PODCAST: Genetic Variants and Your Health With Dr. Benjamin Lynch

Thanks for joining us for episode 133 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. If you want to keep up with our podcasts, subscribe in iTunes and never miss an episode! Remember, please send us your question if you’d like us to answer it on the show.

Today we are excited to be interviewing Dr. Benjamin Lynch!

Dr. Lynch is a Naturopathic Doctor who received his Cell and Molecular Biology degree from University of Washington and his 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 and methylation defects. You can learn more about Dr. Lynch and his work at www.DrBenLynch.com. Dr. Lynch is also the founder and president of www.SeekingHealth.com, a company oriented towards disease prevention and health promotion. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife and three boys.

The investigation of genetic variants that may contribute to health conditions is an increasingly popular topic of discussion, most notably MTHFR. With methylation support being a hot issue and the focus seemingly being heavy on supplementation, it may surprise you that this is not the best approach.

Join us for a fascinating discussion with Dr. Benjamin Lynch as he provides clarity on how genetic variants play a role in overall health.

As Dr. Lynch explains how the focus should be on treating the individual as a whole instead of attempting to treat a variant, you’ll learn the best way to support yourself if you have gene variants.

Just some of what you’ll hear is why the fear surrounding MTHFR is not necessarily warranted, how to tell if your methylation is impaired, and what genetic testing is and isn’t useful for. You’ll even learn why certain supplements can be helpful for some, but make matters worse for others.

This is also an episode not to be missed if you’re planning for pregnancy in the near future as Dr. Lynch shares tips for preconception and pregnancy, and covers the topic of prenatal vitamins.

Be sure to catch info on how to get your free bonuses when you preorder Dr. Lynch’s new book Dirty Genes!

Here is some of what we discussed with Dr. Lynch:

  • [00:04:14] What led Dr. Lynch to study nutrigenomics and methylation defects
  • [00:07:29] Explanation of genetics and methylation
  • [00:10:44] Where methyl groups are found in the diet and how you many not being getting the methyl groups you need despite a healthy diet
  • [00:15:44] How MTHFR is not necessarily a bad thing
  • [00:18:59] Signs that you may have MTHFR variants
  • [00:22:22] Why 23andMe will not tell you how well your methylation pathway is working
  • [00:24:31] What testing to identify gene variants is and isn’t useful for
  • [00:32:41] The best way to support yourself if you have gene variants, and why supplementation is not a first strategy
  • [00:40:22] Exercise induced asthma as an example of how to use supplements to help implement lifestyle modifications to address MTHFR, and the importance of being able to access methyl groups
  • [00:44:45] How methylation plays a role in sleep and why supplementation with SAM-e can either help or make symptoms worse
  • [00:50:33] Tips for planning for pregnancy and how Optimal Prenatal differs from other prenatals

Links Discussed:

TRANSCRIPT:

Kelsey: Hi everyone! Welcome to Episode 133 of The Ancestral RDs podcast. I’m Kelsey Kinney and with me as always is my co-host Laura Schoenfeld.

Laura: Hey everybody!

Laura: We’re Registered Dietitians with a passion for ancestral health, real food nutrition, and sharing evidence based guidance that combines science with common sense. You can find me at KelseyKinney.com and Laura at LauraSchoenfeldRD.com.

We’ve got a great guest on our show today who’s going to share his insight into how genetic variants play a role in our overall health. We’re so glad Dr. Ben Lynch is joining us and we think you’ll really enjoy this episode.

Laura: If you are enjoying our show, subscribe on iTunes so that you never miss an episode. And while you’re in iTunes, leave us a positive review so that others can discover the show as well!

And remember, we want to answer your question on the show, so head over to TheAncestralRDs.com to submit a health related question that we can answer or suggest a guest that you’d love for us to interview on an upcoming show.

Kelsey: Before we get into our interview, here is a quick word from our sponsor:

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Kelsey: Welcome back, everybody. As you might be able to tell from my voice, I came down with a nasty cold yesterday so you guys are going to have to forgive me for sounding a little bit ridiculous today.

I’m very excited to introduce Dr. Benjamin Lynch as our guest today! Dr. Lynch is a Naturopathic Doctor who received his Cell and Molecular Biology degree from University of Washington and his 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 and methylation defects. You can learn more about Dr. Lynch and his work at www.DrBenLynch.com. Dr. Lynch is also the founder and president of www.SeekingHealth.com, a company oriented towards disease prevention and health promotion. He lives in Seattle, Washington with his wife and three boys.

Welcome, Dr. Lynch!

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Great to be here, Kelsey!

Kelsey: We are super excited to have you! I know obviously based on your bio here, you’re a Naturopath by training and you hinted at the fact that the reason you became so interested in genetic mutations was because you were thinking more about the cause of disease. Can you tell us a little bit more about how you got to where you are right now in terms of what you’re studying?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: A lot of hours. You have to have a passion to push you towards learning. For me, naturopathic medicine provides a phenomenal foundation for looking at causes of disease. It does a great job, but it’s not complete enough without looking at the human genome because what I learned in naturopathic medical school was here’s a problem, here’s a disease, and these are the natural ways to treat it versus here’s a patient, this is what they’re struggling from, here are the things that you should consider for the patient.

