What is homocysteine?
In the MTHFR community, the word homocysteine gets used often. We see questions such as “What is homocysteine?” “I have high homocysteine, now what?” or “How do I know if I have high homocysteine levels?” The answers to these questions are critical because high homocysteine levels can be threatening to your overall health.
Let’s start with a medical term, Hyperhomocysteinemia, this is the medical condition which occurs when abnormal levels of homocysteine are in your blood. What’s the ideal range for homocysteine levels? If you have MTHFR your Homocysteine levels should be below 11, and the ideal number is 7.
Think of homocysteine as an ingredient the body uses to make certain things. When the body needs inflammation, it creates the amino acid, homocysteine. The reason homocysteine is viewed negatively, is because as it increases, inflammation increases putting a strain on the heart, brain, and nervous system.
How does methionine and homocysteine relate?
Both homocysteine and methionine are ingredients the body uses to accomplish different things. As mentioned above, when the body needs/wants inflammation it uses homocysteine. When there isn’t any need for inflammation homocysteine should be converted into other amino acids. Depending on your gene mutations, certain pathways move but not in the correct ways, meaning homocysteine starts becoming the final product. Homocysteine should instead be converted into methionine or cystathionine. Cystathionine is needed to regulate blood sugar. This is the reason that some individuals with MTHFR, commonly have blood sugar dysregulations such as diabetes and prediabetes.
Methionine is a Sulphur based amino acid, which is critical for optimal health and function. Methionine must come from a food source because the body is unable to create it itself. Protein rich foods such as eggs, dairy products, fish, poultry and meat have the highest amounts of methionine. Other sources are nuts, beans, and seeds.
What is a Methionine Deficiency?
Are you on an elimination diet? Many individuals with MTHFR on elimination diets aren’t eating eggs or dairy, which may result in decreased Methionine levels. A Methionine deficiency can cause elevated cholesterol or liver damage. It is very important in liver health and reduces damage caused by fatty liver. Just because you have low Methionine levels, does not mean you’ll have high levels of Homocysteine.
Having a Dysfunctional Folate-Methionine pathway can create high homocysteine levels. This often occurs with MTHFR mutations as they can cause problems with folate. MTHFR affects how the enzyme Folate Reductase converts folate into a reduced form to be useable by the body. This folate problem can impact how homocysteine is converted into methionine, and increase homocysteine levels rather than a balance between homocysteine and methionine. Methionine and homocysteine levels need to remain regulated and balanced. And it seems that MTHFR affected bodies are good at making homocysteine and bad at converting homocysteine to methionine.
Signs and Symptoms of High Homocysteine levels
- Heart and vessel – One indicator of high homocysteine is a strong family history of heart attacks, strokes, deep vein thrombosis, spider veins or varicose veins.
- Brain problems – Brains do not like high homocysteine levels. SAMe is a critical product that’s made when homocysteine is converted properly. Oftentimes, elevated homocysteine causes levels of SAMe to suffer. Low levels of SAMe are often associated with depression and anxiety. Low levels of SAMe can also cause word finding difficulty, poor focus, and poor concentration.
- Bone health – Osteopenia/Osteoporosis
What do you have control over? What can you change to start feeling better immediately with MTHFR?
A large amount of people take supplements and wonder why they aren’t working properly. The key is to know the body is trying to accomplish a job and to be careful not to put things in that fuel the fire.
The first thing to do is remove any inflammatory triggers and then put the right nutrients in place as far as cofactors to help your body stay in an anti-inflammatory state. There’s an association between plasma homocysteine, B vitamins and Folate intake. Abnormal levels of plasma homocysteine mark nutritional status. Therefore, eating fruits and vegetables that naturally contain folate and other B vitamins lowers level of plasma homocysteine. Vitamins B6 and B12 naturally aid in reducing inflammation.
Wondering what your inflammatory triggers are? A food sensitivity test can be helpful in pointing out problematic foods, some of which are healthy foods that the body has created a reaction too. Learn more about BiomeIQ’s Leaky Gut Food Sensitivity Test which looks at 184 foods.
Food isn’t the only potential inflammatory trigger.
Non-steroidal anti-inflammatories wreak havoc on gut health. Over the counter medications such as Aleve, Ibuprofen , and Tylenol on a routine basis should be avoided. These medications are tough on the gut and become toxic overtime. Toxic odors should also be avoided, if you walk into a room and smell perfume or a cleaning solvent, turn around and walk out. If you walk into a room with smells that don’t make you feel good, they are most likely triggering inflammation. This includes mold and fungal exposure.
Once you have eliminated inflammatory triggers, you can add additional methylation support to help your body remove methyl-required toxins. This helps your body return to an anti-inflammatory state and stay that way. The real key is to move yourself from a body that’s inflamed to a body that’s no longer inflamed. Read more about supporting methylation here.
Another key to reducing inflammation and lowering homocysteine levels, is to remove built-up toxins from the body. MTHFR is a pro-inflammatory condition, and the most important step in reducing homocysteine levels is reducing the body’s need to be inflamed. MTHFR mutations create a poor detoxification system, and toxins create inflammation. An MTHFR detox helps reduce that toxic buildup. Read more about MTHFR Friendly detoxing here.
One point to consider: When it comes to MTHFR everyone is not the same. The C677T variation is associated with more of a folate reductase impairment than the other, and having two copies of this variation creates an even greater risk of high homocysteine levels.
BiomeIQ’s Methylation3 is the type of methylation support that facilitates the movement of homocysteine into methionine. It improves poor mood often seen with methionine deficiency. Click here for more information.
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