Muruga's saint, blurred

Life has been a blur lately. I spent the last part of the summer frantically trying to finish various projects associated with our home renovation. It was REALLY frantic, so I haven’t been here much. That doesn’t mean, however, that nothing was happening on the PGEN front. More puzzles and mazes being negotiated, more clues leading to quirks in the path.

Remember when I first started this, and talked about being an MTHFR carrier? I’m circling back to that. When I first looked into it the gist of the overviews I found on the topic were along the lines of, “Meh, not such a big deal. Don’t worry about it.” Folk in the PatientsLikeMe forum were talking about it, though, and seemed more concerned. Frankly, I thought they were worrying over nothing, and initially didn’t give it a second thought. Then one day I saw a comment about MTHFR deficiency being associated with autism, which runs in my family. And depression. And osteoporosis. And anemia. And … well, you get the idea. Basically, it seems to be associated with as many conditions as celiac disease, and an equally broad range of conditions. Oh, and by the way, it is also associated with celiac. Hmmm.

I thought, well, the other stuff I read said it wasn’t a big deal, so these web sites much be just flakey folks making things up. Let me go check Pubmed, just to verify. I tried a number of different searches. MTHFR is pretty wild! It is being researched in many different areas as potentially significant. I then thought, wow, it seems to almost be a fad in research right now. Well, not exactly.

Pubmed results for MTHFR by year (3 in 1990, steady rise to mid 400s in 2011)

This chart shows how many articles were listed in Pubmed for MTHFR by year, for the past twenty years. You see very little to virtually no interest in MTHFR twenty years ago, according to the publication rates in the professional biomedical literature, rising to a fairly steady number of publications in the mid-400s for the past five years or so. There is no big spike, just a growing awareness along the lines of, hmmm, this might be something rather interesting.

To make a long story short, I’ve started to look into it more closely. Just as with some other elements of the genomics scans, the information I’m learning is causing me to go back and look at some of my personal stories through a different lens.

One of the first questions I asked myself was about the core “folate deficiency” bit. Should I be supplementing with folate or folic acid? I took a look for what foods are naturally high in folate. OH MY GOODNESS!!! Darned if the list isn’t comprised of foods I usually crave. This includes foods my docs have told me I eat too much! But since I’m craving them, they get eaten.

I started thinking back, and suddenly put two and two together. The first time in my life that I felt absolutely wonderful was when I was pregnant for the first time. I had always attributed this to actually being pregnant, but you know what? When a young woman is pregnant, doctors prescribe pregnancy vitamins, which include folic acid. That was the first time in my life I had folic acid. What if … oh, wow, what if the reason I felt so incredible was because of the vitamins, not because I was pregnant? I had the same kind of “wow, see how great I feel” reaction when I started eating lots of quinoa, which is a folate rich food.

When I figured this out, I was tempted to run out and just buy pregnancy vitamins or folic acid vitamins. Dutifully, I checked first if it was safe to self-prescribe. Sigh. They recommend talking with a doc first and having your B12 levels checked. So, now I’m making that long-put-off appointment with my new doctor. I’m trying to make sense of this, but it seems to all be getting more confused rather than more clear. Blurred. 😉


4 thoughts on “Blur

  1. Pingback: It’s … Complicated. (A.K.A. “MTHFR Deficiency, Sequel”) | PGen Participant

  2. JHG again, sorry I was so hard on you earlier now that I have read this post. I did want you have you confirm something with your doctors, though. As it had been explained to me, our deficiency is caused by our bodies not being able to break down folic acid. We can take it in vitamins, we can eat it, yet our bodies won’t process it. Just three days ago I started taking a special folic acid (vitamin B9) vitamin that is already broken down to the point that my body can synthesis it. This special form is called Deplin an needs to be prescribed by your doctor. Just check it out with your docs, I know everyone’s body is different.

    • Hi, JHG, That’s very interesting! I hadn’t heard of Deplin. Yes, it includes methylfolate, which is its primary ingredient. I’m surprised that you found it was any available through prescriptions. I have been getting my own methylfolate / metafolin at the grocery store (Whole Foods) and ordering online. I would not want to take Deplin because, even though it is gluten free, it has chemical food dyes in it, including all three of the most dangerous ones – Red #40, Yellow #6, and Yellow #5. I’m reading the package insert here: Even though I am buying my own over the counter, I am working with my doctor on this. Very important to do so, and glad your doctor is supportive.

    • Oh, one more bit. You said “We can take it in vitamins, we can eat it, yet our bodies won’t process it.” Sort of. That applies to folic acid, not to folate. And we process it only partly. The short version I read gave approximate values like this. One copy of an MTHFR mutation, and we process folic acid at 70% of normal levels, two copies and we process it at 30% of normal levels. I have two copies. Now, for plant folate, YES, we can digest it and our bodies make use of it. For me, the best plant source for my body has turned out to be quinoa. I have more trouble digesting green leafy vegetables. That’s just me, of course. I don’t know what will work for you, but combining diet therapy with supplements is very important for correcting this, and usually should come first.

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