It’s a little bit different, but it’s a huge difference. Instead of treating the disease with natural treatments, you’re supporting the individual with natural treatments. It’s a huge difference and you cannot do that without looking at the human genome. I mean you can, I’ve learned now which questions to ask to see which genes are kind of not working very well and which ones are working too hard. But that took me basically a decade to figure that out. You can skip that by looking at genetics.

Kelsey: Right. Would you say that figuring out what genes are having trouble, would you classify that as like root cause medicine, or functional medicine as some people call it?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: I wouldn’t call it functional medicine. Functional medicine is basically naturopathic medicine, the root cause medicine. Yeah, possibly. But we’re ending with the word medicine and that I’m not a fan of. I believe looking at the human genome allows less guessing. There is a term “precision medicine” out there. But that to me sounds surgical. It sounds like you’re really, really gone down one rabbit hole and you’re treating one gene versus still the whole patient.

I have named my teaching as strategic medicine, and here I am saying that I don’t like the word medicine. But we do have to cater to those who are thinking of it this way, which is 99 percent of people. I would say looking at genetics the way I do allows you to go in and strategically evaluate what is going on with the patient and then strategically provide interventions that make a huge amount of progress with very little potential for side effects because you understand what’s going on very, very well.

Kelsey: Yeah, makes sense. We’re talking about genetics here and I think a lot of us in our audience especially has heard this term methylation all over the place. Can you do a little bit of explaining about what you’re talking about when you’re talking so much about genetics, and then what methylation is specifically.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Genetics is basically the hardware that you’re born with. I don’t really mean to insult the beauty of our human bodies, but we are basically a computer and we have a ton of hardware in our systems. We’ve got our heart, we’ve got our cell receptors, we have our nerves. We are an amazing electrical being where there’s a lot of vibration going on here as well. But that’s the hardwired system.

The wires, the walls, insulation and windows, the doors, kind of all that that you have. But you are the environment inside the home. I mean we all live in homes, but every home is different. The contents of that home is different. Some homes are cleaner than others. Some ages are different. The foods in your fridge are different. The hobbies that you find throughout the homes are different. And that’s where the epigenetics comes in.

Genetics are basically the hardwiring of how your body is going to function. It’s the home. It’s the new house that you purchase and it’s yours. But the epigenetics of how your genes are working, the environment of how your genes are working is basically how you decide to utilize your body. It’s things that you do, how you decorate your home, what you put in your home. Methylation is one part of that. Methylation is the switching. One component of methylation is the switching of turning your genes on or off. We think that we always want our genes on and that’s a good thing. But no, we don’t.

We have skin on our arms and inside that skin of our arms is a nucleus. Inside the nucleus is DNA for every single gene in our body. But most of those genes are turned off in our arm because we don’t want to grow a heart cell in our arm, right? It wouldn’t make any sense. Methylation is controlling how our genes are communicating…well, not communicating, but working. Either their on or they’re off, and methylation does that.

Methyl is basically the simplest compound available. It’s a carbon and three hydrogens. It moves around and it will bind to things. As it binds to things, it’ll either turn them on or off, or it’ll change their structure.

One thing that we know of, everybody knows is serotonin. Serotonin through a few steps, one of those is methylation, serotonin becomes melatonin. Another one is uracil.  Uracil is an RNA base. We have RNA produced and then it needs to be switched over to DNA and that requires methylation. Uracil to thymine, that requires that CH3 to dock onto it and you get thymine.

It does hundreds of reactions in the body plus turning on and off your genes. It’s very, very important.

Kelsey: Got it. These methyl groups, are these things that we have in our body all the time or are we getting them from our environment?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Great question, great question. Methyl groups are provided by our diet. The carbon and three hydrogens can be recycled around, but they have to be incoming through our diet. You hear the word methionine, and methionine is an amino acid. Well it’s a methylated amino acid. There is a methyl group on it…methio, right? Methionine. We hear about methylcobalamin and methylcobalamin is vitamin B12 that’s found in our red meats and our liver. And then we hear about methylfolate and methylfolate comes from our leafy greens and also liver. So these are all coming from our food.

A lot of people also are unaware about choline. Choline is a really important methyl donor. Even though it doesn’t have the word methyl in it, it’s kind of the backup to individuals who don’t eat a lot of vegetables. But it doesn’t do as comprehensive a job for people’s methylation as methylfolate and methylcobalamin which are the vitamin B12 and folate. The choline is found in meats mainly and also some vegetables as well. But it’s very high and in eggs.

Kelsey: So as long as you are eating a decent amount of meat and you’re getting a good amount of vegetables, would somebody get all the methyl groups that they could possibly need or are there other things to consider here?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: That’s another great question. Let’s look at that way; you go to work every single day and you’re making money. You save the money and you put it in the bank and you’re stocking it up. You keep some money in your wallet. So the wallet with your money in it is kind of your active methylation and the bank is housing your stored available methyl groups bound as SAM-e or something else.

But you can deplete your wallet and you’ll need to go to the cash machine and pull money out of the bank. But sometimes that cash machine doesn’t work. You forgot your code, or the card is busted, or the magnetic stripe is not working. The SAM-e, the money, can be available…and SAM-e is the number one metal donor in the body…but it can get stuck and trapped.

Even if you’re using the right foods, you’re consuming the right foods and living a fairly healthy life, there are many reasons why your methylation is not working the way it should be so it’s stuck despite you eating very well.

