Methylation and its influence on mood
It is important to understand the basics of methylation, and although a more detailed study of methylation chemistry may be interesting, for our needs, it is not really necessary to study it here as it will only serve to confuse matters, so only the most important aspects will be considered.
Put simply, the methylation process makes neurotransmitters (mood building blocks), and the issue of a person being an under or over methylator can be confusing, because there is contradiction between the various sources of information on the methylation process. For our purposes, we'll say that an over methylator is producing too many neurotransmitters, and an under methylator is not producing enough, this is because firstly, it falls in line with majority thinking, and secondly, it makes more chemical sense.
There are genetic factors that can cause some people to be slow methylators, and others to be fast methylators. The really exciting thing about methylation is that you can manipulate your methylation processes to create dramatic, positive mood changes within yourself.Homocysteine
Homocysteine is a toxic waste by-product of protein and amino acid metabolism, and methylation in the body is going on constantly, converting this damaging homocysteine into the antioxidant glutathione.
Methylation also converts homocysteine into an important biochemical called SAMe, a vital methyl donor for the production of the all important neurotransmitters dopamine, serotonin and their derivatives. This is how the body makes good use of this toxic element.
Keeping homocysteine at a healthy, low level is extremely important for keeping our risk of heart disease, stroke and Alzheimer's disease as low as possible. High levels of homocysteine, if left unchecked, can cause stroke, brain inflammation, vascular disease, erectile dysfunction, liver and kidney disease, thyroid problems, Alzheimer's disease, dementia and depression.
Vitamin deficiencies most associated with high homocysteine levels are B6, B12 and folic acid.
The excitatory neurotransmitters are; Dopamine, histamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, noradrenaline, glutamate, acetylcholine.
The inhibitory neurotransmitters are; GABA, serotonin, acetylcholine.
Note: A few reports have stated that dopamine, serotonin and acetylcholine, can be excitatory or inhibitory depending on which receptor site in the nerve sinapse they bind to.
From my own experience, I have only found this to be accurate with acetylcholine.
High dopamine has at times resulted in an overdriven mood, agitation and ensuing mental exhaustion etc, bearing in mind it's the precursor to noradrenaline (allergies etc), whereas high serotonin has resulted in poor memory, drowsiness, apathy, poor motivation and concentration.
It may well be that serotonin becomes excitatory only in the presence of adequate dopamine, which from my experience seems to be the case.
You can see that having too many inhibitory neurotransmitters working together could result in a flat, lifeless mood, especially if noradrenaline etc is low, then couple this with low blood sugar, a CFS (chronic fatigue syndrome) or FM (fibromyalgia) episode and you have another mood disaster.
There doesn't seem to be a universal agreement on which nutrients increase methylation and which ones decrease it. One statement will say folic acid, B6, B12, TMG, SAMe, zinc, and another will maybe leave zinc out of the mixture and put choline, B3 or 5-HTP in! With the exception of B3, I think that they all increase methylation, but different aspects of it, which is why taking all of these ingredients never really works well for most people with methylation problems.
As an example, if you had excessive levels of dopamine and noradrenaline, and very low levels of serotonin, you would be overdriven with high agitation and anxiety. If you then supplemented with SAM-e, you would raise your serotonin but then push your dopamine etc even higher, because SAM-e raises both serotonin and dopamine, so there would be either no change, or another mood disaster. A shotgun approach to influence complex, chemical reactions is doomed to fail because a fault with methylation will be different from one person to another.
As you can see, simply trying to raise or lower your methylation could easily end in disaster.
Taking large doses of any of the suggested supplements to correct methylation problems will not always work well, simply because there seems to be a precise level to attain that is unique to each person.
For instance, with higher than optimum B6 and magnesium, more homocysteine is taken away from methylation and converted to cysteine, which can interfere with insulin activity, and with lower than optimum levels of B6 and magnesium, the methylation target may not be met. Balance is everything.
Allergies, food intolerances and blood sugar status will all have a detrimental effect on methylation efficiency, so these must be addressed before methylation can be tuned.