The MTHFR - SAMe Connection and Fibromyalgia

Stuck on Acronyms?

From the heading, one might think we’re taken with acronyms.  Perhaps, in some way we are, because to say the names of the enzymes and compounds these acronyms represent is a feat in itself. Nevertheless, we’ll brave it here for your edification and tell you about a vital connection between the enzyme methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase and s-adenosylmethionine, a critical compound used in the body to regulate more than 200 enzymes.  Now you know why we use acronyms.

The MTHFR gene produces an enzyme called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, used by the body to convert one form of folate into the most usable form of folate for every cell in the body.  Folic acid, by itself, is useless to the body – it is ineffective and does nothing until it is transformed through various enzymes into a form that is useable, that is methyltetrahydrofolate, or, more commonly expressed in its shortened form, methylfolate.

Methylfolate is a Key Compound …

The function of methylfolate in the body is to help create neurotransmitters in the brain.  It is neurotransmitters that allow us to think, sleep, flee from danger, learn, and myriad other capabilities and functions.  If methylfolate levels are low, then so are neurotransmitters, and the end result can be conditions such as addictive behavior, depression, anxiety, ADHD, insomnia, and other issues.

… And, So is S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe)

Along with helping to create neurotransmitters, methylfolate allows the body to make a compound that is critical to its function, s-adenosylmethionine, also known as SAMe.  SAMe helps regulate more than 200 enzymes in the body and is second only to ATP (adenosine triphosphate), the body’s power unit, in importance.  Without ATP the body dies and without SAMe, the body ceases to function as well.  A decrease in SAMe puts a person at higher risk for infertility, cancer, thrombosis and many other dysfunctions and illnesses, including chronic pain and fibromyalgia.

The question now becomes, how do SAMe and MTHFR end up in the same sentence?  The answer to that question is that is it very common for the MTHFR gene to not work to capacity because half the population (one in two people) has an area in the MTHFR gene that has an incorrect DNA base – called a polymorphism.  Poly means “many” and morphic means “shape”, which means that when an MTHFR gene has a polymorphism, the enzyme it produces has an altered shape.  This difference in shape means the function of the MTHFR enzyme is reduced which, in turn, causes a decreased neurotransmitter function and decreases SAMe production.  As we’ve learned, that is detrimental to the body’s well-being.

So, What Does All of this Mean to YOU?

A person who is suffering with fibromyalgia syndrome (FMS) deals constantly with pain and depression.  SAMe has been used in Europe for decades as a prescribed treatment for pain, depression and the effects of diseases, including FMS.  There is now good evidence that SAMe is as effective as NSAID painkillers, like ibuprofen and others, in the treatment of osteoarthritis pain, without the side effects that drugs cause.

SAMe has also been used as an effective agent against depression for people with MS and other disorders.  Some studies have found that SAMe might work as well as tricyclic antidepressants in relieving symptoms.  There is also strong evidence to support the use of SAMe as means of helping alleviate the pain of fibromyalgia, including the pain from migraines, muscle pain and back pain that is often associated with FMS.

How Much is Too Much?

There is no standard dosage established for taking SAMe supplementation at this point.  However, for depression, many studies indicated that between 400-1,600 milligrams daily is sufficient.  That is a big spread and it is always important to have the dosage recommended by a naturopathic or medical practitioner.  It is never a good idea to self-medicate. 

Is SAMe For YOU?

SAMe has been deemed a relatively safe compound to ingest.  However, there are cases where it is not appropriate to use the supplement.  As always, we recommend you check with your doctor before you start using SAMe supplements.  It may not be safe for people suffering with bipolar disorder or diabetes.  It may also interact negatively with drugs that a person may be taking.

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