About Eric Balcavage, DC
Dr. Eric Balcavage is a chiropractic physician who has been in private practice in Glen Mills, PA since 1996. He received his Bachelor’s degree in 1990 from Kutztown University and his Doctorate degree in 1995 from Palmer College of Chiropractic.
Dr. Balcavage is a Certified Nutrition Specialist (C.N.S.) , a Certified Functional Medicine Practitioner, Board Certified in Integrative Medicine, along with being a licensed Chiropractor in Pennsylvania.
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Books Discussed in This Episode
1:13 Dr. Balcavage’s Introduction to Methylation: Dr. Balcavage’s practice is centered upon helping people with chronic illnesses. One day a patient wanted to know more about his MTHFR gene mutation. Methylation is complicated and intimidating, but eventually he dove in. He took courses from Dr. Ben Lynch and Lynch has mentored him. About 80% of his patients would improve with diet/lifestyle changes and other treatments. But there were about 20% who just would not get better. When Dr. Balcavage began to treat methylation issues, these patients too improved.
2:48 The Inception of The Principles of a Methylated Life: Dr. Balcavage then began to teach seminars to other practitioners. He found that they were too quickly trying to treat the genetic SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms or genetic variations). So he developed what he calls The Principles of a Methylated Life. If we live a better life, we fix our methylation without much intervention.
3:37 We Need to Understand Our Genetics and Epigenetics: Understanding our 23 and Me panel is important for understanding potential problems. Genetic variations are possibilities. The epigenetics and how diet/lifestyle impacts these possibilities is the bigger issue.
3:59 The Principles:
- Dietary Fitness. What you eat has a huge impact upon your health, your vitality, and your methylation processes.
- Emotional Fitness: If you are constantly stressed, and diverting your methyl donors to create neurotransmitters, you have none left to make energy.
- Physical Fitness: It is critical to be fit: good movement patterns, good posture, strength, and cardiovascular fitness.
- Sleep Fitness: If you are not getting quality sleep, you cannot heal and you cannot repair. During sleep is when much of the methylation process occurs.
- Brain Fitness: You need a healthy brain and healthy neural system to have a healthy methylation processes and methylation plays a role in neural health.
- Metabolic Fitness: You need to have good blood sugar physiology, a healthy gut and a robust immune system.
6:51 You Cannot Supplement Your Way To Proper Methylation: There are no shortcuts. Supplementing without the foundation of The Principles will probably make you feel worse.
8:14 Enhancing Sleep Fitness: We heal and repair our bodies during sleep, so it is paramount that we have good quality sleep. We need to sleep in a dark room. Remove any unnecessary lights, like night lights, and electronics. Cell phones, clocks, and other electronics placed near your head while you sleep are disruptive. Watching TV and working/playing on the computer or phone just before bed increases stress, impacting sleep quality. We need to be physically active enough during the day to produce chemicals like adenosine, which promote sleep at the end of the day. These are some of the things you can do that do so you may not need to turn to melatonin or other supplements.
11:40 Down the Methylation Rabbit Hole: Methylation is the process of transferring a methyl group, which is a carbon and three hydrogens, from one substance to another. These methyl donors are like keys. They turn on and off processes in our bodies. We need these methylation groups to make enzymatic reactions occur, turn on and off our genes, to make and degrade neurotransmitters, to process our hormones, to make creatine, to help make ATP, and to help make our cell membranes. We need these methyl donors and methylation processes to do hundreds of different reactions in the body. They happen billions of times per minute in trillions of cells every moment. Your quality of methylation determines the quality of your health and the rate at which you regenerate. We all get older at the same rate, but we don’t age at the same rate.
13:14 The Role of SNPs (Genetic Aberrations) in Methylation: Just because you have a gene variation, does not mean you have to treat something. MTHFR is the most commonly known SNP to influence methylation, but it is one of many. MTHFR plays a role in the methionine cycle, expressing the production of creatine and energy, and it plays a critical role in neurotransmitter production. An MTHFR homozygous (double mutation) represents the potential for greater deficit in the way the enzyme works. In a heterozygous defect, only one of the genes is compromised and the potential deficit is less. Some other SNPs influence methylation processes: MTR, MTRR, CBS and SUOX.
