This is a video series dedicated to answering two very important questions.  The first question is “How does our gut health influence the health of the rest of the body?“.  The second question is “Why do supplements, esp. methylation nutrients, make my symptoms WORSE?”  These are questions which come up again and again in the minds of both doctors and patients.   These are questions which hold the key to understanding the root cause of many methylation problems.  And these are questions I am going to unravel for you over the course of the next two videos!  In today’s video post, we are going to start the discussion by looking at stress…

Stress impacts our health in ways we are just now understanding.  And how the digestive system is impacted by stress is the focus of exciting new research that sheds light on many questions regarding health and methylation.  Many people take methylation support nutrients, often based off a genetic test that shows they need it, only to have their symptoms get WORSE after taking the vitamins?  How is it possible to get worse by taking things which are known and proven to be good for you?  What process or explanation can help us understand why some people get sicker when they take supplements?  These are huge questions!  And ones that I have spent a great deal of time working to figure out.  And I believe I have found scientific evidence that shows WHY and HOW people get sick from vitamins…and we can do to fix it!  After all just talking about a problem is one thing, but fixing it is another.

Certain genes makes us MORE susceptible to stress. This is a key part of understanding how genetic polymorphisms influence our feelings, our behavior, and our lives.  In my opinion, the most important genes for stress are:

  • ACE – Angiotensin Converting Enzyme
  • COMT – Catechol-O-Methyl-Transferase
  • GAD – Glutamic Acid Decarboxylase
  • MAO – Monoamine Oxidasee
  • MTHFR – Methyl-Tetra-Hydro-Folate-Reductase

These genes act together, they work synergistically, to make a major impact on our brain, immune system, gut, and adrenal glands.  These genes make it difficult to break down catecholamine neurotransmitters.  When we are stressed we release high levels of adrenalin (aka epinephrine or catecholamines) and this is where the stress symptoms come from.  Stress chemicals such as adrenalin, dopamine, norepinephrine cause rapid heart beat, sweating, panic attacks, trembling, anxiety, dizziness, etc.  Tell me do any of those symptoms sound familiar?

These symptoms are all SIDE EFFECTS of too many stress hormones in our body.  And since MAO and COMT are responsible for breaking these molecules down, any SNPs in those pathways makes it harder for the body to clear those hormones.  GAD and ACE act to increase stress hormones because they make the sympathetic nervous system more irritated.  GAD increases glutamate (aka glutamic acid) levels and this triggers neuroinflammation among other things.  ACE makes it hard for the body to break down angiotensin, a hormone related to adrenal stress and aldosterone, that increases blood pressure, interferes with digestion, and activates sympathetic stress activity.  So those with MAO, COMT, MTHFR, GAD and ACE are predisposed to both RELEASE more stress hormones and have a challenge BREAKING THEM DOWN.  And how might this be a problem for the gut?  Well the answer to that question will shock you!

I’ve just listed the most important genes which influence our level of stress and catecholamines.  But I haven’t mentioned yet how stress hormones and neurotransimtters impact our gut.  Its important for me to point out that regardless of your genes, when you release stress hormones about 50% of them go straight into your gut!  In other words, every single living human  on earth releases adrenalin into the gut each time the sympathetic nervous system is activated – no matter what SNPs they have!  This is a HUGE deal since it means that the gut bacteria is getting doused with adrenalin at the same time as our heart, brain, liver, muscle and other tissues.  Because we release HALF of our adrenalin into the gut lumen, the bacteria living there can use this dis-STRESS signal to their advantage.  Allow me to explain…

Lets say you performed a science experiment and you took a sample of E. coli from your gut and put it into two identical petri dishes filled with serum – dish A and B.  Then you squirted some adrenalin into dish A (experiment) and did not add anything to dish B (control).  Then you come back a day later and measure how fast the two identical E. coli samples grew…you would notice that dish A grew 10,000% faster.  Yes that is 10 to the 4th power – a massive increase!  And its all due to the effects of adrenalin.  Adrenalin (technically it is noradrenalin that goes into our gut but for simplicity I am using the word adrenalin interchangeably) gives bacteria like E. coli  and Salmonella signals to grow and become aggressive.  The adrenal released into the gut is a signal that the host is under duress and from a bacteria point-of-view it is a good time to grow the family.  The bugs in our gut are always looking for signals about the health of the host.  When adrenalin is released your body is basically saying to the bacteria “Hey go ahead and multiply I’m busy fighting for my life (real or imagined) so my immune system won’t be able to attack very well right now.”  Get the picture?

And if the growth caused by adrenalin weren’t enough, it also gives the bacteria access to our iron.  Adrenalin and other catecholamines help bacteria to tear iron off of transport proteins.  Since iron is needed for bacteria to grow, our body makes sure they can’t get their hands on it easily.  We put our iron on armored trucks called lactoferrin and transferrin – this way only we get to use it and the iron is delivered where we want it.  When adrenalin is given to the bad bugs, they will hijack the iron off the truck.  Its like a bank robbery happening in our gut!  This may cause chronic anemia and a host of other related problems in the brain and elsewhere.  If we lose iron we need and bad bugs use it to grow, its a sure bet that our gut and our brain won’t be feeling optimally healthy!

Bacteria live in our bodies in a give and take situation.  They take up residence in our gut (mostly) and they give off chemical signals that either help us experience health or they chronically poison us.  And its easy to get mad at these gut bugs and want them gone.  I’m all for that!  But the question of why the grew there in the first place needs to be addressed.  We all have candida and e.coli and other pathogens in our gut.  They belong there as part of the normal gut environment.  The problem arises when the environment changes, and the gut bacteria change along with it.  This is the key point to understand.  Our gut health and which bugs are living down there is a reflection of the environment of the gut itself.

