Autoimmune Thyroid Disease

An Unfortunate and Lengthy Adventure in Misdiagnosis

Contradictory information from Pfeiffer

with 3 comments

Pfeiffer Treatment Center is a small alternative health clinic in Illinois. The Pfeiffer Treatment Center information casts doubt on clear-cut connections between methylation and food chemical intolerance. I had been puzzling over this since reading it, because their information seems contradictory and doesn’t make biochemical sense:

Undermethylation: This condition is innate & is characterized by low levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, high whole blood histamine and elevated absolute basophils. This population has a high incidence of seasonal allergies, OCD tendencies, perfectionism, high libido, sparse body hair, and several other characteristics. They usually respond well to methionine, SAMe, calcium, magnesium, omega-3 essential oils (DHA & EPA), B-6, inositol, and vitamins A, C, and E. They should avoid supplements containing folic acid. In severe cases involving psychosis, the dominant symptom is usually delusional thinking rather than hallucinations. They tend to speak very little & may sit motionless for extended periods. They may appear outwardly calm, but suffer from extreme internal anxiety.

Overmethylation: This condition is the biochemical opposite of undermethylation. It is characterized by elevated levels of serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, low whole blood histamine, and low absolute basophils. This population is characterized by the following typical symptoms: Absence of seasonal, inhalent allergies, but a multitude of chemical or food sensitivities, high anxiety which is evident to all, low libido, obsessions but not compulsions, tendency for paranoia and auditory hallucinations, underachievement as a child, heavy body hair, hyperactivity, “nervous” legs, and grandiosity. They usually respond well to folic acid, B-12, niacinamide, DMAE, choline, manganese, zinc, omega-3 essential oils (DHA and EPA) and vitamins C and E, but should avoid supplements of methionine, SAMe, inositol, TMG and DMG. Dr. Bob

High-histamine depressives overproduce and retain excessive levels of histamine, an important neurotransmitter which affects human behavior. They are under-methylated resulting in generalized low levels of important neurotransmitters such as serotonin. This syndrome often involves seasonal variations in depression, obsessive-compulsive behavior, inhalant allergies, and frequent headaches. Biochemical treatment revolves around antifolates, especially calcium and methionine. Three to six month of nutrient therapy are usually needed to correct this chemical imbalance. As in most biochemical therapies, the symptoms usually return if treatment is stopped.

Low-histamine depressives are usually nervous, anxious individuals who are prone to paranoia and despair. They are over-methylated which results in elevated dopamine and norepinephrine levels. Although free of seasonal allergies, they often report a multitude of food and chemical sensitivities. Many have a history of hyperactivity, learning disabilities, and underachievement. Treatment focuses on use of folic acid together with niacinamide and vitamin B-12, with about 2-4 months required for correction of the imbalance. PTC

So according to PTC, undermethylation i.e. low neurotransmitters correlates with high histamine levels, and vice versa.

Withdrawing folate for people who have low neurotransmitters? I don’t get it. Where is the scientific reasoning for this? All other sources of scientific information on the subject point to the fact that people with low folate and/or B12 levels tend to have lower neurotransmitter levels, and vice versa.

Both B12 and folate are required to remethylate methionine. The folate methylates B12 to methylcobalamin, and this then converts homocysteine back to methionine. The methionine is then converted to SAMe. SAMe is required to methylate monoamine neurotransmitters, being involved in both their production and destruction. This system works for histamine too, it is not in oppositon to histamine. Histamine is a diamine, but has the same sort of methyltransferases for its production and destruction as monoamines do. When you raise histamine levels you also raise other neurotransmitter levels.

PTC make assumptions made about the nature of methylation on monoamine neurotransmitters. PTC assume that neurotransmitters are low in the undermethylated and are high in the overmethylated, when in fact the evidence is different. All of these monoamines require methylation for their manufacture, and again for their correct functioning during transmission within the brain, and again for their destruction. What we actually know is that all neurotransmitters are low with folate deficiency.

Feeding both B12 and folate to people who are ‘overmethylated’ i.e. theoretically have high levels of neurotransmitters and low levels of histamine would surely raise their levels of both monoamine neurotransmitters AND histamine. This is a PubMed paper describing how folate helps to raise levels of monoamine neurotransmitters in people who are depressed and have high homocysteine.

