nutrition

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

Veggie broth your thyroid will love

This recipe is a simple and effective way to get in some of the key thyroid minerals into your diet. In particular this broth is full of iodine and selenium, which can be found in kombu, an iodine rich seaweed vegetable(1), and shiitake mushrooms, a great source of selenium(2). As modern day Australian soils tend to lack in these minerals, it's important to looking further abroad and incorporate some 'exotic' foods into your diet to keep these minerals in check(3).*

This mineral rich veggie broth is perfect for the cooler months and can be enjoyed by itself or as a wholesome base to any soup or risotto.

* If you aren’t sure what state of health your thyroid is in, or if you are already supplementing to support your thyroid, check with your practitioner before trying this recipe.

Image courtesy of Pommes Pommes

Image courtesy of Pommes Pommes

Makes about 4 cups

Ingredients

  • 5 cups water
  • 2 (2-inch width) pieces kombu
  • 1/2 cup dried shiitake mushrooms
  • 2 carrots, , sliced
  • 1 zucchini, sliced
  • 2 stick celery, diced
  • 3cm knob ginger, sliced
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 3cm knob of turmeric, sliced
  • 1 whole brown onion, sliced
  • Salt and pepper to taste

 Method

  1. Combine the water and kombu in a larger saucepan and soak the kombu for at least 8 hours or overnight.
  2. Add in the vegetables, turmeric, ginger and garlic and place the saucepan over low heat and bring to a simmer. Continue to simmer and then remove the kombu from the water just before it comes to a full boil.
  3. Add the shiitake mushrooms, and continue simmering for about 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the saucepan from heat and let the shiitake mushrooms steep in the broth for 5 minutes more.
  5. Remove the shiitake mushrooms and vegetables from the broth and pour the broth through a fine-mesh strainer set over a large bowl.
  6. Add salt and pepper to taste

Created by Naturopath Rachel Larsson

Coconut and Buckwheat Toasted Muesli

Gluten free. Oat free. High protein. High healthy fats.

Your body will love you for starting your day with this well balanced breakfast. Many typical breakfasts are high in carbohydrate and sugar - a nightmare for your pancreas and adrenals. Nuts, buckwheat and coconut form the core of this recipe, providing the right macronutrients (protein and healthy fat) that prevent your blood sugar levels from spiking, keeping your hormones (insulin and cortisol) happy. It is my go to on the days where I don’t feel like eggs and avocado or I need a breakfast with minimal preparation - it’s quick, filling and tasty.  

Shop bought muesli is often loaded up with oats (not so great for those of us avoiding gluten) and can contain high amounts of sugar. It only takes 30 minutes to put together a homemade toasted muesli that lasts a couple of weeks, and you can personalise it to your taste and needs!

I love to serve it with fresh berries and a blob of natural pot set yoghurt or a drizzle of almond milk. It’s also great to nibble on by itself as a snack throughout the day.

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Ingredients

  • 1 cup whole buckwheat kernels/groats
  • 2 cups roughly chopped nuts and seeds of your choice
  • (I like almonds, cashews, brazil nuts, pepitas and sunflower seeds)
  • 1.5 cups coconut flakes
  • 1.5 cups puffed millet (I have also used puffed rice or amaranth in the past with success)
  • 3 Tbsp chia seeds
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 3-4 Tbsp coconut oil
  • 2 Tbsp rice malt syrup

  Method

  1. Combine all dry ingredients in a large mixing bowl.
  2. Melt the coconut oil in a small pan and add rice malt syrup. Stir until combined then remove from the heat.
  3. Mix the oil mixture through the dry mixture until everything is coated.
  4. Spread the mixture out on lined baking trays, so that it is no thicker than 1cm.
  5. Bake in the oven on 120 degrees C for 20 minutes, turning once, or until the mixture is lightly golden in colour.
  6. Wait until the mixture is completely cool before packing it away for storage in the pantry.

Created by Lucy Mason, Naturopath

Low FODMAP Winter Warming Soup

You have just discovered the low FODMAP diet and your tummy is feeling much better for it, but traditional Winter food feels so bland without onion and garlic! It doesn’t have to. This delicious soup uses ginger, chilli and high quality chicken stock to give it some serious flavour. These warming ingredients are perfect for cold Winter nights, and the mix of fresh veggies makes it light, healthy and refreshing.

