Are you an undermethylator or an overmethylator?
Chris Masterjohn Lite is a show about what works. Today we kick off a short series on a few things that don’t work by discussing why I don’t think it’s useful and why I think it’s actually counter-productive to classify people as undermethylators and overmethylators.
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Are you an undermethylator or an overmethylator? This is why I don’t think we should even be asking this question.
Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com. And this is Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!”
And today we’re going to be talking about something that doesn’t work.
I think every once in a while when you talk about what works, you need to stop and look at the things that don’t work in order to make sure that we’re keeping our focus where it should be. And one thing that I think doesn’t work, or doesn’t work good enough to use, is to classify people into undermethylators and overmethylators. And the two big reasons why I don’t like such a system is that you can be undermethylating one thing and overmethylating another at the same time, and you can seesaw back and forth between undermethylation and overmethylation. In fact, your principal problem with methylation might be that you seesaw back between undermethylation and overmethylation.
So as an example, let’s take the most talked about genetic variation related here which is MTHFR. This is the most well-studied genetic variation in the methylation system. What we know about this is that it definitely alters choline metabolism in a way that makes you require more choline. It probably causes overmethylation of glycine, and it might cause undermethylation of everything else. But we’re not quite sure about this.
If it does, based on what it does to metabolism, we would expect that it could simultaneously cause symptoms relating to overmethylating glycine, such as trouble staying calm, trouble falling asleep, or keeping blood sugar stable,and simultaneously cause symptoms related to the undermethylation of dopamine, such as ruminating on negative thoughts. In that case, we’re talking about being an overmethylator and an undermethylator at the same time.
You can also have genetic variations or variations in other things nutritional and metabolic that are altering the specific enzymes that use methyl groups to methylate specific things. For example, MTHFR is involved in supplying methyl groups through using the B vitamin folate, but there are other enzymes that take those methyl groups and methylate the things we are talking about. For example, glycine is methylated by glycine N-methyltransferase, while dopamine is methylated by catechol-O-methyltransferase, and histamine is methylated by histamine N-methyltransferase.
You can have something impacting one of those enzymes that makes you overmethylate histamine when the overall supply of methyl groups is normal, or undermethylate dopamine when the overall supply of methyl groups is normal. So you could have undermethylation or overmethylation of one thing because of how the enzyme is impacted and have the opposite problem or have no problem in other areas.
So because of this, I just don’t think that it’s useful to say you are an undermethylator, you are an overmethylator. I think what we want to do is we want to start from the place that says, “Let’s take you as an individual and look at what might be off balance, whether it’s undermethylation or overmethylation, or both at the same time.” And not how do we take you as an overmethylator and lessen your methylation, or you as an undermethylator and increase your methylation, but how do we take you as an individual and put the things into your system that will help your body properly regulate the balance itself.
And I think the practical approach, when you look at it that way, is different because you’re not just trying to decrease something or increase something. You’re trying to put all the pieces of the puzzle together that allows this system to operate smoothly.