Undermethylation and Overmethylation - the Rollercoaster Ride

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Seriously, for someone who is very intelligent, the way my brain often works is really frustrating for me to handle.  I am Speedy Snail - my racing mind drags my fatigued body behind it.  That racing mind also combines with fogginess and blogs and strange debilitations that make me feel like I have the mental capacity of a squid (apologies to squids).

It's a paradox.

Some things just seem to take AGES for me to get sorted out in my head, even though I read about them countless times and experiment within my own body.  Understanding my own symptoms is very hard.  And it's all so complicated to sort out.  If you don't make copious notes of why you're taking a particular supplement, it can be lost to the pre-Alzheimer's fog even though it's a major component of your journey towards health.  Weird.  Being a person with a chronic illness in this modern day is an complex exercise in complete body biology.  In an age of genetic mutations and single-nucleotide polymorphisms and methylation cycles and the ability to test those things and the internet, hours of profitable research can go by and yet the confusion can still remain.  Even if you have a treating physician.

I've been supplementing as an undermethylator for the past year, because that's what I suspect I am.  And as far as I knew, you are either one or the other.  But all the while, I've also been rather confused because there have been times when I have been able to readily identify with some of the symptoms of overmethylation.  And I've also found by experimenting with occasional doses of niacin when I'm feeling overanxious and horridly wired that it's calmed me like a baby being rocked.

It's taken me until the last month to realise that people may be one or the other, but their bodies are still able to flip from undermethylation to overmethylation very easily - thank you, Dr Ben Lynch.  And flip back just as easily, if you know what you're doing (I am learning;  mainly it's a morass of confusion and experimentation and greater learning up ahead).

I have begun taking 5-MTHF, which is an active form of folic acid.  The first week I took it, a light came on and myself returned to myself.  I felt good, relatively speaking.  Still fatigued, still a little anxious, but the depression lifted.  That's the real me.  I need to remind myself and those around me who see me when the light's on that THAT IS THE REAL ME!  Please do not confuse substitutes.  And please do not take it personally when I am irritable, paranoid, suspicious.  Because I simply cannot help it :(

So I had a week of feeling great and then wham - down came the shutters.  Just like the experience of so many others (see example number 2).  But I know I'm onto something.  It's just working out how much my body needs, because taking them overmethylates me even further than I already am at times. 

Some people are so sensitive to certain supplements for whatever reason that they need to start with tiny, tiny dosages - the amount that can fit onto a fork tine, in some cases - and build up slowly, slowly.  It may seem ridiculous that such small doses of things can work - but work they do.  It's why I'm hesitant to dismiss homeopathy out of hand.

And so now for me it's working out how much of that stuff I can take without having adverse reactions.  And just to add to the confusion, it feels like beginning methyl B12 and 5-MTHF has thrown everything else out of whack now too.  All those supplements I have been taking as an undermethylator, like SAMe, my lifesaver for depression and suicidal ideation?  Seems to be making me anxious now.  Because SAMe is a methyl donor, and when you're overmethylated you have too much methyl going on (hence the use of niacin - it mops up excess methyl donors going on in the body).  Which is hard to get used to when I have felt for ages that I haven't had enough.  And yet looking back in hindsight, I can clearly see now that the entire time I have been flipping backwards and forwards from undermethylation to overmethylation.

When I woke up this morning I felt the common wired-but-tired feeling.  My mind was racing but I felt sluggish.  Depressed.  Despairing.  Stuck.  Paranoid.  The paranoia is the worst;  it cuts me off from people faster than anything else can.  And so I took 50mg of niacin, and now here I am several hours later, feeling much more myself again, with the paranoia gone.

Orthomolecular medicine is the new kid on the block and it is going to change in the future how people with mental illnesses are treated.  I think with sadness of the people who have developed schizophrenia in the past, locked away in wards, when something as simple as niacin may have helped with their symptoms.

So anyway, all of this realisation about overmethylation proves the point once again that the problem with me (despite appearances to the contrary) isn't so much that I'm not trying hard enough.  It's that I regularly and constantly try too hard, want to go too quick, and don't even realise that that's what's happening half the time!

