This article is by Travis White of Learnfit.org. Thanks Travis!
Everybody wants to look and feel their best when the spring and summer seasons hit – after all, we all want to wear that bathing suit in public. Making the effort to improve both your mental physical health can go a long way toward reducing stress and increasing energy. Of course, the hardest part is getting started. There are plenty of easy tips that you can incorporate to improve your nutrition and up your physical activity that will have you ready for the warmer months in no time.
Boost your mental and physical health by getting outside and doing something you love.
Planning is the key to boosting Mental and Physical Health.
The best way to ensure success when it comes to improving your mental and physical health is to put together a detailed plan. When you start making changes to your diet or activity levels without a clear strategy, you are setting yourself up to fail. Writing down your goals, plans, and progress can be a very effective strategy for improving your health. Keep a journal of what you eat and what activity you do, and be honest so that you can look back at your successes and pinpoint areas of trouble as you move forward.
The spring and summer seasons are ideal for trying to make modifications to your diet to improve your health. Be sure to check out farmers markets that start in the spring, as these are a great resource for fresh, whole foods that are packed with nutrition. Focus on fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins and healthy fats to keep you energized and satisfied throughout the day. Be sure to work on cutting out or cutting back on unhealthy choices such as sugary treats and fast food.
Exercise or Activity is a MUST for boosting Mental and Physical Health
Any plan for improving your physical and mental health needs to include regular, moderate exercise. If you don’t like the “E” word, then let’s call it “activity” instead. AZ Central recommends planning for at least 30 active minutes a day, at least five days a week. Add it to your calendar to help you commit to it. The time of day that you exercise is far less important than getting it done consistently, so consider whether your lifestyle best accommodates a morning, noon, late afternoon, or evening time slot.
Embrace activities that motivate you for the spring and summer seasons, things that you love to do. Focus on walking, running, swimming, biking, or playing in the surf. Experts also recommend incorporating some strength training at least a couple of times a week into your routine. You don’t necessarily need a gym membership or fancy equipment to do this. You can focus on exercises that use your own body-weight such as lunges, pushups, crunches and other similar activities to help you build your strength, adding in dumbbells for additional exercises if you’d like.
Small Lifestyle Changes will Greatly Improve Mental and Physical Health
To a large degree, improving your physical health will significantly improve your mental health as well. Focusing on quality nutrition in your diet will help to reduce stress and increase your energy, and the University of Michigan University Health Service notes that helps to improve your mood and decrease anxiety and depression.
The spring and summer months are the ideal time to focus on improving your physical and mental health. Working on improving your health doesn’t have to be overwhelming, as there are plenty of easy ways to incorporate moderate changes that ultimately will have a significant, positive impact. Create a plan of attack with measurable goals and focus on quality nutrition and regular exercise to boost your fitness and reduce your stress levels. Once you commit to lifestyle changes and see some success, you’ll be motivated to keep going and reap the rewards of your hard work as you embrace the warm months.
As promised, I want to give you some simple things to try for the fatigue and lack of energy that can be a big part of parenting – the mommy burnout. There is no doubt that parenting is the biggest fullest time full-time job there is, and to be clear I’m talking about daddy burnout too. You are the bottom line of responsibility and that can be a difficult weight to carry – especially when you’re up at 4:00 am for the fourth night in a row with a coughing child and you know you have to be functional at 7:30 for work. There are some things that you can do to help maintain your energy level and bolster the reserves. Too many parents forget to care for themselves while they are busy caring for baby.
It sounds too simple to be effective but B vitamin deficiencies are very common, especially in women. There are several B vitamins, but I think the easiest way to get them is in a B-complex, simply because the deficiency symptoms overlap and the functions overlap, so if you’re low in one you are likely to be low in others too. Make sure you’re getting a B-complex with 5-MTHF instead of folic acid because some of us (the MTHFR mutants) can’t convert the folic acid into the active form. Symptoms of B vitamin deficiencies include:
Fatigue, low energy, weakness
Depression, memory loss, difficulty thinking or brain fog
Rashes, cracking skin, seborrheic dermatitis
Anemia and elevated homocysteine in the blood.
If you are already taking a B complex but you’re still having fatigue one of the quickest pick-me-ups out there is B12 liquid or B12 sublingual. They can make a world of difference and give you an immediate energy boost. Again with the mutant problem – if you have an MTHFR issue or the related MTRR that changes the way you methylate B12 then look for the hydroxycobalamin or methylcobalamin forms.