Kelsey: Another term I’m sure a lot of our listeners have heard before is MTHFR and mutations with MTHFR. They think that they need to be taking tons of methylated B vitamins to sort of offset that. But I think there’s a lot of confusion about that. Is that what you’re referring to here when the cash machine doesn’t work is these defects?

Dr. Ben Lynch: They can be. They can be genetic polymorphisms like MTHFR, yes. A genetic polymorphism is basically very, very common. It’s not a scary thing. It’s just a slightly altered way how our gene is working compared to the majority of the population usually.

You might have blond hair, I might have brown hair. It’s not bad. It’s just different right. MTHFR I used to think was bad, and it’s not. There are benefits to it. Years ago I had a sinking feeling when I had MTHFR show up on my genetic test along with my kids’. Like, crap, we’re in trouble. But we need to start first of all getting rid of that mindset and say well what’s the benefit? How do we support it?

Indirectly I would say MTHFR would be kind of acting as a bad debit card or somebody hostaging your bank. But I would say more along the lines of heavy metals, nitrous oxide which is laughing gas, various other medicines, oxidative stress. Hydrogen peroxide is actually produced by our body in order to trigger our immune system to work in order to kill bugs and infections.

You probably have some increased hydrogen peroxide levels right now, Kelsey, in your system to try to combat the infection that you have. And as a result, your methyl groups in your body are a little bit stuck. But it’s done on purpose. It’s not a bad thing it’s just how the body is working.

But heavy metals and laughing gas, yeah, they can make it stuck.

Kelsey: Interesting. Okay. So let’s go back for a second because I love what you just said about MTHFR not necessarily being a bad thing. I have to admit that this is something that I thought. Granted I don’t know a ton about methylation, so I want you to educate both me and our listeners about what you mean by that.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: This kind of goes into the concept of what I call a dirty gene. I don’t even like the term for MTHFR being born dirty. It’s being born different.

Genes like MTHFR and the variations that we all are born with, they’ve been selected for thousands of years; multiple, multiple, multiple times throughout our evolution. Our ancestors have been selected to have the MTHFR and they pass it down to us.

You and I would not be talking right now, the listeners wouldn’t be listening to this if MTHFR was deadly. I mean natural selection would have said alright, this isn’t working and you couldn’t reproduce and you couldn’t have kids.

So then you have to back up and say well why is MTHFR so prevalent in the population right now? There are many reasons, but I’m not going to get those. MTHFR is the last gene in your folate pathway. A lot of people don’t understand the folate pathway, and that’s fine. But MTHFR, its job is to make methylfolate which goes to support your methylation. MTHFR, its name is methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase.  So there is the word methyl in it and it supports the production of methylation and that’s what it does.

But there is other forms of folate that do other things like we talked about earlier of uracil going to thymine. That’s pretty important. You got to have your RNA going to DNA, so that’s really important. That uses a different type of folate. That uses more folinic acid.

So if you just have a bunch of folate going through MTHFR and making a whole heap amount of methylfolate to support your methylation, well what if you’re not getting that much food? What if you’re not getting enough vegetables? What if you’re not getting enough leafy greens, or liver, or meat? Then you are going to be deficient in your folate and what’s going to happen is your DNA is starting to get damaged.

You have to understand that there’s various forms of folate and they do different things. It’s like if the only thing you did was clean one bathroom in your house and you have two, the other one I wouldn’t want to go visit.

Kelsey: Right.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: There’s a direction that happens. There’s a bifurcation, if you will, in the folate pathway and MTHFR helps slow that down so you get more of your folate going to support your DNA repair than you do to support your methylation. And there’s benefits to that.

Kelsey: Okay. You mentioned that you can kind of ask certain questions to identify maybe what genes might not be working very well. I want to talk about if you do have issues with methylation, so let’s say you have some of these MTHFR defects, how does that typically show up in a person? What sort of symptoms would they have? Can they tell that they have any sort of defect?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Well first we have to define defect. Again, defect sounds bad, right? If you go to the store and there’s a defect in your clothing, it’s marked down. That’s kind of how it is. So first of all, it’s an alteration.

The way to see if your MTHFR is different, or any gene, is first you have to understand what these genes do. So what’s the function of MTHFR? Its job is to produce methylfolate. What is methylfolate? It supports methylation. Okay, well if it supports methylation, what’s a very, very common thing that can be a problem if my methylation isn’t working very well? High homocysteine. If my homocysteine is high, what can happen? Oh my gosh, a whole bunch of things.

For example, if someone is exercising…and listen up on this one because this happens often. If you’re running on the treadmill, or you are playing soccer, or whatever sport you want and you tend to get red in the face and it stays red for 20, 30, 40 minutes, an hour after you exercise, that’s a sign that your methylation isn’t working very well.

What’s happening is when you’re exercising, you are producing a bunch of hydrogen peroxide and you’re using up a lot of other nutrients and your methylation support goes down. As your methylation sport goes down, then your histamine levels go up. If your histamine levels go up, you get red in the face, you get exercise induced asthma, you get huge amounts of perspiration more than the average bear, and then you’re the basketball player that nobody wants to guard, right?

Kelsey: Right.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Or you’ve got asthma itself, or you get eczema, or worsening of eczema. You can get irritable, you can get insomnia. I mean histamine plays a ton of roles and exercise will flare it for various reasons because its job is to increase blood flow. It should go down normally. You should be able to exercise, be red in the face, sweat, and be able to get rid of that huge amount of sweating and the red face probably within about 10 15 minutes I imagine.

