Anxiety is a symptom, NOT a disease.

There are many reasons why people become anxious. Genetics, diet, lifestyle and environment are all key factors and they are all equally important. But the reality is that for many people they may take steps to improve their diet, lifestyle and environment with the goal of improving their mental health…and find nothing has changed. So today I want to focus on the missing link – genetics.

Our genes regulate our hormones and neurotransmitters. If you have genetic variations (also called single nucleotide polymorphisms or SNPs), they can directly impact the levels of these important chemical messengers, contributing to anxiety and other mental health conditions.

Methylation and why it’s so important

Let’s start with methylation. Methylation is a biological process that occurs within every cell in our body and is the process of activating a molecule through the addition of a methyl group. What does this mean exactly? Well think of it as a process of switching on (or off) enzymes, molecules or chemical reactions in the body. If we didn’t methylate, we would die!

We know that stress uses a LOT of methyl groups. We also know that our hormones and neurotransmitters need methyl groups too, so if we are burning through too many of them due to stress, it is unlikely there will be enough left over for serotonin and dopamine (as an example). Those who under-methylate (or have to too few methyl groups) can experience headaches, phobias, OCD, depression, addiction and social isolation. But did you know that it is possible to over-methylate? If you have too many methyl groups it can result in symptoms such as hyperactivity, sleep disorders, restless leg syndrome and anxiety. It is important to seek help from a qualified and experienced practitioner and not self-medicate with supplements – even a multi-vitamin can increase anxiety in those with certain genetic SNPs such as MTHFR.

The role of glutamate and GABA

There are a number of other genes that are involved with anxiety. For example, GAD1 is responsible for the conversion of glutamate to GABA. Glutamate is an excitatory neurotransmitter (also found in MSG), whilst GABA is calming (and what we need to quell those feelings of anxiety). Nutrient deficiencies can also contribute to the poor conversion of glutamate to GABA, so diet is an important factor when it comes to the expression of your genes.

What next?

If you are keen to learn more about your own genetics, I can arrange testing, clinical interpretation of your results and design an effective treatment plan so you can rid yourself of anxiety and start to live the life you deserve.  Book an appointment today.