Surprisingly, up to 75% of Americans are deficient in this common vitamin. In theory, we are able to manufacture vitamin D from our body’s cholesterol in response to sunlight. In reality, we just don’t get enough sunlight. Between skin cancer awareness, which has increased the use of sunscreens, sunglasses, and hats; and demanding schedules that don’t allow for outdoor time we are starved for this vital nutrient. Your doctor can test your blood levels and suggest a therapeutic dose based on those results. Generally, 2000IU per day is a good starting place. Vitamin D helps you with fatigue, depression, maintaining healthy bones, protecting against cancer and boosting your immune system in general.
Hormone Balance and Rebuilding
Pregnancy is one of those life events that literally takes everything you have and then some.
In terms of priority, your body will give your developing fetus nutrients instead of saving them for you in order to make sure that the next generation has a good start. This is a great system, just as long as you are taking care of yourself and working to get those nutrients built back up. It is best to work with your practitioner on this one because every woman is different. Some women notice declining thyroid function, some women develop blood sugar issues, for some women the adrenals bottom out and some women’s sex hormones never seem to recover. It is best to have a whole protocol specifically for you, but here are some basic ideas to get you started:
Shatavari – this ayurvedic herb is an adaptogen for female sex hormones. We spoke about adaptogens in a recent post, but this one helps to normalize estrogen and progesterone. So if you’re low, it boosts you up and if you’re excessive it calms things down. Amazing.
Iodine – this vital nutrient is often deficient in the modern diet, especially since a lot of people no longer use iodized salt because sea salt is generally healthier. It is found in high concentration in sea vegetables, but if you’re not getting a lot of those then it might be a good idea to supplement because pregnancy uses a lot of it – it’s vital to your baby for brain development – and women are often left deficient. Iodine is necessary for your own brain and also for healthy thyroid functioning so boosting your iodine can boost your energy too.
Magnesium – this mineral helps your body relax for a restful sleep and also helps your adrenals – your main get-up-and-go glands – to function. If you’re lacking it might show up as restless legs, restless sleep or muscle cramps.
Yes, I know. It sounds too simple to help, but mild dehydration is the biggest cause of fatigue, headache and the afternoon slump. If you’re trying to lose weight it’s good to remember that it’s also the number one cause of the “hunger” signal. Also, if you’re still nursing, then your body is using more than normal. Just remember to drink 8-16 oz of water every time you pass through the kitchen. It’s a small change that adds up to big benefits. Water is easy to forget to drink when you’re running errands, running around after toddlers, or just running in general. Take a bottle of water with you everywhere (please no BPAs and no plastic water bottles if you can avoid them – plastics release hormone disruptors which are the last things your body needs. I use a glass bottle, but there are great options in ceramics and stainless steel as well.) Drinking eight 8oz glasses per day is the general rule of thumb but always try for more.
Melatonin has to be one of my favorite things. This is the hormone in your body that makes you feel sleepy at the end of the day. It is also the hormone in your body that opposes cortisol (your wake up/stress hormone). For parents, this can be a godsend. I have seen so many parents in the clinic who seem to lose the ability to fall asleep easily because they are stressed, overwhelmed, thinking about problems or just can’t wind down for the day in spite of the exhaustion. Melatonin is a simple, safe quick fix that will help your body get into that sleepy place simply by taking it before bed. It also acts as an antioxidant for brain tissue, which is a great bonus effect. After all, protecting the brain is always a good idea. The standard dose is 3mg and if this isn’t enough it’s safe to double or even triple. Also if your baby wakes up at night and needs you, you will still be able to get up and respond (although you may be a little groggy). It’s a great alternative to sleeping pills and can really help you to maximize whatever sleep time you have.
We want parenting to look like this, but often it looks just like the woman in the video above. “They want everything you have “. Just remember that when you’re battling your own mommy burnout.
Homeopathy isn’t generally a one-size-fits-all type of medicine. It’s tiny doses of something that would cause the same symptoms if you took it in a toxic dose, which then helps your body to understand and move through that process. In a perfect world the remedy should be matched perfectly to your symptoms, but in the case of post-partum depression and typical mommy burnout stress and anxiety, this one is a pretty reliable win. Sepia helps with the irritability that comes with constant caretaking. The feeling that if everyone would just leave you alone for 20 minutes you might be able to function without snapping at them. The urge to cry, or run, or lash out because your kiddo is quite literally hanging on you and you really just need a minute. Those are pretty reliable parent feelings and sepia is a lovely, gentle aid. The 30C strength is sold commonly in health food stores and 3 pellets can be taken under your tongue as needed.