Kelsey: Wow! That’s probably ringing true, that statement. I know at least I sort of fall into pieces of that myself. I know that I have some MTHFR alterations as you say. Now I’m forgetting which ones I have. My family, we did the 23andMe test, which I want to ask you about, too. But we determined that pretty much all of us have some sort of methylation alteration there. Obviously it sounds like it’s a pretty common thing to deal with.

First question I guess I’ll start here, is the 23andMe test a good test to look at your methylation?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch. Is it a good test to look at your methylation? No. It’s a good test to look at what genes in your methylation pathway might be slower, or faster, or altered in some way. It shows you susceptibility of how your methylation could be. It’s not showing you how your methylation is.

Kelsey: Got it.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch. That’s a big thing. You brought up a great point, Kelsey, of how you’re wondering and thinking, you know what? That that does ring true to me sometimes and for some of the listeners, and for me as well. But you know what? I bet if you ran today…I mean I wouldn’t recommend it because you don’t feel good. But you would be more prone to sweating and more prone to a red face and difficulty breathing than if you weren’t sick. And that is because you’re making a bunch of hydroxide dealing with this infection and your methylation is naturally slower anyway.

Kelsey: Got it. So methylation is not always the same.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: It changes, I mean I would say multiple times a day. It’s changing constantly and depending on what you’re eating, depending on how you’re stressed out, depending on what chemical you just breathed in. It’s not some static thing that you’re born with.

So 23andMe, will it look at your genes in your methylation pathway? Yes, such as MTHFR. But it won’t tell you how it’s working. And that’s the biggest problem that people are thinking about because they get the genetic test back and they’re like oh God, look I have MTHFR and how do I fix that? And it’s like well you don’t fix the gene itself, you fix the individual.

Admittedly I went down the wrong road for a number of years and I finally woke up to the fact that it doesn’t work when you start trying to treat the gene. It just doesn’t because you have to treat the person.

Kelsey: Would you say that identifying any gene alterations is even worth it? Or would you rather look at methylation itself? And how do you look at methylation?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Great question. First of all you have to be ready for what you’re getting into. I mean you’re looking under the lid of who you really are in terms of susceptibility. Let’s talk about personality type for a second. A lot of us tend to be born with this with a certain personality; a type A, driven, gung-ho type of person. A person who is more carefree, laid back, and chill, extroverted, and likes to go do things. We tend to be a little bit cranky and go off on people easier. We’ve been that way our whole life and it takes us a long time to calm down. So genetically we are kind of pre-programmed for these things. That’s just kind of who we are. But you have to be ready to dig into and be comfortable to define that.

I got a little bit derailed, so just remind me, ask me your question again just make sure I hit it right.

Kelsey:  Sure. I was just asking are tests like 23andMe that actually look at the genes themselves, do you feel that they’re worth it or does it make more sense to just look at that ever changing degree of methylation that’s going on?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Well I would say priority number one would be to always look at the variables in how it’s always changing, and your lifestyle, your diet, your mindset, your environment, the supplements you are or aren’t taking, the meds that you are or aren’t taking. These override genetic testing completely.

I’m a huge proponent of genetic testing, massively in favor for prevention. I do not like people using genetic testing to see what problem is present and trying to fix it. That will not work unless yet unless you have a serious condition like celiac disease, or some mitochondrial disorder, or cystic fibrosis. Then genetic testing is very useful. But I mean come on, if you have celiac disease and you’re eating gluten, not always, but it’s pretty significant. Right?

Kelsey: Yeah. There’s bigger problems to be dealt with.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Bigger problems will be dealt with and these things are spotted usually at a younger age and you do genetic testing typically at a younger age. Now celiac disease can be stealthy and problematic. If you are diagnosed with Celiac, yeah, you need to avoid wheat gluten completely.

However most of us do genetic testing because we want to see what roadblocks, if you will, we have or what issues that we have. And then you get your genetic test back and you say, oh I have MTHFR, I have APOE, I have these other things, and you try to keep fixing those particular genes. If you have MTHFR, you take a bunch of methylfolate. No, no, no, no. It’s not how it works.

Kelsey: I was just going to say that in my own practice I’ve had tons of people come to me and they’re like oh my gosh, I found out I have MTHFR defects. What are we going to do about this to make sure that whatever condition I’m dealing with isn’t being negatively affected by these defects? Sorry I keep saying defects. Alterations! I’ve got to catch myself on that one now. I think that’s a really common misconception that people feel like this is not about prevention necessarily, it’s about treatment. I agree with you that that doesn’t really make a whole lot of sense.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Yeah, it doesn’t. I forgot one of the terms that’s commonly used. Let’s call them variations. They’re called variants. That makes more sense than alterations. That’s what the term is out there as well. I kind of lost myself on that one. They’re variants, variants from traditional population.

Back to your question. Yeah, MTHFR, you don’t treat the SNP. You don’t treat the variant. You treat the individual. I did want to go back and say that one great, great way to use genetic testing is to look at genetic testing to see where you should need to optimize yourself.

For example if you are tending towards irritability or anxiety, you do genetic testing, you’re like oh that explains it. That really helps me out. Then there’s ways to support those genes through lifestyle, diet, and various supplements. And you have to do these lifestyle changes. I mean you have to unless you want to go away being a grump, and irritable, and using that excuse like oh I’m genetically that way. Well yeah, but you can do something about it, I’m sorry.

