Have you ever heard yourself say “it’s in my genes so there’s nothing I can do”? Feel like your future health is beyond your control? Wondering why you respond differently to certain supplements or diets from other people you know? Tune in to hear Ali and Becki break down the topic of epigenetics and how you can control the way that your genes get expressed! Learn about how you can empower yourself by knowing your genetic predisposition and using targeted nutrients and lifestyle modifications to support best outcomes.
In this Episode, Ali and Becki break down the seemingly complex topic of epigenetics and go over the basics of genetic SNPs, methylation and what this all means for your health. The environment, our lifestyle choices and the foods that we put into our body can actually be greater influencers of our genes than the genetic code itself. From mood disorders like anxiety and depression to weight gain to cardiovascular risk, many conditions are coded for in our genetics BUT are not necessarily our destiny. Learn about supplement recommendations that influence genetic expression as well as diet and lifestyle modifications to move beyond the cards you were dealt and achieve optimal health!
Also in this Episode:
- Defining Epigenetics
- What Influences Genetic Expression
- Symptoms and Disease States Associated with Genetics
- Common Genetic Mutations
- Genetic Testing and Resources
- Strategizing Supplements for your Genetics
- The Importance of Methylated B Vitamins
- BioAvail Kids
- Why Synthetic Folic Acid is a Problem
- The Importance of Methylated B Vitamins
- Diet and Lifestyle Modification
Welcome to the Naturally Nourished podcast, that delivers cutting edge food as medicine solutions for optimum health. Ali Miller is a nutrition expert sought out by the media and America’s top medical institutes for her revolutionary functional medicine interventions. From disease treatment to prevention, every episode will empower you with ways to put yourself back in control of your health. Please note, the topics discussed are for educational purposes only. Now welcome integrative dietitians Ali Miller and her co-host Becki Yoo.
A: Welcome to the Naturally Nourished podcast. You are joining us at episode 69 all about the Epigenome or epigenetics and methylation. So before you tune out and go into bleep blop bloop mode, we want to talk to you guys about how you can become in control of your body and how you can no longer blame your genes on your health state.
B: Yes so I know this topic can be quite intimidating – you guys are like “whaaat?” but ultimately, it can be super empowering it can help you to understand why you might respond differently to a supplement or a treatment or a diet than even someone else in your household or another family member.
A: Absolutely so you know based on your body’s metabolic pathways, you’re going to process nutrients and toxins completely different and genes drive the expression of how you’re pathways function. So this whole idea of epigenetics was introduced to me, I think in 2007, by Dr. Jeff Bland and he is the, I believe, Director, some big wig role for the institute of Functional Medicines so he coined that term “functional medicine” and Dr. Bland was talking at Bastyr University all about orthomolecular therapies, which basically means mega dosing of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and the great work done by Linus Polling within that field and this goes back to how vitamin C eradicated scurvy and so forth. And in his discussion beyond- that was the first time I had heard orthomolecular which was cool and “wow ok this is interesting” beyond the field of dietetics, not just nutrients having a function, but nutrients in a high amount or high dose having an ability to actually influence the expression of disease. Pretty cool stuff. And within that, he discussed this concept of nutrigenomics, which is within the field of epigenetics, and nutrigenomics is essentially how nutrients influence your genetic expression and epigenetics, taking an even larger piece of that concept, is basically everything beyond the genome so our lifestyle influencers that drive genetic expression. So Dr. Bland was doing a lot of work with these things called SCRMs, which are selective chimase response modulators, I know, don’t tune out yet I promise. And these are compounds that he was studying as antioxidants and polyphenols, and how they actually influence the expression of our DNA and then another Bastyr-driven guru in this field and topic is naturopathic Dr. Ben Lynch, who works with great influence on MTHFR and a bunch of different genetic SNPs and how those influence our genome.
B: Ok I have so many questions for you already, Ali, but yes, next episode we will be interviewing Dr. Ben Lynch and talking to him about his new book, Dirty Genes, which goes deep into the top 7 genetic mutations and how you can actually adjust the expression of these through diet, lifestyle, and supplements.
A: Yes Dr. Lynch, I’m so excited that he will be on, he has really been the go to guy in all of the well-known names of the functional world, so Chris Kresser, a lot of the individuals that are in Dr. Terry Wahls, you name it, that are well-known and regarded, a lot of them still look to Dr. Lynch on the influence of the MTHFR and he started that with his MTHFR support website, and his line of supplements Seeking Health, and has so much to offer in his new book. I have previewed it and I look forward to next episode so we were hoping that today we could give you guys some of the foundational information about how genetic SNPs or genetic mutations, can actually play a role with anything from anxiety to infertility to small intestinal bacterial overgrowth to cancer, chronic fatigue syndrome and so much more and the awesome and empowering thing that I hope all of you when you end this episode today with the understanding of Epigenetics, understand that there is something beyond your genetic code and how you can work with what you’ve been dealt as far as your “deck of cards” of genes to rebalance the tendencies that your genetic code may have.
