Can MTHFR Cause ADHD?
Today, we're going to be talking about a common gene mutation called MTHFR and how it's linked specifically with ADHD.
That MTHFR gene mutation is actually really common.
It occurs in about 50% of the population.
So there's a good chance that you also have it.
ADHD is another common condition that has been really increasing in prevalence every single year. It's now estimated that about 10% of our population struggles with this. And that's up from only six and a half percent in the year 2000.
And as you guys probably already know, ADHD can have a big impact on cognitive, academic, behavioral, and even emotional and social functioning.
So I'm hopeful that the information that I'm going to be sharing with you today will help give you some hope and actionable steps from a nutrition-focused approach.
In today's topic, we're going to be covering the basics of what the MTHFR enzyme is and how exactly it relates to ADHD.
We're also going to tackle what type of testing you should get done and why, and lastly, actionable steps that you can take to improve your symptoms of ADHD if you have this MTHFR gene mutation.
Hello everyone. My name is Katie and I am a gut health dietitian at Oswald Digestive Clinic where we help people improve and eliminate bothersome gut issues like gas, bloat, diarrhea, constipation, and more.
Alright so let's jump into it.
What exactly is MTHFR and what does it do?
We have an entire YouTube video dedicated to the general topic of MTHFR that you should definitely go check out. It's on our YouTube channel, but if you haven't seen it yet, here's what you need to know to get up to speed.
The MTHFR gene tells our body how to create the MTHFR enzyme. This enzyme is involved in the process of methylation, and methylation is simply transferring a methyl group, which is one carbon and three hydrogen atoms from one compound to another.
And methylation is actually a really prominent reaction that's needed for over 400 biochemical processes involved in anything from detoxification to repairing DNA and even turning other genes on and off.
In this case, the MTHFR enzyme is needed to methylate folic acid into methylated folate. This methylated folate is the active form of folate in your body.
And methylated folate is essential for converting a compound called homocysteine into methionine for proper neuro-transmitter synthesis, along with a lot of other important duties.
So if you have a mutation in the MTHFR gene, that just means that the MTHFR enzyme might not work as well. And as a result, you may not be able to properly keep up with your methylated folate levels. You might be able to convert a little bit, but not enough.
So what does this all mean in relation to ADHD?
Most of what you've likely been hearing regarding the MTHFR mutation is its association with poor detoxification and inflammatory conditions. Like heart disease and stroke, dementia, and autoimmune disease. However, there's so much more involved here.
Research studies have shown that there's a strong link between the presence of ADHD and low folate levels.
So why is that?
If someone has a deficiency in methylated folate as a result of the MTHFR mutation, then homocysteine can't be converted into methionine in an efficient manner. And methionine is essential for the production of important neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine, both of which play a big role in ADHD.
Serotonin helps regulate a lot of our automatic functions, such as sleep, mood, and emotions. Where dopamine is involved in our reward center and released in response to pleasurable activities or experiences.
So what's important to note is that these neurotransmitters are essential to more aspects of mental health than just ADHD as well. So when they're unavailable, we can see other conditions pop up like anxiety and depression, schizophrenia, and even addictions.
So we've tackled how the MTHFR mutation can result in low folate levels, which is associated with ADHD. But there's another layer to think about as well.
Women who have the MTHFR mutation and are pregnant are also at higher risk for folate deficiency. And when there are low folate levels during early pregnancy, there's actually increased risk for hyperactivity and relationship issues with peers in that mother's offspring.
Therefore, if you're pregnant or thinking about becoming pregnant, then definitely listen to the end to learn what tips I have for you.
Lastly, it might depend on what type of gene mutation you have. There are actually over 30 different types of MTHFR gene mutations, but two of them are the most well-studied.
2 Most Well-Studied Types of MTHFR gene mutations
The first is called C677C whose mutation is C677T. And this can result in a 70% reduction in enzyme activity if you have a double mutation for that one, and this mutation is the most commonly tested for.
Now, the second type is A1298A whose mutation is A1298C which can result in a 40% reduction in enzyme activity if you have a double gene mutation for this one.
Now this second gene mutation is less frequently tested for, but research does show a stronger link between this mutation and ADHD.
Therefore, if you're struggling with ADHD and would like to get tested for the MTHFR mutation, which I strongly encourage, I'd recommend testing for both of these types, if you can, if possible, but at minimum testing for the A1298C.
Okay, so what should we do about all of this?
