It stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase – or mother f*cker.
It’s the gene that sets the body’s detoxification process in motion by creating a long chain of enzymes, proteins and hormones the body needs to get rid of toxins. I’ve written before about how many toxins everyone ingests through city water, new clothes, mattress, plastic food containers, body wash, laundry detergent, carpet, cleaning fluids, etc. The toxic load on everyone is greater than it was 1,000 years ago, and it’s contributes to health issues of everyone – especially people diagnosed with autism.
Studies have found that patients diagnosed with autism have a mutation in the MTHFR gene, meaning from the start, the detoxification process doesn’t get going like it should. My friend Joana – whose two boys were diagnosed with autism – had her whole family tested for this genetic mutation and found that she and her boys had a faulty MTHFR. And actually, studies have found, too, that “parents share similar metabolic deficits in methylation capacity” with their children with autism, according to a study in the Journal of Autism and Developmental Disorders from 2008.
Another study by Dan Rossignol and Frye in Psychiatry from 2012 found that about one in three children with autism have mitochondrial dysfunction, and that dysfunction is correlated to autism severity. My husband and I saw Dr. Rossignol talk at the TACA Real Help Now Midwest Conference last weekend, and it was incredible how much information supports the link between gut problems and autism. Possibly the most impressive statistic I heard at the conference was that 74 percent of children with autism show improvement after helping the body’s detoxification process (reported by the Autism Research Institute).
“It’s beginning to look like autism is a medical problem rather than psychological,” Rossignol said at the conference. Of course, this line of thinking isn’t really just “beginning”—Rossignol showed a headline from an 1889 medical lecture titled “Insanity* Proceed[s] from the Colon” given by a Chicago doctor and professor—but rather is beginning to more accepted.
So we had Logan tested for the MTHFR mutation with a test called 23AndMe. Logan had to spit into a big tube. He cried and shouted about it and refused to cooperate; in the end, we ended up siphoning saliva out of his mouth with a syringe. It wasn’t the most painful thing we’ve done, considering, but it definitely made me want to swear. MTHFR. Hopefully, it’ll tell us something to make it worth it.
If he tests positive for a faulty MTHFR gene, that means his body is not drawing out toxins like it should. Which further supports our thinking I wrote about here, that we suspect Logan’s rash was stemming from canned foods—not the food itself, but the nickel in the can and all the chemicals cans are sprayed with before being filled. With a nickel allergy common in Jason’s family, there’s a good chance Logan is allergic to it, too—and if his body is unable to detoxify, that allergen simply sat there, keeping him sick.
But in the meantime, while we wait for results, I’m happy to report that Logan has been having great days at daycare; he even earned his orange belt at karate! We are 51 days into our GAPS journey and started Stage 4 this weekend. As always, I wasn’t really sure if it was time to transition or not—we haven’t seen much physical change. But we stayed in Stage 3 for about four weeks, and the lack of variety was killing me (though Logan was taking it like a champ).
I’ve been seeing benefits from eliminating sugar and taking a probiotic, too. I now wake up every morning at 4 a.m., not groggy and icky but energetic and eager to spend an extra hour writing. My toes, which have been gross and itchy since I was in high school, have also started to get better.
“It’s really crazy how it all comes down to diet,” said Dr. Anju Usman at the TACA conference. “The #1 thing you can do for your child is clean up their diet.”
P.S. As I type this, an email pops up that Logan’s test results were inconclusive due to small sample size; we’ll need to get him to spit again and resubmit. MTHF*R.