Dr Lynch received his Cell and Molecular Biology, BS from the University of Washington and his doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine (ND) from Bastyr University. His passion for identifying the cause of disease directed him towards nutrigenomics and methylation dysfunction. Currently, he researches, writes and presents worldwide on the topic of MTHFR, methylation defects and genetic control. You may learn more about Dr Lynch and his work at www.drbenlynch.com. Dr Lynch is the President of www.SeekingHealth.com, a supplement company oriented towards disease prevention and health promotion. He lives in Seattle, WA with his wife, Nadia, and three boys, Tasman, Mathew and Theodor.
- Your book, “Dirty Genes” strongly emphasizes the importance of lifestyle modification before beginning to add supplements. Can you expound a little on why this is so important? Lots of experience prove this to be the case. He wanted people to be able to swallow a pill and get better, but usually that isn’t the case. The word supplement means to add to, or enhance. So if you’re living a lifestyle that’s go-go-go, not getting sleep, eating fast food on the run, swallowing food like a snake bc you’re trying to get to your next meeting, it’s detrimental to your health.
- The MTHFR gene was your “gateway” of sorts into the world of genetics, and while you spotlight several main genes in your book, this one seems to be the kingpin, affecting all the others. Can you just briefly give an overview on why it is so important? It was the first gene he read about, ironically? but it’s also the first domino. Its role is simple: it’s to make one type of folate which enables other genes to work. If it’s not working, these other 200 genes can stay asleep. You have 200 other genes waiting for MTHFR to give them what they need.
- Why is it that a dirty MTHFR can present with depression on some days, and anxiety or irritability on others? What’s going on with the neurotransmitters? If MTHFR is “dirty,” not functioning at its best, homocysteine levels increase. Homocysteine is a valuable component in the body that does certain things, but if it’s too high, it causes genes to turn off or cause inflammation and destruction to other parts of the body. This can directly affect a gene whose job it is to support a compound to help make your neurotransmitters. This gene is NOS3. If you have a dirty MTHFR, NOS3 is also dirty, and if that’s dirty, the neurotransmission and cardiovascular system is also dirty. It can affect all your neurotransmitters. That’s why there’s such a huge range in the moods you can experience, and why there’s no set disease or set mood disorder. It can fluctuate.
- You point out how important it is to not take any supplements containing folic acid, though folate is ok (and methylfolate is even better). Can you explain why this distinction matters? The body doesn’t inherently do anything with folic acid. Nothing. The body has to open it, and unpack it and then it can start using it. You have to have readily available nutrients so you can move forward. The body wants active types of folate. (Folate also comes from the word foliage ? leafy greens! So that’s a great place to get it from.)
- Can you explain what people typically describe when they “over-methylate”, or take too many methylation supplements? What does this usually look like clinically? The term ‘over-methylation’ is like fingernails on a chalkboard. These are terms used bc they give us a quick understanding of what might be going on, but it’s a gross oversimplification. When someone takes too much of a methyl donor: you can get anxiety, irritability, depression, insomnia, etc. There are no set symptoms. What happens: methylation is the action of taking a methyl group and moving it from one place to another. You’re just taking one thing and attaching it to something else and by doing so, you change its function. You can’t really predict what your body will do with the extra compound that is created.
- Your Pulse Method of dosing supplements is very unique, to make sure each person is taking exactly what he or she needs and no more. Can you explain it briefly? The bell shaped curve: the top of the mountain is the middle and the bottom is on L and R. You can have an extreme situation, current symptoms on the lower L which is deficiency. Over a period of time you keep taking the folate and you feel fantastic. Then you keep taking it and slide down the other side, bc you have an excess of that nutrient. Now the symptoms are changing. You have to tune in to your body and see how you feel right then and determine if you need to continue the supplement or not. Remember that a supplement is just something to add to or enhance.
- You talk a lot about how “dirty” genes can act clean with a clean lifestyle, and vice versa. Is this true primarily for people with a heterozygous version of a gene, or is it equally true for people who have two good copies as well? Maybe they’re not necessarily “bad” – maybe they’re just different. Having an MTHFR that is working more slowly might have been advantageous for ancestors where they were actually living. Maybe a slower COMT is not bad, it’s actually good?and maybe a faster COMT is actually good in some ways. That said, if someone is born with a slower MTHFR, it’s going to be reduced in function. If you don’t have the cleanest lifestyle and don’t support it, that by itself may be enough to dirty the MTHFR. If someone was born with a faster MTHFR, meaning they were not homozygous of a variant, they also live the same lifestyle and may be able to get away with more bad habits. Look at it as a measure of resiliency.
