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articles-by-dawn-shipley-ra-ncpa

MTHFR Mutations and Aromatherapy to Support Them

by Dawn Shipley, RA, NCPA - Owner, Blue Dawn Aromatherapy

“This article originally appeared in the NAHA Journal Spring 2018.1 and it is republished here according to the NAHA Writer Guidelines 2017-18 copyright statement. “

The study of epigenetics shows how our environment—which includes our emotional state, physical state and diet—can affect our gene expression that can in turn affect our health.[1]  There are polymorphisms, or mutations, in the genes that are being studied, and two of those that are very important are MTHFR A1298C and C677T.  These are important because they affect the metabolism of folate in our bodies, which is crucial to many other biochemical processes. Epigenetics shows that through diet and lifestyle, which can include aromatherapy, we are able to take control of our own health and aid our bodies in functioning properly. [2]

MTHFR is a gene that provides instructions for making an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (also known as MTHFR). The MTHFR enzyme converts folate (also known as B9) for the body to use, technically changing 5,10-methylenetetrahydrofolate to 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-MTHF) that is used in converting the amino acid homocysteine to methionine,[3] which makes other important compounds and proteins, including S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). SAMe is a key component in many biochemical methyl reactions, including forming monoamine neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine, which can cause depression if these neurotransmitters levels are low.[4]  Even production of glutathione, the body’s main detoxifying agen and cellular-level antioxidant, is affected by the MTHFR gene and folate processing.[5] 


MTHFR in the middle of many biochemical processes
A polymorphism is also known as a SNP (pronounced “snips,” meaning a single-nucleotide polymorphism), and is a “DNA sequence variation occurring when a single nucleotide adenine (A), thymine (T), cytosine (C), or guanine (G) in the genome (or other shared sequence) differs between members of a species or paired chromosomes in an individual. [6]” For the MTHFR A1298C polymorphism, the gene location has a cytosine instead of an adenine, and the C677T, a thymine instead of a cytosine.[7]  These differences in the gene expression cause the enzyme that is created from this instruction set to build the enzyme improperly, which makes the enzyme not as effective at metabolizing folate.

Studies show that up to 60% of the population may have at least one mutated MTHFR gene, which can lead to at least 10%-20% decrease in folate metabolism.  However, those numbers become more severe with homozygous (having both genes mutated at the 1298 or 677 location), or compound heterozygous (having one gene mutated at each 677 and 1298 position) mutations.  Folate metabolism may be decreased by 40-70% in these cases.[8] This can have an amazing impact on the health of an individual. The MTHFR gene mutations usually affect 3 main areas:

  • Central Nervous System: usually come from not having enough SAMe, which is responsible for creating serotonin and other neurotransmitters responsible for mood, motivation, and energy levels to a degree. These problems are more associated with the 1298 gene mutation. Some particular conditions that may result are:
    • Depression
    • OCD
    • Bipolar Disorder
    • Schizophrenia
    • Alzheimer’s
    • Dementia
    • Fibromyalgia
    • Migraines
    • Irritable Bowel Syndrome
    • Aggression
  • Cardiovascular System: due to high homocysteine levels in the body. This can result in:
    • Heart attack
    • Stroke
    • Blood clots
    • Peripheral neuropathy
    • Anemia
    • Miscarriages
    • Congenital birth defects
  • Environmental poisoning: since Glutathione levels are often affected by MTHFR gene mutations, detoxifying of the body may be difficult for an individual with one of these mutations. Glutathione is our body’s most powerful antioxidant, and when low, the body becomes burdened by heavy metals and toxins.  Symptoms may include (but are not limited to):
    • Nausea
    • Diarrhea
    • Abdominal pain
    • Liver dysfunction
    • Kidney dysfunction
    • Hypertension
    • Tachycardia
    • Pulmonary fibrosis
    • Asthma
    • Immune problems
    • Hair loss
    • Rashes

It has also been found that 98% of children with Autism have one or both of the MTHFR gene defects (677 and/or 1298).  And mothers with MTHFR who didn’t take folate during pregnancy were 7 times more likely to have an Autistic child than mothers without the MTHFR gene mutation.[9] 