B: Awesome so yeah, the intention today is to give some of the more foundational information and then next episode we will just let Ali and Dr. Lynch nerd out and I’ll try to translate.
A: Sounds good.
B: Yeah. So we’ll be identifying just foundations of what Epigenetics actually is, as well as talking about the environmental and nutritional factors that play a role in expression of our genes. So we’ll cover what genetic mutations and SNPs actually are, and then which ones we find most influential. Let’s talk first about what Epigenetics is. Let’s create a definition Ali, that we can understand.
A: Ok so, yeah, I mean the way I can best describe it is it is the science and study of the changes in the expression of your genetic code or your DNA sequence, ok? And so epigenetics shows that our genetic tendencies can be either on overdrive or turned on, upregulated, if you will, or turned off or suppressed or downregulated, if you will. And so this is a change in the phenotype without changing the genotype and that’s the kind of geeky science terms, right? And so basically we’re seeing that how our genetic code is read or the expression of that has much to do with lifestyle influencers. So mom and dad each gave you 23 chromosomes which make that double helix of your 46 chromosomes, DNA, right? And your lifestyle and your environment are going to play a huge role of how that genetic code is expressed, driving either more or less action in each particular pathway so the idea of epigenetics essentially is creating that there is a roadmap and pathway or possibility, like your body had choose your own adventure story with tendencies towards certain things. You can be predisposed to certain things, but theses are tendencies, not absolutes.
B: So thinking about it like a whole bunch of light switches that could be turned on, or turned off.
A: Yes for sure I think that’s a great visual.
B: And then, Ali, what are the greatest influencers on our genes?
A: So age plays one, oxidative damage and aging plays a role on our DNA expression so that’s a big one and that’s the ageing process as we will. The environment as far as the pace of our lifestyle which includes our stress levels, our actual disease state is going to play a role on our genetic expression, the state of our microbiome and our gut bacteria will play a role because we know that influences our stress and back and forth as we’ve discussed. Our exposure to toxins, so an individual that works a 40 hour week as an aesthetician using toxic compounds with the eyelash glue, or working as a nail salon using volatile compounds or someone that has or wears those things is going to have a either exposure to toxins and that’s going to drive a depletion in enzyme pathways that have genetic code for detoxification so that’s going to overdrive those pathways, right? Our nutritional status and our diet is going to play a huge role within that nutrigenomics world of what drives our genetic expression and then the intake of pro- or anti-inflammatory food will play a big role so there is some awesome research looking at this nature vs. nurture concept and epigenetic is of course looking at the nurture piece of it, right? And so we’ve looked at identical twins which have the exact same genome, if you will, and they’re varied disease state so based on if one had a happy marriage vs. a tumultuous divorce, that’s going to put a different stress based on what state they’re living in, and different water they’re drinking different diet, different exercise output. So we can see that nurture had a huge role and we’ve also seen this in research where we look at adopted children having a stronger pathology or correlation of their disease risk and trends to their adoptive versus biological parents, especially in lifestyle diseases like cancer.
B: That’s so wild because we always here “oh it’s in my genes I’m more susceptible. My mom has it so I’m going to get it” and that’s not necessarily the case.
A: Right? Right. I mean so there are varied systems within our DNA methylation, our histadone modification and our noncoding RNA which is really like our gene silencing and these are the big drivers that influence on this epigenetic level.
B: Ok and this is really a new and empowering finding we’re seeing more and more in medical research. The amount of just disease states and symptoms that are influenced by the epigenome is huge and everything really comes back to this metabolic expression. So let’s talk about some of the key symptoms in disease trends that we’re talking about today.
A: Yes so ongoing research is continuing to unveil the role of epigenetics in, like you said, a variety of human disorders and a lot of fetal diseases like miscarriage and babies not making it full term, a lot of this goes back to the epigenome and predisposed genetic drivers. So we can go kind of from up down, so from the brain and mood we are tying things like depression, anxiety, ADHD, autism, insomnia, irritability even, all of those can be tied into the epigenome. We’re looking at a lot of interesting genetic trends with weight gain and obesity, as well as errors in glucose metabolism, blood sugar irregularities, and the driving influence of cravings and food addictive tendencies. We are seeing hormone imbalance from PMS to PMDD and infertility, difficulty with transition in menopause and the influence of estrogen metabolism, risk towards miscarriage and, as I mentioned, fetal development We see even metabolic glands being directly influenced, so the thyroid and the influence of things like thyroid peroxidase with inflammation in the gland and Hashimoto’s all the way to things like fatty liver and even cardiovascular so one of the driving markers that we’re looking at homocysteine is directly influenced by the body’s ability to methylate and methylation is one of the big influences we’ll talk about in a moment as far as the epigenome. Our triglycerides, our blood pressure, because our vasodilation is greatly influenced by genetic pathways and even blood clots, there are genetic tendencies towards platelet buildup and clotting formation with different clotting factors, and then of course cancer is a big one, based on both the influence of our genetics with our immune system as well as our oxidative damage and detox pathways.
