Methyl-tetrahydrafolatereductase Gene: content adapted from Dr Ben Lynch’s book “Dirty Genes”

The primary function of the MTHFR gene initiates the Methylation Cycle, a process that provides a methyl group to at least two hundred functions in your body.

MTHFR genetic mutations disrupt signals throughout the entire methylation cycle,affecting antioxidant production, brain chemistry, cell repair, detoxification, energy production, genetic expression, immune response, inflammation, and many other crucial processes.

Signs of MTHFR imbalance:

Common signs include anxiety, brain fog, chemical sensitivity, depression, irritability, and a hair-trigger temper.

Potential strengths include alertness, decreased risk of colon cancer, stellar focus, good DNA repair, and productivity.

Health Conditions Related to MTHFR

Following are some of the disorders that researchers have associated with MTHFR SNPs. However, remember that genetics is not destiny, and the right diet and lifestyle go a long way toward keeping you fully healthy.

General Conditions

■■ Alzheimer’s disease

■■ Asthma

■■ Atherosclerosis

■■ Autism

■■ Bipolar disorder

■■ Bladder cancer

■■ Blood clots

■■ Breast cancer

■■ Chemical sensitivity

■■ Chronic fatigue syndrome

■■ Down syndrome

■■ Epilepsy

■■ Esophageal squamous cell carcinoma

■■ Fibromyalgia

■■ Gastric cancer

■■ Glaucoma

■■ Heart murmurs

■■ High blood pressure

■■ Irritable bowel syndrome

■■ Leukemia

■■ Male infertility

■■ Methotrexate toxicity

■■ Migraines with aura

■■ Multiple sclerosis

■■ Myocardial infarction (heart attack)

■■ Nitrous oxide toxicity

■■ Parkinson’s disease

■■ Pulmonary embolisms

■■ Schizophrenia

■■ Stroke

■■ Thyroid cancer

■■ Unexplained neurologic disease

■■ Vascular dementia

Pregnancy- and Birth-Related Complications

■■ Cervical dysplasia

■■ Miscarriages

■■ Placental abruption

■■ Postpartum depression

■■ Preeclampsia

Birth Defects

■■ Anencephaly

■■ Cleft palate

■■ Congenital heart defects

■■ Hypospadias

■■ Spina bifida

What exacerbates MTHFR sensitivity?

■■ Inadequate methylfolate (methylated vitamin B9), methylcobalamin (methylated vitamin B12), or riboflavin (vitamin B2)

■■ Exposure to industrial chemicals

■■ Psychological stress

■■ Physical stress

■■ Hypothyroidism

■■ Folic acid

Riboflavin: A Crucial Nutrient

Riboflavin is crucial to the function of your MTHFR gene. Without it, your MTHFR can’t function properly. Make sure you’re getting enough riboflavin in your diet, through such foods as spinach, almonds, and liver. Otherwise, your MTHFR won’t be able to initiate the Methylation Cycle, and your whole body will suffer.

Key Nutrients for a Healthy MTHFR and Methylation Cycle

Here are some of the key nutrients that your MTHFR and your Methylation Cycle need to work properly:

Riboflavin/B2: liver, lamb, mushrooms, spinach, almonds, wild salmon, eggs

Folate/B9: green vegetables, beans, peas, lentils, squash

Cobalamin/B12: red meat, salmon, clams, mussels, crab, eggs (vegans and vegetarians, you guys have to supplement)

Protein: animal sources including beef, lamb, fish, poultry, eggs, and dairy; vegan/vegetarian sources including beans, peas, lentils, broccoli, nuts, seeds

Magnesium: dark leafy greens, nuts, seeds, fish, beans, avocados, whole grains

Reasons You Might Be Low in Cobalamin/B12

■■ Vegan/vegetarian diet

■■ Omnivore diet lacking enough meat, poultry, eggs, and fish

■■ High stress

■■ Antacid use

■■ Helicobacter pylori (or H. pylori), a type of bacterium that can proliferate in the intestine

■■ Pernicious anemia (an autoimmune disease)

MTHFR Strategies

■■ Know that your moods will naturally ebb and flow, and don’t let mood swings throw you. Recognizing your varied nature will help you be more okay with feeling blue one day and anxious the next. Our goal is to get you more of those good focused and productive days—and we can.

