With around 80% of my MTHFR patients experiencing some form of anxiety and depression, and rates of these mental illnesses continuing to rise in our larger Australian community, I am so pleased to take part in the Healthy ME Summit and highlight just how the MTHFR gene mutation can so easily impact mental health.
MTHFR is a gene that helps the conversion of folate to the active form. When you eat leafy greens the body goes through many metabolic processes to change the folate to an active folate and this active folate is what we call a methyl group.
It's this methyl group that acts as a master switch in really important processes in our body... it helps detoxify chemicals and heavy metals, and really importantly it helps us make glutathione (our major antioxidant that protects us from free radical damage), it helps to process hormones and it's really important in the stress response.
Stress uses up a lot of our methyl groups and some people use up all their methyl groups when they are really stressed. They can turn the stress response on but then they don't have enough to turn it off so they stay in this hyper-stress state.
If you have a lack of methyfolate or methyl groups then you don't have enough components to generate neurotransmitters like serotonin and dopamine.
I would say 80% of people with MTHFR who come to our clinic would experience anxiety or depression and for some of them it's had a huge impact on their lives and they just can't function."
I share some of the early research on folate and depression, psychosis and schizophrenia; how SAMe is the distributor of all these really important methyl groups to every part of the body; the importance of vitamin B12, zinc, vitamin B6 and how elevated homocysteine is neurotoxic and has a massive impact on mood; how the mutations in the COMT gene can make you less able to tolerate methylfolate; why a vegan or vegetarian diet can be a big factor with anxiety and depression.
I also cover pyroluria (and low zinc and low vitamin B6) as well as high copper and infections:
"You can actually get a copper toxicity depression (even without pyroluria). You can have high copper with estrogen dominance, low iron, low molybdenum and one of the key strategies is to balance copper and zinc (and look at why zinc is low to start with)."
See FLORACOR AND EXCELZYMES at the bottom of this page Methylguard by Thorn: buy from www.iherb.com
Methylation is one of the body’s most important and most common chemical processes. It is the addition of a methyl group, or CH3, to many chemical compounds to change their solubility or for other reasons that are explained below.
Methylation processes occur in hundreds of chemical reactions in our bodies. To give you an idea of their importance, here is a small sampling of them:
1. Detoxification. Methylation is a primary method of removing toxins in the phase 2 liver detoxification system of the body. More precisely, methylation converts toxins of all kinds from insoluble, less soluble or fat-soluble compounds into water-soluble compounds. This, in turn, allows the body to eliminate them much more easily.
Methylation, in this sense, is somewhat like first tagging toxic substances and then altering them in a way that allows the body to identify them as toxins, and then to eliminate them rapidly and simply. Larger molecules are then able to be eliminated through the bile, while smaller ones pass into the bloodstream and are removed by the kidneys in the urine.
2. Neurotransmitter synthesis and utilization. Methylation is part of the synthesis of dopamine and serotonin. This is one reason why taking trimethylglycine or TMG can help a person relax. Relaxation might also occur because TMG assists with liver detoxification.
3. Required for protein synthesis from our genes. Methylation is a key step in the formation of our enzymes and proteins. This process is called genetic transcription. It involves first making a copy of the DNA, which is called RNA. This is the blueprint, as it were, for our proteins. Then the body uses this blueprint to put together the exact protein that is necessary.
4. Protects the body’s telomeres. Methylation is involved in the elimination of the body’s “tails” on its DNA and chromosomes that are called telomeres. For much more on this interesting subject, and its relation to nutritional balancing science, please read Telomeres on this website.
5. Folate metabolism and cardiovascular health. Methylation is involved in converting homocysteine, which is a dangerous amino acid when in excess, back into methionine, an essential amino acid. This, in turn, is converted to other amino acids in various biochemical pathways.
About 50% of the earth population appear to have genetic variants of the MTHFR enzyme, causing them to have some difficulty resynthesizing methionine from homocysteine. This can be a factor in cardiovascular disease, mental illness such as depression, and perhaps other health conditions such as fatigue and exhaustion.
While doctors may tell you the problem is “genetic” and therefore incurable, our evidence is that it is not incurable. The problem with the RNA can be due to toxic metals such as copper and mercury, that somehow interfere with genetic transcription, or the “writing” of the RNA from the DNA. For much more on this subject, please read MTHFR Defects on this website. In other words, the problem is not due to defective DNA, which would be hard to change. It is due to zinc deficiency and other problems involved in the copying of the DNA. For more on genetics, read Genetic Defects And Nutritional Balancing on this site.
6. Hormonal regulation. By assisting the liver and for other reasons, methylation is involved in balancing the hormones, restoring the proper balance of estrogens, for example. This helps reduce the tendency for cancer and for many other health conditions related to a hormone imbalance.
7. Reduces inflammation. This occurs for many reasons. Among them are toxin removal, hormone balancing, neurotransmitter synthesis, and others.