Back to the supplemental drawing board again.  A drawing board which needs to be wiped clean regularly, in the complex health issues I face.


  1. Throughout history, brilliant minds have suffered with complex health issues. I feel sad that there wasn't effective medicinal help for them, and they suffered all the worse. Not only with their health, but also with the social alienation by those who didn't (couldn't) understand their afflictions.
    So many were institutionalised. So sad.

    Even as late as the seventies, women could be incarcerated by their husbands/families in (horrible) facilities for ptsd and other "misunderstood ailments".
    It's only a little better today. But, not much I fear, with mental health funding cuts.

    I'm nowhere near as intelligent as you, dear Sue, so I plod along. But I so feel for you - how do I say that without sounding patronising in text? x

    1. Oh, geez, Vicki, I'm pretty fucking unintelligent myself, so be careful placing yourself below me :P No, no, you don't sound patronising. Thanks. Life is a lonely beast at the moment and the majority of the encouragement I get is from people online, most of who I don't know, hehe :)

  2. Hi Sue, I loved this piece by the way... I just want you to know, before having read through your blog entry I posted it in the comments below my on blog link I placed on my Facebook timeline: http://ross-deadmanwalkingaliveinmexico.blogspot.mx/2014/04/thinking-about-my-maternal-grandmother.html

    1. Hi Ross. Wow, what beautiful artwork you create. Stunning!

      Good luck with working out the methylation minefield. I still don't really understand it, to be honest. It's all very complicated indeed.

  3. Hi Sue, I didn't know you responded to my earlier message until this moment when I noticed that someone from "discombobula..." looked at my blog and went into theirs (yours) and noticed that the piece was familiar... At the moment I'm a bit tired trying to understand blood test results showing that my triglycerides have risen when I am not eating simple carbs since the last blood test a month ago... I'm also trying to understand what looks like a thiamin (B1) deficiency and if it truly is a deficiency, since every country states a different level. I haven't been back to the idea of undermethylation since early April. I guess I'm trying to understand too many things regarding our health and diet etc. I'm glad you appreciate my artwork. I haven't had the artistic focus since early December; focussing on nutrition and health etc... I'm sorry I took so long responding.


    1. Hi Ross.

      Oops, well, I'm sorry I took so long responding to your response to me apologising for taking so long for responding :)

      Yes, trying to work out health stuff is so very complicated, sometimes it rules out art-making. Which is a shame, because art-making should come first but so often I don't have the energy left. Here's to more energy, better health, more art *clink*

  4. Hi Sue,
    I realize you wrote this a long time ago, but it was a much-needed read for me. I recently realized I was low on B12 and had the same effect you did (and example 2): I did great for a week, then I fell apart. I thought maybe my body was just determined to be miserable. I feel bad you went through this, but it's also nice to see confirmation. I've recently realized I likely have Adrenal Fatigue and found a great product called Adrenal Health by Gaia Herbs. I just started it so I can't tell you my personal experience with it, but hundreds swear by it (look at reviews on Amazon). It's meant to actually nourish and heal adrenal glands, so it might help you as it has helped many others (especially with energy). I just thought I'd share something that might help you as you shared something that helped me :-) Best of luck!

    1. Thanks for your comment, Mara. I'm always a little surprised that anyone get anything out of these pyroluria and methylation posts because I feel like I'm so bumbling with it all myself. In fact, I find myself back to square one today. My depression has been getting worse and worse, and so now, as a last-ditch attempt before the dreaded antidepressants, I'm giving methylfolate one more shot. Honestly, all this trial and error, it's enormously tiresome.

      It's interesting you should suggest an adrenal product as I have had adrenal issues for 15 years now, and am taking B5, but last night was looking at raw thyroid and raw adrenal. How creepy, taking animals' dessicated glands. But I'm desperate enough to do it. Just had a look at Adrenal Health and it looks good - I've taken ashwagandha for a long time, but have been having a break in recent times. It's good stuff!! I really hope you feel a difference - let me know, if you think to come back this way again.


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