Inositol and niacin only have very secondary supportive roles in the methylation cycle (in fact from what I can find out, inositol is so far removed as not to be concerned with it). Omega-3 oils have been next to useless for me. But niacin in conjunction with folate has been found to raise histamine levels. And fish oils are full of histamine.

Study after study has found folate deficiency is closely connected to high homocysteine and poor methylation. Based on this I just don’t understand the vitamin formulas recommended. The undermethylated aren’t given many actual methyl donors compared to the ones the overmethylated are told to avoid. Choline is a methyl donor so why is it being given to the overmethylated? Choline is used as a methyl group donor to spare folate. Calcium and methionine are not ‘antifolates’, they actually help folate do its work in the methylation cycle.

Supplementing with a formula including methyl donors, B12, folate, B6, and molybdenum has an effect on me in days, not months. I’ve known this since long before I even knew I had food chemical intolerances, and I’ve tested the formula quite heavily. Because of my prior experimentation with this formula and my reaction to methyl donors, I know full well that my food chemical induced brain fog and hangover symptoms clear up with the use of methylation supplements, but gives me other unpleasant symptoms instead, and too much of this formula seems to send me high as a kite – so I am going from being an undermethylator to an overmethylator all of the time.

If I have chemical sensitivities I am supposed to be an overmethylator, yet I also have seasonal allergies which means I am simultaneously an undermethylator. I have nasty reactions to histamine in foods. I also have nasty reactions to chemicals including smells. If I need methyl donors to deal with brain fog, I would fall into the undermethylation category. I don’t get it. I have the following undermethylation symptoms: “OCD tendencies, perfectionism, speaks very little & may sit motionless for extended periods, appears outwardly calm, but suffers from extreme internal anxiety,” and the following overmethylation symptoms; “a multitude of chemical or food sensitivities, low libido, obsessions, tendency for paranoia, underachievement as a child, heavy body hair, ‘nervous’ legs, and grandiosity.”

Many people with salicylate sensitivity are also sensitive to histamine. People with food chemical intolerances are MORE prone to allergies and rashes. Like most other food chemical intolerant people, I have food chemical intolerances, AND allergies. Allergies are worsened by a HIGH level of histamine. So where do I fit into PTC’s scheme?

Having read every failsafe testimonial and keeping half an eye on the failsafe and autism yahoo groups, no one’s experiences match what Dr. Walsh says.

I just don’t like these over simplistic personality-type diagnoses, i.e. you are either one, the other, or this third weird ‘copper toxic’ type we don’t know what to do with. The silly personality traits prescribed to either group are almost a form of astrology. I think it sounds good if you don’t know anything about methylation. There’s no sense of looking for a particular jam at a traffic light in what they say, such as MFTHR, MAO or other genetic polymorphisms at
points in the cycle. Creating artificial dichotomies like under- or overmethylation smacks of popularism and pseudoscience.

I don’t think a dichotomy exists between two definite states – rather it’s like a big one way system around a city, with numerous side roads, cul-de-sacs, bypasses, etc., and there could
be a traffic jam at any one set of lights, with a build up of cars in that area, causing other areas further down to be empty. Methylation of neurotransmitters itself is only one part of the methylation cycle, and there is a difference between the effects of methylation on the brain and
methylation which is one of six phase II liver detox pathways – and not necessarily one of primary importance in detoxing food chemicals.

Also, histamine can be a red herring in itself because histamine is only one inflammatory amine – benzoates at least appear to cause whealing and flaring through serotonin degranulation which isn’t blocked by antihistamines. To suggest that people either have high serotonin OR high histamine is rather annoying when one has reactions caused by both.

The only correct statement they make is that high histamine levels use up methyl donors. There are two ways to metabolise (get rid of) histamine: by methylation or by oxidation. Salicylic acid inhibits an enzyme on the oxidation pathway, causing additional methyl donors to be used up in order to control histamine levels. Hence histamine levels are impacted by an inability to excrete salicylates, which the PTC claims is an opposite condition from undermethylation!

PTC aren’t food chemical intolerance specialists. They attribute a number of symptoms such as PMS and tinnitus to high copper levels. They are also symptoms of food chemical intolerance. I have these symptoms, but I react quite negatively to zinc, which is supposed to ease copper toxicity! The truth is that the symptoms of food chemical intolerance vary widely from individual to individual and are dependent on a huge number of genetic, nutritional, and environmental factors.

