactions, which act like a switch turning things on and off in your body. These reactions are needed to process amino acids to make proteins, for RNA and DNA synthesis, detoxification, breaking down histamine, and much more.

 

This enzyme is necessary for chemical reactions that use vitamin B9, which is folate, or folic acid (the synthetic version of folate). It converts folic acid into a form that can be used by your body (methylfolate). Vitamins B12 and B6 are also important for methylation reactions, in particular converting homocysteine into methionine (something we want to have happen).

 

When MTHFR isn’t working, these reactions are interrupted and a wide range of problems can result, including those associated with a deficiency of these B vitamins.

 

If you have MTHFR and take supplements, it is important to avoid folic acid. You want to take the appropriate, activated forms of these B vitamins, and eat foods that naturally contain them.

 

To learn more about nutrients that support methylation and foods they are in --> click here <-- to access my therapeutic diet for methylation.

 

Folate is absolutely necessary for a healthy nervous system, normal growth and development (this is why women are instructed to take supplemental folic acid when of childbearing age, as the fetus needs it to grow and develop normally) and forming red blood cells. Symptoms of folate deficiency are many and can include:

 

  • Anemia

  • Cracks in the corners of the mouth

  • Red, sore tongue

  • Irritability

  • Depression

  • Fatigue

  • Forgetfulness

  • Lack of concentration

  • Mental confusion

  • Insomnia

  • Anxiety

  • Dizziness

  • Headaches

  • Muscle weakness

  • Numbness in legs

  • Difficulty in walking

  • Cramps

  • Digestive problems

  • Constipation

  • Diarrhea

  • Hypoglycemia

  • Birth defects

  • Gout

  • Cardiovascular disease

  • Diabetes

  • Poor appetite

 

Symptoms of folate deficiency are similar to B12 deficiency. In fact, treating folate deficiency alone can mask the symptoms of B12 deficiency. This is a serious problem because B12 deficiency can cause irreversible neurological and nerve damage. GET TESTED!

 

There are different forms of the MTHFR mutation, and depending on which you have it may cause more severe problems. Problems associated with MTHFR may include:

 

  • Elevated homocysteine (associated with an increased risk for heart disease)

  • Depression and anxiety

  • Autoimmune disorders

  • Thyroid disorders

  • Migraine

  • Fibromyalgia

  • Chronic fatigue syndrome

  • Digestive problems like irritable bowel syndrome

  • Problems with fertility and pregnancy

  • And more…

 

What's the connection between MTHFR and skin? Itchy skin for example, is often associated with histamine reactions. Histamine is released by cells in your immune system when there is a trigger. Histamine is responsible for allergy-like symptoms we get, and this is why anti-histamines are prescribed and work to keep allergy symptoms under control, including itching. This means that excess histamine can lead to uncontrollable allergy symptoms, including itching.

 

Histamine is broken down by methylation. If methylation isn’t working, you can have excess histamine, and symptoms associated with it (like itching). Histamine is made in the body naturally, and it’s also found in a variety of foods. When histamine coming in exceeds histamine going out, which is more common in those with MTHFR, symptoms can result and persist.

 

Also, folic acid increases histamine levels, and methylfolate degrades it. Deficiency of methylfolate leads to high levels of histamine, and those with MTHFR are very often deficient.

 

What to do? If you have symptoms like those mentioned and can’t seem to figure out why, getting checked for MTHFR is a good idea. You can also check your homocysteine levels, and there are indicators of B12 and B9 deficiency (or sufficiency) that can be found in a CBC (complete blood count).

 

It’s also important to work with a qualified health practitioner (like a functional and clinical nutritionist) who can help guide you through necessary testing, diet, lifestyle and supplement interventions customized for your biochemistry. Diet plays a large role in managing the affects MTHFR can have on your body, beyond just B vitamins, and addressing these factors can put you back on track to feeling better!

 

Hello! Allow me to introduce myself.

I spend quite a bit of time talking and writing about nutrition from a biochemical perspective, describing how this applies to your health and wellbeing. I don’t spend a lot of time talking and writing about myself, and I don’t intend to because this is about YOU and not me. This week however, I’m sharing with you a bit about me, my approach to nutrition, and how I can help you meet your health and wellness goals. Whether you are looking to lose some weight and generally make some tweaks to improve your overall health, or are looking for answers to unresolved questions you have about why you haven’t gotten better by conventional medical treatment means, I can help you reach your health and wellness goals.  

 

 

You: 

 

  • Struggle with health conditions that aren't getting better
  • Take different medications to help relieve symptoms of those health conditions
  • Have tried a variety of diet plans and nothing seems to help
  • Have lab results that are "normal" and you still don't feel well
  • Have begun to believe your illness is all in your head
  • Want to optimize your, or your child's health and wellness

 

Me:

 

  • Functional and clinical nutritionist
  • Bachelors Degree in Nutrition and Dietetics
  • Masters Degree in Public Health
  • Masters Degree in Human Nutrition
  • Certified Nutrition Specialist

 

Us:

 

  • Together we can address your health and wellness needs to meet your goals
  • It’s all about teamwork, we are a team

 

Here are some examples of what I’ve addressed in partnership with my clients:

 

  • Low energy and fatigue
  • Food cravings
  • Resistant weight loss and unexplained weight gain
  • Hormone imbalances
  • Mood disorders
  • Neurodegenerative conditions
  • Digestive issues
  • Skin problems
  • Allergies and asthma
  • Autoimmune disease
  • Hypertension
  • Diabetes, insulin resistance, and metabolic syndrome
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Migraine headache
  • Arthritis and joint pain
  • Sleep disturbances

 

If you have any of these conditions, or another chronic, complex condition your problems may be linked to imbalances in immune, metabolic and digestive function. 


