There’s a lot more to ADHD.
In my latest book, The Insider’s Guide to ADHD: Adults with ADHD Reveal the Secret to Parenting Kids with ADHD, I devote nearly an entire chapter to all the parts of ADHD that doctors, therapists, and teachers don’t tell parents about upon diagnosis, or sometimes ever. There’s inflexibility, meltdowns, sensory processing struggles, executive functioning deficits, etc.
When Ricochet was diagnosed with ADHD in 2008, I was handed a flyer on 504 plans, a flyer on the definition of ADHD, and a flyer on ADHD medication, along with an offer of a prescription for medication. The physician did not mention one thing on that list of additional facets of ADHD, nor did anyone else. I had to read, research, and learn the hard way. I certainly hope my books and blogging change that for other families. I’ve decided to make “All the Other Stuff They Don’t Tell You” a regular series here on the blog — it’s a lot of information. Today I’m going to discuss MTHFR.
First, I must say, I am not an expert in anything I’m about to discuss. In fact, it’s incredibly complex and difficult to understand and I know very little about it. I’m writing about it because you need to explore these possibilities in your own family.
MTHFR is a gene in the human body — methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase to be specific. The gene tells the body how to make the enzyme. This enzyme is important for the body to process folate (B9) properly. In simplest terms, it turns folate into methylfolate through a process called methylation.
So, if the MTHFR gene is mutated, it cannot produce the enzyme correctly, which disrupts the processes on down the line (like the production of serotonin and dopamine, key players in ADHD and autism). It causes one’s body to change folate into methylfolate at a reduced capacity (as low as 10% for homozygous polymorphism and 50% for heterozygous), so they have too much folate in the body, and not enough methylfolate, which, again, hinders the processes on down the line.
There are many conditions, both mental and physical, the medical community has associated with MTHFR mutations — MTHFR.net currently lists 64. Autism and ADHD are on the list.
If not treated, MTHFR mutations can make mood and behavioral disorders worse, and treatment of them more difficult. As such, this mutation often explains, at least in part, why some folks have sensitivities or rare reactions to medications, and even supplements.
Treatment of MTHFR polymorphisms varies depending on the individual’s needs. Methylated versions of supplements like folate and B-12 are often recommended, as well as a quality antioxidant.
MTHFR is a very complex part of neuroscience and epigenetic. I have a gifted IQ and can’t understand one bit of it. The best I’ve read on it (the easiest read on the subject) was “Holy MTHFR” over on the Easy to Love but Hard to Raise blog.
Ricochet was found to have MTHFR polymorphisms (heterozygous for both) three or four years ago. The integrative MD who knew to do the test wasn’t experienced in treating the outcome and we struggled with trying many different (and expensive) supplements over the course of many months but couldn’t get it quite right. Often, it was quite wrong and Ricochet was more moody or more easily agitated. I’ve tried researching it on my own, but, again, a rocket (or neuro) scientist I am not, and researching and experimenting with supplements on my own has been a bust I’ve abandoned as well. I recently learned of a physician in my area who has training on MTHFR and I plan to take Ricochet to see her soon. I know treating the MTHFR effectively will help him, in part.
If you struggle with finding effective treatment for your child with ADHD and/or autism, I encourage you to have some genetic testing done specifically for MTHFR (and COMT and a few others that are along the same functions). We did the Neurogenomics test through Genova Diagnostics. Many people use the 23 and Me test, and some (especially in the autism community) follow Dr. Yasko’s protocol.
If your child has the MTHFR polymorphisms, I’d love to hear how you’re treating it and what changes you have seen because of it.
More resources on MTHFR:
Author: Penny Williams
Penny Williams guides and mentors parents raising kids with ADHD and/or autism. She’s the parent of a son with ADHD and autism, and the author of three award-winning books on parenting kids with ADHD: Boy Without Instructions, What to Expect When Parenting Children with ADHD, and The Insider’s Guide to ADHD Penny is the current editor of ParentingADHDandAutism.com, Founder and Instructor for The Parenting ADHD & Autism Academy, and a frequent contributor on parenting and children with ADHD for ADDitude Magazine and other parenting and special needs publications.