In the previous article I mentioned labs I order that other physicians and some insurance companies don’t consider necessary and won’t order. Some insurance companies refuse to pay for. HS-CRP was covered in the last article. In this article I hope to explain the importance of testing for homocysteine and I why order it for my clients. Homocysteine is a routine lab in the functional medicine world and soon you will see why.
Homocysteine is an amino acid that every single person has in their body. Even though it's important in certain amounts, when it's too high, it has been linked to autoimmune conditions, heart disease, and more.
Homocysteine is regulated during a biochemical process known as methylation. And if you haven't heard of it before, methylation is this big biochemical superhighway that makes sure we have a healthy immune system, brain, hormone system, and gut. The methylation process occurs about a billion times every second in your body. More on methylation in a future atricle.
Elevated homocysteine level can be brought on by gene mutations like MTHFR as well as medications, poor diet, toxin exposure, hormone imbalances, and stress. B vitamins from our food and supplements help keep your body's homocysteine at healthy levels and methylation working optimally. Homocysteine can build up and continue to increase when methyl donors are inadequate. The optimal range for homocysteine in functional medicine is less than 7 μmol/L. When homocysteine is higher than this, you can see it play out in a multitude of seemingly unrelated health problems, including those related to autoimmunity and chronic inflammation.
When methylation isn't working correctly, it doesn't keep the good genes working and the bad genes in remission, and this can lead to autoimmune issues. High homocysteine levels are associated with common autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto's disease, rheumatoid arthritis, and psoriasis. Moderate levels of homocysteine can increase the risk of cerebrovascular, heart, coronary and peripheral artery disease. Especially high homocysteine levels have been connected to coronary artery disease and higher risk of hardening of the arteries. Heart attack and stroke can be brought on by autoimmune conditions—lupus and autoimmune thyroid disease, in particular — which we have seen are also affected by homocysteine levels. Research shows that inflammatory markers like homocysteine are actually a better indicator of heart disease than other well-known risks like smoking and high blood presure.
High homocysteine levels can also affect the brain because it can be toxic to neurons and other cells. Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer's, and multiple sclerosis are all neurological autoimmune spectrum diseases and can be linked to high homocysteine levels. According to recent research, when homocysteine levels increase to 14 μmol/L or higher, the risk of Alzheimer doubles.
If you think high homocysteine levels could be an issue you deal with, the first step is to see a functional medicine practitioner. Along with the homocysteine and methylation labs, a functional medicine practitioner will call for additional labs to get a better understanding of your entire health case to bring any other underlying health issues to light to help you reach optimal health.
If you want to start lowering your homocysteine levels right away, you can start by focusing on consuming green leafy vegetables, sulfur-rich vegetables like cabbage and broccoli sprouts, wild-caught fish, grass-fed beef and organ meats like liver to support methylation.
Health and happiness,