- When you see that there are mutations?let’s say COMT or MAO?how can you tell if they’re a “speed up” or a “slow down” mutation? Is this just clinical, or are there specific mutations that are always one or the other? It depends on the report. Reports should tell you if it’s slower or faster. StrateGene is their genetic report. It tells you the degree to which the gene is slower or faster, according to published papers. They’re also working on their own genetic chip as we speak ? they’ve found more clinical and lifestyle relevant genetic mutations that they’re excited to provide. It should be the end of 2018 when their own test comes out. 23 & Me is very accurate; they’re running a good clean show with their chip. There are a lot of Mom and Pop companies popping out where testing is very inaccurate, though.
- An article just came out in Nature, suggesting that 40% of variants in a variety of genes reported in direct-to-consumer raw data were false positives. Do you have any comments to shed some light on this? This is not 23 & Me, it’s the Mom and Pop groups mentioned above. For their chip, they’re looking at having a university process their samples. He tours their facilities and it’s spot on. Talked to them about that article: they run controls with every single sample that comes through. They don’t just process the sample; they do a control at the same time, too.
- Are the people with DAO mutations typically the ones who end up with elevated whole blood histamine when their guts get inflamed? (I’ve definitely noticed that only some people with gut inflammation end up with histamine intolerance, but not everybody.) The half life of whole blood histamine a minute. Urinary histamine typically comes from the stomach. Acid reflux is high histamine, as histamine stimulates acid release (which is why there’s no DAO in the stomach). Having a DAO ++ does make you more susceptible to having high histamine, though. If the DAO enzyme gets burdened, you absorb the histamine into the blood stream. Then methylation has to deal with it. But bacteria also produce histamine themselves, and the immune system response utilizes histamine as well. Histamine will stimulate immune cells to take action. So there’s a lot going on ? not just the food and drink, and also probiotics. Certain strains will increase histamine. Probiotics that are good for high histamine levels: the entire bifidobacter genus is very effective for modulating histamine. But there are certain strains of lactobacillus that are outstanding at this too. Seeking Health does produce HistaminX to support this.
- In the PEMT section, you mention how important it is for your liver to stop eating when you’re about 80% full. Can you explain why this helps the liver specifically? The liver has to process a lot of things. When you overeat, it depends on what you’re overeating. If you’re overeating carbs, you’re creating a ton of inflammation ? which is why diabetics have a hard time with eyesight and etc. If it’s fats, the liver has to deal with bile production. If cholesterol ratio is higher than phosphatidylcholine, then bile doesn’t come out very well. You need 10 parts phosphatidylcholine to 1 part cholesterol: and methylation produces this. About 70-80% of your body’s methylation goes toward making phosphatidylcholine. If someone has high homocysteine and they’re pregnant, then we know immediately that their methylation cycle isn’t working very well. Pregnancy is a high methylation time, and women get gallstones, R sided pain, or R shoulder pain. Overeating fat can contribute to this, which can lead to fatty liver, SIBO, fat nutrient malabsorption, etc. Then if you overeat protein, your kidneys and your mitochondria everywhere, including your liver, get overworked bc it’s your mitochondria which get rid of ammonia. We need protein to help us repair our cells?but if you overeat, you have too much ammonia. That is toxic to your brain and cells.
- Is there anything I haven’t asked you that you want to make sure you communicate to our audience? No matter where you are, if you’re bedridden and can’t move, or you’re an athlete and high level, finding one simple thing that you can change can make a big impact. If you’re a sprinter, by changing how you breathe while your sprinting, that can make a huge impact. If you’re bedridden and change your breathing, that too can make a huge impact. It’s the basics that keep us going, but they’re easy to forget that. Start with one change. Don’t read Dirty Genes and think you’re going to change everything all at once. Read through it once, and then when you hear something the second time around, stop and put the book down and start working on it. It’s not a book you read once and absorb.
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