MOOD & EMOTIONS

Methylation Imbalance: How it could be impacting your health.

Are you an allergy sufferer? Frequent headaches? Prone to depression or anxiety?

A methylation imbalance may underpin your issues.

You may have heard of methylation, read some articles and thought “it sounds complicated”. Methylation is a complex process, but I’m here to break down and deliver the essential information so you discern if a methylation imbalance might be impacting on your health.


What is methylation?

Methylation is a chemical process that occurs in all cells of the body. Think of it as a machine in a production line. It adds a component (a methyl group) to a material (a biological chemical) then spits it out to move on to the next machine. Methylation has numerous roles in forming certain compounds, detoxifying others and controlling their movement in and out of cells.

Some of the compounds that methylation helps to detoxify includes:

·      Histamine[1], the chemical that causes allergy symptoms of itching, redness, swelling and irritation. 

·      Certain heavy metals such as arsenic[2]

·      Oestrogen in its final stages[3], which is a cancer risk if in excess.

·      Neurotransmitters such as dopamine, adrenaline and noradrenaline[4]

You can see how a methylation imbalance has the potential to impact on numerous areas of your health. Furthermore, what’s considered a ‘personality trait’ may in fact be due to the impact methylation can have on our brain chemicals (our neurochemistry).

 
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How might a methylation imbalance present itself?

The process of methylation moving too slowly, termed undermethylation, is the most common imbalance. Typically these individuals are hard working and self motivated. Prone to perfectionism tendencies, undermethylators may set high expectations of themselves and potentially others. They are prone to seasonal allergies, hives, headaches, phobias, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), high inner tension and addictive behaviours.  

Overmethylation is less common, however can be equally as impactful on wellbeing. Overmethylators are often artistic individuals. They typically don’t respond well to mainstream interventions such as anti-depressant medication. Common health issues for an overmethylator includes hyperactivity, anxiety, panic disorders and sleep issues.


What influences methylation?

Family history

Methylation can be impacted if you have specific gene variations, otherwise called single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) that are being expressed (more on this in a moment). Natural health practitioners will often look at the MTHFR gene located at C677T and A1298C, though there are many other genes that can impact your ability to methylate. If you have inherited the gene variation from both parents (termed homozygous) you are more likely to develop a methylation issue. This may in part explain why tendencies toward allergies and mental health issues run in families, and also why they are amplified when both parents experience these issues.

Stress

Just because you have the genes does not automatically mean that you are stuck with a methylation imbalance. We now know, through the study of epigenetics, that internal factors (your response to stress) and external factors (pollution, smoking, diet etc.) have a huge role in how your genes are expressed i.e. genes can be ‘switched on’ or ‘switched off’. Through following a healthy lifestyle and successfully managing stress, you may be able to negate an inherited methylation issue.

Nutritional deficiencies

Our ability to methylate is very dependent on two nutritional cycles, the folate and methionine cycle. Both of these cycles have specific nutritional needs to function adequately. Methylation will falter if you are lacking in nutrients due to a poor quality diet, poor absorption of nutrients or you are excreting them too rapidly (think diarrhoea or excess caffeine).

The key nutrients involved in the folate and methionine cycles includes the vitamins B2 (riboflavin), B3 (niacin), B6 (pyridoxine), folate, B12 (cobalamins),[5] choline and various amino acids (proteins).


What can you do next?

As you have just learnt, stress can affect the genes that cause methylation issues, so rule no. 1 is to get the stress response under control. Take the pressure off yourself, breath deeply and give yourself the space and time to focus on calming your nervous system. Biochemical changes will follow.

To support yourself with a personalised nutritional protocol aimed at correcting methylation, find yourself a practitioner (e.g. naturopath, GP, nutritionist) who is familiar with methylation. They can do the appropriate testing, work with you to improve your diet and prescribe the correct dosing of nutrients to support your body.  


