Do you find that you’re regularly “triggered” by seemingly minor events or scenarios? Possibly that you’ve been told by your friends or family that you have obsessive tendencies? Or perhaps you regularly feel a sense of dread or fear, but you’re not even sure why? Often times this is because your body is either over or undermethylating.
Let me explain a bit futher what this means.
Methylation involves so many functions in the body, including detoxification, neurotransmitter synthesis, folate metabolism, hormone regulation, energy levels and many other processes in the body. Therefore, you might imagine that if you’re not methylating well, then you may not be feeling so good.
Basically, methylation is a process by which certain molecules are either added or removed from other molecules, so as to activate or inactivate enzymes, hormones and neurotransmitters. So, a methyl group is really just a carbon with three or four hydrogens on it. Think of it like building blocks. You can keep adding more and more, and get all sorts of different results. But, most importantly, methyl groups are responsible for turning on entire systems within the entire human body, from enzyme activity to hormonal activity to neurotransmitter activity and even for conception. For example, if during conception we don’t have enough methylation, then this can show up as anxiety, depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, ADHD, or even at birth, autism.
You’re born either normally methylating, an undermethylator or an overmethylator. Now most people, actually are normally methylating individuals and we know this because we can actually measure concentrations of methyl. There’s an indirect relationship between histamine and methylation. So we see individuals who are, for example, high in histamine (whole blood histamine) and they tend to be low in methyl. And when they are high in methyl, they tend to be low in histamine. So we can indirectly measure concentrations of methyl.
Many of my patients who suffer from anxiety and depression are over-methylated. This means that they have excess activity at their dopamine, norepinephrine and serotonin receptors. When this happens, it results in symptoms that include chemical and food sensitivities, sleep disorders, underachievement, upper body pain, and an adverse reaction to serotonin-enhancing substances such as Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, St. John’s Wort, methionine, and SAMe. Overmethylators may seek help through non-legal means such as drug use. But the reason they’re doing it – and here’s the neurotransmitter correlate to all of this—neurotransmitter activity in overmethylators tends to be extremely high. If you have lots and lots of methyl, you may be constantly activating your neurotransmitters. So in the mind of an overmethylator, their brain – they’ll tell you – ‘it just doesn’t shut off’. They constantly ruminate. They’re always thinking. They’re always philosophizing. They just can’t shut it off. It can be very difficult for them, because they may not be able to let a topic go or a subject go or a challenge go. They can’t seem to move on very easily. They also tend to be very creative or what some people call ‘right brained’ and tend to think outside the box. They tend to channel their passion into one direct area of their life. Often they are the artists, musicians, painters, writers and philosophers.
What’s generally at the root cause of this is that they have a genetic tendency to be very deficient in folates and other B vitamins. So repleting these vitamins helps reduce activity of dopamine and norepinephrine. If this sounds like you, then b-vitamin supplements and shots will help greatly. Also it’ll be important to avoid supplements and foods containing copper & methionine. Steak and eggs for example contain high amounts of methionine but if you’re an overmethylator, the last thing you really need is more methyl. Here’s where vegetarianism can actually be extremely beneficial. Foods high in folic acid would be wonderful if you’re an overmethylator.
For those of you that have obsessive-compulsive tendencies, oppositional-defiant disorder, or seasonal depression are undermethylated. This is associated with low serotonin neurotransmission. You may find that everything has to have its place, everything has to have order, everything is a very structured environment. You’re generally very high-achieving. What’s great about being an undermethylator? They tend to be driven to simply succeed and excel in all areas of life. The professions that undermethylators fall into are doctorates, teachers, high-pressure sales people, IT people, and computer people. They are very analytical in many ways and are structured individuals with a definite plan. And they don’t do well when things deviate from that plan.
Common symptoms of undermethylation may include seasonal allergies, perfectionism, anxiety, analytical type of depression and competitiveness. A high percent of my patients have an inborn tendency to be low in calcium, magnesium, methionine, and vitamin B-6. Which means to correct the root cause, you would benefit from SAMe, methionine, calcium, & magnesium. What’s very important to know is that although most undermethylated people thrive on folates, supplements of folates should be avoided if you have low activity at your serotonin receptors. Folic acid, folinic acid, and methylfolate all reduce serotonin/dopamine neurotransmission and this effect overwhelms the folate benefits of improved methylation and serotonin synthesis. So avoiding a large consumpton of foods high in folic acid for undermethylators is important.
How do you know if your neurotransmitters are out of balance? Through a simple saliva/urine test I offer that you can do at home.