Kelsey: Yeah that makes sense. It’s almost like if you do have some sort of tendency towards some behavior or symptoms, you were saying anxiety, or like for me I was diagnosed a little bit later in life like maybe in my late teens with exercise induced asthma, so you can kind of see what may have played a role in somebody developing those conditions. Am I understanding that correctly?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Exactly, exactly. If you and I were sitting in a room and you had your genetic test in front of me, you’re just like hey Dr. Lynch, here’s my genetic test. What do we do? I would pick it up and say I’m glad that you got your genetic test and I would set it aside and say we’ll look at this in a moment.

I would just do your typical history as any doctor would, hopefully, and you would tell me your main complaints. But I’d also want all your symptoms, all of them. Exercise induced asthma, what else? If you have any eczema, if you have any insomnia, do you get irritable? When you get mad does it take a long time to calm down? You would share all these things with me. I wouldn’t preempt any of them.

Then I would bring the genetics back and I would say, okay, well let’s look at your susceptibility for these problems, shall we? And I’d say look, you do have MTHFR, you do have COMT, you do have a glutathione deletion, and your malB is slow, your malA is slow, your NA2 is slow, your DAO is slow so you’d be a very, very high histamine susceptibility and thus exercise induced asthma risk is quite high.

And then I would say well that’s fine. What we’re looking at here is a road that is not completely paved with multiple lanes. You’ve got a one lane road, probably gravel or dirt with some potholes and you have to drive a bit differently. We can also get a different vehicle with better suspension so you’re not getting bounced all over the seat and make your passage down this gravel road for histamine pathway more comfortable.

It happens all the time. Just because you get exercise induced asthma doesn’t mean you can’t get it to go away. And just because you have these genes that are increasing your susceptibility doesn’t mean we can we cannot improve them. You can and I do it all the time.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think this is where a lot of people get tripped up. They find out they had the genetic defects or the variants and then they try to find somebody to work with to help, as I think you mentioned before, like support all of the systems that kind of play a role in how those genes are either turned off or on, or how much methyl groups they’re producing, if that makes sense. What do people do about this stuff? I think it’s just really confusing for a lot of people to see these results and then they just have no clue what to do with it.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Well let’s say you come home and there’s a brand new piano sitting in your living room. A brand new piano and you have always wanted to play that piano. You go over there and you start playing it and you just suck. You just suck and then you don’t want to play the piano anymore.

So what do you do? Well you hire someone and you learn even how to sit at the piano, and you learn what the black keys are, the white keys are. You learn the basics, you learn the fundamentals. In basketball or any sport, you learn first what the objective of that game is and you learn the fundamentals; the passing, the shooting, the defending. You have to learn the basics before you can even run a play.

The problem is everyone is wanting to play Bach or Beethoven right away from this genetic test or they’re wanting to run plays right away. I tell you, I’ve seen many, many kids’ basketball teams trying to run plays, they can’t pass the ball. If you can’t pass the ball, what’s the point?

So I’m a firm believer in the fundamentals and this is a long way around saying you have to start there. You need to step back and you need to start at the basics. You need to remove the layers of dirt and grime and things which are contributing to problems.

Look, genes do work. That’s what they do. Genes perform a certain function and they have various jobs. If one gene is working, is available to do work, it’s going to be able to work for you. Now if another gene is kind of born with eight fingers instead of ten and you tell it to tie shoelaces or something, a lot of times, multiple times, take these hundred pairs of shoes and tie them, it’s not going to work very well. It’s going to get stuck. Any time a gene gets overwhelmed, you get a symptom.

The best way to support yourself when you get a genetic test back is to think am I doing all the basics in life right? How’s my stress level? How’s my sleep? How’s my diet? How’s my environment? What supplements am I taking? Am I using the cheap ones because I want to save a couple of bucks? Or am I using the ones with the really good nutrients and formulations? Am I eating fast food or am I eating whole foods?

Kelsey: Right. Laura and I talk about what we call low hanging fruit a lot. Like deal with the basics first before you move on to all these really complex things that you can go down rabbit holes easily for, but you shouldn’t.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Great example. You’ve got a fruit tree. Pick up the fruit that’s on the ground first. Don’t even go for the low hanging fruit. Go for the stuff that’s on the ground and clean, and then you go for the low hanging fruit, and then you get the ladder out and you go higher. I love that example. Well said.

Kelsey: I have a question, which I’m sure a lot of our listeners are asking themselves right now, too, which is about supplementation. Would you consider supplementation just in terms of like specific nutrients or things like that, not the quality like you were saying before, but would you consider supplementation in general as part of that low hanging fruit?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: No. No, I would not.

Kelsey: Interesting.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: No. In fact in my book Dirty Genes I did not talk about supplements until basically page 270 or so.

Kelsey: Okay.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: First you need to understand how genes work, and what they do for you, and the roles that they play. And then you need to learn how they get dirty, meaning what performed them to not do their work so well? Where do they start getting sloppy? What are they burdened from? And what vitamins and minerals do they work with and where can you get those in your food? That’s what I like to do first. Because if you start supplementing and you’ve got still a lot of trash around or a lot of work that you’re doing, then that’s not very effective.