I know nothing fixes the overwhelming schedule, demands and stress of being a parent, but I’m hoping this will at least give you a little bit of help and support. It’s also a great reminder to me to remember that even though I’m busy being mom I get to have needs too. 🙂 Feel free to leave comments on how this is working for you, or if there are any areas that you really need support that I didn’t address.
I have a confession to make about this mommy burnout thing. It’s happening. It’s me. I’m writing this to myself, as much as anyone, simply because I’m the fortunate mom of a hilarious, joyful, loud, energetic 18-month-old who is teaching me all about mommy burnout. Historically I’m a workaholic and know all about other kinds of burnout, but I could always retreat if needed. Stop and regroup and rest because I was always choosing to work so hard. Now, not so much. Just like every other parent out there, the choice is no longer mine. I am often reminded of my childhood best friend and her family when I think of mommy burnout, mostly because she has three high-energy kiddos and I have learned a lot by watching her parent – um… especially on a group camping trip. Believe me, I can’t think of anything more vivid than three swimming, singing, climbing, jumping campfire-roasting kids and two dogs who follow them through all the muck that entails.
I am honestly awe-struck by how well some people, like Laura, juggle the responsibility of a full-time career and three busy kiddos at home, and I’d like to share some of the things that I observed in her that I think would be useful for the other moms I see (myself included). Don’t worry, my next post will also be health-related things you can try, not just parenting things. Mostly I want to say as long as your kiddo is fed and loved, you’re doing an awesome job. The rest really is mostly details. Just don’t forget to take care of you too. Also, to clarify, mommy burnout isn’t confined to mommies. It’s really parenting burnout. Lots of this is obvious, but that doesn’t mean you’re doing it so pause and take a minute to remind yourself how to be nice to yourself too. Here is what I’m going to call “Laura’s List for Avoiding Mommy Burn-Out.”
Important things are important – the rest can go hang. So, it is actually important to maintain discipline when your kiddo decides he or she wants to play with the hatchet and to stick to an absolute NO. It isn’t so important when they want to play rock band using a badminton racket instead of a guitar. Firm clear discipline involving action and consequences matters when something is important – like a threat to safety. It isn’t important when it’s just loud and fun. Save the big loud angry reaction for times when it’s necessary. If the kids are just being loud and unruly, like kids are, then don’t worry about it.
Don’t expect kids to be mini-adults – because they’re not. It is easy to fall into the habit of expecting kids to behave like adults, especially in places like restaurants. It’s easy to expect them to be quiet and sit still and have nice table manners, but the fact of the matter is that the things that matter to adults don’t matter to kids. This isn’t carte blanche to allow your kids to rampage through a restaurant, but it is a reminder to keep your expectations realistic – kids are kids and they are going to do kid things (and that’s the way it’s supposed to be).
Take time for you – nobody else will. The thing that impressed me most about Laura and her husband was that they both manage to take time for themselves even in a full-throttle 24 hour kid day. Laura is not (and never has been – I can attest to this) a morning person. She and her husband have worked out a system that involves him handling morning duties while Laura takes time to wake up slowly (usually with the help of a good book) and Laura handling most of the evening stuff while he gets to relax. I’m pretty sure that didn’t happen automatically and at some point, they both had to value themselves enough to establish ground rules. Lots of parents, especially new parents, forget that they matter too, and this is key for sanity.
Happy mommy means happier baby. Just remember that when you’re battling your own mommy burnout.
Nap when you can – whenever you can. Seriously. Lots of people have stigmas about day-time naps equating to laziness, but that idea needs to go right now. No matter how awesome your kids are they are still kids. They wake up in the night and need you, they fall out of bed, they have nightmares, they are just kids. Not only that, they often get up earlier than you do. Parenting means sleep is on short supply so learn to sleep whenever you can – whether it’s a 20-minute cat nap or a 2-hour nap while the kids are gone somewhere, learn to prioritize sleep more than housecleaning, extra work projects, and the like. the better you feel on a daily basis the more you will be able to accomplish, so sleep whenever you can and whenever you need.