B: Ok and then a lot of these go back into those SNPs or gene mutations, and I know you named some symptoms like irritability, cravings, but beyond disease state, a lot of symptoms can be influenced by genes as well so let’s talk about those.
A: Yeah and so anything from honestly like, aching joints to acne, there’s probably a genetic piece of the puzzle. So the digestive tract is a huge area of focus where we’re looking at from heartburn and reflux to IBS, which includes diarrhea, loose stools, chronic constipation, irregular bowel, gallstones are tied to genetic influence, food sensitivity and allergy because there’s a strong influence with histamine activity, the DOA enzyme pathway, is a huge histamine driver which is going to play a big role also with things like SIBO or small intestinal bacterial overgrowth, so the biome through digestive reactions and bowel irregularity and reflux can all be influence by genes and then even structurally, so things like inflammation in the joints and aches in the muscles, fibromyalgia can be tied to genetic codes, hands and feet running colder, even Raynaud’s as an actually syndrome diagnostically, itchy skin can be histamine reactivity and thus genetic, looking at things like excessive sweating, nose bleeds, rash, hives, rosacea, a lot of vasculature influences are going to cause or be tied back to genetic influence and then I mentioned a lot of the mood stability and brain influences so from mood swings to obsessive compulsive disorder to insomnia, to fatigue to brain fog, a lot of that can be greatly influenced by genes.
B: So pretty much everything.
A: Yeah and it’s interesting again, though the idea of this isn’t that you say “ok so it’s influenced by my genes so I could easily be screwed.” No it means you’d want to identify which gene is broken or malfunctioning or mutated per say and what nutrients play a role with the expression of that gene so you can work with that wonky part of your deck of cards to help with its expression.
B: Awesome ok I think that sounds much more hopeful, right, than just throwing up our hands and say “It’s genes.” Alright so we’ve referenced a couple of times these genetic mutations, but let’s further define this and maybe go into one of the most common MTHFR mutation.
A: Ok so, I know I’m like this whole episode I’m like “buckle your seatbelt guys.” It’s a little high powered hose, but I’m hoping we all get lot of pearls out of this. So your genetic code can create basically barriers or roadblocks, and that’s through these genetic mutations that are known as SNPs and SNPs stand for single nucleotide polymorphisms. Basically, it is an altered genetic code and/or mutation, mutation just doesn’t sound nice but it’s true so that gene doesn’t function appropriately, ok? And so the altering on this gene is going to influence that genetic pathway so again, thinking of it as a mobile or break or roadblock on a road is a way of thinking of it.
And so when we look at pathways or genetic pathways of expression that are greatly metabolic, we’re looking at pathways that include highs like detox pathways that I eluded to the histamine reaction pathways, pathways that drive nitric oxide which plays a role with vasodilation, and also that in turn help with detox. We’re looking at pathways that deliver nutrients and then pathways that drive a process called methylation. So this well-known genetic SNP, MTHFR stands for methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase and this is a gene that influences the metabolism of folate and the process of methylation. So methylation is a process, a biochemical process of building or excreting. So this enzyme, this MTHFR gene, adds a methyl group to folic acid to make it functional by the body, and the MTHFR gene drives the process of methylation, ok? And so it uses folate, or vitamin B9, and in this process, it can convert homocysteine into methionine, which the body needs methionine for proper metabolism, for proper muscle growth, and also to build glutathione which is the granddaddy antioxidant. Methionine in that sense also helps to eliminate toxins, and methionine has been tied to support the building of SAMe which is seen, it’s made in the liver and it helps with mood stability and joint inflammation. And then on the converse side, if we don’t convert homocysteine into methionine, homocysteine buildup can drive cardiovascular distress, inflammatory cascades, and is a marker of toxicity and a marker of cardiovascular concern.
B: Ok, I think I got some of that. So thinking about it, you know, as a wheel or a cycle and if we don’t have the right nutrients that wheel isn’t going to turn or we can have backup of certain products, is that accurate, sort of?
A: Yeah and like I said, the methylation process which is just one of these genetic pathways both builds and excretes so it builds things like methionine, which is a positive compound for the body in many senses, and it excretes things like toxic compounds and so for instance, someone that has these MTHFR SNP, or mutation, they’re going to be higher prone towards anxiety and depression because they’re not building as much of that natural feel good SAMe, and they’re also going to be higher prone towards toxicity, because they’re not as supported in the detoxification pathways.