19:09 A Connection between SUOX and Histamine Overload: SUOX is also very common and influences the clearance of sulfites. People who have gut issues tend to have reduced production of DAO enzyme, you could have a histamine SNP or you could have both. Foods have histamine and histadine and promote histamine production. If you have a SNP defect, you will have an increased histamine response. If you have leaky gut, you have decreased DAO to break it down. High histamine foods are really healthy foods that we should eat. Sometimes, Dr. Balcavage has is patients use Dr. Lynch’s histamine blocker support product.
22:36 CBS SNPs and Sulfur-Rich Foods: Sulfur containing foods support detoxification pathways and supports glutathione production. Dr. Balcavage does not think that consuming sulfur –rich foods will cause much in the way of problems with a CBS SNP. Those foods are very important to us.
24:37 Why Should We Avoid Folic Acid? Folic acid is synthetic. Many of his patients with chronic illness come to him having taken folic acid, with high folic acid levels. This does not translate into high folate levels, meaning that it is not getting into the cells and acting like folate. Folic acid can cling to and block folate receptors, impeding the assimilation of the needed folate and downregulating our folate receptors. Downregulated receptors mean that you now have fewer doors for folate to enter your cell. In addition, folic acid needs to be converted before it can be used in the body.
28:14 MTR and MTRR SNPs Impact B12: Methionine synthase, encoded on the MTR gene, helps to take methylcobalamin and convert it and use it with methyltetrahydrofolate. If there is a defect on MTR, we are not as effective at using methyl tetrahydrofolate. A SNP, inflammation, elevations in nitric oxide and other issues can inhibit the efficacy of the enzyme. MTRR SNP inhibits the recycling of spent cobalamin back into methylcobalamin. Treating these issues is not as simple as loading up on methylated B12. It involves understanding your reaction to supplementation and understanding your history. Patients may need methyl B12, hydroxyl B12, or maybe adenosylcobalamin if they have mitochondrial issues as well. An organic acids urine test may be able to tell you if adenosyl B12 is a better place to start versus methylated B12. Methylcobalamin has to be converted into adenosylcobalamin inside the mitochondria. Someone with energy production issues and an elevated FIGLU on their organic acids test, would benefit from starting with adenosylcobalamin to support their energy production system, especially their Krebs cycle. Once methylation has been kick started, then he moves to methylated B12 supplementation.
31:38 How do We Supplement B12? The first step in supplementing B12 is to eat better food: whole foods, organic, and local. However, our soil does not contain the minerals and other nutrients to adequately feed the plant. In general, nearly everyone would benefit from a good quality multivitamin with methylcobalamin and methylfolate, not folic acid.
34:55 What’s Wrong with Cyanocobalamin? Methylcobalamin, hydroxocobalamin and adenosylcobalamin are fully usable forms of B12. The cobalamin component of cyanocobalamin is useable, but the cyano group takes energy to get rid of and does nothing positive for the body. Both components of the other forms are used by your body and are therefore more beneficial.
43:01 Dr. Balcavage’s Morning Routine: He gets up between 4 and 4:15 a.m. He drinks apple cider vinegar in water to get the gastric juices going. He has coffee, sometimes Bulletproof coffee, and eats Breakfast Brownies that he makes. They are paleo inspired, with nuts, spinach and other good things. While eating, he reads for about a half an hour. Then he moves on to what he calls FoundationExercises. Three yoga-type moves 3 times to support his posture. Then he does HeartMath to get his heart, breathing and neurology in sync. He then journals things for which he is thankful, affirmations, and one action item that works toward his 3 big goals. He heads to work after showering, getting his kids up and eating breakfast. He listens to podcasts during his commute.
46:22 Dr. Balcavage’s Favorite Nutrient, Food Substance, Supplement, Herb or Botanical: From a methylation standpoint, he says it would be creatine. It is not only important for muscles, it improves memory and neurology. If you are not eating high quality animal protein, you are probably not getting enough creatine. For everyone, he says it is hands down vitamin D. In a hundred blood labs that Dr. Balcavage views, he might find one person who has optimal vitamin D levels.
48:28 One Health Tip for Americans: If we ate more real food, we would be healthier. If we are subsidizing food for the poor, let’s make sure it is good for them. Often we purchase for quantity rather than quality. Instead of subsidizing huge companies producing grain-based products, we could subsidize the local farmer growing organic food.