What Is the COMT Gene?
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It turns out there are a bunch of genes that can make it difficult for some people to eliminate toxins from the body—toxins from air pollution, pesticides, fragrances, mold, estrogen, and even stress hormones!
In this article, I talked about Cytochrome P450 Genes, and Glutathione S-Transferase Genes.
And here, we'll talk about the COMT gene.
The COMT gene
What is it?
The COMT gene provides instructions for making an enzyme called catechol-O-methyltransferase. An estimated 20-30% of Caucasians of European ancestry have a COMT gene variation which limits the body's ability to remove catechols (a specific type of molecule that includes dopamine, norepinephrine, estrogen, etc...) by 3-4 times (This variation is called Met/Met, AA, or +/+). COMT is also associated with greater levels of Cortisol and HPA axis dysfunction (which is largely responsible for the bodies ability to calm itself and de-stress).
Because of the effects that COMT has on hormones, it directly affects stress reactivity, health, and well-being. Interestingly, those with this gene appear to experience both negative and positive emotions more strongly. For example, those with the COMT gene variation Met/Met tend to be more neurotic and have lower stress resiliency. However, in one study, people with the Met/Met variation generated almost similar amounts of positive emotion in response to a 'bit pleasant event' as people with the no variation (Val/Val) did from a 'very pleasant event'.
What to do about it:
Note. There are not many known ways to increase COMT activity, so avoiding anything that inhibits COMT activity is key to recovering from COMT-related issues.
Other things to do
Regardless of our genes, we can all benefit from improving liver detox. We can do this through any of the aforementioned techniques but also by supporting other genes that aid Phase 2 detox. For example, cruciferous vegetables, citrus foods, and bioactive compounds induce UGT enzymes, which aid Phase 2 detox. Animal studies also suggest benefits of other foods and nutrients, including dandelion, rooibos tea, honeybush tea, rosemary, ellagic acid, ferulic acid, curcumin, and astaxanthin.
When I discovered I had issues with Cytochrome P450 genes, GST genes, and COMT, it didn't scare me—it gave me hope. I had been struggling with strange health issues my entire life—issues which eventually snowballed into a year-long unidentifiable, unexplainable sickness that I just couldn't kick. When I found out I had these toxic genes, I finally had a path forward.
I started doing research, learned all the things I just shared with you, and started living and eating for my genes. I moved away from a polluted city, stressful lifestyle, and moldy apartment. I stopped going to the gym and instead went for short, calming walks. I stopped eating vegetarian, and instead ate a variety of meats ensure I was getting enough B vitamins. And I stopped consuming green tea and other "healthy veggies" that were bogging down COMT and instead ate potato, citrus fruits, and veggies that support detox.
Finally, I turned a corner. One by one, my symptoms started to ebb. And as long as I stick to my gene-healthy diet and lifestyle, I feel better each day. That's the power that eating for your genes can have on well-being.
*To learn more about how I manage stress associated with having this COMT gene, check my stress detox program.