B: OK that makes sense so we can see expressions on both ends then.
B: And before we go too deep into what nutrients influence and how MTHFR can be addressed, let’s talk about even variances within these SNPs so it’s not a black or white or yes or no, is it?
A: Right so within our genes, like we said, you get 23 from mom and 23 from dad so each SNP or genetic mutation is going to have a role from what Mama gave you and a role from what your dad gave you, right? So you can have a heterozygous or a homozygous expression of a SNP. And hetero, meaning two different, homo meaning two of the same, so a heterozygous expression would mean that either mom or dad gave you a bad gene per say, and the other one is working functionally. And then, homozygous would mean that the dice rolled out of your favor where both mom and dad gave you a bad gene and so you would have zero expression of that particular pathway. So there is hetero, which can be one working and one no working, and homo which is both nonworking. And then within that, taking it a little deeper down the rabbit hole, within MTHFR and many genetic enzyme pathways, there’s going to be very known pathways within that. So for MTHFR, the most well-known one is the C677T, and that one you can call it MTHFR C, that’s a C copy, and that one is known to have about 60-70% functionality and then the next well-known MTHFR enzyme pathway is the A1298C and that’s about 30-40% of the functionality. So you can have hetero or homo of either of those versions.
B: Got it. Ok and when you say 60-70% functionality, that’s if the gene is functioning at that capacity?
A: So if someone was, for instance, homozygous, meaning both didn’t work on that C copy which is the more dominant, that would mean that they would only be functioning at about 30-40% because 60-70% of their gene is SNPed or non-functioning because they were homo. Now if they were hetero on the C copy, we would take half of this and see 60-70% that would be deducted from their functionality so then they would be still at 60 or 70% if they are heterozygous C copy.
B: Ok. Cool.
A: Got your calculator out?
B: Right? Ok. So even within one genetic mutation or SNP there can be variables of influence on so- based on so many things.
A: For sure.
B: So with today’s episode and the concept of epigenetics, you’re saying even if you’re worst case scenario or you’re homozygous for that C copy you can do something about it right?
A: Yes and that is what is so awesome about epigenetics and the concept of our environmental impact on the expression of our genes. So the environment, I’m not just talking about the sky and what’s outside of our house, I’m talking about out toxic exposure, our emotions actually as a driver for the epigenome, our stress, our diet, our support network, so so many different external influencers, again, that drive function or expression on possibilities rather than the definitives of the road map of our genetic code. So yeah and I’ll use Stella as an example because I think this is a good way of putting a cute baby’s face to this story. So Brady and I had known our genetics going into things and we are both- I am heterozygous C copy and A copy on MTHFR and Brady is heterozygous also on the C copy and maybe that’s it I think he’s negative on the A copy. And so we knew Stella worst case scenario could be homozygous if we both gave her our bad gene copy and it shows that we did. So Stella is homozygous on the MTHFR C copy which means that she only methylates at about 30% functionality on a genetic level without help, right?
And what adds insult to injury in Stella’s specific case is that she’s also homozygous, bad gene copy, for something called GST1 which is a glutathione S transferase. So glutathione is, again, the granddaddy antioxidant, and if you are not driving your glutathione transferase wheel, and you’re not getting that antioxidant basically capacity functioning, and you’re not methylating at optimal status, that means that she is much more prone than other babies per say, to toxic buildup, and this is why we’ve decided as a household to hold off vaccines, so if we do vaccinate, we’re going to wait until at least over 24 months or 2+ years when her gut is sealed so we’ve closed that gut blood brain barrier so she’s less at risk from the adjuvants which are the volatile compounds that carry the virus into the cells, that’s a concern is even if it’s thimerosal mercury free, the aluminum crossing the blood brain barrier and for Stella’s body in particular, and we will do a whole episode, we have had a lot of request on vaccines and we will do another episode on this, but I think this hones in on why we make this decision, so you know, we’re looking at her to be more susceptible to the toxic adjuvants because her body cannot detox with that GST1 genetic SNP, and then also she can’t methylate or drive the excretion pathways as well, and so she’s got a little bit of a double hit to her system on detox pathways, which means also we want to keep her in a household of organic foods, we’re keeping her free of grains and gluten to keep the diet anti-inflammatory, we’re looking at a rich source of cruciferous vegetables, healthy clean proteins, berries, antioxidants and healthy fats, and we won’t be able to drive her as a bubble baby but we need to be mindful of how we can over-respond knowing that genetic makeup.
B: That’s so cool to know that, you know, whereas if you didn’t know that she might have to kind of backtrack and looking back on things later in life. It’s so cool that you know that from the get-go.
A: I was just going to say we can’t say, bar none, the influence but the strongest research argument out there against vaccines is for individuals who have that MTHFR, and we can’t say “Oh, our child would be autistic without knowing this” we don’t know that, but we know that her risk would be substantially increased based on her genetic makeup.