8. Helps protect the mitochondria. By protecting the mitochondria, methylation helps biochemical adaptive energy production greatly. Without adequate methylation, one becomes very tired.
9. Restores the level of SAMe in the spinal fluid and elsewhere. SAMe or S-adensylmethionine is a common chemical found in the body. It functions as a methyl donor once it has been restored to functioning by the action of methyl groups. It is used as a supplement, at times, that helps to prevent depression in some people and it has a variety of other mental and physical effects on the body. It is quite costly, so it is not used as often as other methyl donors such as trimethylglycine or TMG, folate, methionine, cysteine, taurine and others.
10. Required to make coenzyme Q10. This vital substance is needed for heart health and for energy production within the mitochondria.
11. Tends to increase muscle mass. This can be important in wasting diseases such as cancer, and for general health.
This aspect of protein synthesis, aided by extra methylation, is widely known in the livestock industry, and methylating agents are added to some animal feeds.
12. Other. Methylation reactions are very common in the body and involved in most body functions, to some degree. This is why compromised methylation can cause or contribute to almost all health conditions.
Sadly, most people today are not properly methylated, so this becomes a very important subject. By improving the diet and balancing body chemistry, this problem can easily be overcome, however.
Basic biochemistry. To facilitate the attachment of a methyl group to a toxin or other molecule, methyl groups or CH3 can take the form of an anion with 7 or 8 free electrons, or a cation with 6 free electrons. The words anion and cation have to do with the electrical charge of the molecule and nothing more. The correct electrical charge is needed for the methyl group to attach to a variety of toxins and other molecules in the body.
TOO FEW METHYL GROUPS
1. Most people do not make enough methyl groups. These are usually made within the body, although they are in the diet if the diet is correct. They can also be obtained from nutritional supplements of TMG and folate, in particular.
Dr. Eck and others believed that some fast oxidizers were overmethylated – that they had too many methyl groups. This does not seem to be the case, however, in my opinion.
Confusing terms about methylation. Some authors use the terms overmethylated or undermethylated. I find these terms somewhat confusing, so I do not use them, but you may see them described on some websites.
For example, Carl Pfeiffer, MD, PhD used the term undermethylated to describe some psychotic patients who are also described as histadelic or having high histamine levels and with low serum copper. Among their primary symptoms are delusions, phobias, an obsessive-compulsive tendency and an adverse reaction to taking B-complex vitamins.
Overmethylated, in Dr. Pfeiffer’s understanding, is associated with histapenia, or low histamine and copper overload. Among their symptoms are depression, low libido, panic disorder onset after giving birth, dry eyes and mouth. Note that there is some excellent correlation between Dr. Pfeiffer’s conception and Dr. Eck’s “oxidation types”. Dr. Eck was very familiar with Dr. Pfeiffer’s work. Unfortunately, Dr. Pfeiffer did not know about Paul Eck’s work, as it came later in his life.
SOURCES OF METHYL GROUPS A healthy body makes plenty of methyl groups, and no special foods or supplements are needed. If the body is unhealthy, methyl group formation declines and health declines with it.
Methyl groups are also found in natural foods, especially quinoa, spinach, lamb, chicken, and beets. Cooking may damage them a little, but the diet is a good source if one eats plenty of dark green cooked vegetables, for example. Fewer are absorbed from raw foods, so salads are not a good source.
Processed foods and vegetarian foods are very poor sources of methyl groups. Please strictly avoid vegetarian diets if you want to obtain enough methyl groups.
Supplements. To supplement methyl groups, a useful chemical is TMG or trimethylglycine, also called betaine. This will enhance methyl groups easily in the body.
Dosing this supplement is not always easy, however. Some people can only take a little, while others seem to do very well with amounts up to 3 grams (or 3000 mg) daily. If you feel dizzy, nauseous, or get a headache, just reduce the amount. I am not sure if these symptoms are due to a toxicity or, more likely, due to rapid detoxification caused by the TMG.
FACTORS THAT ARE KNOWN TO INTERFERE WITH METHYLATION
The following may affect methyl group formation:
1. Advancing age. Production seems to decrease with age.
2. Male gender. According to Paul Frankel, PhD and Fred Madsen, PhD, authors of Stop Homocysteine Through The Methylation Process (1998), women of child-bearing age have the best methylation, better than that of men.
3. A diet low in cooked vegetables. Some can be obtained from the proper diet.
4. Too much animal protein in the diet. Too much methionine in some diets may negatively affect methylation.
5. Inflammation and infections in the body. These seem to use up more methyl groups, needed to fight off these threats to life.
6. Metal toxicity, especially copper and mercury. These may interfere with methyl group formation.
7. Use of high-dose niacin or niacinamide. This reduces methyl groups because the body uses up methyl groups in order to detoxify and excrete niacin through the liver. A dose below about 50 mg per day, however, should not be a problem.