First, I just need to preface this, that this isn't medical advice, because I don't know your unique medical history. So please just consider this as general information.
If you're struggling with ADHD and have a family history of ADHD, or are planning to become pregnant, it's a really good idea to start by testing yourself for the two common MTHFR mutations. And we can run this test at Oswald Digestive Clinic, so definitely check us out if you'd like us to help you with that.
However, just knowing whether you have that gene mutation or not isn't necessarily enough either. Genes can actually be silenced by environmental and dietary factors. So it's very possible for those that have the MTHFR mutation to have minimal symptoms plus normal homocysteine and normal folate level.
So it's really important to measure for these as well. If your levels are normal or you really don't want to intervene because this could result in too much-methylated folate and this could drop your homocysteine levels too low.
Remember how you need homocysteine to make those neurotransmitters?
If your homocysteine is too low, you won't be able to make enough of that serotonin or dopamine.
Now, on the other hand, if you have the MTHFR mutation and are showing a need for intervention, like having high homocysteine levels and or low micronutrient levels.
There are some key interventions that can help get your body back into balance.
The first of which is adding a methylated folate supplement, which is that biologically active form called 5-MTHF so that you can bypass this enzymatic step that isn't happening effectively.
And a general starting point would be one milligram and monitoring your response. But if you're working with a provider, which I highly recommend, they may recommend a more therapeutic dose based on your lab work, medical history, and of course with their supervision.
Another thing to consider is ensuring optimal levels of choline, B6, and methylated B12 (or methylcobalamin).
Eating folate-rich foods is definitely a safe route to go, but they may not provide therapeutic levels if you're requiring that kind of support some folate-rich foods would be things like asparagus and avocado, cruciferous vegetables, leafy greens, and beans.
A really important thing to do is avoid folic acid, which is the synthetic form. You can find that in fortified foods like cereals, energy drinks, certain bread, and some low-quality supplements.
The problem with this is your body won't be able to process this form properly, and it can actually start to build up in your body in a negative way.
Another pair of supplements to consider are NAC or N-acetyl cysteine and glutathione. They really help the liver in its detoxification pathway.
Betaine is another compound that can really help regenerate methionine from homocysteine. And again, that methionine is what keeps going on creating our neurotransmitters.
Lastly, avoiding excessive coffee or alcohol intake is important because. These types of behaviors can actually increase our homocysteine levels, which can be very inflammatory.
So specific to ADHD, there are a few other things that we can consider.
The first is using adaptogenic herbs like Tulsi, Gingko, and ashwagandha. These are wonderful just to calm and buffer out the extremes.
Omega-3-rich fish or fish oil
Next is using omega-3-rich fish or fish oil, because that really helps balance out inflammation and increase blood flow to our brain. And so this is going to help promote learning and memory and all those great things.
Lastly, avoiding things like artificial colors, sweeteners, and MSG, in particular, is known to aggravate symptoms of ADHD.
Now, unfortunately, we can't change our genes, but we can apply something that's called epigenetics, which is influencing how our genes behave, and our genes really only determine about 30 to 50% of our health outcomes. So our genes are not our destiny and we can do a lot of things to silence gene mutations, with healthy habits.
The first thing is consuming an anti-inflammatory diet and going gluten-free. Another thing is focusing on grass-fed or pasture-raised and organic meats because you're not going to be detoxifying as well
when you have this gene mutation.
And stress management is really important, also physical activity. Activity is not only good for our overall health but it's also associated with improved focus and attention in those with ADHD. Good sleep is a great foundation.
Same with limiting toxin exposures. Again, you're not going to be detoxifying quite as well if you have this gene mutation and maintain a healthy weight.
I hope this information about MTHFR and ADHD was helpful to you.
If you'd like to explore any of this information further or run some of those tests, like the MTHFR, homocysteine, and folate which I definitely recommend, you can schedule an initial appointment at our clinic. We also take insurance and some of our clients get full coverage, which is great.
Or you can simply start by downloading our FREE GUIDE: 5 Ways to Improve Gut Health
Here are some PROFESSIONAL-QUALITY SUPPLEMENT options, check the link below. (check with a healthcare provider first)
Thanks for watching. And I hope you have a great rest of your day.
If you'd like to explore any of this information further or obtain an individualized nutrition plan, you can schedule an initial appointment at our clinic.
We also take insurance and some of our clients get full coverage, which is great.
Or you can just start by downloading our FREE GUIDE: 5 WAYS TO IMPROVE GUT HEALTH