Let your kids be kids without your input. This is a hard one for the parents who hover and helicopter around their children (as the child psychology books advocated for smarter kids with higher self-esteem). The point is, your kid doesn’t like it, it is debatable whether this helps them at all, and it will wear you down to the bone faster than anything else in the world. Kids learn and grow by making their own mistakes (even when it means skinned knees and bruised pride), by finding their own solutions to problems (even if there are better solutions out there) and by finding their own way through conflicts (even if that ends in tears and tantrums). You burning yourself out as a parent and micromanaging your child’s environment, relationships and emotions won’t help anyone and it’s the surest way to drive yourself (and your kids) crazy.
Remember your actual responsibilities as a parent and forget the rest. The basic obligations of parenting are the things you absolutely have to provide for your children and these are incredibly important. Make sure you provide these and the rest is just gravy. Don’t beat yourself up for not being able to give gravy all the time – you get to be human too. As long as you give your kid the basics – food, safety, shelter, and unconditional love for them exactly as they are. Everything else is extra.
Eat. You need balanced meals too, not just the bites of things the kids leave over or the random items you can shove in your mouth between activities. Take time to eat real food including fruits and vegetables.
Maintain your own life, your own interests, and your own identity. Your kids are the biggest part of your life, but they aren’t your whole life and it puts too much pressure on them if you try to force them into that role. Also I see a lot of parents who end up “blaming” their kids for all of the ways that they themselves don’t feel fulfilled as a human being and for the things they “gave up” (even if the kid never wanted that in the first place) and that isn’t anywhere near fair. Make sure you are maintaining your own identity that isn’t based on your kids – it’s based on you and who you are and what you do as a person.
Get help when you need it. Nobody can do it all alone and you are no exception. Ask for help if you need it, whether that is from a daycare, a babysitter, a school, an after school program, your spouse, your family or whomever. Everyone needs a break every now and then and there is nothing wrong with that. You just have to remember to ask for help.
Support your body just as much as you would support your child’s if they were struggling. Your kid isn’t the only one who needs good medical care, good food, joy and good sleep. You do too. It doesn’t help your kids in any way for you to burn yourself out. Treat yourself just as well as you treat your children and it will all work out great.
Save yourself from mommy burnout (or daddy burnout). Here’s some friendly reminders.
Now – I completely recognize that this is all so much easier to say than to do because we all have a whole lot of real-life to deal with. I also think that when you’re wrapped up in 26 hour days and running on no sleep it’s easy to forget the basics, so this is a friendly reminder to everyone out there who is struggling to be the best parent they can. Just remember sometimes it’s really enough to just be there, keep your kid safe, and allow the chaos to happen.
Finding out you have an MTHFR mutation can be exciting, in it’s own strange way, because all of a sudden there is hope that you can actually help yourself and fix how you’re feeling, so it really feels like being kicked in the gut if you start taking 5-LMTHF and the methylfolate makes depression worse. Have no fear, there is an explanation and also some possible solutions. Read on my friends.
We recently talked about the terms “undermethylated” vs. “overmethylated” and although there aren’t great lab tests to show your status, typically you can determine your general tendency through their symptom picture. Depression, however, can be ambiguous because it can happen in people who are undermethylated, overmethylated or people with totally normal methylation. Although having the MTHFR mutation pushes many people into the undermethylated category, having the mutation itself isn’t enough to tell you if you’re under, over or normal. I myself am a compound heterozygous MTHFR mutant, but happen to have other genetic factors that make me an overmethylator – go figure.
5-L methyltetrahydrofolate (5-LMTHF) is suggested for everyone with a methylation issue – over or undermethylators. It’s the first line of defence because it can actually help both groups to balance their methylation in different ways. Also for depression specifically, folic acid or 5-LMTHF supplementation can be extremely helpful even without a known methylation issue because folate deficiency is a common cause of depression – so really for most people folate is beneficial. There is one group, however, who doesn’t respond well at all that that is undermethylated people with depression.
Let me clarify – anyone starting 5-LMTHF for the first time, or even increasing a dose, may notice some side effects for the first few days. Starting to methylate differently can be messy and so this first few days isn’t enough time to know if you actually have a bad reaction. This is why we talk so much about starting with a low dose and easing your way up. If you’ve started with a low dose and you’re easing into it, but your depression gets worse and stays worse beyond the first week or so, then chances are you have undermethylated depression. This means methylfolate, folic acid and even folate rich foods are probably always going to make your depression worse. Here’s why:
The link between Methylfolate and Serotonin
This is complicated because typically boosting your methylation cycle also helps your body to make more neurotransmitters via BH4 (we don’t need to go into it, but if you want a refresher you can read about it here). So 5-LMTHF is supposed to fix depression by boosting levels of serotonin, dopamine and other key neurotransmitters. The problem is that 5-LMTHF, folic acid and folate all have a second effect on neurotransmitters, which is to depress serotonin through an epigenetic mechanism.
