Methylation: Are you eating right for your biotype?

I’m so glad July is almost over. It’s been a crazy month with a lot of questions about the role plant-based diets play in methylation cycle synthesis.

In our world today, knowing what and how to eat can feel like a daunting task. And the plethora of dietary theories and dogma only serve to create more confusion and health problems.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned over the years as a practitioner of nutritional therapy it is this: what’s good for the body isn’t necessarily good for the brain.

In other words, feed your brain first so that your body can follow.

This truth hit me hard several years ago after a couple of years on a strictly plant-based diet in which I was consuming a lot of high copper and folate-rich foods, where I couldn’t for the life of me understand why I suddenly felt so terrible.

I mean, aren’t kale and avocados good for me?

Imagine my surprise when I found out that all these “healthy” foods were actually turning on deviant genes inside my body making me feel depressed, anxious, and tired. The worst part for me was the return of a very disordered relationship with food that I developed as a child. Only this time it was back with a vengeance.

This is the power nutrients have on gene expression.

Now I want to share with you this fundamental truth: we are all biochemically unique, which means that there’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all style of eating for everyone.

Even within each biotype nutrient and dietary protocols are different. Here’s a sample case study that sums it up nicely:

Both Vanessa and Susan are the same age with a severely undermethylated biotype.

Vanessa is a patient that came to me struggling with depression, perfectionism, disordered eating, and obsessive tendencies. In addition to severe undermethylation (elevated whole blood histamine), testing also revealed low vitamin D, normal range copper and zinc, along with a normal thyroid panel.

Susan had the exact same symptoms with histamine and vitamin D levels to match. She also suffered from high anxiety, insomnia, chronic fatigue, and had been diagnosed with fibromyalgia. In her 30’s she had a complete hysterectomy due to uterine fibroids. What was different in Susan’s case was that her zinc levels were very low and total and percentage of free copper was off the charts.

Vanessa’s protocol was completely different because her symptoms (along with zinc and copper levels) painted a very different story than Susan’s. Susan also has a sensitivity to nutrients that Vanessa does not have, so starting her on lower doses (especially zinc) was an integral part of her healing process in addition to a diet that addressed all her food sensitivities, such as oxalate and salicylate intolerance.

Now here are a few things I want you to consider:
  • Supplemental nutrient efficacy can be diminished with a diet that is inappropriate for your biotype. For example, undermethylated individuals on plant-based, high folate diets will not be able to repair methylation status without adequate protein intake.
  • Extreme juice cleanses, detox programs, and restrictive diets overload or deplete the body of nutrients, leading to cognitive dysfunction, and stressed out organs and glands that don’t work properly.
  • Plant-based diets alone do not supply all the nutrients required for balanced methylation and glutathione synthesis (the body’s master antioxidant), regardless of biotype. I don’t recommend plant-based diets for anyone, but keep in mind that overmethylated individuals also require protein to repair blood sugar dysregulation in addition to a high folate diet.
  • Plants have inherent chemical defence systems or anti-nutrients that can make humans and animals ill (this is their claws and teeth). Some of these defence systems come in the form of chemical compounds such as oxalates and salicylates that can create inflammatory responses in sensitive individuals.
  • Behavior and thought processes are greatly influenced by the kind of foods you eat, even foods deemed healthy such as spinach.
  • Overmethylators thrive on folate-rich foods, while undermethylators need to be very mindful of them. It’s a myth that we all need greens to be healthy.
  • Both over and undermethylators can have food and chemical sensitivities, this is the case with autistic individuals, most of whom are undermethylated.
  • Testing for methylation status via looking at whole blood histamine does not mean a low-histamine diet will correct the imbalance. Some folks are sensitive to high histamine foods, while others are not. See my post here to learn all about histamine.

Now it’s your turn. Are you struggling with a methylation imbalance and confused about what to eat? I’d love to know your thoughts in the comments below. It is through sharing your story that we create community, eliminate guilt and shame, and bring about healing.

Love,
SamiSig

Comments 60

  1. Great synopsis artIcle. Have friend living out the truth behind Mensahs testinf & proper biotype for herself & family. Confused as to best tests to determine apropriateness of compliment present supplwments suggested with hair analysis for my family of six. Can you direct least difficult mist efficient path? or can we have a consult? Im tired of barking up all the wrong trees with little results & complicatwd protocols. How do I Know this is the right tree? Thanks for your reply!

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      Hi Susan,
      Thanks for sharing your story. I’d love to offer you a complimentary consultation to see how I can help. You can email my assistant here and she’ll get you scheduled.

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    2. I’m plant based and an
      undermethylater. I know a lot of plant-based people that really thrive. The study of the blue zones was conducted and they mostly ate plant based with plenty of beans and nuts for protein. Is there a plant protein you recommend for undermethylaters who don’t want to eat meat?