Not only will low FODMAP be gentle on your tummy, but the gelatin in the chicken stock may aid the healing of a leaky gut, which often accompanies FODMAP issues. At Narayani Wellness we encourage the use of high quality organic chicken broth, as pesticides accumulate in connective tissue and are therefore often found in high quantities in non-organic meat broths. You can make your own organic broth or buy it ready made from most health food stores. For a vegan/vegetarian variation of this soup, substitute chicken stock with a homemade veggie stock. Tofu, tempeh or boiled eggs could be used instead of poached meat.

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Serves 3-4. Preparation and cook time 30-40 minutes.

Gluten free, dairy free. Vegan/vegetarian option.

Ingredients:

  • Thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, finely grated
  • One fresh chilli finely chopped (seeds removed)
  • 1 tbsp oil (we like olive, coconut or ghee)
  • 1 large carrot, grated
  • 1 large zucchini, seeds removed and grated
  • ½ large capsicum, thinly sliced
  • 4 stalks/1 cup broccolini, chopped
  • 500g organic meat of your choice (I used chicken drumsticks) (optional)
  • 1.5 L organic chicken stock
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Fresh coriander to serve

 Method

  1. In a large pot, saute the chilli and ginger in oil for 2 minutes on medium-high heat
  2. Add the chicken stock.
  3. If using meat, add it now to poach in the stock
  4. Remove the meat with tongs once cooked through and place on a cutting board to cool
  5. Turn pot down to a simmer, add the vegetables and cook until just soft
  6. Meanwhile, shred the cooked meat with a couple of forks or chop into small pieces
  7. Add the meat back to the pot
  8. Serve into bowls, salt and pepper to taste and top with fresh coriander!

Created by Lucy Mason

BHSc (Naturopathy)

Leaky Gut. Do you have it and what to do about it?

Leaky gut, also known as increased intestinal permeability, is linked to a whole bunch of common health complaints that we tend to just put up with or accept as being normal for my body. It has been linked to food intolerance's, acne and skin conditions, allergies and hay fever, asthma, fatigue and thyroid conditions. In addition to this, it can be associated with digestive symptoms such as constipation, diarrhoea and irritable bowel syndrome(1). Clearly, it is very possible that you, or someone close to you, is suffering from leaky gut.

How is this possible?

To understand how leaky gut may be at the root of your symptoms, you need to know a bit about the gut. Our gut has many roles including digestion and nutrient absorption, and is an important protective barrier that monitors our internal and external environment. It also plays a massive part in the function of our immune system. For example, did you know that about 75% of our immune cells live there(2)? It also has an intimate relationship with our nervous system. Have your ever noticed that when you feel stressed or anxious, you may experience a change in bowel movements? Nervous tummy anyone?

Why do we get leaky gut?

In a healthy gut, our gut wall cells are triggered to open up and absorb good things like nutrients and keep our bad bugs and toxins out. Our digestive system is always getting triggered to open up and close but can usually keep a happy balance and recover from any minor insults. When the gut is in contact with nasty triggers like medications, parasites, chemicals and certain foods, it’s ability to close up starts to struggle. If exposure is for a short time, the barrier can return to normal, however if these stressors continue, this barrier is strained. Then the immune system, which lies beneath the gut lining, becomes overwhelmed. It loses sense of what is self and what is a potential allergen, toxin or baddie. This dysfunction starts to cause trouble to the point of developing autoimmune conditions. Remember all the conditions mentioned at the start? Yes, the gut connection is real(3)!

Nutrient diet about leaky gut

What can I do about leaky gut?

Gut health and gut healing can be a tricky, especially if other conditions are present. A great place start would be:

1.     Probiotics

Probiotics help with leaky gut because of their beneficial role in supporting the immune system in the gut wall. This is evidence of their support in a vast array of health conditions. It’s so important to understand that not all probiotics are the same and this is where clinical expertise can really help. If you react to fermented foods (a good source of probiotics) or probiotic supplements something else maybe going on including histamine intolerance. This is why it is helpful to work with someone experienced in treating gut issues(4).  

2.     High fibre foods

After putting in all the good bugs into our system, we need to feed them. High fibre foods really means a vegetable rich diet. Great fermentable foods include sweet potato, lentils, pumpkin leek, garlic, asparagus, onion. Think high FODMAP foods. Delicious(5)!

3.     Reduce aggravating factors

We don’t want to keep giving our gut triggers that upset inflammation and immune function. Our body needs the time and environment to heal. This means limit alcohol, gluten, eat organic where possible and get rid of refined carbohydrates and sugar… put down the donut(6)

4.     Manage stress – yes this can be the hardest thing to do.

We live a lifestyle that fuels the fight and flight response and neglects our rest and digest nervous system – which is hugely important for our digestive ability.  Ever experience diarrhoea when you feel anxious or constipation when feeling stressed? Whether it is journalling, deep breathing, yoga or walking, it is important to find a way to manage your emotional and mental health(7).

