What’s the Deal with Methylation and Mental Health?

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I mentioned before in an earlier post that I recently discovered that my family all have the MTHFR mutation that is still being studied and understood. Having a variation of this mutation means that the enzymes commonly used to aid the process of methylation in the body are less efficient and can wreak havoc on the system if left untreated. However, I felt like I needed to backtrack to what methylation actually is before going forward with this new information.

Methylation

You may or may not remember this process from your high school anatomy/biology class depending on how in depth your teacher required you to know things. Basically, methylation  happen on a cellular biochemical level. It works with ATP production and DNA repairs.  The process is responsible for using methyl groups to create important hormones and chemicals in the body such as creatine, melatonin, glutathione. Folate/Folic Acid and B vitamins are the main resources in the methylation cycle.

So, methylation impacts pretty much every part of the body.

This is also responsible for helping the body detoxify itself of heavy metals or molecules. These can range from environmental toxins, disease toxins, or avoid an overload of vitamins or hormones in the body. Brain chemicals seem particularly sensitive to the process as serotonin and dopamine require being methylated properly in order to promote mental health.

I mean, just look at this super confusing complicated chart. See how many hormones and vital biochemicals are impacted by the methylation process?

methylation-cycle

So what happens when this methylation balance is disrupted?

Depending on the factors disrupting the cycle, a person will either over-methylate or under-methylate. Each situation comes with it’s own host of problems. This is where my MTHFR mutation comes into play. Enzymes such as MTHFR, COMT, VDR, MTRR and MAO are vital in the process so if even one is disrupted, the entire process can be thrown out of whack. Like I stated before, my MTHFR mutation makes me less effective at producing the enzymes I need. Other factors can also impact the methylation process such as leaky gut, dietary discrepancies, exposure to heavy metals, and chronic stress.

So what are the ramifications?

Under-Methylation

Common traits of people that are under-methylators:

  • perfectionism
  • obsessive behaviors
  • highly motivated
  • competitive
  • rebellious
  • strong willed

None of these traits are necessarily a bad thing (speaking as an overachiever myself) however these people are also highly susceptible to suffering from medical problems such as seasonal allergies, frequent headaches, depression, addictions,  and poor concentration.

There is also a strong link between autism and undermethylation being studied.

What is happening here is that because a person is not synthesizing enough methyl groups to keep their neurotransmitter hormones in balance.  This manifests in low levels of SAM-e and serotonin/dopamine in the brain. Heavy metals and toxins are more likely to build up in their system causing issues. The undermethylating will also typically have higher levels of histamines.

Over-Methylation

On the flip side, we see people over-methylating are prone to being:

  • artistic
  • creative
  • sensitive
  • underachieving
  • empathetic

These are going to be your friends that live more outside the box from the average lifestyle. Again, nothing inherently wrong with any of these idiosyncrasies.  Along with these traits, they are also more prone to dealing with anxiety, hyperactivity, insomnia, and weight gain. Schizophrenia has been linked with overmethylation.

Because the body is burning through the methyl groups faster than it can handle, it creates a chronic accumulation of high serotonin and low histamines. This causes an accumulation of high copper levels that carries it’s own weight in problems.

The Bottom Line

I found it extraordinary that one simple process in the body can dictate so much of our behavior. While you can’t diagnose someone’s methylation status solely on the behaviors they show, it is great to see the correlations. A person’s methylation status can determine whether SSRI antidepressants are more effective (Undermethylators) or if antihistamines are less effective (Overmethylators). This can also have heavy involvement with fertility which is why it is becoming increasing common to get tested for methylation problems after miscarriages or infertility.

Either way, as medicine advances, it will be interesting to see how the relationship between mental health and methylation will continue to develop.

 

 

*I am not a doctor or expert. Do not take my advice to diagnose or treat any conditions in your own life. This is for educational purposes only. *

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