B: Sure and so, Ali, before we talk supplements you use and strategy, let’s talk about the testing that you did with her and how we can find out these things.
A: Yeah so there’s a lot of different tests out there, 23 and Me is one of the most well-known out on the market. For Stella we used Genova Diagnostics, which is a functional lab and they do a buccal swab which is basically a cheek swab, so we gathered cheek cells and submitted that for sample and I believe that was like 10 different SNPs that we looked at. So we looked at the MTHFR the GST1, we looked at the glutathione pathway, we looked at COMT, which she was great there so that helps with mood stability and such, so yeah, but that was we did the buccal swab and saliva is the general go -to. There’s a bunch of different companies out there now, but MTHFR can also be assessed in the blood as a marker as well.
B: And the 23 and Me, they don’t necessarily give it to you on your genetic report, like the shiny pretty profile, that they give you that tells you if you’re at risk for Parkinson’s. They analyze certain genes for health risk, they don’t give you your SNPs, but they are available. My husband and I did that and if listeners have done 23 and Me, you can go to different websites and plug those in, actually get the SNPs analyzed and they can tell you ”ok what does this actually mean?”
A: And is that, like, Genetic Genie?
B: Yeah I use Genetic Genie and I’ll link to all of this.
B: So with Stella then, are you pretty strategic, I assume, with her supplements and what is she using?
A: Yeah, so- goodness. I won’t go into her whole supplement load but specific to MTHFR and this GST1, so we give her, well, first off, she was breastfed of course and so we’re looking at supporting her biome as a big piece of the puzzle and we are also, we started her on liposomal glutathione as a rub over her liver about 3-4x a week we give her a 50mg pump of that, and then she also gets 250 micrograms of 5-methyl-tetrahydrofolate which is the bioavailable form of folate which drives the MTHFR wheel, so it’s basically the gas for the brakes or the roadblock and then we also give her another methyl donor which is methylcarbylamine. She gets 60 micrograms of methylated B12 and that’s both in her multivitamin. So those are 2 big ones we give her a probiotic, Vitamin D and other things – I’m not going to go into that that’s a whole another episode, but specific to genetics we give her that glutathione cream and then the 5-metyltreatrahydrofolate and methylcarbylamine. And it’s important to know that the methylfolate with other nutrients that drive, I called them methyl donors, so there’s nutrient donors that can put gas on that wheel that might be a little slower if you have a SNP, but by giving the body that methylfolate, that’s an immediate high octane fuel, if you will, and so that’s used to create and process her neurotransmitters, it’s going to help her nervous system, and the responses of things like serotonin, epinephrine, dopamine. It is going to help to support her immune cells and how her body processes hormones, and then also provide energy and support her detox pathways.
B: Ok awesome and so with all of this there’s kind of a sweet spot, right? Like too much of certain nutrients like methylfolate could be harmful?
A: Yeah and this is where I am really excited for next episode to talk with Dr. Lynch because many functional medicine practitioners actually go for the higher is better thing, and especially in pediatrics and children, I’m very conservative as far as a dosage of methylfolate because there’s something called the methyl tract where the body may not be able to use the compound, or too much 5-methylfolate can block or cause B12 deficiency. Also, if we shunt the products, like if we just drive one wheel on high acceleration, what does that do to the other enzyme wheel pathways in the body? And so there’s another genetic SNP called COMT, I kind of eluded to that and mentioned that Stella’s negative for that, which, negative I the terms of genetic SNPs is a good thing and means it works as it was created. And so COMT if there was a genetic variant there or a SNP, that individual is going to have a high intolerance to dosage of 5- methyl folate because the COMT pathway, if it has a SNP, can drive a buildup of catecholamine stress chemicals and so if you drive methylation, let’s say, on high, high dose like more than 2-3 grams a day, which I’ve seen dosages of upwards of 5 grams and plus, and, again, I was talking in micrograms for Stella so when we’re going up to, not milligrams that’s not even stepping in the middle that’s going all the way up, to the gram dosages, and if we give that high of a dose of methylfolate it’s like you’re driving one wheel so loud, you’re revving the gas, that that can suppress other metabolic pathways and for individuals who have other SNPs on other pathways, that can drive a buildup and create dysfunction, so anxiety, insomnia, mood swings can be seen in high amounts when someone has the COMT, if they’re given too much methyl folate so I’m very strategic and when we were looking at our selected private label multivitamin, I’m really happy and confident with the Multidefense, multivitamin for adults because it has a good dosage of methylated B vitamins, without being extreme and so it takes into account without having to do your genetics, you’re getting enough of a methyl donor to help to drive that wheel if you had issues using the folate, but yet you’re not getting such an abundance that’s going to suppress other pathways and same things goes as said in our Bioavailable Kids, which is our chewable multi, it’s very strategic to provide the methylation support without excessive activity.