  2. I have had lifelong health challenges, am an under methylator and have been on special diets for years – low salicylate, oxalate, sulphur, fructose, etc. and recently realized my sensitivity to natural glutamate so am eating less broth. These are some of the links that helped me understand and analyze this.http://www.holistichelp.net/blog/how-to-increase-gaba-and-balance-glutamate/, http://www.dramyyasko.com/wp-content/uploads/2011/08/The-Role-of-Excitotoxins-in-Autistic-Type-Behavior.pdf, http://www.biodynamicwellness.com/stock-vs-broth-confused/.

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      Hi Lisa,
      I appreciate you sharing your story. Thanks for bringing up the fact that natural glutamates can be troublesome for many of us. Also of note is the avoidance of L-glutamine supplementation due to its rapid neuro excitotoxic nature.

  3. Hi Sami,

    Great article, and it definitely “speaks” to me as an undermethylator with a history of anxiety, depression, OCD, PND and an eating disorder … and vegetarianism! However, can you spell it out for me, please? In broad terms, I shouldn’t be eating too many greens? And a lot more protein? Do you have an article or could you cite a website that very clearly outlines what is the best diet for an undermethylator, please?

    Thanks so much!
    Jess

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      Hi Jess,
      Thank you, I’m glad my article was beneficial to you. Since every undermethylator is different, it’s difficult to advise you without a proper assessment and testing, but yes, it’s important to stay away from high folate foods and get ample protein for methylation cycle synthesis.

  4. Sami, Wow seeing this on my big computer screen shows how I was typing on my little phone and had lots of typos, but you still go the gist of my frustration. Thank you. Yes, I am very interested in the consult, as I enjoy your articles and often wonder if the particulars apply to my particulars. I’ll try to contact your assistant tomorrow.Again Thanks!

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  5. Besides research, consultations with professionals, and testing when funds allow, I use a pendulum often to help guide me. I am currently using various Thorne calcium supplements and took 2 of these yesterday, but the pendulum may show to take none today… http://www.nutricology.com/Calcium-Pyruvate-90-Vegetarian-Caps-p-16440.html. WebMD shows the body produces pyruvate when it breaks down sugar (glucose) and I have been on a low carb diet due to GI issues/carb intolerance (appx 100-150 grams daily) so it makes sense that I needed a boost. http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-34-pyruvate.aspx?activeingredientid=34&activeingredientname=pyruvate.

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  6. Hello,
    Maybe it is fool question, but can you please, explain me how I can I find out if I am under or over metylator. I am struggling with OCD, anxiety, panic, I had depression during pregnancy and postpartum too. I think I am also adult woman Asperger, I have celiac disease. I check my genetics with Dr. Amy Yasko and I am COMT ++ VDR TAQ ++ BHMT 8 ++ , VDR FOQ +-, MAO +-, MTHFR C677t +-, and some more SNPs , i dont know if it is important for your answer. I have high estrogen and chronic fatigue. I am on antidepressant Venlafaxinum.Please help me understand . Thank you very much.

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      Hi Zuzana,
      There’s no such thing as a fool question. I use functional testing to determine biotype status. Keep in mind that genetic testing has no way of determining the net effect of SNPs. In other words, they have no way of telling you whether a deviant gene is expressing actually itself or not.

  7. Hi. I am not sure if I am over or under methylated. I’d love to know and have help with what to eat for my best health. There is so much confusing information out there. I’d appreciate the help greatly!
    Thanks

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      Hi Maria,
      It certainly can be confusing! I’d love to offer you a complimentary consultation to see how I can help you. Please email my assistant here and she’ll get you scheduled.

  8. I did the 23 and me, have quite a mix of defects that are really complicating handling what to take and avoid. I also have chronic lyme and a bunch of other issues that go along with that. I have been trying to work on proper supplements, but the defects and my diet seem to always cancel that out. I really don’t know at all what I CAN eat anymore-so frustrating! I don’t feel well enough to try and figure it out, so I eat whatever my husband buys and puts in front of me as he is the one who cooks. He would make me the foods that I need if I could tell him what TO prepare. Any way you can help with this?

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      Hi Rachel,
      Thank you for sharing your story. I’d love to offer you a complimentary consultation to see how I can help. Please email my assistant here and she’ll get you scheduled.

  9. The high/low folate diet is something I am interested in exploring. Do you have a reliable list of low folate fruits and vegetables?

    My other question is on the CBS pathways. There are times when I definitely get blockages there and a lot of sulfur reactions. What are your recommendations for clearing these pathways? Do you recommend activated charcoal? How about nutrition/dietary changes?

    1. Yes, I have searched long and hard for a list of low folate foods, vegetables in particular, without luck. I would like to see this as well! I am an “undermethylator” and I assume the answer is not to remove ALL vegetables, right?