By Naturopath Lucy Mason

Why stress may be the biggest barrier to healing your gut

Stress management is a phrase I’m sure you have all heard before but may not have realised its significance to your health. When approaching health holistically, managing stress is vital in the proper treatment and management of your digestive health concerns.

To help further the work you are doing to help your digestion and honour the investment you have made in testing and treatments, I want to share with you the importance of bettering your mental and emotional well being.

What is stress?

Stress is anything that is a threat to staying in balance (homeostasis). A threat can be real (i.e. physical stress including temperature change, trauma from a car accident or breaking a bone) or perceived (i.e. psychological stress such as relationship issues, running late and feeling busy). Stress causes our body to carry out a response that helps with adaptation and survival. However frequent, chronic or excessive stress may lead to disease (1, 2).

Your nervous system

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) is part of your nervous system that controls muscles of internal organs (such as the heart) and glands on an automatic level (that is, we don’t have to tell them to work). Two significant parts of this system include:

  1. Sympathetic nervous system, which prepares your body for physical and mental activity. It makes your heart beat faster and stronger, opens your airways so you can breathe more easily, and inhibits digestion. This is also the nervous system we fall into when we are in a state of stress, anxiety, fear or overwhelm.

  2. Parasympathetic nervous system is responsible for bodily functions when we are at rest (sleep, meditation etc.) It stimulates digestion, increases digestive juices, relaxes muscles in the gastrointestinal tract, activates various metabolic processes and helps us to relax (3).  

Mind-Gut connection

Your enteric nervous system (the nervous system in your gut) is also part of the ANS and is connected to the central nervous system (brain and spinal cord) by the sympathetic and the parasympathetic pathways, forming the brain–gut axis (1, 4).

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How stress may be impacting your gut health

Feeling of stress, anxiety, overwhelm and worry mean that our bodies’ are working in a sympathetic state (fight and flight) rather parasympathetic state (rest and digest). When these feelings are in excess it may not just be your mind that suffers, but also your gut.

1. Dysbiosis (imbalance of bacteria)

There are several ways by which stress can alter your bacteria, including changes in gut cell function, mucus secretion and changes to digestive muscle contractions. Noradrenaline, a neurotransmitter secreted in stress, has been shown to stimulate the growth of pathogenic ‘bad’ and non-pathogenic ‘good’ Escherichia coli and influences their adherence to the gut wall (5).

2. Gastroesophageal Reflux Disease (GORD)

It is not completely understood, but a change breathing (which occurs when we are stressed) may contribute to GORD by altering the valve between the stomach and the oesophagus, increasing oesophageal sensitivity, and slow stomach emptying (1).

3. Dyspepsia (Indigestion)

People with indigestion experience a poor stomach response to meals (due to lack of enzymes and secretions), post-meal discomfort, prolonged feeling of fullness and an increase in intestinal muscle contractions. These unideal digestive changes have been linked to signals received from the sympathetic nervous system (1).

4. Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD)

Imbalance between the sympathetic and parasympathetic has been reported in patients with IBD. For example, depression has been connected with Crohn's Disease and stress in Ulcerative Colitis. Animal studies show that stress exacerbates colitis and that depression increases susceptibility to inflammatory triggers (1, 5).

5. Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS)

Stress is factor known to predispose individuals to IBS and is also known to alter the bacterial composition. Patients with IBS have an increased response to stress, and stress is also a predictor of IBS as well as a determinant of symptom severity (5).

6. Intestinal permeability ‘Leaky gut’

Psychological stressor increases small intestinal permeability. Hormones secreted in a state of stress influence different receptors and immune responses and can cause changes to the gut barrier and function(6).

 

There are endless ways you can start to manage stress, anxiety and overwhelm in your life. These include breathing exercises, music, meditation and exercise - countless phone apps can support these practices. Explore, find what works for you and make a regular practice of it.

 

Here’s to a happy mind and a happy gut!