Overall, MTHFR mutations can be quite serious without a proper diet and lifestyle.  It is a disruption of homeostasis, driven by genetics.  The good thing is that epigenetics shows us that we are able to minimize the effects of such mutations by changing our diet and lifestyles.  Besides eating leafy greens and other veggies high in folate, avoiding processed foods with folic acid is important.  Folic acid is a synthesized form of folate that people with MTHFR mutations cannot process at all.  They remain in the blood stream, causing folate levels to look ok or even high, but then block the folate from good sources from being metabolized.  Multiple studies have shown that other key factors for keeping the body running as well as possible include:

  • Enjoying nature
  • Not being overscheduled
  • Avoiding chronic stress in work and personal life
  • Having supportive and loving people in your life
  • Getting enough sleep and exercise
  • Laughing, enjoying life
  • Having purpose
  • Avoid toxins[10]

Though diet is the most effective way to maintain healthy folate metabolism, aromatherapy can be used in tandem to promote health for MTHFR gene mutations in a few ways.  Though possible to aid the body in many of the resulting conditions, a good general place to start is the day-to-day processing of folate and keeping the genetic pathways moving through stress relief, antioxidant support and detoxification. 

Stress makes the body work faster and harder, so it takes a toll on all of your body’s systems.[11]  Most essential oils promote stress relief, and what is most effective for each person may be different based on personal memories, experiences, and just personal taste.  However, lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a very good choice for promoting stress relief.  When studied, EEG readings showed an increase of alpha waves associated with relaxation when the scent was inhaled for as little as three minutes![12] 

We’ve seen that detoxification is harder for those with methylation problems, mostly stemming from possible deficiency in glutathione, being that its synthesis is downstream from and dependent on the folate cycle.  Oxidative stress is higher in those with MTHFR mutations as well, due to this.[13]  Plants are vulnerable to oxidative stress themselves, so as protection, they biosynthesize many potent antioxidants.  Antioxidant components include benzyl alcohol, carvacrol, 1,8-cineole, eugenol, (--)-menthol, (6R)-(+)-menthofuran, (--)-menthyl acetate, methyl salicylate, γ-terpinene, thymol and thymoquinone.[14] Citral, (2E)-cinnamaldehyde and some other unsaturated aldehydes activate the antioxidant response element (ARE), which regulates important cellular antioxidants as well.[15]  Some essential oils containing these antioxidant constituents are:

  • Benzoin (Styrax benzoin): 38.8-43.4% benzyl alcohol
  • Oregano (Origanum, multiple species): 61.6-83.4% carvacrol
  • Thyme (Thymus vulgaris ct carvacrol, as well as others to a lesser extent): 41.8% carvacrol; CT thymol: 48.3-62.5% thymol (carvacrol CT has 5%)
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus globulus as well as other species): 65.4-83.9% 1,8-cineole
  • Rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ct cineole): 39-57.7% 1,8-cineole
  • Cinnamon bark (Cinnamomum zylanicum): 63.1-75.7% (2E)-Cinnamaldehyde (cinnamon leaf, as well, to a much lesser extent: 0.6-1.1%)
  • Clove bud (Syzygium aromaticum): 73.5-96.9% eugenol
  • Cinnamon leaf (Cinnamomum zylanicum): 68.6-87.0% eugenol
  • Peppermint (Mentha piperita): 19-54.2% menthol, 0 to 9.4% menthofuran, 2.1-10.6% (--)-menthyl acetate,
  • Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia): 10-28% γ-terpinene
  • Mandarin (Citrus reticulata): 16.4-22.7% γ -terpinene
  • Black seed (Nigella sativa): 26.8-54.8% thymoquinone
  • Lemongrass (Cymbopogon citratus): about 83% citral[16]

Glutathione production can be stimulated by certain essential oil components as well.  A few of these components are citral, eugenol, geraniol, (+)-limonene, and myristicin.  Besides essential oils containing those components, the following essential oils have also been shown in studies to stimulate glutathione production:

  • Angelica root (Angelica archangelica)
  • Basil (holy) (Ocimum tenuiflorum)
  • Bergamot (Citrus bergamia) terpenes
  • Chamomile (type unspecified)
  • Dill weed (Anethum graveolens)
  • Eucalyptus (Eucalyptus, various species) terpenes
  • Sweet fennel (Foeniculum vulgare)
  • Ginger (Zingiber officinale)
  • Grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi)
  • Lemon (Citrus limon, expressed)
  • Lemongrass (type unspecified)
  • Lime (Citrus aurantifolia) terpenes
  • Nutmeg (Myristica fragrans)
  • Orange (type unspecified)
  • Oregano (Origanum)
  • Spearmint (Mentha spicata)
  • Tangerine (Citrus reticulata Blanco)
  • Thyme (type unspecified) [17]

A great way of using these essential oils for MTHFR is a bath soak, especially since you can also use salts, which are also great for detoxification and liver health.  I’ll leave you with a recipe I love.  Enjoy!

1 c Epsom salt

3 drops rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis ct cineole)

3 drops grapefruit (Citrus x paradisi)

3 drops ginger (Zingiber officinale)

3 drops cinnamon leaf (Cinnamomum zylancium)

Add to warm bath water and soak.  Use 1 – 2 times a week.

 

[1] MTHFR.com website, “MTHFR, Nutrigenomics and Epigenetics”, accessed July 13, 2017: https://www.mthfrdoctors.com/mthfr-nutrigenomics-epigenetics/

[2] MTHFR.com website, “MTHFR, Nutrigenomics and Epigenetics”, accessed July 13, 2017: https://www.mthfrdoctors.com/mthfr-nutrigenomics-epigenetics/

[3] Genetics Home Reference website, “MTHFR gene”, accessed June 20, 2017: https://ghr.nlm.nih.gov/gene/MTHFR#resources

[4] US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health PubMed website, “The methylation, neurotransmitter, and antioxidant connections between folate and depression”, accessed June 28, 2017: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18950248.

[5] Dr Lam Body Mind Nutrition website, “MTHFR & Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome”, accessed July 8, 2017: https://www.drlam.com/blog/mthfr-and-adrenal-fatigue/5452/

[6] International Society of Genetic Genealogy Wiki website, “Single-nucleotide polymorphism”, accessed June 27, 2017: https://isogg.org/wiki/Single-nucleotide_polymorphism.

[7] Diet vs Disease website, “MTHFR C677T and A1298C: Explained In Plain English”, accessed July 14, 2017: https://www.dietvsdisease.org/mthfr-c677t-a1298c-mutation/

[8] Diet vs Disease website, “MTHFR C677T and A1298C: Explained In Plain English”, accessed July 14, 2017: https://www.dietvsdisease.org/mthfr-c677t-a1298c-mutation/

[9] Methyl Life website, “Symptoms of MTHFR”, accessed July 14, 2017: http://methyl-life.com/symptoms-of-mthfr/

[10] MTHFR.com website, “MTHFR, Nutrigenomics, and Epigenetics”, accessed July 14, 2017: https://www.mthfrdoctors.com/mthfr-nutrigenomics-epigenetics/

[11] Health-line Website, “The Effects of Stress On Your Body”, accessed August 6, 2017: http://www.healthline.com/health/stress/effects-on-body

[12] Green, Mindy and Kathi Keville.  Aromatherapy: A Complete Guide To The Healing Art.  2nd Edition.  New York:  Crossing Press, 1995. Pg. 29.

[13] Dr. Michael Veselak Website, “MTHFR”, accessed August 6, 2017: https://drmichaelveselak.com/mthfr/

[14] Tisserand, Robert and Rodney Young.  Essential Oil Safety. 2nd Edition.  Churchill Livingstone: 2014.

[15] Tisserand, Robert and Rodney Young.  Essential Oil Safety. 2nd Edition.  Churchill Livingstone: 2014.

[16] Tisserand, Robert and Rodney Young.  Essential Oil Safety. 2nd Edition.  Churchill Livingstone: 2014.

[17] Tisserand, Robert and Rodney Young.  Essential Oil Safety. 2nd Edition.  Churchill Livingstone: 2014.


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2 comments

  • Beth, I have not found any essential oils that should be avoided with mthfr, but will update you if I do, as I still research this topic!

    Dawn Shipley, RA

  • Are there any essential oils that should be avoided with the mthrfr mutation?

    Beth

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