The most practical way to check for problems with methylation is to arrange to have the following tested. In Australia, you need to work with a GP to get a referral for your blood tests. If you’re seeing a practitioner for other health issues such as inflammation, gut, hormonal or autoimmune issues, they will most likely want to request other special blood tests as well. If you’ve been particularly stressed checking your cortisol levels and inflammatory markers can also be useful.
The following tests help identify methylation issues:
- Checking your homocysteine level – this is a blood test that can be done at a regular lab.
- Additionally, blood tests to check your B12, and folate levels. If you’re working with a practitioner
- YourDNA so that you can ascertain any methylation SNPs particularly C677T and A1298C. – this is a saliva test you do at home you can order through independent labs including Smart DNA (Australia), Genova and 23ANDME Most of these companies then also provide you with a report.
- You can also have your urine sulfur level checked – your methylation practitioner will be able to guide you on how to do this.
If your homocysteine level is higher than 7, then your methylation practitioner will guide you to start taking methyl-folate, along with other important B vitamins in the methylation cycle, starting with low dosages.
Each person’s body responds differently in a methylation cycle
Each person’s body responds differently as the methylation cycle optimizes, so it is important to go slowly so that we can find out how your body will respond and address any adjustments that need to be made.
The labs will provide you with what is called your “raw data,” a number/letter listing of your genes. There are programs (listed below) that can help you compare your results to a typical human genome and identify where you differ. The differences you find are genetic variations. A SNP is the most common type of genetic variation among people. These gene variations—and each of us has several—can do a full-scale number on your body and your brain. They help determine whether you’re heavy or slim, sluggish or energized, depressed or optimistic, anxious or calm.
The gold standard is to work with an experienced MTHFR practitioner to determine an effective course of action for your unique genetic makeup Dr. Lynch’s site MTHFR has an extensive list of trained MTHFR and methylation docs. If you’re “stuck” on a health issue, these are the people who know how to hack it.
I recommend reviewing your results with a knowledgeable medical practitioner before jumping to scary conclusions or jumping onto the high dose supplement bandwagon.
It’s very important to remember that the presence of an MTHFR SNP does not mean you are automatically at risk for any of the symptoms or conditions I’ve mentioned in this series of blogs, and it does not automatically mean you need supplementation to offset the potential risks.
That’s all they are: potential risks.
The presence of the gene alone doesn’t mean that the enzyme won’t function well. It can’t tell whether you personally are methylating well or poorly, for example, and whether you personally need additional support.
Some people find that kickstarting their methylation process after a lifetime of my body compensating for this under-functioning system is not without risk. They can be thrown into instant detoxification, and the initial neurological side effects were quite a shock. Consequently, the process can require a professionally guided trial and error to find a personalized supplement dose before the methylation pathways are again operating correctly. So be sure to investigate and treat this only under the guidance of a chiropractor who knows about methylation, a naturopathic or functional medicine doctor. They are YOUR genes after all!
Excess supplementation also has its own risks! So make sure you are well-read and well informed before embarking down the methylation track.
Most practitioners will check for the MTHFR A1298C and C677T SNPs themselves, along with testing for elevated homocysteine, and B12 deficiency.
I tend to recommend that the following people would benefit from being specifically tested:
- Any patients with symptoms or a personal or family medical history that could be attributed to an MTHFR SNP, i.e., depression, heart disease, stroke, children born with neural tube defects, and any of the symptoms/conditions I’ve mentioned previously.
- All women of childbearing age and specifically, all women trying to conceive,
- Women who have had a prior child with MTHFR-related birth defects or behavioral challenges or autism.
- Children with behavioral challenges or on the autistic spectrum (I check for SNPs, B12 levels, and elevated homocysteine).
So, You’ve Been Tested Now What?
If you’ve gotten tested and discovered that you have an MTHFR SNP and now you wonder what you should do. First – don’t panic! For one, just having the SNP doesn’t mean it’s all gloom or doom, and if you do have the SNP there are things you can do to protect your health. Please have a read of these blogs
Should I be Freaking Out About my Genes?
Epigenetics End Concerns About Genetic Predispositions
Wondering Why So Many Kids and Adults Have Health Problems?
Essentially, if you have the MTHFR SNP, you can’t get your folate into its methylated form, because your methylation pathway isn’t working, and then you can’t recycle your homocysteine back into methionine. This whole process as you’ll read in the above blogs can lead to a host of health challenges
Methyl-folate is a key player in methylation, the process of adding a methyl group to a compound. Speak to your practitioner about which type of supplement (an activated B vitamin that’s easily absorbed) is best for you and how often you would need to take it. I love Ben Lynch’s “Seeking Health” products and find this product works well Active B 12 with L-5-MTHF, however, speak to your practitioner as some people need to start slowly.
Alternatively, you can get tested or start with reading his book Dirty Genes.
Make sure you when you’re taking your supplements for methylation that you also get adequate amounts of magnesium and zinc, which support methylation. In fact, there are many integral steps to boost your methylation so please print off the blog How To Improve Methylation.
I Have the SNP But Normal Homocysteine and B12 Levels, and No History of a Problem
If you have the A1298C SNP and no other issues or lab abnormalities, while technically current studies show no need for supplementation, I still recommend 400 mcg of methyl-folate daily as it is protective, there’s no harm at all, and we’re still learning about the potential for these SNPs to be associated with disease.
If you have the C677T SNP, whether you are heterozygous or homozygous, and you have no other issues or lab abnormalities, I recommend a dose of 400 to 800 mcg of methyl-folate daily depending on your family risk factors. I also suggest addressing all the factors outlined here to get to the root cause and clean your genes.
I Have the SNP and Am Trying (or Planning) To Conceive
Again, the best products I have found are Dr. Ben Lynch’s. These two products are specifically designed for preconception and pregnancy.
Optimal Prenatal Protein Powder
Where To From Here?
It can seem complex, but it can pay off to address methylation in terms of your short and long term health. I’ve seen it make a difference for my patients, and I want that for you too.
Working with a practitioner who understands methylation and how to address it appropriately can make all the difference. For some people, methylation can be optimized in a matter of weeks or months. For others, it can take years. And when everything falls into place, wow, how exciting and how much of a difference it can make in getting you back to feeling well.
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Dirty Genes. Dr Ben Lynch. Harper Collins 2018
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Chatterjee A., Rodger E.J., Eccles M.R. Epigenetic drivers of tumourigenesis and cancer metastasis. Semin. Cancer Biol. 2018;51:149–159. doi: 10.1016/j.semcancer.2017.08.004
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