Let me give you an example. A buddy of mine, I was drinking and I was telling him about this supplement that I wanted to make to prevent hangovers, which I never did because I later learned that if people do not get hangovers they are more prone to become alcoholic. So even though I knew the science and biochemistry of this, I never made it because I didn’t want to produce a bunch of alcoholics. I couldn’t live with myself.

So what he did is he took my recommendations and he felt a lot better from drinking. I met him again down his house about a month later and he’s like Ben, God this is great because I can drink more now. I was like that wasn’t the point. That wasn’t the point! Then he was taking all these nutrients to be able to consume the alcohol. So he was using the vitamins to continue a lifestyle habit which wasn’t entirely appropriate. I mean having alcohol every now and then is okay. Drinking too much isn’t. And so he found that if he could take all these nutrients, he could drink more, and so he did.

And then we had another conversation because I was like dude, you can’t do that. It’s still a mitochondrial toxin. You’re still hurting yourself. He took it to heart. And then a couple months later he decided to cut way back, I mean way back. And so what happened was he started getting auditory hallucinations.

Kelsey: Wow.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: I told him, I said look, you started taking too much methylfolate. It’s helping you now because you’ve got dirty genes. But you start reducing your alcohol intake, you take all that methylfolate, there’s not as much work for your MTHFR to do anymore from the alcohol. So you’re going to have to reduce your dose. Even though he heard auditory hallucinations, he remembered the fact that okay, genes do work, I was drinking a lot of alcohol, I had a supplement to kill that hangover and be able to drink more. I’m not drinking so much anymore, but I’m still taking all these nutrients which are now pushing other genes to do other things which is making me kind of crazy right now. Solution was remove the vitamins.

I really want people to try to hit their lifestyle and diet first. Yeah, you can use vitamins to support you along the way. But in the ideal world, want people changing first. But that’s not always possible.

Kelsey: Yeah. Talk about some scenarios where you just said it’s not always possible. Sometimes people have other things going on and it’s tough to make those lifestyle changes, but they need some relief in the meantime. So are there situations where you might give some supplementation just to support somebody through a rough time like that?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Oh for sure. All the time. I’m talking about the ideal world here. It’s tough. I mean we have work, we have kids, we have significant others, we have the environment that we live in. There’s a lot of variables here. But just know that there is a lot of things that you can do to support before supplementation.

I’m prefacing this because I know a lot of people have problems. I mean I have problems, I have symptoms. It’s very easy to reach for that supplement bottle than it is to actually say okay, I’m going to go to bed on time.

Kelsey: Oh yeah. Right.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: But for example, exercise induced asthma. I want to talk about that again. We all want to exercise. Okay, well, not all. But many of us want to exercise and we do exercise. And we do have this exercise induced asthma. We do get this red in the face and that sucks. It’s a problem. So what do you do for that? Well you can take liposomal glutathione. I like the liposomal form because the glutathione gets right inside your cell and supports it right away.

If you take liposomal glutathione in the morning and you take some methylfolate and methylcobalamin prior with a lozenge prior to working out along with some electrolytes, then you go and you train, you’re going to have a lot less exercise induced asthma or may even go away.

Kelsey: Interesting.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Yeah, because the glutathione is to neutralize the hydrogen peroxide. That’s its job, right?

Kelsey: Yeah.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: So if you get too much hydrogen peroxide like we said in the beginning, then your methylation gets dirty and it slows down. So if you take glutathione, which its job is to eat up that hydrogen peroxide, then your methylation can keep working. And then if it can keep working, then your methylation is there to break down the histamine and so your red face and your asthma. And you can take a little bit more methylfolate and methylcobalamin and possibly even some creatine prior to training because that also supports your methylation.

So you’ve taken the methylfolate, and methylcobalalmin, and creatine to support methylation, but you’ve also taken liposomal glutathione. Because we talked about also can we go to the bank… if we have money in the bank, can we always get it? No, we can’t. The liposomal glutathione helps keep your access to the bank. You can take the methylfolate and methylcobalamin to support your methylation along with creatine. But if you don’t take care of the hydrogen peroxide, it doesn’t matter that you took those nutrients. They won’t work.

Kelsey: Yeah. I think a lot of people do that and I’m guilty of it myself in the past. I find out I have these methylation issues and I’m just like downing methylcobalamin and folate just hoping that’s going to help.

But I love what you just said about the access piece of it because you’re right, if you don’t have that access, then what the heck is the point? You’re just wasting your money on all those supplements, too.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: A lot of people do this. I just had a colleague of mine call me up and he’s like Ben, my homocysteine is 25. I don’t get it. I’m taking a whole bunch of choline. I’m taking a bunch of trimethylglycine, which is a great methyl donor for homocysteine. I’m taking a bunch of methylfolate, and methylcobalamin, Vitamin B2, zinc. I’m doing the work. It’s not going down. I was like are you taking any glutathione? No. So he took the glutathione and he goes within 20 minutes…he emailed me after that recommendation, he goes oh my God! He goes this severe depression just lifted for first time in a month within minutes.

Kelsey: Wow! That’s incredible.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Yeah. This is a very well-known health professional. We all struggle and we have to understand if you’re missing one little piece of the puzzle, you’re stuck.