B: So even if we didn’t want to go down the rabbit whole right now of assessing all of these things, it would be good kind of an insurance policy, to get on the Multidefense with the methylated form.
A: Oh yeah and definitely and this is one of the starting point of epigenetics, right? So you’re working with the genome and understanding it and giving that pathway what it needs to function. Even if it’s a dysfunction a pathway, per say.
B: Got it. And then there’s also harm associated especially for MTHFR, with using the synthetic form of folate as folic acid, right?
A: Yeah I’m so happy you brought this up because folic acid is something that I’m constantly screening when I’m looking at, you know, Stella only eats whole foods but so many of- any grain food is fortified and so even if it’s a certified organic huff of something or chewy things or whatever, often there’s going to be synthetic enrichment and in an adults too, from vitamin water to you name it even if it’s sold as a “health food” most forms of fortified foods have the synthetic folic acid and any time or your vitamins, a lot of the vitamins available at natural health food stores have folic acid and so I want you to flip over your multivitamin and make sure you don’t see the words folic and or you don’t see the word just B12 which would just be cyanocobalamin, you want to see methyl or nature made folate as another point term that we use in our B complex that we have growth line which is the methylated folate. But you want to make sure you do not see folic acid so the issue with that is I mean it really hit the food industry because of white bread, so going back to food science, when we remove the exterior elements of the grain, we were able to create a more shelf stable product, but we know that we created a less nutritionally dense product so when we removed the exterior parts of the grain, we also saw a drop in the population with folic acid. A lot of those B vitamins are in the external parts of the grain and so we saw white bread being sold to the masses, and we also saw a surge of birth defects and medical issues and so government started doing research and found neural tube defects as a tie-in to folic acid. So government funded, big influence of folic acid to hit the market and that’s what started to be used as the B9 nutrient to prevent neural tube defect. Now the issue with folic acid is that it does not have a methyl group unlike 5 methyl tetrahydrofolate which you’ll see in our Multidefense or in our B Complex. So when it doesn’t have a methyl group, for people who have the MTHFR SNP, or can’t methylate, that folic acid as an oxidized synthetic compound builds up in their system. And this can drive actual toxicity, versus helping to drive that wheel.
B: Ok and then so you can convert folic acid to methyl tetrafolate right? Or methyl folate and are there side effects of this excess folic acid are you saying?
A: So yeah you can convert folic acid, and the studies that were done were done on rats and rats have different enzyme pathways than people and rats do not have a methylation SNP so when they fed rats folic acid they were rocking out methylfolate boom boom boom, again in individuals who have MTHFR SNPs, those individuals cannot effectively make methylfolate from folic acid so to convert folic acid into methyl folate, you need to have functional genes in the first place, right? And then you need to have functional enzymes and the nutritional cofactors or activators. So things like B6, and even glutathione, and some of those drivers. So it’s difficult to be in that perfect synergy and many individuals are not. And the issue is enzymes that need to be in the perfect fashion, are often depleted in our current day-to-day lifestyle where we’re exposed to medications, heavy metals, inflammatory chemical, additives, toxic chemicals and we are not sitting there in a pool – in a perfect environment to drive that wheel with the folic acid and, yeah, we’ve seen excessive folic acid in research driving neoplasms, which can lead to cancer, we’ve seen the presence of unmetabolized folic acid in blood associated with decreased natural cytotoxicity, so less natural killer cell activity so the immune system is not optimized which means that it could drive autoimmune disease in excess and also cancer, or cellular malformation.
We can also see excess folic acid masking B12 deficiency and we see this in the elderly population where we see onset of anemia, and neurological health concerns. And the folic acid is prescribed to individuals with rheumatoid arthritis taking the drug methotrexate, and it’s really important especially for those individuals to be using the methyl folate because they’re getting very high heavy doses because that drug that rheumatoid drugs influences that pathway as well. So I know that was a lot, but ultimately the big thing that I see as a trend when I look at all of those trend of MTHFR, we’re talking ,again, autism, insomnia, infertility, miscarriage, you know, does this have to do with the fortification of folic acid because MTHFR as a genetic mutation is not new, that’s been going on since genes have been genes, right, so in human population. But is it the fact that we’ve created these fortified with foods within the last 50 years and it became mandatory in the 90s that we’re seeing an upregulate of this. It’s not that there is a higher population of MTHFR, it’s that there’s higher reactions within the MTHFR, likely due to the folic acid overload.
B: Ok yeah that’s, I mean, that’s a super dense and super empowering and I think that is true, like, what we have to look back and see “ok what is it that we actually changed?” and it’s the food or it’s these lower quality supplements that have been brought onto the market with just folic acid in them.
