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It is a mind-blowing fact that 40% of our DNA is considered “parasitic” DNA. This non-human DNA, which occupies 40% of our entire genetic code, comes from viruses and bacteria which implanted their genes into our DNA. I can’t say I am excited about the idea of having bug residue in my genetic code. Its a little frightening to think that the cold virus and the strep throat we had in 6th grade is still inside our cells decades into the future. Even though the body surely has a reason for allowing this “Horizontal Gene Transfer” to occur, this creates a problem for people with methylation issues. Watch the video and read below, you will learn why people with MTHFR-related methylation problems are prone to chronic viral issues and how this can be prevented.

Why Methylation Matters

What I am about to explain to you is simply why people with MTHFR issues are more likely to have serious chronic viral issues when they are under stress. Remember that while the subject of methylation is complicated, you can how to use it to improve your life. One of the big things to remember with MTHFR-related issues is that people with these genes are slower at producing the active form of Vitamin B9. If there is one single thing to pound into your brain about methylation this is it – people with MTHFR issues are SLOW at producing the activated folate molecule. This is the whole reason why supplements which support MTHFR provide the active form of folate – 5-MTHF. As long as people with MTHFR issues take vitamins or eat foods with activated folate they bypass the genetic problem. Pretty simple.

While supplementing the diet with extra sources of methylation support (folate, choline, B12, TMG, etc.) is a good strategy to optimize methylation, sometimes stress makes the picture more complicated. When we are stressed our bodies burn through resources at an accelerated rate. This means people will become vitamin deficient regardless of their gene SNPs when under stress. If the stress is brief and short-lived then the effect on your vitamin pathways and your methylation status is small. However when stress is chronic, the impact on your methylation pathways becomes severe. This process impacts all people – it literally doesn’t matter if you have MTHFR issues or not; being under chronic stress will create the same problems in all people. You see stress is the great equalizer as it harms everyone without regard to age, sex, genes, etc. Of course it goes without saying that the people with MTHFR issues are going to be MORE impacted by stress because they run out of the one-carbon methyl groups faster (remember the “methyl” in methylation refers to one carbon atom with three hydrogen atoms attached. This is why it is also referred to as the one-carbon cycle.)

A Viral Overview

Everyone on Earth suffers from viral infections. It is just part of being alive. Viruses infect us during what is called the “lytic” phase where they hijack our own cells and reproduce at a rapid rate, killing our own host cells and causing all the symptoms of infection as our immune system works to clean up the mess. When the symptoms of the viral infection – the fever, runny nose, headache, upset stomach, diarrhea, etc. – are over we move on with our life and don’t think too much about it. However, on a cellular level the infection never really leaves our body. When the lytic phase is over, viruses go into the “latent” phase where they exist inside our cells until the day we expire.

For reasons we are still trying to understand, viral DNA becomes permanently part of our own DNA. This process is called  horizontal or lateral gene transfer when one organism’s DNA is transferred into the DNA of a separate organism. Because this horizontal gene transfer is so common, scientists have determined that about 40% of our DNA doesn’t actually belong to us. There is so much residue from viruses (and other microorganisms too) that it occupies a large part of our genetic code. It is from this point of view that we can now start to look at the big issue with methylation problems and chronic viral infections.

Since we know that stress reduces the level of methyl groups in our bodies, and we know that viruses leave their DNA inside of our DNA, we need to now understand how old viruses can become reactivated. As I just pointed out all those viral infections we had years ago are still with us today. When we are healthy our bodies prevent the reactivation of these latent viruses. However if we get stressed out, the epigenetic changes that take place when our bodies feel threatened provide a window in time for old viruses to reactivated begin to infect us again. Just think: the chicken pox you had as a kid is silently living inside your cells, but if you get stressed out too much it can flare up as a debilitating Shingles infection. Ouch! The question is why does a virus which remained dormant for 20 years or 40 years or 60 years suddenly show back up? How does this happen and how do we prevent it?

Chronic Stress and Methylation Deficiency

Old viruses reactivate because of two things: chronic stress and a deficiency of methyl groups. These latent viruses which are hiding in our DNA, cannot just spontaneously cause a new infection. They need an opportunity. First, the viruses need a chronic stressor in the person’s life. Chronic stress harms our immune system and makes changes in our white blood cells. When cortisol levels are high for extended periods of time, our body doesn’t make the same number of NK cells which are responsible for killing viral- and cancer-infected cells. This is why people get sick when they go through a divorce, start a new job, get fired from an old job, finish running a marathon, etc.

All aspects of life that create chronic stress, which causes a chronic elevation of cortisol, put you at risk for a viral infection. Mainly the stress alters the immune system to be less able to kill viruses, but stress also causes cells to divide more rapidly. Rapidly dividing cells consume more nutrients like we already said and this drains your supply of methyl groups and other vitamins. When cells divide they also have to copy their DNA from the mother to the daughter cell. And this is the window of time when the viral DNA hijacks your own cellular DNA-replicating machinery to make more virus. So the more our cells are forced to divide, the more likely they are to get re-infected by an old virus. This is how stress increases your chances of a viral infection – by changing your white blood cell numbers and by causing cells to divide faster.