 

By Rachel Larsson, Naturopath

How any superwoman can create life balance

After my last blog post about me getting real with myself, I thought I’d dig a little deeper and share my personal top tips to help any superwoman create life balance. (And yes, this is definitely applicable to all you awesome supermen)

1. Get real with your expectations of self.

What pressures are you putting on yourself? Are they really necessary? Or can you cut yourself some slack.

After all, you’re only human.

I highly recommend doing a brain dump of all your expectations of self and try to fit it into a weekly calendar. If you find yourself coming up against the limitations of time, then get real with yourself.  It’s best to make a conscious decision of what needs to give, rather than letting something important slide or ending up burnt out.

Be careful that you don’t fall in the trap of giving up the essential (and I mean critically important) time for self, exercise or time with friends. Yes, work at times can be a priority but a life of all work and no play is a life of struggle.  I believe that when we get our life balance right, spending time having fun with your loved ones can make your time doing work so much more productive and engaging.

2. Set a benchmark for your achievements each day.

Rather than having huge to-do lists, and becoming overwhelmed with it (which usually results in procrastination or lack of balance as you throw every single minute into ticking it all off), set a benchmark of what you need to do each day to feel successful, happy or productive.

Yes, it’s tricky for us over-achieving types, but once you get the hang of it I promise it can seem almost miraculous. You let go of pressure, life flows easier and you start to cultivate a feeling of satisfaction and success.

Since I’m balancing a newborn and running a business, my benchmark is just one thing related to my work each day. One thing only. When I manage this, then I allow myself to sit in the satisfaction of a productive and successful day.

3. Learn to prioritise and learn when to let things go.

This supports the previous two tips. It’s critical to push through your beliefs around the need to get through your to-do list or else.

Or perhaps the need to prove to everyone just how capable you are?

If you don’t get your entire to-do list done, the world won’t stop turning and chances are your life will only benefit from it. You won’t lose value and your peeps will still continue to love you.

Give yourself permission to prioritise time for self or creativity over doing the dishes or cleaning the house (unless of course these tasks really light you up). If you are a writer, then prioritise time to create in the morning, rather than leaving it until you’ve cleaned up after the kids, gone shopping, paid those bills… you get the picture. After all what’s most important to you?

4. Don’t get so busy working in your life that you forget to work on your life.

Recently, I’ve had the pleasure of reading “The E-myth” by Michael Gerber, an extraordinary book for business owners or people considering becoming a business owner. He makes the wonderful point that too often we get engrossed in our lives with the doingness and day to day busyness that we forget who’s driving it.

Allocate time for you to contemplate, reflect, learn and grow.

Be the driver of your own life.

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5. Learn to delegate and do it the right way.

What is it that you absolutely need to be doing?  I bet that for most, it would translate to only 5% of what we are doing.

In his book “The Big Leap”, Gay Hendrix describes four zones of being. The incompetent, competent, excellent and genius zones. For tasks that fall in our incompetent (we have no skill in doing the task) and competent (we can do the task, but we don’t enjoy it and we don’t do a very good job) zones, it may be helpful to delegate these to someone else. Let them go, as they don’t fill your cup and well, truth is, someone else could probably do a better job.

And whilst it makes sense for us busy superwomen to delegate tasks like house-cleaning or car maintenance, be careful to not abdicate the more important tasks that fall in your incompetent or competent zone.

It’s definitely worth getting clear on what outcome you want (and how to get there in some cases) then to leave it up to Frank or Mary, who with the best intentions may only create even more problems for you. Yes, it’s easy to think that it’s too hard to understand or too far out of your comfort zone, but be careful of letting go of all control in that area of your life. You may just be giving your power away.