Epigenetics is essentially the study of how external factors (like nutrition, stress, oxidative damage, etc…) influence the way our genes express themselves. Folate and folic acid, according to the Walsh Research Institute, have an epigenetic effect on the SERT transporter. The SERT transporter helps to reuptake serotonin after it’s been released. SERT is the target for many pharmaceutical antidepressants (SSRIs, or Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors). SSRIs work because they interfere with SERT and so serotonin stays active longer, which means you get more benefit from this happy neurotransmitter. Methylfoate, folate from foods and folic acid, while they increases serotonin production through BH4, also increase SERT via an epigenetic effect. This means they help your brain to clear out serotonin faster, thereby reducing the amount of serotonin that is available for you to use. Essentially this makes folate the anti-anti-depressant. Sigh.
As a brief reality check – Walsh Research Institute is convinced this is happening (see the link to their presentation above), many MTHFR websites are convinced this is happening, and it certainly explains a lot of what I’ve seen clinically, but for whatever reason I can’t find any published research that says definitively that this is happening so please take this with a grain of salt.
Methylfolate Makes Depression Worse For Me – Now What?
Don’t worry – you have a couple of options. If you’re sure this isn’t just your body adjusting to methylfolate (the symptoms last beyond the first week of moderate supplementation) then it’s time to check to see if you fit the profile of an undermethylator. If that sounds like you, and your depression is getting worse, then let’s look at your choices.
SAMe – Ultimately the end product of the entire methylation cycle is SAMe, so it can be a helpful work around for people who can’t take 5-LMTHF. This is where all that methylfolate is going and although it doesn’t entirely cover the necessity for methylated folate, it does help with the depression. This is partly because SAMe is a very slow acting serotonin reuptake inhibitor – just like the pharmaceutical drugs only much less powerful. As with any methylation issue, start with a low dose and work your way up.
Methionine – This amino acid is a direct precursor to SAMe in the body, and uses the MATI/II enzyme (coded by the gene of the same name) to go through the conversion. Because this turns into SAMe it can be a much more cost effective way to get the same benefits, which again is as a slow acting serotonin reuptake inhibitor. The only situation in which that isn’t going to be helpful is if your MATI/II gene has an issue or something is interfering. Most people find methionine to be effective though, so this can be a far less expensive solution. Again, start with a lower dose and work your way up.
St. John’s Wart – This has nothing to do with methylation, only with serotonin. Happily, St. John’s wart shows similar effectiveness to SSRI medications for major depressive disorder, with significantly fewer adverse events. Here’s the research study, from the Annals of Family Medicine that compares St John’s Wart (referred to by it’s latin name, hypericum) with SSRIs and other anti depressant medications as well as placebo. Go nature!
It should be said that while SAMe and Methionine will help to augment the methylation cycle, they still aren’t providing folate of any kind, so they won’t protect against the more folate dependent issues like neural tube defects in babies and issues with pregnancy and fertility. If you have undermethylated depression and are considering getting pregnant it is vital to work closely with a doctor who can help you to get the folate that you need and also help you to offset the depressive symptoms that might come with that. Even though methylfolate makes depression worse, in pregnancy it might still be necessary so please consult a physician.
MTHFR mutation is becoming kind of the “in” thing to have at the moment and it seems like everyone talks about MTHFR and anxiety, MTHFR and heart disease, MTHFR and depression. The question is, why does a gene for the enzyme that activates folic acid have anything at all to do with those things? First off, if this sounds like gibberish, then here’s some background reading on MTHFR and on MTHFR and folate. Now – lets see if we can decode the link between MTHFR and depression, because understanding this can hopefully help a lot of people who are struggling start to regain some normal and some happy in their lives.
What is the Link Between MTHFR and Depression?
