MTHFR Gene Mutation & Your Skin Health
People come to MadeOn for various reasons: they're looking for natural skin care to replace their store-bought-sometimes-toxic skin care, or they're dealing with extreme dry skin, or they have specific skin conditions they're dealing with and they don't want to resort to steroids or other prescription drug to fix it.
When it comes to something more severe like MTHFR Genetic Mutation, it's even more critical that you take control of not just what you eat, but what you put on your skin.
I've brought in Amy Neuzil of To Health With That to answer some questions related to the MTHFR mutation.
Let's dig in with answers from Amy!
RH: Amy, your website covers a ton of the science behind MTHFR mutation and I recommend anyone who was just diagnosed with this to go check it out. You outline all of the various issues that come from it, like depression, anxiety, chronic fatigue, fertility issues, high blood pressure... but also issues related to the skin, like allergies, food, and chemical sensitivities, toxic-type reactions to smells, perfumes, and actual issues related to the inability to detoxify.
What led you to dig in and research MTHFR as extensively as you have?
As with everything else in life, fate led me to MTHFR. I knew nothing about it when I first started my practice, but shortly thereafter (this was 15 or 16 years ago now) a client came to me who had been diagnosed by her OB/GYN because she was having repeat miscarriages. She wanted me to look into it and the more I looked, the more it seemed like I was reading about myself.
I tested my genetics through 23andme and looked into my genes and sure enough, I am an MTHFR mutant. The universe has a way of showing you what you need. Since then, MTHFR has been my passion project and while I still see clients with all kinds of conditions, MTHFR is now my area of focus.
What happens if you have MTHFR?
MTHFR is a strange issue because the problem is that your body has trouble activating folate. So - when we eat a food with folate or take the synthetic form, folic acid, it isn't actually useful to us as it is. Those forms have to be converted into something called 5-L methyltetrahydrofolate, which is the form your body uses to help make energy, to help build neurotransmitters, to help make your master antioxidant glutathione, to detoxify a number of substances including heavy metals, and to turn on and off particular genes in your DNA.
So this one underlying issue creates a whole bunch of symptoms that don't seem to go together, but are linked because all of them are caused by a deficiency in active folate.
Usually what people notice are things like anxiety, depression, addictive behaviors, repeat miscarriages, fatigue (that is actually the #1 symptom), and repeat miscarriages.
Also symptoms like chemical sensitivity, food sensitivitiy, seasonal allergies, and heart disease.
What are some of the reasons why chemical sensitivities happen in the first place?
There are a lot of reasons that chemical sensitivities can happen, but we can break them into three main categories:
Too many chemicals - This person has had too much lifetime exposure to chemicals and even though their system is working correctly, the burden is just too high.
Reduced ability to detoxify - almost all of us have some kind of impaired or altered detoxification in particular pathways through our genetics. There are thousands of possible variations of this but the most common are MTHFR, which more than 40% of the US population is suspected to have based on genetic averages of different racial groups. It specifically impairs detoxification of heavy metals and also estrogens. There are also many genetic variances that affect your primary liver detoxification pathways, which is the cytochrome P450 system. These genes all start with CYP-something if you're reading your own genetic report right now. Also genes that affect glutathione very strongly impair detoxification. These include GST and GPX and several others. So genetically it is likely that most of us have at least some pathways that are impaired, and if you have MTHFR or one of the glutathione genes then it really takes a chunk out of your detox capacity.
A combination of the two - this is the most common. All of us have far more chemical exposure than we realize through food, air, water, pesticides, herbicides, cleaning products, air freshners, bug spray, and the chemicals we use in our homes all the time. Even things like fire retardant sprayed on clothing and into mattresses and other furniature leeches into your body.
Is MTHFR noticeable in the skin?
MTHFR isn't directly noticable in the skin, but people with MTHFR very often have reactive or atopic skin. For example, if you notice that your skin is sensitive to many things in a couple of different ways. Atopic conditions like hives, dermatographia, and eczema are all very common because MTHFR is involved also in detoxifying histamine.
Also, other sensitivity reactions like reactions to laundry detergent (often urinary tract infections or rashes where clothes fit tightly), skin reactions to metals like sores or dark stains from metals in earrings, clasps, or costume jewlery can be caused by MTHFR.
How does the skin absorb chemicals?
Skin absorption of chemicals is actually very high, and far less protected by our bodies than absoprtion through the digestive tract. Skin absorption is being used commonly in the medical industry with patches and creams being a really easy route of delivery for all kinds of substances.
The epidermous, or top layer, of your skin is constantly interacting with your environment and it quickly and easily absorbs fat soluble substances, but even water soluble substances can get through. Things quite literally just soak in and from the epidermis they can quickly travel through the dermal layers and into blood or lymph where they suddenly have access to your whole body. It's a bit scary to think of.
The reason I say skin absorption is less protected is because when you eat something with chemicals on it, it absorbs into your blood, but then the blood from your digestive tract goes directly to your liver to be filtered and detoxified. Your body knows that toxins come in through your food and so it has this first pass through your liver to help protect you from toxins.
With your skin, whatever you absorb just goes into general circulation. It gets to the liver eventually, but it can go to vulnerable organs and tissues first.
What does the person with MTHFR have to do when it comes to skin care? (And what happens if they don't?)
For people with MTHFR it is important that we protect ourselves as much as possible from toxin exposure. Skin care is a really important route of exposure for all of us and with MTHFR we have particular trouble detoxifying something called xenoestrogens. Xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body and unfortunately skin care products are full of them. Phthalates are one of the most common ingredients in lotions and they mimic estrogens.
The soft plastic in squeezable lotion and cosmetic bottles is made soft by BPA or other soft plasticizers - all of which also mimic estrogen.
One of the most common foaming agents in soaps, shampoo, and toothpaste is somethign called SLS that is an allergen for a lot of people.
So having cleaner skincare is a way for us to knock out a big chunk of toxin exposure with just a few simple changes.
For the people who don't clean up their skincare and get rid of some of the toxins in their home, we usually just see them get sicker. More fatigue, higher body burden of stress, and so more symptoms. This could be skin symptoms like rashes and whatnot, but often it's general symptoms like fatigue or inflammation.
Do conventional doctors prescribe medication for MTHFR that actually worsens the skin while treating the MTHFR?
Conventional doctors largely disregard MTHFR or suggest eating higher amounts of folic acid, which makes the condition worse. For MTHFR related skin issues like eczema, they treat it as normal eczema, so usually with a steroid cream or something that lowers the immune system.
Can you offer hope to those struggling with MTHFR and how you can help/where can people find you?
Absolutely! MTHFR is genetic, but it's easy to work with if you know the right steps to take. You can learn more about diet, lifestyle, and supplements for MTHFR at tohealthwiththat.com, or on the To Health With That! podcast on apple here: https://podcasts.apple.com/ca/podcast/to-health-with-that-naturally-healthy-in-no-time/id1517125867 or on the podcast service of your choice.
Also, if you want to reach out, please do so: email@example.com. I do also offer free 15 minute meet and greet appointments for people who aren't sure if they might have an MTHFR mutation, so don't hesitate to contact me.
The blog post with video featuring Amy and Renee https://www.tohealthwiththat.com/all-natural-skin-care-with-renee-harris/The podcast episode can be found here or on the podcast host of your choosing: https://anchor.fm/tohealthwiththat/episodes/S2E44-Natural-skincare-for-chemically-sensitive-MTHFR-folks-with-Renee-Harris-e1l66gm