I’ve done this plenty of times myself including early on with marketing the first event of The Healing Forum, a day focused on sharing healing stories and healing wisdom. I hired a marketing student to “take on” the whole marketing side of things. I was so excited initially as I believed I was delegating tasks correctly. Something that I’ve really struggled with. But in this instance, rather than delegating I was abdicating my responsibility to this very important aspect. I gave very little direction and didn’t take the time to research what I wanted or felt was best for our brand. I actually convinced myself that handing this over to a complete stranger was a show of respect…. Well, it resulted in a nightmare and ended up taking a lot longer and a lot more month. The attitude of “you just deal with it” doesn’t always work out well in the end.

When delegating be clear what outcome you want, give direction about the process and be sure that you don’t give your power away to someone else.

6. Finally, recognise there is much to be gained by being. So stop doing, and start being.

I can’t say I’ve mastered this one, but I’ve certainly glimpsed the truth of this statement. Solutions, ideas, and some of my biggest ah-ha moments have happened when I’m away from my desk having a walk in nature or a cuddle with my boys.

The most productive countries in the world are also those that promote shorter work days. But better than this, they also happen to be some of the happiest countries. Rather than getting caught in a spiral of hard work and struggle, these statistics are showing us that containing our working hours and prioritizing activities that make us happy, will actually be of benefit to our work and career.

With that, I can now tick off my one thing to do today and can go finish a jigsaw puzzle my son got for his birthday (thanks Abi!)…

 

Kapow! Bam! Zap!

Om Namo Narayani,

Superwoman Dr Fi

Getting real with myself

It’s been amazing. I’ve had the most wonderful time on maternity leave. Yes, there have been many sleepless nights and even some challenging moments with both kids having meltdowns simultaneously as I’m trying to get out the door or cook lunch or take a breather!

But generally I’ve loved it. Cherished it. And been very grateful for it all.

So with a little sadness and trepidation, mixed with excitement and curiosity, I am preparing myself to return to clinical work in December. Rather than the headstrong sink or swim type of gal I usually am, I’m easing my way into it in an attempt to embody more self-love and gentleness.

One of the rewards of breastfeeding is having moments throughout the day where you have to sit and just be. It is at these times that I deeply connect with my little one, but also get to reflect on my life.

As I sit there, feeling connected and loved, I find myself easily entering a state of enquiry. So many questions flowing through my mind challenging my state of reality and assumptions, urging me to change and grow - How do I want to live my life? Why am I a doctor? Why am I running my own business? How can I help others more, and be available for my family? How, what, why?

What if?

As the end of the year comes closer I want to share with you something I recently did, which was so simple yet profound. I created a weekly calendar and allocated times for everything I wanted to do. All of my expectations about how much work I will be doing, how much time to work on my business, how much time for study, family, yoga, exercise, daily meditation practice, cooking, friends etc etc etc… I basically did a big brain dump and tried to organise it in some way into my weekly planner.

And what I found was life changing.

I couldn’t fit everything in.

Not even remotely….

And then it dawned on me.

No wonder I forever feel like I’m not doing enough.

That I’m not enough.

It explains the pressure I constantly carry, created from the feeling that I’m not studying enough. Nor working enough.  Or doing enough exercise or spending enough time with my kids.

But in truth, if I continue with this, I can never meet my expectations of what is enough. It’s just not humanly possible. I’m setting myself up to fail in a big way and to condemn myself in the process.

But not this time round!

Next year, I’m challenging my expectations and getting real.

I’m setting myself up to win. I’m scheduling in me-time, time to be in the moment, in the state of enquiry and in that state of love and connectedness.

I’m setting myself up for a marathon, not a sprint. I do believe I can have it all, just not all at once. So to make my inner child feel like she’s not missing out, I’m drawing up a big plan to show her how even if it takes an additional 6 months, 12 months or even 18 months longer, we still get there.

And we get to enjoy the journey too!

So as the end of 2016 comes around, I wish you all luck in getting real with your plans for 2017.  And may you too push through the murkiness of misaligned expectations of self and come out the other side shining too.

With love,  

Fiona

P.S Thanks for reminding me of this during 2017. I’m always open for a bit of gentle nudging in the right direction….

Stress and anxiety free