At the simplest most basic level, your body needs methylated folate (which is what you don’t make very well if you have the MTHFR mutation) in order to manufacture the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine and norepinephrine and also the neurohormone melatonin (which helps with sleep among other things). The methylated folate isn’t used directly for these neurotransmitters, but it helps to make something called BH4, or tetrahydrobiopterin if you want to be technical about it. BH4 is then used to help the neurotransmitters building blocks (which are amino acids) to be converted to the active neurotransmitters that your body uses for brain cell signaling.
This is the link between MTHFR and depression, in not so plain english. Great diagram from Dr. Rostenberg, in this post which goes into the subject in more detail. Dr. R was kind enough to give me permission to use this! http://www.beyondmthfr.com/mthfr-depression-folate-bh4-connection/
Um… Still Not Following.
Right – so I honestly don’t think it is hugely beneficial when you’re trying to fix MTHFR issues in yourself to actually dive too deep into the biochemistry of what is happening because it gets overwhelming really quickly. Suffice to say that your body has trouble making neurotransmitters if it can’t make BH4 because there just isn’t enough methylfolate. When your body has trouble making neurotransmitters, then you can start to see symptoms including these.
Symptoms of Low Serotonin (Think Negativity and Anxiety):
Negative thinking – Pessimistic, cynical or distrusting thoughts.
Craving for sweets and starches – Bring on the bread. With a side of fries. These foods temporarily boost serotonin levels in the brain, so you might reach for these more frequently
Sleep trouble – You need to make serotonin before you make melatonin (your primary sleep hormone) so this can be a big issue.
Low self esteem – Serotonin is one of the chemicals that helps you to feel good about you. Without it, you might feel socially anxious, inferior, or incapable.
Anxiety – worry, apprehension, obsessive thoughts and panic attacks are all more likely when your serotonin is low.
Aggression – Violence, aggression and suicidal thoughts or actions (violence against yourself) are all symptoms of low serotonin.
Impulsive behaviour – Low serotonin can reduce your ability to control impulses.
Symptoms of Low Dopamine (Think No Motivation and No Reward):
Lack of Motivation – No real “reason” to do things that matters to you. This also shows up in difficulty getting going in the morning and outright fatigue.
Joylessness – Dopamine helps you to actually feel the positive effects of enjoyable things. Without it, everything is a little blah. You have a hard time experiencing pleasure.
Memory Loss – Forgetfulness, lack of focus and outright memory loss.
Symptoms of Low Epinephrine and Norepinephrine In the Brain (Think Get Up and Go Got Up and Went)
Mentally Worn Out – Mental energy is lacking. All mental effort feels like far too much.
Inattention – Can’t really focus on anything.
Lack of Excitement – Yeah. Another day in paradise.
The short version of all of this is that without MTHFR you have trouble methylating folate. Without methylated folate, your body lacks Bh4. Without enough BH4, you have low levels of these neurotransmitters and with low levels of these neurotransmitters, everything feels pretty yucky. Like sad, apathetic, anxious, joyless yucky. Is there hope? Hell yes! This isn’t the post for it, but here’s some info about finding the right dose of methylfolate for you, and here’s one about foods that are high in natural sources of folate. It’s a great place to start. Even if you have depression but haven’t confirmed that you have a MTHFR mutation this can be a really great place to start.
MTHFR mutations are just starting to be recognized as an issue and so more and more doctors are testing, but what happens if your doctor tells you that you’re homozygous for MTHFR A1298C? They might as well be speaking Greek! So here’s the skinny on what that really means. Also here’s a post about MTHFR mutation basic in general.
MTHFR A1298C Terminology Basics (or as basic as we’re going to get with genetics).
The simplest level of information here is just the plain genetics. Here are some quick factoids to get us started:
MTHFR is the short name for the genes that code for the enzyme that changes folic acid to the active form that your body uses (the long name is methylfolate reductace).
1298 is the marker for one particular MTHFR gene.
The official genetics labeling of this gene is Rs1801131. Sigh.
You get one copy of this gene from your mother and one from your father, so there are two possible copies that can be either “normal” or “mutant”
If you inherited one good copy and one bad copy that’s called “heterozygous A1298C”
If you inherited two bad copies (one from each parent) that’s called “homozygous A1298C”
A…C stand for the bases that you actually have. A = adenine C = cytosine. Bases are essentially the letters that spell out your genetic code. There are four of them commonly (C, T, A and G).
When this gene is “normal”or “wild type” (I love that name) it looks like MTHFR A1298A.