5.     Eat a colourful, nutrient rich diet.

For our body to function at its best, it needs good sources of nutrients from a wide range of fresh, unprocessed foods. Fill your diet with good quality protein sources, a colourful variety of vegetables and fruits and you are on your way from getting all the nutrients and antioxidants you need for a healthy gut. We give a special shout out to amino acids like glutamine and nutrients like zinc and vitamin A, which the gut just loves.

How can I find out if I have leaky gut?

If you or someone you know suffer from the above mentioned conditions, then you should be considering the health of your gut and determining if you have leaky gut. As a practitioner who just loves all things gut health related, one of the first steps I take with my patients is testing for leaky gut. My inner nerd is thrilled by this test as it a brilliant way to measure how much healing needs to be done and can be tested again to assess progress. Once we identify if you have leaky gut, it is important to determine how to treat it holistically. Not only can you experience a positive shift in your current symptoms, but also prevent complications such as autoimmunity and chronic disease in the future. Isn’t that great?

If you are interested in finding out more about this or would like to be assessed, please get in touch. Let's get to the bottom of this!

Rachel Larsson

BHSc (Naturopathy), BPH (Nutrition)

How seeing a naturopath can better your health.

As a naturopath, we often see patients that have suffered years of ongoing, unresolved complaints and have been searching for answers without any luck. You may have a feeling that 'something more can be done', looking for a natural approach or are sick of getting prescribed antibiotics for the common cold. What about a desire to understand your body or wanting to have optimal, thriving heath and not feeling like you are just surviving? Does any of that sound familiar? If so, naturopathy may be for you. 

Naturopath's have the exciting, complex and rewarding job of looking and treating you as a whole person. What does this actually mean? This means that when you come in with a concern, for example you feel tired all the time, we will look beyond how much sleep you are getting. We will also consider your personal health history, family history, blood tests, medications, stress levels, physical examination, diet, allergies and so much more. We do this because we want to understand your unique situation as we appreciate the many causes that contribute to you feeling this way. An understanding of who you are is so important in giving you the best treatment.

The beauty of naturopathy is that the therapies we use are well tolerated and can actually be a support to conventional medicine. Although our remedies have traditional beginnings, many of them have substantial scientific evidence that support there use and efficacy. Naturopathy is also wonderful and unique in that there is no 'one fix' approach to a problem. It has a broad scope of treatment and can use the following remedy options according to your circumstance. 

  • Herbal medicine as liquids, tablets and teas
  • Dietary advice to promote food as medicine and nutritional supplements
  • Lifestyle and environmental advice to promote mindfulness and wellbeing
  • Flower essences have an energetic basis and can enhance the emotional aspects of healing.   

Using the example above, if your 'feeling tired all the time' was caused by high levels of stress we could look at using one or a combination of diet modification, herbal medicine, nutrient supplementation and mindfulness techniques. Interestingly this means that if your friend were to need help because they also felt tired all the time due to stress, we may actually consider completely different herbs, nutrients and dietary advice because we would consider their unique circumstances.  

In essence, naturopathy is based on the principle that the body has an inherent ability to heal itself. We follow these six philosophies when treating you:  

  1. The healing power of nature  (Vis Medicatrix Naturae)
  2. Identify and treat the cause (Tolle Causum) 
  3. Treat the whole person (Tolle Totum)
  4. Do not harm (Primum Non Nocere)
  5. Doctor as teacher (Docere)
  6. Prevention (Preventare)
Herbal Medicine in melbourne

At Narayani Wellness, your naturopathic experience is truly unique as we have a supportive community of passionate naturopaths and integrative doctors working together. We believe more can be achieved by having these two approaches as it has greater potency and efficacy than doing things separately. Our approach to patient care embraces the combination of traditional philosophy with functional testing, and we find we get better results with our patients with the addition of functional testing. Functional testing allows us to look at the finer processes that occur within our bodies. This includes looking at how our cells function, our energy production pathways, how we clear toxins, how we make our brain chemicals, hormone profiles and how we can achieve healthy bowel functions. Our focus is to put you first and we realise the best relationship is one built on trust. All of this keeps us on our toes which motivates us to do professional development and stay current with research to continually benefit you.

We realise that Spring is a time we focus on our health and 'recover' from Winter woes. For some, this means the annual struggle of hay fever or a time to address old health issues that flared up from a change in your diet and exercise. With Spring well and truly here and the excitement of warmer days coming, maybe this is the right time for you to see a naturopath and regain your health.