A: And that’s why it’s always that concept of at first that “do no harm” mantra of knowing what you’re taking and I think when we see negative outcomes on vitamins and supplements not being helpful, it’s often as we’ve discussed, soybean oil and the fish oil, or these synthetic forms that drive dysfunction versus optimal function so it is really important that if you are using supplements, that they are third party assessed and pharmaceutical grade like everything that you will find on our site, of course, we do a lot of that vetting for you and that’s the idea of this as a resource to really understand what you’re putting in your body and how that will function and on the diet level, it’s another argument to not eat processed foods because processed food ultimately will be fortified and then fortification is something that I’m pretty largely concerned about.
B: Yeah and so genetic mutation is one thing, then having it in the presence of stress and toxins or, in this case, the synthetic folate, really can accelerate that predisposition.
A: Totally and then on the other hand, diet and stress relieving activities so a diet rich in folate and it’s bioavailable form, not folic acid, but in nature-made folate or methylated folate, practicing stress relieving activities, doing a nutritional detox and supplementing with these bioactive compounds can otherwise rebalance the mutation and make it almost non-reactive as if it’s not even an issue.
B: Yes and I think that’s what’s just so empowering about this. Let’s talk about my favorite part of every episode: food as medicine support ,and what we can do to empower ourselves whether we know that we have this gene expression or not.
A: Yes so if we’re talking about epigenetics in general, we want to reduce inflammation in the body and optimize our micronutritional status because like I said, all of these wheels or pathways have building blocks or contributors and cofactors. And those all come from nutritional dense sources, so following a real food, more primal Paleolithic diet, that includes nourishing fats, antioxidants, and phytocompounds so for those of you listeners that are new, a great resource is my Naturally Nourished Cookbook. Another resource could be my Optimal Eating Virtual Class, and for those of you who are looking to accelerate weight loss and metabolic function, the Virtual Ketosis Program and those Ketosis E-books because all of them use whole foods, focusing on antioxidants, phytocompounds, and a more primal approach. We want to, on the other end of the spectrum of course, avoid eating anything processed or synthetically enriched and watching out for those “health foods” that scapegoat this, so like I mentioned the Vitamin Water or these bars, a lot of the bars on the market will have, check for the synthetic nutrients that’s like a rambling list on the bottom and it will say it’s just a vitamin and mineral blend. Well look at that folate and see if you use folic acid and either throw it away or don’t eat it. We’ll also see refined sugars in processed foods of course, and these fuel imbalance because they’re going to drive imbalance in our microbiome, they’re going to cause systemic distress, they’re going to burn through B vitamins, which are big drivers in a lot of enzyme pathways, so starting with a foundational balanced whole food diet is definitely the first line of defense you have for your epigenome.
B: Ok awesome and then we know that another way that we can work with genes and support healthy expression of those genes is to reduce exposure of toxins in the environment and then support our body with detox supporting nutrients.
A: For sure so we could avoid our exposure to plastics, is a big one that is one of the main sources of our endocrine disruptors. So drink out of glass and stainless steel, invest in a water filtration system, stop buying plastic water bottles, you guys, you’re not getting any benefit from that, and we’re going to get – the only things we are getting from our plastic water bottles is hormone disrupting compounds like xenoestrogens which mimic our estrogen molecules and can drive estrogen dominance. There’s a lot of other endocrine compounds that we get in plastics that can work against our thyroid, and can really distress our detox enzymes and so avoiding plastics is a huge thing. I think of the three P’s so it’s typically plastic, perfumes, and pesticides so the next recommendation looking for chemical-free and fragrance-free products. So from cosmetics to household cleaners, looking for things that are free of harsh chemicals and toxins. I will put a note in the show notes to Branch Basics, I get asked about this a lot this is what I use in my household for cleaning from the floors to the countertops to the bathrooms. It’s a concentrated solution that you dilute to different amounts based on what- so if you’re cleaning glass or a surface, you would use the same foundational concentration and then it’ s diluted so it’s very ecofriendly, but I really that it’s really effective and free of fragrances and chemicals that would work against our body.
There’s so many different makeup lines and facial lines like Dock to Harbor, Beautycounter, Origins, all of those are 3 that come to mind. I will- maybe we could put a link to that cosmetics blog that I put out, which has a couple of different companies and that’s good resource for you guys as well. And then on the pesticide side of things of course choosing organic produce and buying from small scale farms on a local level is going to be your best source for not only less pesticide exposure but also for more nutritional density. And one way to tie all of this together in a shiny ribbon, is by driving your body’s detox pathways and doing our 10 day detox. So beyond reducing the exposure all of us are unfortunately living in a dirty world and so there’s 6 billion plus pounds of toxins released into our environment annually and, yes, the liver and kidneys do ply a great role in supporting the biochemical processes of detox, but as we’ve mentioned, many of these processes can have roadblocks based on your genetic pathway. Or you know, the cards you’ve been dealt and so a part of empowering your epigenome is going to be by focusing quarterly or at least semiannually on an increased intake or an abundance of the nutrients that drive your phase 1 and phase 2 detoxification enzymes and so my 10 Day Detox Program focuses on resetting your metabolism, restoring your digestive health, and renewing your cellular health. It works on a bell curve and has detox supplement packs to give you the abundance of nutrients that drive phase 1 and phase 2 detox pathways and then strategic therapeutic diet to support that 10 day cleanse.
