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  • Writer's pictureNancy Mullan, MD

Depression, MTHFR+ and Your Mitochondria

Your mitochondria are the powerhouses of your cells. They generate the energy for all your cells' functions which means, in short, if they don't function, you don't function. But they do more than generate the energy that you need to live. They are the structures that determine whether the cell keeps existing and functioning full steam ahead or it gets set on a path that leads to cell death.  Mitochondria are specialized structures within the cell itself. They are closely involved with what genes in your cell's control center, its nucleus, get turned on or off. This determines whether or not the cell functions optimally or whether it over functions, like it turns into a cancer cell for example. Or it may under function and leave you without important features, like energy or thyroid hormone.  Your mitochondria are 'smart', so to speak. They are mobile within the cell and are very dynamic. The cells with the greatest need for energy have the greatest number of mitochondria. They average about 800 per cell, not the two or three that are pictured below. The mitochondria cluster in the part of the cell that has the greatest need for energy. For example, in nerve cells, they cluster near the area that sends the nervous impulse, the synapse. Sending a nervous impulse is a very high energy function. Throughout the life of your cell, your mitochondria are actively reproducing themselves by splitting and replication. They share the same DNA as they do this. The DNA within the mitochondria are distinct from the DNA within the nucleus of the cell. The mitochondrial DNA has components that are critical to the energy producing function of the mitochondria. The mitochondrial DNA is directly exposed to oxygen and free radicals. It is unprotected compared to the DNA inside the nucleus of the cell that is protected by the membrane of the nucleus. When the level of free radicals or pro-oxidant molecules inside the mitochondria go up and are not balanced out by anti-oxidant and other neutralizing molecules, you get progressive mutations in your mitochondrial DNA. Mutations in mitochondrial DNA produce mitochondrial dysfunction that lowers the amount of energy your mitochondria can produce. Therefore, you feel tired and energyless and your body loses function. Often it feels like depression. It is not a depression which is produced psychologically by some circumstance in your life, but it is physiologic depression. But the two kinds of depression can feel the same and often overlap. It is psychologically depressing not to have enough energy to get through the day and fall behind on all the things you need to accomplish.

Mitochondrial dysfunction most often is accompanied by chronic inflammation, fatigue, brain fog and exercise intolerance. Mitochondrial damage has been associated with chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, Alzheimers, Parkinsons, Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis (ALS), various autoimmune conditions, and cancer.

Restoring mitochondrial health is critical to getting back on your feet. Treating your mitochondria has been shown to have a positive impact on your energy levels and organ function. If your nutrition is poor, you must get that corrected. Beyond that, you need to find out what your methylation genetics are and nutritionally bypass any roadblocks you may have to methyl group production.

Methyl groups are important genetic regulators. At any given time 80% of your genes should not be expressing. Methyl groups silence genes. If you have an MTHFR mutation, your capacity for making methyl groups will be reduced and you may get aberrant gene expression. Optimal expression of mitochondrial genes protects the energy production in your cells.

You need to decrease oxidative stress in your mitochondria by taking anti-oxidants and other supportive nutrition. Important mitochondrial restoration supplements are n-acetyl-cysteine (NAC), acetyl-L-carnitine, alpha lipoid acid, and CoQ10, among others. These detoxify the interior of the mitochondria and increase their function. It is a rising tide that lifts all ships. It improves the health and function of all of your organ systems, especially your heart, skeletal muscles and brain. When these improve, so does the depression that came with your depleted mitochondrial state.

If you want expert help personalized to your genetics and your own particular biochemistry, you can start with an Exploratory Conversation with me. I offer this service so that you can check out how I work, get to know what I am like as a human being, see what I have to say and decide if you would like to take whatever further steps may be involved in improving your symptoms. This is a 30-minute conversation in which I listen to your health issues, review what test results you have, and make recommendations about what I think you should do. You can tell me all of the things you have tried and I will give you my input about what you can consider next.

The fee for this service is $129. It is easy to set a time for this conversation, and it can save you weeks or months of doing the wrong thing, lurching around in the dark with a clinician who doesn’t know anything about the genetics or molecular biology of MTHFR+ and its connections to CFS/FM. You are dealing with conditions in your body that are confusing and difficult to understand. I can help you cut through all of that and give you clarifying input that moves you in the right direction.

I have a free, downloadable ebook at that gives you further detail about methylation issues. Click here to download.

I look forward to being able to help,

Dr. Mullan

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What people are saying about my work:

I shudder at the thought of what my family would be like without Dr. Mullan. Thankfully, with her help, we have stopped my husband's chronic 30 year battle with kidney stones. He is no longer forming them and is stone free. My thyroid is now working normally, my body temperature is almost normal and my hair has grown back. My oldest daughter's Autism is in the process of being reversed and her hair pulling has stopped. The greatest blessing from our good health is the birth of my second daughter Ava, now one-year-old. At 50 years old I carried her to term.  One of my doctors commented to me saying “ you are carrying this baby like a 22-year-old.” Yes, I am because of Dr. Mullan and working on my methylation pathway.  One by one she is knocking off symptoms and bringing us back to health. The future is bright! Thank you, Dr. Mullan, for the work you do.   - JVW

Wow.  I feel great.  Thank you for your help.  It’s amazing really.  Like a light turned on.  Curious to see what the next tests show.   To ride this peak indefinitely is my goal.  Ha.  I have energy again.  Yay!  Really grateful. - DG

I am so relieved. My daughter is doing SO WELL since we started with you!  We have been to so many doctors and tried so many things.  Now I can start working on my own program with you.... - GV

So excellent!  I literally learn something with every single post and I get clarification on things that have been lingering on my mind… - VB

You are giving people a huge gift by empowering them…It’s about helping the patient become their own healer by taking them to a higher level of consciousness… - AL

Thank you so much, Dr. Mullan.  Thank you so, so much for everything you do. - MS

Wow!  I have to tell you, it’s so nice to hear good news especially about a child.  Anxiety, OCD and a host of other mental/psychiatric symptoms have been a huge hurdle for me.  So to hear this story of all those awful symptoms totally going away is such a bright light for me!!!! - TR

Fantastic, caring, smart, savvy doc.  I worked with Dr. Mullan for a couple of years to help MTHFR mutations and their associating expressions!  To say the least!  She's brilliant.  At that time she had weekly calls for her patients - free - where we could ask questions and she would reply.  What doctors do this?  She does.  She's also an animal lover and is right on about the way she practices medicine.  I highly recommend her.  In good health! - MG

You're in good hands with Dr. Mullan. She is intelligent, caring and knowledgable, spending much time with you. She thinks outside the box to achieve wellness for you. She really knows what's going on inside your body. - MS

Dr. Nancy Mullan is a beautiful person. She is an expert in her field and has helped our family so much. I am very grateful to her.  She came highly recommended and I know why. I would recommend her and her website for information re: healing from a genetic point of view. Thank you, Dr. Mullan, for everything. - GD

Dr.Mullan has helped me with issues that I have struggled with for years.  She is knowledgable and practical.  I would recommend her to others. - BC

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