Heterozygous mutations (one good copy and one bad) are MTHFR A1298C because there is one normal A and one abnormal C Also occasionally written 1298AC.
Homozygous A1298C (two bad copies) can also be written as C1298C (because there are two abnormal copies with C instead of A). Occasionally you’ll also see it written 1298CC
Phew! So the take-away there is MTHFR A1298C means you have at least one bad copy of this gene, and if it’s called homozygous, or C1298C then you have two bad copies.
How Much of a Problem Is This?
The MTHFR A1298C mutation is considered less serious than the C677T mutation because it seems to cause less impairment to actual methylation function than C677T. That doesn’t in any way mean that it isn’t an issue. This mutation can still be a significant problem If you don’t have a good diet, don’t take supplements or burden your body with a lot of stressors like smoking, alcohol, drugs, sedentary lifestyle or high stress. If you get lots of dark green leafy veggies, legumes and other food sources of natural folate – see this post – then you’re probably already getting good methylfolate. If your diet isn’t up to scratch, then supplementation can be useful and here’s a whole post about that.
Heterozygous MTHFR A1298C is thought to have mostly normal MTHFR activity and homozygous MTHFR A1298C (C1298C) have about 65% normal activity (so 35% compromise). Normal activity refers to the way your body converts folic acid to 5-L-methyltetrahydrafolate (the active form) so that it can be used. Compromise in this case looks like a folate deficiency.
What Are The Health Risks of MTHFR A1298C Mutation?
According to SNPedia, which compiles research on genetics, A1298C mutants have been shown in at least one research study to have an increased risk for:
Midline defects such as:
Neural tube defects
Head and neck
Cardiac-related issues including:
Thrombosis (increased tendency to clot inappropriately)
High homocysteine levels (a heart risk)
Pre-eclampsia (dangerous high blood pressure in pregnancy)
Fertility issues including:
Multiple pregnancy loss
Low sperm count
Birth defects such as down syndrome
Neurological issues including:
Mood and psychological issues including:
You’ll notice that this is quite a list, and it can be a little daunting to think about when you’re just learning about this. Most research doesn’t differentiate between the A1298C genetic variance and the C677T genetic variance so the list is the same for both mutations. We assume the risk is lower with A1298C because the folate metabolism is less strongly impaired, but that might not be correct.
What Do You Do About This?
Compromise with the MTHFR A1298C gene can have severe consequences so it’s important to work on getting good sources of natural folate from foods, which is generally useable by mutants, or 5-MTHF (5-methyltetrahydrofolate) which is already methylated so the genetic compromise doesn’t matter. As discussed in this article, I feel supplementation should be started slowly because for many mutants who haven’t had active folate very much in their lives it feels really strange when those active forms start showing up. There can be quite an adjustment reaction by your body.
Activated folate is used by your body to run enzyme pathways, to aid in some parts of normal metabolism, to help your body detoxify and even to methylate your DNA. The methylation cycle is also a big part of neurotransmitter manufacture, which explains the strong link to depression, anxiety, and mental disorders including addictions and even schizophrenia. If 5-Methylfolate isn’t there then your body does maintains those functions as best it can, but the things your body can’t do start to pile up. Starting supplementation means your body can start digging in that pile to clear up high priority items. This is exactly what we want, but if you start with high doses of a supplement then it’s a little like drinking from the firehose. Kind of out of control and not very pleasant.
A great way to start if you’re unsure, is with a folate-rich diet. I love this image because it kind of covers what we’re looking for. Hint – think dark greens and beans. 🙂
Is folate in foods safe in MTHFR mutants? In these foods YES! For MTHFR C677T or MTHFR A1298C mutants. Thanks to exhibithealth.com for the great image.
Can Mutants Become “Normal”?
If you’re a mutant (like me) then you’ll always be a mutant, but it doesn’t have to matter. Essentially as long as you’re getting enough of the active form of folate and taking care of yourself for the other consequences of the MTHFR mutation then the mutation doesn’t have to matter. If you aren’t taking care of yourself, then it matters a lot.
The bottom line is MTHFR A1298C mutations don’t have to mean anything at all as long as you supplement and have a good diet and lifestyle (here’s an article about a folate-rich diet for MTHFR mutants) I always suggest taking a little more care with yourself too. There are known health risks for things like clotting, fertility and cancers so it makes sense to take some precautions. Eat your fiber, do your exercises, get your sleep and generally treat yourself with high regard – shouldn’t we all anyway?