Kelsey: Yeah. Right, exactly. You were talking about with exercise induced asthma as one of these places where you might want to supplement to kind of help somebody do a behavior that is one of those low hanging fruit. Another one I can think of is like sleep issues. Does methylation play a role there?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Big time, big time. Every night when my two boys go to bed…my oldest I don’t even ask because he just sits there on his phone. He’s nearly 15 now and it’s up to him. I can’t baby him. He’s going to do what he does. He does well in his sport and school so far, so I guess whatever he’s doing works. But I don’t ask him.

But my 12 year old and my 9 year old, I say do you need any support tonight to go to sleep? And they lay there, and they look at the ceiling, and they kind of roll around a little bit, and they’re like, no, I’m good. And other nights they’re like oh yeah, dad, for sure. Give it to me. What happened there?

Its’ like well why don’t I just walk into their room and give them for something for sleep? Well if they’re already exhausted and they’re already going to fall asleep on their own, then I don’t need to give them anything because I’m going to make it very hard for them to wake up the next morning. So they tune in. I’ve taught them to listen to their own body and say okay, do I need something right now to fall asleep? And they’re quiet for a moment usually when they think about it and then they give me the answer.

After they give me an answer, then they have two options that I have for them. One is SAM-e which is the body’s main methyl donor. SAM-e’s job is to clear histamine. Have you ever bought an anti-histamine over the counter and it says do not operate while driving machinery because it causes drowsiness?

Kelsey: Yes.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: High histamine will do the opposite. It increases alertness and you don’t want high histamine at night. SAM-e will process histamine. It will also help get rid of dopamine, norepinephrine, epinephrine, which you don’t want too much at night. You want to be calmed down. And it also converts serotonin to melatonin. SAM-e is like the wonder sleep support for people IF they can access the methylation and their money at the bank. If their debit card magnets stripe isn’t working very well because of heavy metals or hydrogen peroxide levels, low glutathione levels, and so on, they take the SAM-e, it will make them worse.

A simple test for people to see if the methylation is working if they’re laying in bed staring at the ceiling, and they take SAM-e and they fall right away, sleep within 20 minutes, and they wake up the next morning and are like I slept like a baby, it was amazing! That shows your methylation is working.

On the flip side, they take the SAM-e because they can’t fall asleep at night and they get pissed off because they’re like Dr. Lynch said it would work. I’m staring at the ceiling, I’m more irritable, more pissed off, I can’t sleep, now I’m even worse off than before. That’s a sign that your debit card isn’t working and you can’t access it and you probably need some glutathione. You might have some medications blocking it. You might have some heavy metals blocking it or various other things. So it was a good cheap test for you. I’m sorry that happened, and you can neutralize it with niacin. So you take niacin 50 milligrams every 20 minutes or so. You might flush. You might get all hot and burny from it, but goes away when you’re lying down, you’re not running around. That will help eat up the SAM-e that you just took.

That’s a very great way to support methylation. The other one was Optimal Sleep. My kids were using that for a long time, too. They would take one capsule even though the serving size is three. That that would help their sleep a lot. SAM-e helps you fall asleep. Optimal Sleep helps you also fall asleep, but stay asleep.

Kelsey: What’s in that?

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Optimal sleep has 5HTP. It has vitamin B6. It’s got magnesium malate. It’s got phosphatidylserine which breaks down cortisol. It has ashwagandha. It’s got some zinc. I think that’s it.

But now if someone has migraines and they’re very, very irritable and they have what I call a dirty or a slow malA, than Optimal Sleep won’t be beneficial to them because they already have too much serotonin. If you give them 5HTP then that made even more serotonin.

If this sounds like oh you lost me, I explain this in great detail in the book Dirty Genes. It explains what malA does. It explains what nutrients you can take, lifestyle changes you can do. It’s a very easy read and there’s quizzes in there that tell you if your malA is fast, or slow, or dirty, or so on. It’s a fun read, too.

Kelsey: Yeah, I’m looking forward to it. And that’s coming out in January I think, right? We’ll include some links to lead people too. I assume you probably can preorder that?

Dr. Benjamin: Yeah, you can preorder it on Amazon and then you go to DirtyGenes.com, there’s a bunch of bonuses that you get with it. You can go to DirtyGenes.com and click through there and you can see there’s Barnes & Noble, and IndieBound, and these other places. Or you can just get it on Amazon and you can go to DirtyGenes.com and enter your order ID, name, and email and you get a bunch of bonuses that come with it.

Kelsey: I’m going ask one last question before we wrap up today because I know there’s a lot of listeners that we have that are thinking about having children soon and I know methylation plays a big role there. I’m wondering if you can give us a little bit of information. I’m sure you probably talk about it in your book potentially, but just give us some information about what people can do if they’re thinking of getting pregnant in the near future.

Dr. Ben Lynch: Love this question. This is my next book, Kelsey, is preconception and pregnancy because this is my passion. I wrote Dirty Genes first because we’re all a bit dirty and we need to clean up our genes before we get pregnant. So that’s the reason why it’s next and not first.

So what you do to support pregnancy is first you know even if you just fell pregnant and you don’t have time to prepare anything, you do not want to take folic acid. Folic acid we hear about on the news, and folic acid awareness month, and all this nonsense. It helped us for a long time, but we have better access now.

You want to take real folate. You want to take methylfolate and folinic acid. You want to support with choline we talked about earlier, too. Ninety percent of women, Kelsey, are deficient in choline.

Kelsey: Wow!

