MTHFR and Hormones
Many women with MTHFR experience excessive mood swings and may experience other symptoms related to fluctuations in hormone levels. Methylation issues can also result in hormone imbalances and pregnancy complications. Some of you have heard about certain MTHFR mutations that affect our hormones and might be worried that it is happening to you. This article will focus on the link between MTHFR, the methylation pathway and your hormones, as well as discuss how we can overcome hormone-related conditions.
Lack of neurotransmitters
Since MTHFR is a vital enzyme in the folate cycle and is required in the conversion of folic acid into L-methylfolate, synthesis of neurotransmitters (such as serotonin and dopamine) can be halted by lack of active folate due to MTHFR mutations. Depression, fatigue and bipolar disorder may result from low neurotransmitter and folate levels. It is also, oddly, possible for dopamine to be synthesized and gathered in abundance in bipolar phases, regardless of lack of folate. The outcome of lowered folate is therefore two-fold against our health. However, in normal circumstances, there will be reduced neurotransmitters that result in depression. In addition, hormones are known to alter the genetic expression of neurotransmitters via methylation.
Methylation and hormones
It is important to realize that high folic acid intake should be avoided by those with MTHFR. To ensure that methylation occurs efficiently, natural folate intake should be increased. Certain MTHFR mutations harshly affect the methylation cycle and therefore leads to hormone imbalances – such as in oestrogen-dominant women with high oestrogen concentration cycles. Studies have shown that high levels of oestrogen may increase one’s risk (and progression) for cancer. However, genetic mutations may also directly influence hormone concentrations.
As we previously mentioned, MTHFR and COMT mutations can reduced methylation activity and thereby allow harmful oestrogens to dominate the body. Besides oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone can also influence COMT (catechol-O-methyl transferase) and MAO (monoamine oxidase) biochemical pathways and hinder methylation of neurotransmitters and other essential bio-molecules in your body.
MTHFR mutations that affect hormones
Researchers have proved that homozygous 677C patients older than 35 years require less follicle stimulating hormone and made more oocytes than those without the mutation or with the T allele. Mood swings are also a common effect from having the C677T and A1298C polymorphisms. It is also possible that, due to your MTHFR mutation, your suggested diet may be affecting hormone concentrations.
Pregnancy-related medications and the effects of MTHFR also play a role in hormone imbalances. Since folate is essential in pregnancy, a lack of active folate caused by MTHFR polymorphisms, such as A1298C, can result in miscarriages. Further, lack of methylation means that harmful substances, including certain oestrogens, can persist and may continue to produce free radicals.
Preventive measures and how to overcome hormone imbalances
The most salient step we can take to prevent hormone imbalances is to prevent expression of gene mutations, or to limit their influence. We can do this by avoiding the ‘environmental trigger’ – which can be stress, a bad diet or exposure to toxic chemicals. We can ensure a healthy diet by eating leafy green vegetables and avoiding processed foods. However, it is important to undergo genetic testing to understand how you are affected by MTHFR before taking further steps to overcome any health conditions. Such steps involve the following:
- Know your food – do not include foods rich in hormones, along with processed foods, in your diet.
- Seek advice from a medical professional before making use of contraceptive measures.
- Allow time for your body to naturally correct hormonal imbalances by maintaining a healthy lifestyle.
- Make sure that you get enough sleep to reset your circadian rhythm (also known as your biological clock).
- Take plenty of essential supplements and oils that are required to fill nutritional gaps.
- Lastly, controlling one’s emotions is paramount in the ability to naturally manage hormonal imbalances. People who are experiencing feelings of anxiety or melancholy will find that their hormone levels are more difficult to correct naturally.
Having MTHFR can lead to hormonal imbalances, but that does not mean there is nothing one can do to fix it. It is vital to consult your doctor and dietician to live a healthy life and to avoid foods and medications that may affect your hormone levels. Learning more about your MTHFR is the most important factor in overcoming hormone imbalances. Read more about MTHFR and methylation on our blog.
Thaler, C. J., Budiman, H., Ruebsamen, H., Nagel, D., & Lohse, P. (2006). Effects of the Common 677C>T Mutation of the 5,10-Methylenetetrahydrofolate Reductase (MTHFR)
Gene on Ovarian Responsiveness to Recombinant Follicle-Stimulating Hormone. American Journal of Reproductive Immunology, 55(4), 251-258. doi:10.1111/j.1600-0897.2005.00357.x