8. Anything that is ingested, inhaled or comes into contact with the body, that is toxic for the liver, will be harmful for the formation of methyl donors.
9. Sugars in the diet. Especially today, sugars in any form at all appear to be harmful for proper methylation. I am not sure of the reasons for this, but this is one reason I advise against eating any simple carbohydrates or sugars, including fruits and fruit juices, and all products made with these.
10. Fermented foods. Most fermented foods produce aldehydes. These increase the need for methylation, as aldehydes are quite toxic for the liver. Examples of such items are kombucha tea, sauerkraut, pickles, kimchi and most other fermented foods, except for yogurt, kefir and miso. These do not seem to contain as many aldehydes, so they are safe.
Some health authorities strongly recommend eating fermented foods due to some health benefits. However, I do not agree with this due to the toxic nature of these foods. They often provide an energy boost or “high”, so people think they are healthful, when they are not.
METHYLATION AND CANCER
Cancer toxins appear to worsen the need for TMG. A common reason people die with cancer is they cannot eliminate their toxic metals and toxic chemicals due to impaired methylation in the liver. As a result, toxins accumulate, until death occurs. Therefore, all cancer patients ought to add 400-500 mg of TMG to the program. More than this is not needed, and is too yin and slightly toxic.
HAIR ANALYSIS INDICATORS FOR A NEED FOR METHYL DONORS
This is a research area at this time. Most people seem to need extra methyl groups. Particular indicators may include:
1. Poor eliminators on an initial hair mineral analysis. Poor eliminator patterns that appear only on a retest do not indicate a need for methyl groups, and this phenomenon has a completely different meaning.
2. A zinc level greater than about 20 mg% on an initial hair mineral test. This is an indicator for the presence of hidden copper and perhaps other toxic metals.
3. A four lows pattern, especially on an initial mineral analysis. This is a definite indicator of impaired methylation and a greater need for methyl groups.
4. A very slow oxidation rate.
All of these indicate hidden or deeply stored toxic metals.
ADVANCED HELP, MAGNESIUM AND METHYLATION
During a nutritional balancing program, at times the hair tissue magnesium level jumps up at least 50% or often it doubles. I call this “receiving help” because it is an important step in restoring health.
When it happens, the production of methyl groups increases. This is wonderful in all cases. In part, at least, it is due to the replacement of an inferior magnesium compound in the body with a more biologically active form of magnesium. The “jump” in the hair tissue magnesium is evidence of the elimination of the more toxic form of magnesium. This is an interesting observation that seems to be born out consistently in practice.
Potassium and methylation. Potassium can also go through this “jump” process with the elimination of lower quality potassium compounds as the body heals. Poor quality potassium finds its way into our bodies from:
1) Toxic NPK fertilizers. These are used on ALL of our foods today, even organic foods. The most important source is fruits of all kinds and fruit juices. It is one of the main reasons I do not recommend eating fruit or fruit juices of any kind, no matter how nutritious they are otherwise.
2) Potassium compounds found in male seminal fluid and meconium (the fluid that babies lay in within their mothers’ wombs). This potassium is probably a residue that has built up from the toxic fertilizers as well, although I am not sure. We see more of the potassium ‘elimination evidence’ on hair tests in women and fruit eaters for this reason. Usually, it shows up as an elevated potassium level that goes away after a few months.
I believe the elimination of lower-quality magnesium and lower-quality potassium both cause an increase in methyl groups in the body, although more research about this is needed.
A COMPLETE NUTRITIONAL BALANCING PROGRAM BEST TO RESTORE METHYLATION
I say this because only such a program includes improvements in lifestyle such as more rest and toxin avoidance, a diet loaded with cooked vegetables, not too high in protein, and very low in sugars. The program also includes supplemental zinc, magnesium, copper, calcium, and other minerals needed to produce methyl groups.
Only a complete program, based on a properly performed hair mineral analysis, will lead to a more balanced body chemistry, the removal, very deeply, of two dozen toxic metals and hundreds of toxic chemicals, and the use of other methods such as the coffee enema and near infrared lamp sauna to restore full functioning of the body. For more on nutritional balancing programs, read Introduction To Nutritional Balancing Science and other articles on this website.
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I take a number of supplements for my A1298 mutations. A lot of this comes from this page: https://www.facebook.com/notes/insight-naturopathy/mthfr-a1298c-polymorphism/385764944792649 I take L-Ornithinine, Yucca Root for ammonia control as well as a weekly charcoal flush with magnesium citrate/charcoal. I take NADH and Royal Jelly as well for BH4 support. There are a number of supplements recommended for A1298 in the note I have linked above. I take a few other supplements they recommend for Ammonia and BH4 support as well as for other reasons. The other supplements I have that may help as well are b vitamins (specifically methylfolate, P5P, B3, and B12), lithium, 5-HTP and GABA