It is without a doubt that any imbalance in the body has a direct relationship influencing other body systems. Similar to many aspects in biochemical pathways, there needs to be a distinct concentration of input to output. Too much or too little production derails metabolic pathways quickly. However, research is finding that methyl groups and homocysteine metabolism have a profound effect on health and disease when disrupted.Â
Table of Contents
What Is Homocysteine?Â
Homocysteine is a natural byproduct of SAM reactions, including the ones involved in the epigenetic regulation of DNA silencing. When homocysteine levels become overly elevated we see chaotic effects regarding our health and disease state. Homocysteine is a sulfur-containing amino acid that we obtain through the metabolism of methionine. Methionine is activated via MAT to generate SAM. SAMe is found in all living cells where it is a methyl donor to over 100 reactions. Methyl groups that are created from SAM are further used in creatine, phosphatidylcholine, and neurotransmitters. SAM-derived methylation also exerts a regulatory role in gene expression.Â
Diseases Linked to HomocysteineÂ
The methylation process has been best known for its role in cardiovascular disease and in relation to the adverse effects of homocysteine. A study revealed that humans that possessed the MTHFR C677T polymorphism had reduced activity of enzymes, ultimately leading to increased cardiovascular disease.Â
For more information regarding this study, please visit:Â
Homocysteine also plays a critical role in the soundness of our skeletal structure. Homocysteine has been shown to interfere with the activity of osteoclasts. Osteoclasts absorb bone tissue during routine growth and healing. When homocysteine is increased in the body, it up-regulates osteoclasts and depresses osteoclast apoptosis by increasing our overall reactive oxygen species in our bone marrow cells.Â
Additionally, homocysteine has been linked to neurodegenerative disorders. A specific disorder found to be related is depression. Depression has been defined as having low or impaired transmission of the neurotransmitters serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. We now know that majority of the bodyâ€™s serotonin is produced and housed in the gastrointestinal tract. When considering the tricky biochemical pathways of homocysteine and depression, the first thing considered should be the diet. Considering the micronutrients we feed our bodies are responsible for the smooth operations of our metabolic pathways we need to first evaluate if we are obtaining all proper nutrients. Secondly, when considering diet we need to ensure the foods that feed our cells and micronutrients are also foods that help the gut to thrive. The bacteria in the gut should be equally balanced for proper serotonin levels to be created and transported. Reducing inflammation in the gut will not only aid in serotonin production but in the reduction of homocysteine as well.Â
In order to properly check the bacteria levels in the gut, we use a comprehensive stool analysis from Doctors Data. Furthermore, we also check the micronutrient levels of our patients with a test from SpectraCell. A sample of both these reports can be seen below:
Genes & HomocysteineÂ
If homocysteine is not regulated properly a genetic error in our body can occur. This error occurs in the MTHFR gene. Generally, we have two MTHFR genes, we inherit one from each parent. If you have an SNP of the gene MTHFR, specifically C677T, this can result in an inadequate folate-dependent remethylation and elevations in homocysteine concentrations.Â
For those with an MTHFR mutation, many find that avoiding milk helps them feel better as many dairy antigens clog folate receptors. However, eating large amounts of leafy greens has been shown to help those with MTHFR as they help to compensate for the methylfolate not being made on its own.
Finding A BalanceÂ
For specific patients, B12, folate, and SAM supplements have been shown to reduce the homocysteine levels found in plasma and ultimately slow the progression and symptoms related to the abundance of homocysteine.Â
It is always best to provide our bodies and our genes with whole foods that we can break down easier for optimal gene expression. In supplements, you are not always getting the same amount of essential vitamins and minerals nor the full effect. Dietary guidelines suggest earring more fruits and vegetables to naturally lower homocysteine levels.Â
For more information regarding how MTHFR and nutrition are related, see the PDF below:Â
Starting in the kitchen, by making a quick smoothie in the morning containing dark leafy greens like spinach, flax seeds, strawberries, bananas, and almond milk, you are not only filling your stomach but also providing your body and gut with the essential micronutrients it needs to carry out its biochemical pathways. –Kenna Vaughn, Senior Health CoachÂ
Schalinske KL, Smazal AL. Homocysteine imbalance: a pathological metabolic marker. Adv Nutr. 2012;3(6):755â€762. Published 2012 Nov 1. doi:10.3945/an.112.002758Â
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