  10. Hi. Thanks so much for this info. My hubby just had an HTMA and whole blood analysis. He has high Homocysteine as well as high Histamine. He was told to go on folic acid 800 two times per day to resolve the high homocysteine before trying to reduce the Histamine levels. Is this therapy going to be detrimental to him? He struggles enough with brain fog and depression. Should he just up his protein during this time in addition to taking folate?I believe that he should be on natural folates not folic acid. Any advice would be welcome. Many thanks, Liz

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      Hi Liz,
      You are most welcome. This is difficult to answer without first seeing his labs. Was the histamine test whole blood histamine?

  11. Wow so much information. I had an autoimmune disorder that caused me to loose all my hair. I eat clean & organic. My hair has grown back after 15 years. I would love to know more about my type & eat accordingly. How do i start?

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      Hi Cat,
      So proud of you for changing your diet! I’d love to offer you a complimentary consultation to see how I can help. Please email my assistant here and she’ll get you scheduled.

  12. My problems started when I ate the same high potassium foods that I was feeding my husband. He has problems with high blood pressure and water retention in his tummy. About a year after we changed our diets I started breaking out in hives. I’m currently on citerizine but I still break out. My son is allergic to everything green, trees, weeds, etc… My mother was hospitalized for low sodium and complains of a very itchy scalp. I’m beginning to see the connection. I need help, not only for myself but for my family too. Thank you

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  13. For people who are limiting their folate due to whole blood histamine tests, do you monitor formiminoglutamic acid (FIGLU) to prevent folic acid deficiency?

  14. I do the eat right 4 your blood type, i have gound that this has been a good foundation for my MTHFR. However i do not know my ratio with methylation. Can you please contact me about your free consultation and more information. Thank you!

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  15. Wow! Was just talking to a friend about this tonight! I have totally given up at this point! I’ve spent a fortune on Dr’s, tests, and supps! I’m too sick to work now! The best I ever felt was on zero carb which i did for 8 months. I fell off the wagon last fall and am SO addicted to carbs now that I just don’t care that I feel like I am dying! I feel your post is a sign! I need to just do it!!!! Will read your blog! Thanks!!!!! SO much!!!

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  16. Since breast milk is 10% protein and a baby is growing very fast, why would adults need more than 10% – an amount fulfilled solely by plants? Wouldn’t beans be adequate?

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      Methylation cycle synthesis requires animal-based proteins to repair. All legumes are high in copper and folate, and are detrimental to undermethylated and copper toxic individuals.

      1. Plant proteins may be low in methionine, correct? Is there something about amino acids that needs to be animal? Is it actually the amino acids or something else? If this is true, it seems like vegans could be in big trouble if they are MTHFR. Appreciate your article.

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          Yes, that is correct. I was vegan for many years so I know firsthand that plant-based proteins are not synthesized the same way, despite propaganda to the contrary. I nearly died on this diet. I wish this weren’t true because I really loved being vegan, but I had to honor my biochemistry. Every person needs to honor their unique biochemistry.

          1. I probably need more animal protein but get sick in one way or another when I eat it, possibly due to low stomach acid even though I supplement with HCL. Any thoughts on how to get around this?

            Thanks!

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  17. Hi Samantha, this is such an interesting article. I am an undermethylator but the best I have ever felt in my life is on a mostly plant based diet. We have done the Gaps diet as a family over the last 2.5 years and I haven’t ever felt really good on Gaps. Based on what you are saying it seems that undermethylators need adequate protein (am guessing meat based) and need to be careful with too much folate. By experience it seems the opposite has been true for me. Just wondering if you do Skype consults as I am in Australia?

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      Hi Justine,
      Thank you for sharing your experience. I have many patients in AU and can work with you via Skype. Click here to schedule a complimentary consultation to see how I can help you.

  18. Pingback: What Is My Biotype | Information

  19. Hi Sami,

    Whole blood histamine is a way to check if a person is undermethylated or over. What if the patient has atopic dermatitis and multiple food allergies and thus increased levels of histamines? Would that not lead to wrong conclusions?

    Thanks!

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      Atopic dermatitis and multiple food allergies do not automatically equal histamine intolerance/mast cell degranulation. Keep in mind that histamine intolerance is a separate creature to undermethylation determined by a high whole blood histamine lab value. They are not the same thing. In some individuals with true histamine intolerance issues, it can produce a low lab value. For these patients, I usually recommend a SAM/SAH instead.

  20. Hi just been tested mthfr. Have one snp. Sorry cant remember on which gene. Suffer anxiety(physical symptoms extreme) depression. Am now treatment resistant. New ADs not working well. I dont know if under or over methylating. And the Mirtazapine AD has a histamine blocking effect so my blood histamine was normal. How can my doctor tell if im an over or under methylator. Is there any other tests i can do first before i take the supps she is recommending (vit plus 5MTFR and Methylcobalamin. Im scared because if i shouldnt be upping my methylation then wont these supps do exactly that and make my anxiety worse? Plus its a compounded supp and very very expensive.
    So just to reiterate, is there any other tests that will confirm whether my snp is causing over or under methylation? Thanks

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      I highly recommend a SAM/SAH methylation profile before taking any nutrients. Merely having a SNP does not reveal methylation status.