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Ninety percent. If you have adequate choline, if you’re taking…they did a study and the equivalent that they found for humans based upon a mouse study is about 800 milligrams of choline daily, which is quite a bit. I think there’s like 150 milligrams of choline in one egg. So it’s a lot of choline. About 800 milligrams of choline a day while you’re pregnant, the baby all throughout its life may not lose any memory abilities at all its whole life.

Kelsey: Wow!

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: They supported these mice and they gave them choline during pregnancy. Let me back up. The mom was given sufficient choline during pregnancy. She’d had her babies and the mice went on and they never got memory deficits their entire life. The other ones were deficient and choline. You want to support in choline as well.

And you want to be able to burn additional fuels like fat, which a lot of us cannot do. We talk about a ketogenic diet all the time, but it’s not just about being keto, it’s about being able to burn fat as fuel. So carnitine is really useful.

Carnosine is a very powerful antioxidant which nobody talks about, but they found that carnosine levels were low in women who were pregnant and who had autistic children later on. The autistic children were also low in carnosine.

All of these compounds are in Optimal Prenatal, which is a formula I did over a period of three years of research. It just recently won the Women’s Choice Award For best prenatal, which I was really honored to receive.

Kelsey: Yeah, I use that with my patients.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Excellent. What are you seeing? Good outcomes?

Kelsey: Oh yeah. I mean as I’m sure you know you know miscarriages are unfortunately pretty common and especially so with methylation issues. This seems to really help.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch. Yeah. It’s amazing. I mean woman after woman who has had recurrent miscarriages will get on Optimal Prenatal and they’ll get pregnant and they’ll carry to term. I’m sure there are a few women who still struggle with this and it’s not the magic bullet, but it definitely helps many women. And it’s really upsets me because all it was a prenatal. That’s it.

Miscarriage is so common. I mean I think I looked it up on Google. How many times miscarriage is Googled a month and it’s like almost half a million times or something.

Kelsey: Wow.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: And that’s not good.

Kelsey: Right.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: And so if you can reduce at least say even 40 percent of those or 50 percent of those with just a change in a prenatal, that’s messed up. I mean it’s beautiful that it can do it, but it’s also frustrating that people don’t know this.

Just yesterday, Kelsey, I also looked up what are the requirements by the FDA to call something a prenatal and what do you call a prenatal vitamin? What are the requirements? And I can’t really find anything. To call something a multivitamin you need three or more vitamins to be called a multivitamin. So when you go out and you buy a prenatal and it says prenatal on the bottle, you expect that the FDA has got some regulations and some requirements, right?

Kelsey: Yeah, you would hope.

Dr. Benjamin You would hope. And the requirements for multivitamins to have three or more vitamins, are you kidding me?

Kelsey: Right. That’s nothing.

Dr. Benjamin: It’s nothing, it’s trash! Women say oh I take a prenatal gummy. Well you’re banking on the term that’s used by that supplement company and it says prenatal in it, but a prenatal gummy is not giving you anything. It’s also like I also can’t take a prenatal that has more than one capsule. Well if it’s a one capsule, it’s also not enough. It’s not easy.

Optimal Prenatal, we have it in a in a powder form, too. We also have in a chewable. But the best one by far is the Optimal Prenatal Protein Powder. It’s the most comprehensive because women can’t eat most commonly because of nausea and vomiting and they just have lack of appetite. Taking a vitamin is the last thing you want.

Kelsey: When you’re nauseous, forget it.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Right. It’s kind of funny, I take this most mornings. Probably about three to five times a week I’ll take Optimal Prenatal. It’s not that I’m trying to get pregnant. It won’t work for me. I love the combination of nutrients that are in it and it works well for me. If I’m feeling really good, maybe I’ll take half a scoop versus a full scoop.

Kelsey: We’ll definitely link to that because like I said, I think we have a lot of listeners who are either pregnant right now or thinking about getting pregnant and they’re starting that process of kind of preparing for that.

I think first of all your book Dirty Genes which is coming out is going to be a great first step to not only understanding that, but like getting those basics in line first and then you can add on that Optimal Prenatal as you’re preparing and as you are pregnant as well for a really good combination.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: Yeah. And to further support, there’s no iron in our Optimal Prenatal. People always ask why don’t you put iron in it? Iron competes with calcium and so you can’t do that. I mean it looks good on the label, but in reality with your biochemistry it doesn’t work. You have to take iron separately, so you just take iron with your dinner and you can also adjust it as you need to. So know that iron isn’t in there.

You also want to support your vitamin D levels. Vitamin D is found to be low in pregnant women who also have children with a higher risk of autism because the children can’t fight infections and their immune system isn’t balanced so their vitamin D levels are low. Help your developing baby with sufficient vitamin D also.

Kelsey: Perfect. Well I have to say, Dr. Lynch, this was really fascinating not only for me, but I’m sure for our audience as well. Thank you so much for joining me today!

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: My pleasure, my pleasure.

Kelsey: We’ll have to have you back on when you get your preconception and prenatal book going because I’m sure we could talk forever about that as well.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: For sure. We can we can talk forever even before. I’m happy to do so!

Kelsey: Well everybody, look forward to Dirty Genes which is coming out in January 2018. We will post the link to the preorder page so you can get those bonuses. Dr. Lynch was just talking about.

Thank you so much, Dr. Lynch! It was really great to speak with you.

Dr. Benjamin Lynch: A pleasure, Kelsey. Thank you!

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