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many functions require Methylation ...

When we talk about “MTHFR-related methylation defects” we are actually talking about an inability of an enzyme(s) to stick a methyl group onto another “thing” which is a chemical in a pathway that results in a product. A methyl group is simply 1 carbon atom with 3 hydrogen atoms attached to the 1 carbon atom. Methylation defects however, create folks that are often more productive, hard charging, creative and emotionally sensitive. The downside is that those same folks are less capable of breaking down fight/flight neurotransmitters and they may have a difficult time relaxing and sleeping as they get older. 

In women, some of the same methylation defects may affect their liver’s ability to process estrogens, so they may have more extreme PMS symptoms, not do well on BCPs and tend to be a bit emotionally destabilized when estrogen and fight/flight hormones (epinephrine) compete for the same down-regulated enzyme (COMT) to break them down. In men, these downregulated enzymes may translate into early prostate issues.

Folks with methylation defects do well in their youth, as they are the hard-charging types and often over-achievers. Over time however, the adrenal glands get tapped-out as the sympathetic nervous system is in a high alert state. Its an intersection of cortisol and nor-epinepherine and SAMe that creates epinephrine (adrenaline…stress hormone). Thyroid function is affected as a result, and almost every cell in our body has a thyroid hormone receptor.

Lack of ability to break down (methylate) stress hormones, takes its toll, especially as we move into our 50’s, in the form of higher cancer and heart disease rates. 

Bottom line; first support downstream methylation enzymes via a full spectrum of minerals, Krebs cycle support and all B vitamins, except for methylfolate and B12 initially. Clean up the gut as those 3 lbs of gut bacteria that we carry around do lots to signal immune system and modulate neurotransmitter status. When the foundational mineral and B vitamins and Krebs cycle output is in place, then layer in the B12 and methylfolate for methylation support. This is the tricky part and requires support from a Practitioner to navigate.

The Epigenome

OK, so let’s shift gears and talk about what’s going on with our children and grand-children wrt to methylation and resulting metabolic issues that were once limited to older folks, but are now expressing in children. 

For those of us over 50, we would be hard-pressed to ID a childhood friend who was on the Spectrum or who had an eating disorder. Now, we have children and grandchildren who have been diagnosed with some sort of neuro issue (e.g., Autism spectrum, Aspergers, PANDAS, anorexia/bulimia and more). Why is this happening when our genetics don’t change?

The short answer is, our environment and exposures have changed. There is a layer between the outside world and our fixed nuclear DNA called the epi-genome.  The epi-genome interface is capable of toggling segments of our fixed DNA, on and off.  The toggling is the result of outside influences.

How? Via the epigenome interface, our body’s enzyme activity indirectly reacts to our food choices, high frequency electromagnetic waves (think WiFi), plastic byproducts, genetically modified grains that have been saturated by an organo-phosphate herbicide (I can’t mention the trade name, but its found in spray bottles in local big box store garden section and is now delivered by tons on our grains and soy prior to harvest starting around the mid 1990’s), stress hormones, and more. 

I digress…

Its worth mentioning that protein bio-mass from eating cows, chickens and farm raised fish, can be traced back to genetically modified corn. The corn seeds are genetically modified so that they are able to withstand being repeatedly doused with organo-phosphate herbicides, used to kill weeds. (Recall that Agent Orange, another herbicide used during the Vietnam War, has been directly linked to a higher incidence of Type II diabetes in exposed Veterans, birth defects in children born in those sprayed areas, and more). Think about it; we eat meat that comes from cows, which eat the genetically modified corn. We eat chicken, which eat the genetically modified corn. We eat fish from a fish farm, which has been fed meal from chicken parts where the chicken ate genetically modified corn. How much of OUR bio-mass can be traced back to the same corn, liberally sprayed by organo-phosphate herbicides? How much of these organo-phosphates are we ingesting through grains in general?  What are the cumulative effects on us, via our epigenome, especially if we have a PON1 SNP (Serum paraoxonase/arylesterase 1 enzyme responsible for hydrolysing/breaking-down organophosphate pesticides)? Time is telling us.

Back to the subject at hand…

So the question is, how are our DNA segments being toggled on and off? Our fixed DNA expression is toggled on/off by one of two methods; the first method involves attaching a methyl group at a particular location on our DNA in response to outside influences via the epi-genome interface. Subsequent copying of a particular segment of DNA that includes an attached methyl group (or a removed methyl group), will affect the resulting enzyme, receptor or transport protein. The second method involves histone winding or unwinding (think garden hose wrapped tightly around its histone base) so that the wound segment can’t be copied and therefore doesn’t express. Alternatively, a segment of the DNA can be unwound, and copied via the epi-genetic interface. See, drawing below.

These epigenetic changes can travel with our DNA as we pass them along, generation after generation via sperm and egg to our off-spring. I believe that we are now seeing a cumulative effect, expressing in our children and grandchildren in the form of neuro issues. Similarly, we are seeing a cumulative effect in the form of metabolic disturbances in younger folks (e.g., Type II diabetes), that here to fore were typically associated with aging. It’s therefore imperative to eat clean, do our best to limit exposures to chemicals, high frequency RF signals, lower stress, and address methylation enzymatic pathway deficits. 

Stepping off my soap box…  If you would like more info, please go to PubMed and type in key words to research topics.