To appropriately address your health needs, we need to take into account your biochemistry, and uncover the root cause of imbalances that may be contributing to the conditions you have. This is the functional medicine approach, and it looks at you holistically rather than as a set of symptoms. It’s about you as a person. You are not your illness, although you may have an illness. Just like you have fingernails, but you are not fingernails!


All of the systems in your body are connected. When one is not functioning optimally and the root cause is left to persist, it can adversely affect other systems, creating a domino effect of illness and disease.
 


Medications mask symptoms, leaving us unaware of the continued damage that is occurring within. 
 


Functional nutrition is the core of functional medicine and can help you reach optimal health with natural means (diet, lifestyle, nutrient supplements), whether you have chronic, complex health problems, or just want to improve your health and wellness.
 


You've changed your diet and nothing seems to work? We aren't just what we eat. We are what our bodies can do with what we eat. Rather than only making sure you are eating right, we need to make sure your body can digest, absorb and use nutrients from the foods you eat. Your diet may be stellar, but if your body can't use those nutrients, your perfect diet doesn't matter much, and won't help you feel better. 
 


All your labs are normal, and you still feel awful? Too often, our conventional lab results are "normal" yet we still don't feel well.  While labs may appear "normal" for conventional medical practice, they can be far from optimal and therefore underlying dysfunction can be causing your symptoms. This underlying dysfunction is where our opportunity lies to improve your health.
 


Why supplements? Nutrient supplementation can be a key factor for improving overall metabolic function, and therefore it can positively impact the issues you are experiencing. Often, due to long standing deficiency and imbalances, the addition of supplemental nutrients can help restore metabolic processes to their optimal state.


At Jennifer Caryn Brand Nutrition, we focus on being healthy first rather than on counting calories, or implementing the latest fad diet. It is important to understand that there is no one size fits all approach. Your plan will be different from anyone else's, and may incorporate aspects of a variety of different dietary philosophies and protocols. 
 


Nutritional needs vary at all stages of life, from infancy to end of life. It is important to address these needs in order to obtain optimal health now, and in the future, and that's why I see clients of all ages. 


Nutrition is my passion. As a functional and clinical nutritionist, I'll give you the personal and individualized attention you need to optimize your health


A message from me, listen now, and don't forget to sign up for my YouTube channel!
 


If you haven't watched the video above yet, click here to watch and listen

-->> https://youtu.be/_-O6p2tLcJY
 


If you are ready to challenge the status quo, and look at your health in ways you haven't before, schedule your 30 minute strategy session to work with me!
 


 "Your nutritional needs are as unique as your fingerprint, and they are dictated by your individual biochemistry. As a functional and clinical nutritionist, I can help you interpret your body's nutrient needs and customize a plan to reach your health and wellness goals. This is personalized nutrition."
-Jennifer Caryn Brand, MPH, MS, CNS, Functional and Clinical Nutritionist
 


Wishing you a delicious weekend!



Jennifer
Functional and Clinical Nutritionist

Copyright © 2018 Jennifer Caryn Brand Nutrition, All rights reserved. 

Uncomfortable, unrelenting skin problems? Make friends with your skin again!

Problems with digestion and detoxification can lead to troublesome skin conditions. You are not alone, there are interventions that can help.

I first began working with Mrs. Gray (her name has been changed for privacy) just over a year ago. She was in her early 40s, and had been experiencing extremely troublesome skin problems for about 12 years. She had seen general practitioners, dermatologists, allergists, acupuncturists and neurologists. No one had been able to help her with her health problems.

From what we could tell, there were 3 different skin problems occurring at the same time. One was diagnosed by a physician as granuloma annulare, another was rash-like, and the third was classified as localized pruritus (super itchy and uncomfortable).

As a clinical nutritionist, I begin my scavenger hunt in the gut. Health begins in the gut. Seventy percent of our immune systems are located there. No joke. So it would only make sense that if your gut isn’t healthy, neither are you.

I should probably explain how this works. As a clinical nutritionist I practice functional nutrition. Functional nutrition is the core of functional medicine and uses natural means to help people reach an improved state of wellness, and even find relief from chronic and complex conditions. Functional medicine looks for underlying imbalances in the body’s biochemistry that may be contributing to illness. By addressing underlying imbalances with natural means (diet and lifestyle changes, and by using nutrient supplements) we can positively affect the course of chronic and complex conditions. Because 70% of our immune systems are in our guts, you have to admit, it’s a pretty good place to start our scavenger hunt.