Why, if PTC have identified individuals who over- and undermethylate, do they never mention homocysteine on their site? Why have they not connected undermethylation and high homocysteine to the numerous conditions (such as epilepsy, fibromyalgia, dementia and heart disease) that are listed in the PubMed database?

I believe they are determining their populations based on the histamine levels in the blood, and then describing these populations as ‘overmethylators’ and ‘undermethylators’ without actual proof of what is going on in the brain and body. Methylation is influenced by histamine levels, certainly, but methylation and histamine are also influenced by a great many other factors. PTC are simply describing histadelia and histapenia, not methylation. Histadelia is sometimes a symptom of food chemical intolerance due to the inability to get rid of the histamine that you eat, but food chemical intolerance is not the only cause: pathogens, nutritional deficiencies, IgE and IgG antibodies, excessive histamine consumption, and genuine allergies are also causes of high histamine, none of which correlate with PTC’s theory.

There are too many flaws in PTC’s arbitrary and contradictory divisions of symptoms and in their treatment plan for me to trust what they say. Karen DeFelice addresses some of these in her article on methylation. She says everything that Pfeiffer says about methylation is contradicted by other sources, which are in concensus against Pfeiffer. Carl Pfeiffer came up with his ideas some twenty years or so ago before anyone really knew much about the biochemistry.

So much of this stuff is circular. For example, methyl groups raising monoamine and diamine levels – yet methyl groups also being used to detox monoamines and diamines from the body. You can guarantee 100% that whatever supplements you take will have at least two completely contradictory effects on the body – because the body is designed as a complex set of self-regulatory feedback loops – and you don’t know which effect will dominate unless you figure out all the other cofactors involved. I’m more and more inclined to believe it’s not something you can safely influence with vitamins.


Written by alienrobotgirl

12 April, 2006 at 7:03 am

Posted in Quacktitioners

3 Responses

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  1. This site has been of great interest. What dosages do you use in the above mentioned formula? I tested high for histamine metabolites, 37.4 ug/gCr, but I am still unclear wether I am somehow geneticaly predisposed to methylate poorly, or wether this is a result of food intolerances, or both? My adrenaline metabolites were also low, 2.6 �g/gCr. Thank You

    Shawn from Columbus, Ohio.

    20 October, 2006 at 8:26 am

  2. Hi Shawn,When I used methylation cycle vitamins I was using the following amounts:1000mcg methylcobalamin200-400mcg folic acid10mg pyridoxal 5 phosphate150mcg molybdenumIn addition to a supportive multivitamin and mineral.I also took about a teaspoon of lecithin (choline) every day and ate lots of eggs!I don’t take this formula anymore. Having been on failsafe for a few months, I don’t actually need it anymore and actually feel *worse* when I take it.I’d suggest failsafe as a primary course of treatment, and only worry about supplementation if you don’t see an improvement after a few months.

    Alien Robot Girl

    20 October, 2006 at 9:40 am

  3. Zinc: Like you I react negatively to zinc but I established that I have high copper levels by doing a Tissue Mineral Analysis. The most effective way of removing copper seems to be with Vitamin C. The most effective form of Vitamin C seems to be Sodium Ascorbate. This is a super soluble and pH balanced form of Vit C. You make it yourself by adding Ascorbic Acid and bicarbonate of soda (1:1/2 ratio) in 1″ of water (wait till CO2 bubbles off). My copper excretion levels have gone through the roof since I started using this method. There are other ways of chelating (removing) copper… but you should start by establishing absolutely that you have a copper excess. Tissue mineral analysis will do this for you. It will also give you the levels of other minerals in the body including all the heavy metals. TMA is a very wise investment. /quote/PTC aren’t food intolerance specialists. They attribute a number of symptoms such as PMS and tinnitus to high copper levels. They are also symptoms of food intolerance. I have these symptoms, but I react quite negatively to zinc, which is supposed to ease copper toxicity. The truth is that the symptoms of food intolerance vary widely from individual to individual and are dependent on a huge number of genetic, nutritional, and environmental factors.

    Michael Czajka

    29 November, 2006 at 11:10 pm

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