With so many health problems linked to MTHFR it can be difficult to understand what exactly it is that can make this gene mutation so serious, even deadly. I’ve covered detoxification issues quite a bit on this blog up until now but the other real and related danger of having the MTHFR genetic defect is elevated homocysteine. In fact, if we’re talking about MTHFR as a disorder the original name for it is hyperhomocysteinemia. From my own research I can trace the awareness of this condition back to 1962. What’s odd to me is that, despite doctors finding that having elevated homocysteine levels could eventually be fatal as far back as 1969, very few of today’s doctors seem to know very much about it and many even dismiss it when patients bring it up. I state the latter fact based on my own experiences and also anecdotal evidence from other sufferers of MTHFR. But I suppose the reasons for this are best left for another time.
My homocysteine levels were at 9.4 umol/L in April. While some people say that this is barely over the ideal range, others (including my doctor) say that this is high, especially for my age. Sadly many doctors think that the ideal reference range for homocysteine is between five and 15! After all, that’s the reference range provided by the lab when our results are fed back to the doctors. And why on earth would they want to think outside of that reference range? I see this all the time with doctors when they read my thyroid lab results. It’s a pathetic failing of the medical industry, which I hope that we as patients can raise more awareness about. But 15 is not an acceptable homocysteine level.
What does an elevated homocysteine level mean? It means that the body cannot break down an amino acid called methionine. The methionine biosynthesizes the homocysteine (also an amino acid), which then inflicts damage on the body when its amount increases to harmful levels. This damage harms the inner arterial lining, which is called the endothelium, leading to atherosclerosis, heart attacks and strokes. High homocysteine can also cause migraines, macular degeneration, hearing loss, blood clots, a weakened immune system, inflammation, pregnancy complications and/or Alzheimer’s Disease, among other serious problems.
I’ve been wondering if my tinnitus has been caused by my elevated homocysteine. I’m still waiting for the results of my methylmalonic acid (MMA) test for Vitamin B12 deficiency, which can also cause tinnitus. In the past my serum B12 levels have been quite high but I have never had a MMA test before, which is the better way to measure B12. Testing for homocysteine can also be tricky. Dr. Ben Lynch suggests that you can test for plasma S-Adenosylhomocysteine, which will reveal more about cardiovascular risk. But guess what? When my doctor tried to order that, Labcorp told us it isn’t available. I learned later that this one is only available in the methylation pathway panel by HDRI. Not a bad one to invest in if you really want to know what’s going on.
Lowering homocysteine isn’t always easy. Assuming no issues with a CBS mutation, the common advice is to take methylfolate, P5P (B6) and methylcobalamin (B12). Lifestyle changes like quitting smoking, eliminating caffeine, stress management and reducing the amount of animal protein consumed are also advised. I’ve also started taking betaine (TMG) for this as this naturally-occurring chemical can help to lower homocysteine as well. Fingers crossed mine is lower next time I am tested for it!
Have you had your homocysteine checked?