  21. What nutrions can you get from animal food that you cant get from plants? I know that we all need B12 because of the depletion in the soil. Im an ethical Vegan and would have a hard time eating anything with a face. I suffer from migraines. Thank you for an interesting blog post.

  22. Yes! I’d like to learn more about this bio type- is there a test? I am currently learning about oxolates and how all that juicing may have caused more issues and not heal me!

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  23. Sami thank you so much for your work. I am booking with you. I also had Mold exposure (I have a mold and Lyme gene) made my undermethylation worse likely due to oxidative stress. And when my mold/lyme doc saw my high blood histamine he put me on Cromolyn! (EEK) Lucky a health coach clued me in that I needed to look at my high blood histamine in terms of undermethylation which is how I found you and Dr. Mensah. Now I am seeing that i need to address undermethylation and test for pyrroles. I am scheduling with you but can you tease all this out? I also have Low DAO /histamine intolerance AND undermethylation AND- My other challenge is that I have 1/2 the Apoe4 Altzheimer gene which makes me a hyper absorber of saturated fat. So I was told to minimize animal products (especially cheese and higher fat animal produxts and increase olive oil and veggies!! How am going to eat to optimize my methylation and not increase my risk of heart disease and cognative decline? (the work of Dr. Dale Bredesen).

  24. Hi Sammy!

    I feel super confused. I read many of your great articles and resonate with so much of your back story. I have struggled most my life with all this stuff. It REALLY started after my appendix burst 13years ago and its been a roller coaster ever since. lots of tests, probing, drugs, antibiotics.. mixed in with eating disorders, alcoholism, trying vegan, then raw, then paleo, then eat all the chocolate in the world candida, crash dieting, oh em gee, you name it i have been there!

    I am currently back to frantic research, assuming that all my current issues are down to yeast/candida and leaky gut and taking things in to my own hands because i lost my job in March, therefore no health cover or income and pretty much just need to do something! I get scared because as you say, for all the eating broccoli and cauliflower and other ‘super healthy foods’ they could also be poisoning me and make me worse!! MINE FIELD!

    Im wondering, in this situation, what is the best next practical step i can take?

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  25. Hello,

    I would like to have a complimentary consultation, to help determine if I am eating the correct food for an “undermethlyator”.

    I had blood work done, and whole blood histamine was 2048! I started the Walsh protocol 2 week s ago, and I am currently taking:

    • Methly b12 (10,000mcg)
    • B6 (100mg)
    • Zinc (50mg)
    • Quercitin\Stinging Nettle
    • Curcumin
    • D3 10,000 IU
    • K1\K2
    • Calcium 1g
    • Magnesium 600-800mg
    • Inositol 640mg
    • SAM-e 200mg.

    I was told to avoid supplemental folate, but I still eat spinach, kale, etc… from time to time. I’ve lost 20 lbs so far, because I’m afraid to eat anything with histamine, which is EVERYTHING!!!!!!!!!!

  26. This may be a strange question but if you are MTHFR and undermethylating, I thought that I actually needed methylfolate and more greens to provide natural folate that the body can absorb. I understood that the synthetic folic acid should be avoided and is not absorbed. Could you help me understand why natural folate is not good for MTHFR? Thank you!

  27. Hi Samantha I have read your blog on and off for the last year and I have enjoyed your input about methylation issues. I was recently diagnosed with over methylation and I’m trying to find more sources of information on the foods to eat and also placed to verify the vitamins and supplements that I am taking. I suffer with depression anxiety the most and also have thyroid issue i’ve enjoyed your input about methylation issues. I was recently diagnosed with over methylation and I’m trying to find more sources of information on the foods to eat and also place to verify the vitamins and supplements that I am taking. I suffer with depression anxiety the most and also have Hashimotos.
    I wish I knew if they were foods that would help give me more energy or mental clarity because I’d love to get my nutrients from the natural source. I’ve tried a lot of different supplements and food choices and I feel like there’s not a whole lot that makes improvements to my life. I do find when there’s too much sugar that I’m tired or sick .

  28. Hi Samantha.Could it be possible to have high B12 and folate levels and normal zinc levels because when I eat meat I have constipation.When I eat folate rich foods my urine smell something like drug or really unpleasant.And I know that my zinc levels are ok because when I take zinc I have unpleasant gas.What should I do to lower their levels?Because at the moment the real problems are constipation,strong joint back pain and strong tinnitus.I don’t know what to eat now.Rice is also high in folate.Thank you.

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