If you are reading this article, chances are you, or someone you know, suffers from anxiety. Anxiety affects millions of people each and every day and is reaching epidemic proportions, especially in western society. Whilst there may be many underlying factors and triggers driving the increase in anxiety and other related disorders, there is one lesser known explanation that could very well hold the key to unlocking the mystery behind this often crippling affliction.
Put simply - it can be your genetics! No surprises there you might say, or perhaps you are already aware this affliction runs in your family, but did you know you can actually be tested for the very gene that is not only connected to anxiety, but a myriad of other health conditions and diseases, including high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, insomnia, chronic fatigue, miscarriage, autoimmune diseases, severe PMT, even oestrogen dependent cancers. I'm talking about the MTHFR gene, which is the major gene involved in your body's ability to perform a biochemical process known as 'Methylation'.
Almost all of the body systems are affected by methylation because it is involved in hundreds of essential biochemical processes, including detoxification, neurotransmitter production, (including serotonin and dopamine - required for mood stabilization), regulation of inflammation, healthy cardiovascular activity and hormonal balance. As many as 45% of the population have a defect in the MTHFR gene, which reduces their ability to utilize the nutrient folic acid. "Big deal!" you say, well actually it is! If folic acid fails to be converted to the active form - L-methylfolate - which is used in the production of amino acids and other compounds, it can wreak havoc on your body's biochemistry.
But just because a person suffers from this genetic defect, does not mean that it is incurable! In fact there is a safe, cheap and drug free way to significantly reduce the severity and risk for developing the conditions associated with this genetic defect, by taking a methylated form of folate - folinic acid and B12. Now I'm not saying that an issue with methylation will be the only factor contributing to conditions such as anxiety, depression and cardiovascular disease, or that taking methylated forms of B12 and Folinic acid will act as a silver bullet in treating these conditions, because of course diet, gut health, lifestyle and environmental factors also play a significant role in influencing both the risk and prevention of these. However if you are positive to the MTHFR gene defect, it will form an important part of the equation in how these conditions manifest, and taking methylated forms of Folic acid and B12, will most certainly give you a pretty big leg up when it comes to combatting these, and other conditions related to the MTHFR gene defect.
How to test the MTHFR gene
Testing for the MTHFR gene defect can be done with a blood test through your GP or for a more comprehensive genetic profile related to methylation, I recommend a lab called 23andMe who offer a saliva test, which you collect at home and send back to the lab. I then recommend GeneticGenie.org. to access a free methylation and/or detoxification profile to interpret the test results.
How To Improve Methylation
The most important consideration when addressing issues with methylation, is to ensure there are no other contributing factors at play, such as leaky gut, microbial infections or heavy metal toxicity.
Supplement with specific combinations of methylated B vitamins - as these are the crucial nutrients required for optimal methylation. In addition, trace minerals such as zinc and magnesium are also important cofactors in supporting the methylation cycle.
Repair Your Gut - eg: leaky gut and low stomach acid, impairs nutrient absorption and increases intestinal inflammation. Any sort of chronic gut issue, such as leaky gut, or chronic infection, will impair nutrient absorption and methylation.
Support healthy liver function & detoxification - to ensure the liver is able to metabolize specific hormones and nutrients effectively and to reduce the level of excess toxins from pharmaceutical medications or heavy metals, such as mercury, or excess copper. Steps for healthy liver detoxification and gut repair can be found in my e-book - Eat Yourself Healthy.
Address pharmaceutical medications that impact methylation - with your GP or natural health care practitioner, such as blood pressure medications, metformin, the oral contraceptive and methotrexate, as these can all affect B vitamins levels, which play a crucial role in methylation.
Consume a nutrient-dense, low-inflammation diet, such as the one in my e-book Eat Yourself Healthy, to support healthy methylation, as well as integrating stress management techniques like meditation, yoga, Tai Chi or Qigong into your daily routine.
So if you’re still struggling with anxiety, depression, high cholesterol or atherosclerosis, (despite a healthy diet or even medication), insomnia, autoimmune conditions, digestive health problems and you’re still not where you want to be, it could be that you have underlying issues with optimal methylation.
For best results in optimizing methylation and reducing the effects of anxiety, I recommend combining methylated B vitamins with my eating program Eat Yourself Healthy as well as a comprehensive gut repair and detox program.