Methylation is crucial to happiness and well-being.
Making too much or not enough methyl impairs our ability to think clearly, have meaningful relationships, a healthy body, and live a fulfilling life. In today’s world, methylation problems are commonplace due to food and environmental toxins, emotional trauma, genetic errors, and stress.
Methane is the simplest organic chemical, consisting of one carbon atom and four hydrogen atoms. In biochemistry, there are hundreds of cellular processes that involve methylation, a chemical reaction in which a methyl group is attached to an atom or molecule.1
DNA methylation is profoundly connected to mental health and is one of several epigenetic mechanisms that cells use to control gene expression (protein production). For example, if serotonin is not properly methylated, it will become inactive, which in turn leads to depression.
Born undermethylated with copper overload, I’ve traversed the ins and outs of this imbalance my entire life, and I know its secrets quite well.
So let’s break it down shall we?
Methylation Imbalance Conditions and Symptoms
Bipolar disorder, behavior and learning disorders – ADHD/ADD, autism, schizophrenia, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, autoimmune diseases, cancer, depression, high anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, perfectionism, panic disorder, addictions, PMS, chemical and food sensitivities, amenorrhea (absence of menstruation), infertility, hair loss, anemia, elevated blood sugar, high blood pressure, memory loss, violent behavior, hypothyroidism, skin rashes, headaches, insomnia, tinnitus (ringing in the ears), sensitive skin, spaciness, racing thoughts, arthritis, asthma, allergies, weight gain, weight loss, and chronic infections. And this is the short list.
You’re likely to be a high-achiever constantly striving for greater levels of career accomplishment. Entrepreneurs, corporate executives, professional athletes, doctors, lawyers, producers, and scientists all fit this type. Looking at Hollywood and Silicon Valley as a whole, I know straight away the vast majority of these folks are undermethylated. You probably have at least a graduate-level education and may come from an affluent background.
Despite all your accomplishments and accolades, you suffer from severe inner turmoil, yet remain calm on the outside. Highly perfectionistic, no detail goes unnoticed. You were self-motivated in school and probably come from a family of high-achievers. You have obsessive-compulsive tendencies you can’t seem to shake that drive you nuts. You’ve always been very strong-willed with a high libido. Despite poor concentration, ritualistic behaviors make you feel in control and you have a tendency toward addiction.
You probably have a low tolerance for pain. Seasonal allergies and headaches may be a problem, yet you respond quite well to antihistamines. You also respond well to anti-depressants but may isolate yourself socially because you feel misunderstood and struggle with phobias.
Undermethylation is much more common than overmethylation, and undermethylated parents have higher rates of autistic children due to epigenetic insults.
The opposite of undermethylation, you’re likely to be the creative, sensitive type. An underachiever, you probably experience learning issues with a high level of internal tension and anxiety. There is also a tendency to overreact to experiences, and you feel that everyone is out to get you. You probably also have high empathy for others.
You struggle with depression, have trouble sleeping, and probably experience food and chemical sensitivities; obsessions without compulsions and low libido are also part of daily life. You had little motivation for scholastic achievements because you have trouble sitting still. Hyperactivity, panic attacks, and a high tolerance for pain are also part of your profile.
Physically you may be overweight with a pear-shaped body (but not always), have heavy body hair, struggle with eczema, have dry eyes and mouth, and upper body/head/neck pain.
If you’ve tried antidepressant medications, you probably did not respond favorably to them.
In clinical studies, about 45% of persons diagnosed with schizophrenia were found to be severely overmethylated.
Overmethylators have elevated serotonin and dopamine with low levels of histamine, which explains why antidepressant medications (SSRI’s increase neurotransmitter activity at the synapse) can cause suicidal ideation in these individuals. Undermethylators have low serotonin and dopamine with elevated histamine, which explains why we tend to see improvement on SSRI’s.
Final Methylation Imbalance Thoughts
Both biotypes struggle with addiction. The main difference is the cause: overmethylators often turn to drugs to try and quash high anxiety/panic as a result of too much neurotransmitter activity; undermethylators become obsessive-compulsive with a substance or concept (for me it was food/sugar/starving myself/being perfect no matter what) and have to have it at all costs due to not enough neurotransmitter activity.
The tragic suicides of Robin Williams and Kurt Cobain are classic overmethylation examples, with Karen Carpenter being a classic undermethylator.
It’s important that undermethylators to be cautious of all forms of folate/folic acid (even folinic and methylfolate) because we have a genetic tendency toward excessive levels of folic acid. Folic acid is a serotonin reuptake promoter and it decreases the presence of methyl in our DNA. I break all of this down for you here.
I found out the profound negative effects of folate from food sources after years on a plant-based vegan diet when my health took a serious turn for the worse. I also don’t recommend multi or b-complex vitamins because they tend to cause more harm than good.
Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach. Determining methylation status is not just about chemistry, but also about understanding you as a person. There are always myriad variables within each biotype. And this combined with the full range of functional and diagnostic testing is how we create nutrient protocols.
Does this post resonate with you? Or do you know of someone struggling in these areas? If so, please share your story in the comments below. It is through sharing your story that we create community, eliminate guilt and shame, and bring about healing.
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 Walsh, William J. (2012). Nutrient Power: Heal Your Biochemistry and Heal Your Brain. (185).
New York, NY: Skyhorse.