Genomics is a new field of medicine and science that has developed since scientists first plotted out the human DNA genome. It revolves around identifying the common variations (called SNPs or single-nucleotide polymorphisms) in different genes that exist within the population and how they affect the individual’s health and overall functioning. Epigenetics is an off-shoot science/art about how those genes are expressed by the individual. We tend to forget that our genes get turned off or on at different times in our lives. For example: some are turned on in adolescence, some in pregnancy. Some genes need other environmental factors in place before they are unlocked by the body. Now that science has figured out how to decode the human genome, we can use lab tests to identify SNPs (those variant genes) for important biological functions.

The most commonly known SNPs are in the genes that code for methylation systems. Methylation is a process that uses a series of enzymes to add a little carbon group, called a methyl group, to other biochemical items. Methylation is used as a locking mechanism for DNA, basically turning on and off genes, which helps appropriate division and formation of immune, gut and hormone producing cells. And because the body is very smart, this one process gets used for other things too like detox pathways, or even making neurotransmitters. MTHFR enzyme is the most important one in this cycle as it recycles the methyl group and funnels more in dietary sources. With enough starting products and vitamin and mineral cofactors, the methyl group can be recycled to be used again and again. In essence, the MTHFR enzyme acts as a central cog fueling several very key and diverse biological functions. The gene that codes for this enzyme is also called the MTHFR gene and it has well-known SNPs, variants that cause that critical enzyme to be a less efficient. We know that an injured or less efficient enzyme is slow and the materials it is supposed to act on build up, as it tries to keep up it burns through its cofactors depleting them.

Symptoms that might point to methylation/MTHFR SNPs include:

– Migraines
– Ringing in the ears
– MS and other autoimmune disorders
– Chronic Immune infections
– Poor healing
– Mood concerns (depression, anxiety)
– Autism Spectrum Disorders
– Chronic Fatigue and Fibromyalgia
– Midline defects
– Fertility concerns

Of course, your DNA is fixed but due to epigenetics we can take advantage of how the environment affects the gene expression. We can use nutrients, nutrition and herbs to help the system to function at its best and to compensate for the variations. The first is to test for MTHFR and many many other SNPs. For more information, feel free to call or book in online and Dr Kellie is happy to chat with you about methylation and your testing options.


Dr Kellie Ferguson

Naturopathic Physician