While stress sets the stage for a virus to reactivate, you also need a deficiency of methyl groups for the virus to turn back on. One of the big reasons methylation is so important for our bodies is that the methyl group is used to turn genes on and off. In order to silence a gene it has to have a methyl group on top of it. Methyl groups are glued onto the DNA and this effectively turns the gene off. Obviously some genes we want to be quiet, like the genes for cancer and the viral genes we picked up in 5th grade. As long as we have enough methyl groups available, our DNA is able to keep a lid on these nasty viral (and cancer!) genes. However, as we know not everyone has enough methyl groups inside their body.

People who have MTHFR-related imbalances are genetically inclined to have too few methyl groups, esp. when they are under stress. Even if you don’t have MTHFR genes, a bad diet or a stressful lifestyle can produce the same results: low methyl groups available inside the cell. If this happens over a long period of time (weeks, months and years) the chance of having a virus reactivate goes up. When the methyl groups are unavailable, the DNA is stripped naked of it’s methyl group, and the virus time bomb inside your cells can reactivate. When we are stressed out AND we have low methyl groups it is a perfect storm for an old virus to turn back on.


Chronic viruses have a root cause just like everything else that impacts our health. Chronic viral infections are caused by chronic stress and methylation issues that allow old viruses to reactivate and re-infect our bodies. It doesn’t happen by chance or by luck; the cause is how stress alters our immune system and how a deficiency of methyl groups alters the epigenetics of our cells. When these two forces combine in someone’s life they can be side-lined by the nasty effects of chronic viral activation. But it doesn’t have to be that way. You can support your body’s ability kill viruses, you can reduce stress, and you can optimize your methylation cycle. When you do those things together, you can truly optimize your genes and change your life.

Recommended Supplementation for Chronic Viral Infections

The most important nutrients to use in cases of chronic viral infection are those with help to modulate and support the immune system. The only reason a viral infection persists for longer than a few days is that the body’s immune system is unable to mount an effective response. To help increase the potency of your white blood cells, and to improve their ability to kill viral infected cells, the following three products are recommended:

L-Glutamine Powder – 10 grams 3x per day in divided doses. Increases white blood cell numbers and improves their ability to destroy infected cells. (This product may be ordered by visiting the — –. You will need to register under our account number 102601. ).†

Ganoderma Spore Powder – 2 capsules 3x per day. Ganoderma lucidum (Reishi mushroom) directly increases the ability of NK cells to fight cancer and viral infected cells.†

Immune Support– 1 capsules 2x per day. A blend of vitamins and cofactors, including Chinese mushroom extracts, which act together to improve the function of NK cells and immune system. (Available from our — –. Just click on “Create an Account” in the top right corner to get started. The practitioner code is 102601.).†


In addition to the above, I suggest you also look at the article and video I have shared for FUT2 genes. FUT2 genetic issues deplete the body of L-lysine. Without L-lysine we cannot use our body’s supply of B6 and that creates additional biochemical problems. In short, we need Vitamin B6 and L-lysine to kill viruses so if you are fighting a chronic virus, make sure you support those pathways with additional supplementation.†

Also, individuals with slow MTHFR pathways or those who may be folate deficient due to chronic stress need to make sure they get at least 400-800mcg per day of methyl folate (5-MTHF). More is not always better, and I recommend a lower dose to my patients unless proven otherwise necessary. There are many choices in this category, but my favorite is to use either the Essential Multi or B-Complex products from NutriDyn.



For More Videos on MTHFR and Stress:

MTHFR and Depression: The Folate and BH4 Connection

Adrenal Fatigue: The 7 Signs of Adrenal Stress

How Blood Sugar Influences Dopamine/Adrenalin Levels – COMT and MAO


In Health,

Dr. Rostenberg

By studying the current peer-reviewed research, Dr. Rostenberg has discovered powerful, natural strategies to optimize gut and methylation function to heal the body.  He can help you uncover the genetic or root causes of your health problem and find a natural solution!  If you would like help overcoming a chronic viral infection to improve your methylation cycle and reduce/eliminate your symptoms, please contact Dr. Rostenberg at Red Mountain Natural Medicine today. Phone 208-322-7755. Email Website

†This statement has not been evaluated by the FDA. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

†The information provided on this site is intended for your general knowledge only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice or treatment for specific medical conditions. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or disease without consulting with a qualified healthcare provider. Please consult your healthcare provider with any questions or concerns you may have regarding your condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website.

†In the event of a medical emergency, call a doctor or 911 immediately. Reliance on any information provided by this website is solely at your own risk.