The MTHFR gene mutation gets a lot of bad press.
Its role in cardiovascular disease susceptibility is undisputed, and a long, long list of chronic diseases is related to its unlucky presence in your gene pool. I’m afraid this post will be yet further bad press for the not-so-innocent MTHFR. But this time it’s about MTHFR and migraine.
Migraine is yet another one of those conditions.
A caveat, before I begin: MTHFR doesn’t equal disease – far from it. Keep the concept of epigenetics in mind at all times: the way the environment affects your genes, and influences the way they express and affect your health. As they say, “genes load the gun, and the environment pulls the trigger”.
That said, it’s worthwhile knowing the link between a health condition you have and MTHFR. Knowledge it power. If this leads you to get tested for MTHFR, and other markers, it gives you the opportunity to change the environment to prevent the trigger being pulled.
My focus here is on MTHFR and migraine.
The MTHFR gene mutation increases susceptibility to migraine, particularly with aura. Migraine with aura is more common in people who are homozygous for the C677T variant of MTHFR (that is, they have not one, but two dud copies).
Mutations in the MTHFR gene influence your ability to produce methyl folate in the body. It often leads to increased levels of a chemical in your body called homocysteine, as your body has more difficulty in metabolising it. A study found that nutrient supplementation to reduce homocysteine levels had some pretty exciting effects on migraine: reduced disability, reduced pain frequency and reduced pain severity. So it seems there could be a link between MTHFR and migraine.
But let’s not exaggerate the effect of MTHFR.
There are other genes at play here as well. Another study found that mutations in the gene for the MTRR enzyme had an influence, completely independent of the MTHFR influence. MTRR is an enzyme involved in your metabolism of vitamin B12. Both enzymes MTHFR and MTRR could be described broadly as influencing your body’s methylation process, among many others.
Rather than making MTHFR the automatic scapegoat, it would be more accurate to say that your epigenetics surrounding methylation have a major influence on migraine.
As an integative nutritionist, your methylation process is one major focus of my evaluation of your migraines.
MTHFR is a great place to start.
It’s simple and cheap to test, and is a great first step. I frequently test MTHFR in my patients with migraine.