The Fight or Flight Loop Part 2
Continuing our series on the fight-or-flight loop, I want to talk about the genetic contributors that can make you more susceptible to becoming stuck in fight-or-flight mode. You may recall from Part 1 of this series that the fight-or-flight loop can create various symptoms that seem unrelated. Being stuck in this cycle can be expressed in multiple ways. If you have not yet read Fight-or-Flight, Part 1 of this series, I strongly encourage you to pause here and read that first.
Most of us have heard of 23andMe and Ancestry. Some of you have maybe even had testing done through one or the other. If you have run your genetics through one of these services but aren't sure what to do with the information, separate third-party reporting sites will make the codes you receive from them understandable. These sites can let you know if you have genetic variants that can make you more susceptible to living in a fight-or-flight state.
These services have different levels. For example, you could run a test to see what blood lineages and from where you descend. Or you could run a next-level test that helps you with health information. However, quite honestly, these tests generally give you minimal, relatively generic health information like being more susceptible to allergies or Alzheimer's. They don't tell you what to do with that information. Third-party reporting sites, though, will provide you with more thorough information about your test results. LiveWello, StrateGene, or MTHFRSupport will all give you a much better view of what you may be dealing with to have a starting point for prevention.
The COMT of It
There is a genetic variant called COMT. COMT is an enzyme that exists in your body. This enzyme can have a genetic deficit in that it just doesn't work quite as well.
COMT breaks down dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Epinephrine is also known as adrenaline. Suppose your body genetically has an inability, or a lessened ability, to break those things down. In that case, you end up with an adrenaline or dopamine traffic jam, which can lead to things like anxiety, jumpiness, agitation, OCD, addictions, and obsessions. You feel like you're in hyperdrive, and there's no brake pedal.
If you do find out that you've got this variant, those reports will say that means you're likely to run into traffic jams clearing out your dopamine and adrenaline. Why does this matter? It means that you're more likely to get stuck in fight-or-flight mode. Suppose it took you ten years of being in a stressful situation to get stuck in that vicious cycle that you learned about in Part 1. In that case, it might take you several years to get back out of it, depending on how traffic-jammed that enzyme is and how overloaded your system is with those chemicals.
It's good to know if you're genetically predisposed to this, so you're aware that you may have a lesser stress tolerance long-term than somebody else would have. And also so that you can nutritionally support that enzyme and mitigate the damage naturally.
The COMT enzyme requires you to have an adequate amount of magnesium. For the most part, what you will find when you go to the store is magnesium citrate. I like to call it magnesium shit rate because that's what it makes you do. It makes you poop, and it's not that good for anything else. This form does not help your magnesium levels, but it's great for constipation.
The form you want to get is magnesium glycinate, which is well absorbed, or magnesium malate, which I particularly like using in people with mitochondria issues that tend to stem from maternal lines of illness. Using myself as an example, if you listened to episode one, you know that my mom had been in fight-or-flight and got really sick and still is. So when I look at my maternal line, that's where most of the illnesses I have in my family line come from. Because of this, I would want to go with magnesium malate. Magnesium helps clear the traffic jam at the COMT enzyme.
It's also important to note that sometimes you can have the most beautiful COMT genetics, and you're still having a traffic jam there. Why is that? You're likely magnesium deficient. Magnesium is used up in every other way in your body, and the resources are sparse. So know that magnesium is beneficial to that enzyme, whether you have the genetic variant or not.
The other thing that can help your COMT enzymes is phosphatidylcholine. You can get an abundance of this in eggs. If you can't eat eggs or choose not to eat them, you can also find this in supplement form. Phosphatidylcholine works by lending methyl groups to the COMT methyltransferase, which is the MT part of the COMT and helps it function properly.
I don't personally use phosphatidylcholine and magnesium regularly unless I find myself ducking from birds 20 feet away, or I find myself easily irritated, but I like having them in my supplement box for when I do.
Both can help mitigate the effects of the COMT genetic variant that makes it easier for us to become stuck in the figh-or-flight loop, but nutrition can oftentimes play a larger role. This is just a peek into the role that genetics can play in your health. Check back in for Part 3, when I will be talking about inflammation and its role in the fight-or-flight loop.