■■ Folic acid should be avoided, which is tricky since it’s everywhere— supplements, energy bars, foods, drinks. Read labels and avoid processed foods

■■ Filter your drinking water. By removing arsenic, chlorine, and other unwanted chemicals from your water, you reduce methylation demands

■■ Leafy green vegetables are key

■■ Make sure you’re getting enough B12. Eat sufficient beef (grass-fed), lamb, eggs, crab, clams, and dark-meat fish.

■■ In many cases, you’ll want to avoid cow’s milk dairy entirely. Food allergies and/or sensitivities to dairy produce antibodies that can clog your folate receptors.


By loading up on leafy greens, you compensate for the methylfolate that a dirty MTHFR can’t easily produce on its own. By avoiding folic acid, you ensure that your folate receptors remain open to methylfolate and keep your MTHFR as clean as possible. By getting a range of other nutrients, especially B vitamins, protein, and magnesium, You are ensuring that your Methylation Cycle has all the nutrients it needs, which is crucial both for your MTHFR’s function and for your overall health.


By avoiding exposure to industrial chemicals and heavy metals, you’re keeping your MTHFR as clean

as possible while significantly easing the burden on your Methylation Cycle; in addition, to the benefit of your overall health, without those chemicals your body can methylate more homocysteine, because less is needed for glutathione. By reducing or avoiding alcohol and avoiding nitrous oxide, you’re also keeping your MTHFR as clean as possible while easing the burden on your Methylation Cycle.

Best Practices Diet

■■ Eat appropriate amounts of protein and healthy fat.

■■ Make sure to get all the nutrients that your genes need to work properly, such as B vitamins, vitamin C, copper, and zinc.

■■ Cut out cow’s milk dairy, gluten, excess carbs, and white sugar.

■■ Avoid foods high in pesticides, herbicides, preservatives, and/or artificial ingredients.

■■ Avoid fermented foods, leftovers, or food that’s likely to contain excess bacteria if you find they trigger symptoms.

■■ Avoid foods that are high in histamines: wine, some types of cheese, and smoked and/or preserved meat and fish if you’re particularly susceptible.

■■ Eat in moderation: stop eating when you’re 80 percent full.

■■ Avoid snacks and late-night meals.


■■ Get the right amount of exercise for your body—not too much and not too little.

■■ Exercise when you’re rested and only until you’re pleasantly tired. Don’t exhaust yourself, and don’t force it.

■■ Exercise when it doesn’t negatively impact your sleep. Don’t skimp on sleep to exercise; don’t exercise later in the evening if it keeps you from falling asleep.


■■ Make trying for deep, restful sleep a priority.

■■ Consistently match your sleep schedule to nature’s circadian rhythms: asleep by 10:30 p.m., awake seven to eight hours later.

■■ Avoid electronic screens in the hour before bed.

■■ Block out or turn off artificial lights. Natural moonlight is best.

Environmental Toxins

■■ Eat organic foods

■■ Filter the water you use for drinking, cooking, and bathing.

■■ Avoid the use of household and garden chemicals.

■■ Avoid all plastic containers for your food and water,

especially BPA plastic and especially in the microwave. Ideally, store and cook foods only in glass or stainless steel.

■■ Follow guidelines to keep indoor air clean, bearing in mind that indoor air is often more toxic than the air outdoors.


■■ Attend to sources of physical stress: long-term illness, chronic infections, food intolerances/allergies, insufficient sleep.

■■ Reduce and relieve psychological stress: issues at work, at home, with your loved ones, with life.