Back to Mrs. Gray and her primary concerns regarding her skin. After our in depth intake session, I put together a letter for her to take to her physician requesting a variety of lab tests that would help guide me to develop an action plan for her to reach her goals. Long story short, we identified a variety of elevated metabolic markers (high cholesterol, high blood sugar, high levels of inflammation, and high homocysteine), a wide range of environmental and food allergies, MTHFR genetic polymorphism, and digestive dysfunction.

We used her lab results to guide us in developing a customized diet, lifestyle and supplement plan based on her biochemistry. Fast-forward a year. Mrs. Gray has experienced significant improvements in her skin symptoms. We lowered her cholesterol levels by 30 points, she is no longer pre-diabetic, her homocysteine levels are now in range, and so is a marker of inflammation that had been elevated.

A year may seem like a long time. We have to keep in mind how long the issues had been occurring. They didn’t show up overnight, they aren’t going away overnight. Also, it takes about a month for skin cells to turnover. And that’s the innermost layer. Then that layer has to make it all the way up to the top to replace the old/damaged skin layers. It does take patience and persistence, commitment to the process, and the dedication to follow through with the recommendations. Mrs. Gray stayed the course, and now is enjoying the benefits of her efforts, which include symptom improvement and improved overall health and wellness.

We all know that changes in diet and lifestyle benefit blood sugar, cholesterol levels, and inflammation (an underlying cause for chronic and complex diseases). How the heck is food connected to skin? Without getting too biochemical, problems with digestion and the gut can lead to leaky gut. Leaky gut allows food particles and toxins to escape the digestive tract and make their way into the blood stream, where they trigger an immune response. This immune response can manifest in a wide variety of ways, including as skin conditions. Digestive imbalances and impaired gut health also can cause a deficiency in nutrients needed for skin health, as well as overall health. Poor gut health and dysfunction, leaky gut, and nutrient deficiency can adversely affect detoxification processes in the liver. When we have a build of up toxins that cannot be excreted through normal routes (the liver is our major detox organ), those toxins will make their way out somehow, often that somehow is through the skin, and this can cause all sorts of skin conditions.

If you too have skin issues like eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis (among others), you likely have digestive and gut imbalances and dysfunction, leaky gut, and impaired detoxification capacity.

Just as we have our gut microbiome and can have leaky gut, our skin also has a microbiome, and disruption of our skin microbiome can lead to leaky skin, and to skin conditions as well. And yes, there are interventions for improving skin health too that work from the outside in. Think probiotics for your skin. A favorite product of mine for addressing the skin microbiome is Mother Dirt.

And what’s the deal with MTHFR and homocysteine? MTHFR is an enzyme that makes folic acid usable by the body. It participates in what’s called methylation, a biochemical process that acts like a switch, turning things on and off, including DNA and RNA production, histamine metabolism, and some detoxification pathways (and a lot more). Problems with histamine metabolism, and detoxification as noted above, can contribute to skin issues. Methylation also is needed to convert homocysteine into another amino acid called methionine. Methionine is important for making proteins and other important compounds in the body. Elevated homocysteine is often a sign that methylation pathways aren’t functioning properly, and it is a risk factor for atherosclerosis, leading to heart disease and stroke. People that have a MTHFR mutation are not able to properly metabolize folic acid, and also can have abnormalities in the metabolism of vitamins B12 and B6. To help keep methylation pathways functioning, taking the active form (methylated or activated form) of B vitamins is important. One of my favorite B complex products is by Thorne Research (use my referral code HCP1170732). If you have MTHFR, there are also diet and lifestyle recommendations that can help.

Here is Mrs. Gray’s first testimonial about working with me:

“Jennifer is extremely passionate and truly cares about your health. She is a thoughtful, compassionate nutritionist who digs and digs to connect the dots into whatever your health issue may be. I’ve been working with Jennifer for almost a year now and she is by far the most thoughtful nutritionist who asks questions no other doctor I’ve been to for my concerns has ever bothered to ask, and my skin issues that have plagued me for years have now cleared up!”

And a year later, here’s what Mrs. Gray had to say:

"I’ve been working with Jennifer for over a year now and my initial concerns were chronic skin issues that doctors couldn’t figure out, including general practitioners, dermatologists, allergists, acupuncturists or neurologists. Through various tests, we’ve uncovered several food allergies, including gluten sensitivity, which I would’ve never suspected could be the underlying cause. From removing those foods from my diet combined with supplements, I have seen improvement in my skin and more importantly, my levels are all now within a healthy range. My cholesterol dropped by 30 points, my blood sugars are within a normal range (instead of a high range, borderline pre-diabetic) and my general inflammation is under control. Jennifer is well informed, well researched and totally committed to my health and will stop at nothing to find a solution to what ails me." 

Interested in becoming your own success story? Contact me today to get started on your journey to better health and wellness.

 

"Your nutritional needs are as unique as your fingerprint, and they are dictated by your individual biochemistry. As a functional and clinical nutritionist, I can help you interpret your body's nutrient needs and customize a plan to reach your health and wellness goals. This is personalized nutrition."

-Jennifer Caryn Brand, MPH, MS, CNS, Clinical Nutritionist