Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Too Many Methyl Groups Spoil the Sleep

Methyl groups, those CH3 radicals attached to complex molecules used in so many bodily functions, are transferred from one molecule to another in a process called methylation.

I knew something was awry with my methylation when I first started looking into Amy Yasko's work in late 2006. I sent in a blood sample to test my genetics, and found that I had quite a number of blips in the code. These blips are called SNP's (pronounced 'snips': the letters stand for 'Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms), which is a fancy way of saying that in the DNA sequence of four amino acids, one of the amino acids that is normally found has been replaced by a different one. The consequence is that the biological process controlled by that particular gene either moves too quickly or too slowly.

Imagine you are on a crowded highway and one car is going at 45 mph while everyone else is traveling at 65. It wouldn't take long before there was quite a pile up of cars waiting to get around the slowpoke--not to mention quite a bit of useless noise from honking, cursing, braking, and revving engines. This is what happens in the body when there are, say, ten steps in a process and one of them is way too slow.

Now take the opposite case: a car moving at 85 in a 65 mph zone. A few drivers will get behind it and speed along too. The rest will move over to the right, tisk tisking and shaking their heads. They won't try to keep up with the speeder! Ten miles later, it's not a great surprise to see the speeder pulled over by a traffic cop, or an unfortunate accident. This is analogous to what happens in the body when one step in a ten step process goes too fast.

Two days ago I decided to take Vitamin B-12 in a form called methylcobalamin. I decided on this for two reasons: [1] my backordered hydroxy B-12 got delivered to my Mom's house the day after we left and I'm supposed to start the B-12 two weeks after starting the other supplement; [2] I had a full bottle of methyl B-12 at home.

I took a full 5 mg dose on Monday. I took a half pill on Tuesday.

Would it surprise you to learn that I slept listlessly both nights? was up to 2 am the first night? had a lot of energy the 2nd night but managed to fall asleep close to midnight?

The methyl B-12 delivers a whole pile of extra methyl groups and speeds up the methylation, just as SAM-e does. It felt great to have extra energy all day and in the early evening, but somewhere further along the journey (a few miles up the highway) was an accident or a roadblock. No zzzzzzz.

I lay in bed this morning, wondering what was going wrong, when it all fell into place. I had started taking methyl B-12 many years ago. I think I might have read something about it in 2003 or 2004. In 2005, Dr. Majid Ali put me on B-12 injections, and when I complained about the preservatives in the cyanocobalamin, he said I could take the sublingual methyl B-12. So I did, at least until sometime around 2008, when I switched to the Intrinsi B-12 recommended by Rich Van Konynenberg for the simplified Yasko protocol.

During a good part of these years, I had very poor sleep. I did a sleep study which, for over $2000, confirmed what we already knew: that I was not going into deep sleep and was waking 100 times throughout the night. I tried every medication available. I tried nearly every natural remedy I could find (herbs, minerals, homeopathics, GABA, melatonin) Some sleep meds helped the first 4 or 5 times, the others caused problems from the start, but all ended up with the same result--palpitations and a paradoxical hyper-charged feeling that kept me up all night.

I have to say that I often wondered if I was getting what I wished for. All through my graduate student years and throughout my 12 years in academia, I wished I could get by on 4 hours of sleep so I could have more time to write and do research. Now, with this CFS-induced sleep disorder, I had time on my hands and energy to work during the wee hours of the night! But as everyone with CFS will agree, a poor night's sleep makes all the other symptoms worse. It's not a fair trade.

(By the way, Betaine HCl, used to enhance digestive acid, is also a methyl donor.)

I think about taking 1/4 pill, 1/8 pill, 1/16 pill. I'd like to have just a little more of that extra energy but not enough to stay up tossing and turning all night.

Rich van Konynenberg has found that, by taking a very low dose of the active metabolites needed for methylation, many people with CFS start to repair their body's ability to methylate. I suppose the conservative thing to do is to wait for this to happen. I've been tired for 15 years. In 3 months, I will retest methylation to see if my numbers have come closer to the normal range. What's another 3-4 months in the big scheme of things?

Sleep well,

1 comment:

  1. Janis I live in Tennessee and have questions about testing and the protocol Rich uses. I hope you can help answer these questions. Will you email me at so we can talk. Thanks


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