Personal responsibility – it sounds so grown up. So adult. So dry, in a way. But the thing is, without it life feels pretty crappy. You get into this slippery state where things just slide by you without really engaging. The to-do list piles up, the difference between the way you actually are and the way you want to be grows increasingly wider. Some part of you knows you aren’t living the right life and in the beginning that part is easy to ignore, but that little voice gets louder and louder and shows up in all kinds of mysterious ways. Why? Because while you’re letting things slide, you’re also giving away your power.
Your power is the most precious thing you have and you’re letting it slip through your fingers because personal responsibility is hard. It is so easy to give away your own power, and often it slips by you unnoticed. It happens every time you allow something else to have power over you. What does that mean? Simple. If you aren’t acknowledging ownership, then you’re stating your powerlessness.
Here’s an example. I had my daughter (lovely girl) 11 months ago today. She is amazing and wonderful and brings me so much joy and happiness. She also gives me a great excuse not to do some of the things that are actually necessary for me to live the life I want – like exercise (but I’m running around after a toddler – surely that’s exercise enough) and meditate (who has the time?!?) That excuse is actually a reason for a while, because really when there’s no sleep and you’re desperately trying to keep your head above water something really does have to give. But now? When she has two good naps per day and doesn’t always sleep through the night, but does sometimes. Now is it a reason? Nope. It’s just the story I’ve been telling myself as I let my personal responsibility, my power, drain away. Now it’s easy to say that it’s a minor thing, but the person who pays for this is me. I don’t feel strong in my body (my fault). I notice more of the scattered monkey-mind coming in. I don’t have my normal energy level. Why? Because I’m just not stepping up to the plate. It could be habit, it could just be that the little voice that recognizes I’m not being the me I want to be hasn’t been loud enough until today.
Red Flags that You Have Given Away Your Power
The red flags are flying out there for everyone to see, but when you’re on the inside they sound perfectly reasonable. Let’s do the three biggest:
You’re getting further from your goals or standing still. The difference between how you’re living and how you want to be living is getting bigger, not smaller. You’re moving away from your goals.
You start using powerless words. These could be the words you say out loud and also the words you use in your head. Here are some of the easiest to recognize (but there are plenty more)
I really wanted to, but…
I just can’t because you know how bad [the economy, my joints, my marriage, the 2000s …] is…
I’ll get started when [I have the money, I have extra time, aliens land…]
I just have to [do this thing I’ve been saying I”d do for a year but haven’t done yet] first and then I’ll…
Some part of your life feels out of control. Like you aren’t driving the ship, you’re being driven (or swimming desperately behind). You can’t seem to get around the mess, the clutter, your weight, your health, all the things you haven’t said to your partner, your kids… whatever.
Okay – So That Might Be Me. Now What?
Step 1 is to take back your power. And here’s the quickest way. This is a take back your power lifehack. I want you to sign a contract with yourself – a contract of personal responsibility. Here’s a .pdf copy to download ContractofResponsibility
Step 1 to taking back your power is to sign a contract of personal responsibility. Nobody can help you but you.
Step 2 is up to you. Here’s the thing – it’s easy to keep giving away your power. To say I can’t because of this or that. So here are some exercises to do around this:
Try reading the contract out loud to yourself in the mirror. You may notice that some parts are actually hard to say, or your brain comes up with an instant “but.” Pay attention to what is triggering you. This may bring up all kinds of anger, indignation, and furious backlash about how someone really is stopping you from doing something. Are they? Are they really? To what degree are you willing to allow that person to continue to have power over you? These are questions only you can answer.
Start to look at your sense of yourself in the world. Are you adopting a victim place? Where someone has done something to you and because of that things aren’t right? No doubt there are people who may have done you wrong, people who you have felt haven’t treated you well, or who have outright abused or violated you. These events can be incredibly hard to get over, but until you do get over it, until you choose to take your power back and stop giving it to that person, you will continue to be powerless.
Forgive, forgive, forgive. Mostly forgive yourself and move on.
I hope this is helpful, and I’ll have you know I have both exercised and meditated today because the truth is that I just wasn’t taking personal responsibility, and now I am. I was giving my power away to my daughter, and while I would give her anything in the world if it would actually benefit her, it will benefit her more to see her mom being powerful. Use this lifehack today to take your power back and start taking personal responsibility and if you feel like sharing a story I’d love to hear it in the comments.