Functional Genetic Analysis is a cutting-edge nutritional approach for treating illness. This information allows me to assess, analyze and design nutritional support for you based upon your genetics, lab work and presenting symptoms.
Genetics, methylation and epigenetics
Methylation, genome, epigenetics, SNPs oh my…a topic not for the faint of heart but I urge you to keep reading because this might apply to you and be very helpful in improving your health.
Genetics is no easy subject to understand but I will try to simplify the process. I’ve always known in the back of my mind that genetics from mom and dad had something to do with my physical health. I noticed similar physical and emotional traits in my family: we all had the sniffles or congestion in the am, my sister and I got rashes easily from metals or topical creams, and many in my family suffered from stress intolerance and addictions which I believe are connected. What I found out when I first ran my genetic profile was a high amount of Histamine SNPS. Actually very high! What is a SNP you ask? A SNP pronounced “snip” is a Single Nucleotide Polymorphism. SNP’s are normal but some will make a gene overactive or underactive. Some SNPS impair the gene’s function. Due to my histamine SNPS, my body doesn’t clear histamine as well as it should and I suffered from lifelong environmental allergies, insomnia, chronic congestion, skin sensitivities and GI disturbance. After learning of my histamine SNPS, I was able to understand what was causing these issues and by avoiding foods with high histamine and taking natural medicines I was able to lower lower histamine load, increase clearance and reduce my symptoms.
Genetic testing services such as The Functional Nutrional Genetic program that I use in my practice or 23andme.org analyzes 1000’s of genetic SNPS. What we need to remember is we are not our genetics. It is the genetics plus our environment that controls our destiny. The “epigenome” is the combination of genetics with our environment and “Epigenetics “is the study of this process. This biochemical process is called “Methylation”. Methylation plays the crucial role in how our genes get turned on and off. Factors in our environment such as nutrition, toxins, stress, trauma, mold, infection and leaky gut all have the ability to impact our methylation pathways. When I ran the Functional Nutritional Genetic program on myself, I found out that I had not only histamine SNPS but methylation SNPS which also affected my histamine levels. By supporting my methylation SNPS with nutrition, I was able to improve my health even more.
Why should I be concerned with Methylation? Methylation is responsible for many functions including:
Helping the thyroid produce thyroxin
Detoxification of estrogen
Detoxification of toxins and chemicals and helps support glutathione synthesis
Regulating mood through creating serotonin, melatonin, dopamine and serotonin
Reducing risk of Alzheimers and cognitive decline.
Vascular endothelial function: Nitric Oxide production
RNA and DNA synthesis
Producing protective coating on nerves (myelination)
Turning the stress response on and off
Optimizing male sexual performance
Building strong bones
The methylation cycle is like an irrigation system that draws water from a clean lake and distributes the water to 200 gardens. If something blocks the irrigation channels, the gardens will suffer. Methylation must distribute methyl groups and have adequate nutrients for the methylation cycle to flow effectively to our body systems. The good thing is we are not dictated by our genetics. Even if we got unlucky with our allotted genetic SNP’s from our parents, many factors such as diet, supplementation and a clean environment positively influence methylation processes.
When to suspect methylation problems?
People with fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue, PMS, hormonal cancers, tick-borne Illness, allergies, asthma, high blood pressure, multiple sclerosis, diabetes, psychiatric disorders such as depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disease, cognitive decline, autism, neurological diseases such as Alzheimers and Parkinsons, coronary artery disease, chronic stress, excessive alcohol consumption.
In working to improve our methylation ability, we must look at the big picture. The discovery of MTHFR (Methyltetrahydrofolate reductase) SNPs put methylation on the map. MTHFR is an enzyme that breaks down homocysteine and folate. The MTHFR SNP interferes with the enzymes ability to function normally. Those who test and find they have MTHFR SNPS in their MTHFR genes believe they should supplement with methylfolate. While knowing this is useful, genetic testing does not always translate to impaired methylation status. Only functional testing in blood can determine our true methylation status. As usual, a one size fits all supplementation approach with methylfolate is overly simplistic as other co-factors such as zinc, B12, choline, magnesium, B6 are often needed for methylation pathways. Pushing a pathway by supplementing with only methylfolate can cause side effects. Often people feel really good after adding in methylfolate but within days to weeks they may start feeling anxious, ill and unable to sleep. Research now finds that while methyl donor deficiency can be bad, over supplementation for years can also be harmful.
