Methylation

Many people are aware that 23andme.com and Ancestry.com are websites that offer salivary testing for genetic methylation analysis. The information obtained from this test can be used to describe the degree to which genetic mutations known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (or SNiPs) affect your ability to methylate properly. Interpretation and application of these results is quite complex. Dr. Smith is an expert in this field. Having studied extensively with Dr. Ben Lynch, Dr. Smith is able to address any questions you may have regarding your methylation results. After thoroughly reviewing your history, Dr. Smith will use the results of your methylation panel to recommend a comprehensive, integrative protocol that involves nutrient and botanical supplementation along with proper dietary and lifestyle changes. These recommendations will be made from a holistic perspective, taking into consideration your digestion, endocrine system, cardiovascular system and entire wellbeing rather than simple treatment of symptoms.

Genetic Methylation Analysis FAQs

What is methylation?

Methylation is one of the hottest topics in alternative medicine circles. If you decide to delve into this topic, you’ll quickly find yourself in a sea of genetic complexity. Despite the intricacies, it is worth knowing something about this process, as methylation influences countless metabolic pathways in the body. Methylation occurs in the body approximately a billion times a second.

Without methylation, life quite simply would not exist. Methylation occurs when once molecule (say, a particular form of B-12 or folate) passes its methyl group to another molecule in order to exert some sort of biochemical effect. These “effects” are ubiquitous, ranging from production of creatine for muscle function and phosphatidylcholine for cell membrane stability to regulation of cellular detoxification and metabolism of neurotransmitters. Other effects include the manufacture of and breakdown of  hormones and histamine and the regulation of gene expression. In short, our vitality, susceptibility to allergies, cancer and inflammation, our thyroid function, our nervous and endocrine systems, our digestive function, our ability to concentrate and remember and our mood are only a few examples of factors controlled by methylation.

Some of the ways in which the body requires methylation include:

  • Cell division and renewal
    • Production and metabolism of neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin
    • Detoxification in the liver (and elsewhere)
    • Producing energy for cells to use in chemical reactions
    • Clearing out excess estrogens and histamine
    • Regulating how our genes get expressed

Who has methylation defects?

We all do. It would be wonderful if everyone possessed stellar methylation activity, but this is not the case. The single biggest deleterious effect upon our ability to methylate is the environment. Heavy metals, medications, plastic byproducts, cleaning agents, preservatives, chemicals in our homes and oh-so-much more…all profoundly affect our ability to methylate properly. In fact, the proteins involved in methylation seems to be particularly susceptible to the effect of these toxins. As we age, we continue to accumulate toxins; hence the older we get the less we are able to effectively methylate. Of course even at birth all humans do not possess an equal ability to methylate and detoxify; methylation and detoxification are controlled by genes and some of us are born with genes that are more efficient than others are regulating these two processes. In an imaginary setting where we all accumulate an equal load of toxins, those with genes that are less efficient at detoxifying and methylating will develop symptoms at an earlier age.

An example of how poor methylation ability might affect you.

One of the many processes that require methylation is the breakdown of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine. Those with poor methylation status may not be able to breakdown these neurotransmitters effectively. The resulting symptoms may include agitation, anxiety, depression and insomnia. Perhaps you have found that medications known as SSRIs, or selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (prozac, celexa and effexor are examples) seem to make your symptoms worse, or that the sleep aide melatonin does not work. This is the classic example of someone who needs to assessed for their methylation status. A protocol high in particular nutrients that both act as co-factors for the enzymes that breakdown serotonin and dopamine and also act methyl donors would be necessary to address this imbalance.

How can I go about getting the appropriate Methylation testing?

Many patients today are familiar with the MTHFR gene.  This is a gene that turns a form of folic acid into its most active metabolite, 5-MTHF. While assessing the ability of your MTHFR gene to perform this task is important, there are hundreds of other genes that are involved in the process of methylation. Trying to assess your methylation status by knowing only about MTHFR is like trying to understand the meaning of a sentence without being able to see any consonants. Knowing about all of the genes involved in methylation is vital.  This process can be started by going to 23andme.com to order a salivary test.

Are Dr. Smith’s services covered by insurance?

Dr. Smith’s office visits and many clinically indicated tests are covered by many (but not all) insurance companies.