I remember when I was trying to get pregnant many years ago, and I read several articles that encouraged me to increase my intake of folic acid. Folic Acid, or Vitamin B9, is an essential compound that our bodies use to synthesisze and repair DNA, grow babies and produce healthy red blood cells, among other things. Folic Acid is not only good for you but it is a necessary compound for health and life.
The finished product that our bodies create from Folate is an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase,(Say THAT ten times fast!) and the gene that provides the instructions for processing the folate is also called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductas (NAD(P)H). I just call it the "motherfucker" gene because its official symbol - MTHFR - begs me to do so.
When the MTHFR gene is functioning properly, all is well. When it's not, all hell breaks loose.
Mutations in the MTHFR gene cause problems like homocystinuria, anencephaly and spina bifida. ( I have a mild form of spina bifida known as spina bifida occulta. Basically, this means I have a hole in one of my lower vertebra, but there is no compromise to the spinal cord.) Pregnant women with mutations in the MTHFR gene have difficulty carrying pregnancies to term.
Researchers have discovered that two particular polymorphisms of the MTHFR gene (C677T and A1298C) are associated with schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and depression. Sources here and here. These mutations which prevent the body from taking up and processing the folate into the final enzyme, seem to have an effect on mood and brain function.
This is relevant to me and my kids in so many ways. I haven't had the blood test done to determine if I have one or both of the mutations - but I would say that my own bipolar illness and spina bifida occulta are evidential. My kids' other parent has been tested. And my son has been tested.
Getting our pediatrician to test him was a challenge. When I broached the subject he had never even heardof the MTHFR gene issue. I think he thought (as I'm sure he often does) that I'm off my rocker. To his credit, he did the research, and agreed to request the blood test. When the results indicated that he has one of the gene mutations I was not in the least surprised. However, our doctor was unconvinced that he needed to have the medication that is usually prescribed for this, a concentrated form of L-methylfolate.
At our appointment this week, reviewing the rating scales we always fill out, he suggested a change in the ADD meds. I countered with a request that we consider trying the L-methylfolate. And he agreed.
L-methylfolate in high dosages depletes B-12 in the body as the methylation process utilizes B-12 as a coenzyme. Once B-12 is depleted, the folate gets stuck and then the supplement becomes less effective. Even worse, B-12 deficiency causes other problems like pernicious anemia, which untreated can become fatal. B-12 absorbs poorly via the stomach, so only B-12 shots or sub-lingual B-12 supplements are recommended.
Do I think this will work? I'm cautiously optimistic. I know at least two people who started taking L-methylfolate and successfully control their bipolar disorder without the addition of any other prescription medication. I'm not excited about introducing two new pills to a child who pretty much refuses to take pills, but we'll cope. We always have.
Cross your fingers for us.