DNA Synthesis and Repair
Variations in the methylation cycle can impair the body’s ability to make the building blocks needed for DNA and RNA synthesis. These variations mean that all new cell synthesis is impaired. This critical process must occur as fast as cells die or we cannot live. Our bodies make millions of new cells every minute.
￼area ￼more energy to be efficiently repaired includes bone marrow, lymphocytes, red blood cells, and neural tissues. In addition, our cells find it difficult under￼￼conditions where they can’t repair well. The nervous system, it turns out, houses the highest concentration of RNA in the body. Therefore, the nervous system has the greatest need of all body functions for proper methylation.
Methylation is also required to clear environmental toxins from the body. This process involves attaching methyl groups to the toxins prior to removal, as well as supporting the production of glutathione and metalloproteins, which are important in removing heavy metals. It directly detoxifies many xenobiotics (foreign compounds) and carcinogens. It does this by supporting the Phase I and Phase II detoxification pathways in the liver.
Glutathione is the major antioxidant produced by the cells, participating directly in the neutralization of free radicals and reactive oxygen species. Glutathione also maintains antioxidants such as vitamins C and E in their active forms.
Glutathione plays an incredibly important role in many metabolic and biochemical reactions, including DNA synthesis and repair, protein synthesis, prostaglandin synthesis, amino acid transport, and enzyme activation. Every system in the body can be affected by requisite levels of glutathione, especially the immune system, the nervous system, the gastrointestinal system, and the lungs.
Folic acid is converted to methylenetetrahydrofolate (MTHF), the fat-soluble form of folate that passes into the brain. MTHF is utilized by neurons to facilitate neurotransmitter synthesis, including serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Normally, ingesting folate from dihydrofolate in the diet or from folic acid in synthetic supplements will result inadequate delivery of MTHF levels to the brain. This is especially true for those individuals with the more efficient methylation enzyme who do not have genetic variants in the MTHFR gene.
However, in patients who have methylation deficiencies due to genetic variants, the level of MTHF produced is limited, which therefore limits dopamine production. These patients may not be folate deficient on standard blood work. Their levels of folic acid may look normal, but they are unable to convert this folic acid into the active form.
In addition, a methylation deficiency in patients appears to be the main reason they suffer from ADD/ADHD. Low dopamine levels adversely affect the focus, concentration, organization, short-term memory, vestibulo-visual interaction, sleep patterns, emotional stability, and even hormonal regulation. Altered levels of dopamine will subsequently affect the levels of epinephrine and norepinephrine. Imbalances in this biochemical region, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine are implicated in ADD/ADHD.
The myelin coating on nerves is important for the proper functioning of the nervous system. Methylation of amino acids in myelin basic protein, which are the building blocks of myelin, helps to stabilize myelin and protect it from degradation. Decreased levels of methylation activity can be associated with the demyelination of nerves and can increase susceptibility to neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis
The genetic test we use is a kit from ancestryDNA.com. There are other sites that offer the same service such as 23andme.com. These tests are simple for patients to do and the results can be put into various available templates (or websites) to reveal various genetic variants in our genes. The knowledge about these variants is growing by the day. New studies are revealing more information about how these variants may cause disease processes in the body. Our genes have largely helped us survive as a species by trying different variations and seeing how well we do. If a gene gives us an advantage in the current world situation, it will be perpetuated in our genetic makeup in the subsequent generations. If it does not, it will go extinct quickly if it makes us unable to survive long enough to at least reproduce.
Certain genetic variants can give us immunity to things like malaria or help us tolerate the increasing levels of chemicals and drugs that are in our environment. These adaptations are constantly allowing us to adapt to the changing environment so that our species can continue to survive. This happens in all species at all times. Nature is trying to get it right.
Folic Acid Supplementation
As really smart people, we have been affecting this process, sometimes to our detriment. We learned early on that folic acid prevented miscarriages or birth defects. So, we began a widespread campaign to add it to our foods and include it in all prenatal vitamins in higher doses.
It turns out that there is a certain percentage of the population that cannot utilize the common form of folic acid because they don’t make the enzyme that converts it to the active form. This genetic variant called the MTHFR or methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase gene is missing in about 15% of the population. These people would require the active form of folic acid called 5 methyl tetrahydrofolate (5MTHF) in order for their bodies to function normally.
The lack of this enzyme in the body can lead to a large variety of disease risks including cancer, heart disease, depression, fatigue, autism, Parkinson’s disease, Alzheimer’s disease, birth defects, pre-eclampsia, irritable bowel disease, migraine headaches, blood clots, fibromyalgia, leaky gut, and more. There is some thought that for these people, taking regular folic acid or getting it their diet through these fortified foods can actually make the situation worse. It can block the receptors for the small amounts of the needed form of the vitamin that they encounter.
It’s possible as some have proposed, that this is creating a survival of the “un-fittest”. It allows weaker genes to be perpetuated in our genome and allowing us to be more susceptible to some pretty serious chronic diseases. Dr. Ben Lynch, a Chicago based naturopath, has proposed that this may actually be responsible for the increase in autism that we have seen in the past 10-20 years. In fact, he makes the case that the incidence of autism spiked just after we started to fortify our foods with folic acid.
In her book, Dr. J. Dunn explores issues into why you are the way you are and how you can make changes. It’s a whole new paradigm in understanding what causes disease and mental health issues. The basis of the book talks about how to bypass your genetic makeup to help change destructive behaviors such as overeating, substance abuse, and anger.
Dr. J. Dunn explains how her research was motivated because of her personal struggles to feel healthy. She had a case of mono when she was sixteen years old and suffered from lifelong depression. Since then she has battled chronic fatigue syndrome caused by the Epstein-Barr virus (EBV). Looking into the history of the virus she found that 90 percent or more people have antibodies to the virus and yet don’t necessarily have an issue with it for the rest of their lives. She was also looking for true answers to her own depression. These were missing pieces in the puzzle of health, and she began her quest to search for why and how to fix them. She approached her research with a compassionate point of view, knowing that some types of behavior and health problems are caused by inherited biochemical imbalances and are not personal failings.
Things such as:
Focusing Issues such as ADD and ADHD
Genetic testing can identify potential health problems and give you another tool to make informed decisions about managing your health care. Dr. J. Dunn explores how to obtain correct results and what to do with the results. She also talks about compassion for yourself and others when it comes to problems beyond our control. Her book – Genetic Compassion – will help you to understand how genes play a very important role in how we feel.