B: Ok awesome and what are some of the biggest detox supporting foods, I guess, that you would find in a program like that?
A: So we’re going to focus on things like cruciferous vegetables, so broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, turmeric, lemon, and the citrus family, not grapefruit actually because that does block cytochrome P450 enzyme, but your lemon definitely works in a positive way. Ilium so your onions shallots, garlic, and then probiotic rich foods are all big emphasis but there’s a lot of strategy beyond that so those are things we’d want you keep in your regular diet, per say, to help to support and have the epigenome benefit but then actually doing the therapeutic cleanse through my 10 Day Detox I’d recommend at least twice a year if not quarterly.
B: Awesome and then since we’ve focused on it a lot this episode, let’s also talk about foods that are rich in folate so not folic acid but the bioavailable form of folate.
A: Yeah so we think of foliage, as the richest form of folate so these are leafy greens. So we’re talking about vegetables like kale, spinach, romaine lettuce, turnip greens, mustard greens, just getting your blend from your farmer’s market would be best. Then we’re talking about cruciferous vegetables as well. Broccoli’s a really good form of folate, asparagus, and liver. So calve’s liver, beef liver, chicken liver are going to be great bioavailable form of nature-made folate or bioavailable folate so trying to get organs into meatballs and things like that would be a great delivery and we can put a link in our show notes also to our organ pate, which you can do as a puree to also really offset and support those pathways.
B: I actually made that this past week.
B: And then beyond eating clean and supporting your body with those folate rich foods, traces on where you live, what you do for work, social interactions, physical activity, even mental state, mindfulness, all of your connectivity to the universe, environmental toxins, nutritional state, there’s so much at play here.
A: For sure and it all comes back to, right, you can’t sell out supplement lifestyle so you can take these tools, the Multidefense, the Detox Packs and such to support, but eventually if lifestyle is so off kiltered, you’re going to be running up a downhill escalator and so it does put that whole body approach into this, and it’s empowering in a sense that you are in control of your destiny, and you can no longer say “I just had bad genes” as an excuse, you know? This idea of epigenetics puts you back in the driver’s seat of your body and knowing that we make over 300 food related choices a day, the more we aim to choose those that are health supporting rather than health depleting, are going to work in our favor. And then identifying those higher risk factors, so whether it is an abusive relationship, it could be within friends or family members or partners so identifying those distressors, identifying distress within our career state, even a lack of mental or personal peace, what are the Achilles heels within ourselves that put these accesses on overdrive? And how can we find synergy to work with the body so that our underlying genetic code is going to maintain static, it’s not going to change but, again, what we can change is our expression of that based on all of those life factors. Start with food today would be my strongest recommendation and where I can help you guys get above water as best as possible.
B: This is all just so cool and can be so empowering, I think, to the individual so your genes are just a pathway of potential is there but you can reroute them to an extent.
A: Absolutely and I think that the recognition of lifestyle choices to influence genetic predisposition is really the fundamental principle in how I practice functional medicine, you know, it’s this idea of lifestyle and drivers being the underlying root causes of illness and I think that the epigenome, again, as we discussed those disease states and symptoms in the beginning parts of this episode, the epigenome really leaves a lot of this together for us.
B: Awesome well I’m so excited for Ben Lynch up next episode on our podcast, and that is it for today. That’s all, right?
A: So you can just go wring out your brain.
B: But if you enjoyed today’s episode and the content that we provided for you guys for free, we just ask that you go on over to ITunes and leave us a review with 5 stars and a sentence or two about the podcast.
A: Yes and please take a moment to share it on or share AliMillerRD on Instagram and Facebook with friends and family to spread the word that food is medicine with those that you love. I hope you guys have learned a lot and are feeling motivated and empowered to manifest your destiny, and put your genes to work for you So we’ll talk next time with Dr. Ben Lynch and learn a little bit more nitty gritty about how to get out , what he calls dirty genes to scrub and clean and work for us.
Thank you for listening to the Naturally Nourished Podcast. Visit our blog at Alimillerrd.com for recipes, wellness tips, and food as medicine meal plans. Connect with Ali at Becki at AliMillerRD on InstaGram or Twitter and Facebook. Until next time, stay nourished and be well.