Organic Acid Testing: An Essential Tool for Methylation Issues
What are Organic Acids?
Organic acids are by-products of cellular metabolism. They are derived from the metabolic conversion of dietary protein, fats and carbohydrates, in addition to bacterial origin in the gut. Many people with chronic illnesses and neurological disorders often excrete several abnormal organic acids in their urine. The cause of these high levels could include oral antibiotic use, high sugar diets, immune deficiencies, acquired infections, as well as genetic factors.
How do we measure Organic Acids?
The Organic Acids Test (OAT) measures organic acids in a urine sample. It offers a comprehensive metabolic snapshot of a patient’s overall health. The test includes 74 metabolite markers that can be very useful for discovering underlying causes of chronic illness. It provides a unique profile into; cellular energy status, neurotransmitter metabolism, nutrient deficiencies, intestinal bacterial metabolism and detoxification. A useful analogy may be when we drive our car onto a hilly road and a mechanic analyses the exhaust gases, gaining an understanding of how well the engine is running.
How does the OAT provide information on Methylation?
The Methylation cycle is involved in over 400 enzymatic and cellular reactions such as DNA synthesis and repair, cell replication and repair, neurotransmitter synthesis and metabolism (serotonin and dopamine), energy production and metabolism, endocrine regulation, detoxification, epigenetic gene expression and telomere integrity. The OAT provides information on methylation capabilities as it includes markers that assist in evaluating:
Krebs Cycle abnormalities
Methylation goes hand in hand with the Krebs cycle because both are powerhouses for the proper functioning of the rest of the body. The OAT has markers for mitochondrial function such as amino acid and Krebs cycle metabolites. Each step of the Krebs cycle requires certain enzymes and nutrients to be in place, and when they are lacking it shows up on this test. With this information, increasing the intake of specific nutrients may help to correct imbalances or deficiencies, improving the overall function of the methylation cycle.
The OAT measures the metabolic ashes of dopamine, serotonin and adrenaline and includes insight into the function of the serotonin and dopamine pathways. This indirectly tells us whether the Methylation cycle is functioning optimally or if there are any bottlenecks. Often the solution to problems found is stress reduction and lifestyle modification but in many cases amino acid therapy can be extremely helpful for conditions such as insomnia, anxiety, depression and addiction.
Nutritional & Antioxidant Deficiencies
Since the mitochondria burn fat and produce energy using B-vitamins as co-factors, it is very important to assess B-vitamin levels. The OAT assesses organic acid markers which indicate methylation status through the crucial cofactors ie B12, folate, B6. One of the most sensitive markers for vitamin B12 deficiency is methylmalonic acid and kynurenate is a reliable marker for B6 status.
Yeast, Bacteria and Clostridia Overgrowth
When looking at methylation problems, it is critical to understand the activity of the gut and how it may be interfering with our genetic pathways. Gut microbes play an important role in influencing our methylation cycle. Patients with gut problems often experience symptoms such as anxiety, panic, worry, chronic pain, and insomnia, raising catecholamine levels (i.e adrenalin and dopamine) and these chemicals can influence our methylation and detoxification pathways. The OAT test allows us to see exactly how much the activity of bacterial and fungal organisms is interfering with our catecholamines. These detrimental microorganisms can inhibit methylation and therefore cause or worsen behavior disorders, hyperactivity, movement disorders, fatigue and immune function.
Ketone and Fatty Acid Oxidation
Ketones are the end-products of rapid or excessive fatty acid breakdown and are an important methylation marker provided in the OAT. When ketones are high in the urine, it indicates the mitochondria are not able to burn fat for energy effectively. Common causes of elevated ketones are prolonged fasting, protein malnutrition, high fat diet, B12 deficiency, severe GI Candida over growth.
Detoxification & Oxidative stress
The OAT indicates the body’s detoxification abilities by assessing metabolites of glutathione. Certain acids are formed by a glutathione deficiency and/or during oxidative stress or when toxic exposures increase the need for detoxification. Oxidative stress results in increased susceptibility to pathogens, which can ultimately inhibit chemical pathways necessary for proper neurological and immune function.
Certain chemicals are produced by gut-derived toxins like oxalates, and the OAT allows us to quantify and measure these. Oxalates need to be removed so they don’t build up to toxic levels and create biochemical issues. When oxalate levels increase it causes B6 and sulfate levels to go down. Obviously sulfate and B6 are required for our body to work optimally, and a lack of either one will slow down aspects of our chemistry including our detoxification system. Without adequate sulfate and B6 our body will struggle to repair itself and will be prone to low energy and chronic health problems of all types.