Over and Under Methylation. Adding in methyl groups such as methylfolate, methyl B12 or SAMe can be an issue for people who are over methylated to begin with. It is estimated that 70% of the population have normal methylation. 22% are under methylating, 8% are over-methylating. I believe that these statistics may be inaccurate in chronic infection. In people with mental disorders, 70% may have serious methylation disorders, either over or under methylation.
Under-methylation can be caused by: histamine overload which depletes methyl groups, protein deficiency, malabsorption or genetic mutations (SNPS) Under methylation symptoms or traits. Good response to SSRi’s, frequent headaches, strong willed, history of perfectionism, seasonal inhalant allergies, calm demeanor with high inner tension, addictiveness, high libido, suicidal tendencies.
Over-methylation can be caused by: Genetic mutations. Over methylation symptoms and traits: High anxiety, panic, depression, sleep disorders, absence of seasonal allergies, low libido, estrogen intolerance, hyperactivity, dry eyes and mouth, nervous legs/pacing, high pain threshold.
Why is methylation status important? If you have a chronic illness, want to optimize your health or on prescription medications. It is important to know the specific nutrients that are out of balance. Over-methylators will do poorly with methyl donors such as methyl folate, methyl B12, L theanine, SAMe. Under-methylators will do poorly with niacin and hydroxycobalamin.
The great news is that when we know our genetic SNPS, we can work with them, turning up and down the volume on our inherited strengths and weaknesses. We do this through knowing what nutrients support the methylation pathways, altering our diets accordingly, what and working to heal the health disorders that are impacting these pathways. Prescription drugs can deplete various nutrients. For example, birth control pills deplete the following methylation nutrients: folic acid, B2, B6, B12, magnesium, selenium and zinc.
How do I support methylation safely without testing?
To support methylation safely without knowing methylation status, food is always the safest place to begin. Eating an abundance of leafy greens provides natural folate. Good sources of protein are important such as organic meats, free range eggs, nuts seeds, lentils, beans and peas. If you’re a vegetarian, you will need to supplement with B12. Hyroxycobalamin is safest if you don’t know your methylation status. Stop consuming folic acid as folic acid blocks methylfolate receptors. Folic acid is the chemical form of folate found in most processed foods. 85% of methylation occurs in the liver so take care of your liver by decreasing chemicals, alcohol and taking liver supportive herbs and nutrients. The second step is to supplement with a multi-mineral, magnesium and a B complex vitamin without methylfolate and methyl B12. Tolerance for methylfolate and methylB12 vary from person to person and should be added after the previous co-factors and titrated slowly.
Why can’t I just measure my serum folate in blood?
Serum folate does not differentiate between folic acid and folate. Unless you are sure you are not eating any folic acid, your blood test will not provide a useful measure of your folate levels.
How can I evaluate your methylation status?
There are two approaches to methylation testing: Genetic and Functional Testing.
1. Functional Testing measures our current methylation pathway status seen above. The Genova Methylation Panel or Doctors Data blood test evaluates the methylation metabolites. To get the most out of your B vitamin and methyl donor supplementation, the blood Methylation Profile is recommended.
2. Genetic testing looks at genes which shows potential but not what is actually happening. Genetic testing can be helpful in finding areas of weakness when functional tests have not been helpful. Also, it can be helpful to elucidate familial medical problems or show where we should focus to prevent future health issues. I recommend testing methylation genetics with the Functional Nutritional Genetic Analysis. It requires a saliva sample. If you did a 23andme genetic test before June 2018, this can also be used to assess genetic SNPS.
The Functional Nutritional Genetic Analysis report covers the following areas:
1. Gut Health, gluten and dairy susceptibilities and histamine SNPS
2. Kreb cycle where energy is produced
3. Detoxification Capacity, CYP, Glutathione, Autophagy, NRF2
4. Folate Creation and Pathways
5. Methionine and Trans-sulfuration Pathways
6. Neurotransmitters, Glutamate
7. Inflammatory Tendencies
8. Vitamin D, Cell Membrane, Intestinal Bacteria, SHBG, Cardiovascular and Iron Overload
9. DNA Repair Variants that Impact Exercise and Fitness Potential
10. Electrical Sensitivity Potential
11. Lyme Study SNPS
12. Empathy and Oxytocin Receptors, MTOR.