Gut bacteria are not all “good” or all “bad”.  They can change their behavior based off signals from the host (us).  We now know that half our adrenalin enters the gut each time we get stressed.  This wouldn’t be a big deal unless the gut bacteria are able to use this catecholamine neurotransmitter to their advantage.  And unfortunately they are able to do that.  In a sick twist of fate or biochemistry (take your pick) the bacteria in our gut are always listening for signals from the host.  If we send them stress signals then the they will take that opportunity to steal our iron, to grow and to become more aggressive.  Its a give and take  remember.  If we give the gut signals that life is tragic, full of stress, fear, doom, and other negative emotions then we are literally giving the signal to gram-negative bacteria in our gut to grow rapidly.  As you may have guessed by now rapidly growing gram-negative gut bacteria like E. coli or Salmonella will make us sick.

The solution to all this is to limit your exposure to stress and do the simple, fundamental things every day that prevent your body from going into fight or flight.  Eat every 2-3 hours, eat low glycemic foods, pray/meditate, spend time going things that bring you joy, avoid things which bring you pain or sadness, sleep 8+ hours each night, etc.  How to reduce your stress is a constant study, and I have outlined some key points for you in previous posts found here and here.  The point is that by reducing your stress and taking the right supplements at the right time, you can moderate and influence the make-up of your gut.  By lowering stress you lower adrenalin.  Less adrenalin means less fuel for bad bugs to grow.  Stay tuned for the next video post! (Continue to part II…)

In Health,

Dr. Rostenberg

By studying the current peer-reviewed research, Dr. Rostenberg has discovered powerful, natural strategies to restore your gut and heal your body.  He can help you uncover the genetic or root causes of your health problem and find a natural solution!  If you would like help with your methylation genetics to improve your gut function and reduce/eliminate your symptoms, please contact Dr. Rostenberg at Red Mountain Natural Medicine today. Phone 208-322-7755. Email Website



  • June 9, 2014 Reply


    This is such important information about the DIRECT effect that stress has on gut health. I have never seen this so clearly presented. Thanks for further motivating all of us keep making daily efforts to reduce stress!

    • June 9, 2014 Reply


      Thanks Lisa. I appreciate the positive feedback. Please stay tuned…LOTS more good stuff coming! – Dr. Rostenberg

  • June 10, 2014 Reply


    very informative – thank you!! What do you recommend for a stress reliever to use along with healing of the gut? How do you go about healing the gut if you are sensitive to most foods? I have soo many food allergies – oral allergy syndrome and have a histamine issue as well. I understand that a histamine issue also stems from a bad but. But how does one go about healing their gut?

    • June 10, 2014 Reply


      the GAPS diet is the best gut-healing protocol around.

  • June 10, 2014 Reply

    Robert adams

    Is nac safe for most people to take. Or is there any gene snips where nac should be avoided. Have several homozygous snips of the ones mentioned.

    • June 10, 2014 Reply


      NAC is well tolerated and is generally recognized as safe. It is used in ER medicine to prevent death from overdose of acetaminophen aka Tylenol poisoning b/c it greatly increases glutathione production. It is a mucolytic and powerful antioxidant. Hope that helps. – Dr. Rostenberg

  • June 11, 2014 Reply


    I keep hearing you say mao snp speeds up….but all that I’ve read says it slows down serotonin breakdown the same as comt slows down dopamine breakdown.

    • June 11, 2014 Reply


      Hi Melvin. That is a good question. I keep saying MAO is increased in the brain because the SNP most commonly tested for rs6363 is the HIGHEST MAO activity polymorphism:
      “We examined polymorphisms in genes encoding the catabolic enzymes catechol-O-methyltransferase and monoamine oxidase A. Subjects with monoamine oxidase A G/T polymorphisms (rs6323) coding for the highest activity form of the enzyme (G or G/G) had a significantly lower magnitude of placebo response than those with other genotypes. – J Clin Psychopharmacol. 2009 Aug;29(4):372-7. PMID: 19593178”

      Basically anyone with the MTHFRsupport variant report will know if they carry rs6363. If they do, then they are the INCREASED MAO-A gene carrier. IF it is -/- then they are presumed to have the LOW activity MAO-A gene. In the RBCs and blood cells the MAO enzymes are slowed down yet they are sped up in the brain. In the brain the MAO system is inducible with stress and increases as we age and mitochondria are injured. Aging is equivalent to DNA damage and as mitochondria are destroyed int the brain from toxins/stress/malnutrition then we are effectively aging faster. These effects plus SNPs cause increases in enzyme speed of the MAO system, esp. MAO-B (less clarity when it comes to MAO-A but likely same pattern since molecularly almost identical). See links below for further study. – Dr. Rostenberg

      • July 9, 2014 Reply


        thank you for your response..interesting studies. But wasn’t on the snp rs6323 being sped up.

        My results show ++ for this snp from Yasko and 23 and me ran through and are both reported as red and ++ and being the TT.

        yes the GG variant does say this is the snp that is sped up but you say that is the ++ one and should be reported as red…is this correct.

        Also my Prometheus reports the same as the others. Also my OATS test showed low breakdown of serotonin metabolites

  • July 7, 2014 Reply

    Rich Watkins

    Thanks on your marvelous posting! I genuinely
    enjoyed reading it, you may be a great author. I will be
    sure to bookmark your blog and will often come back in the
    future. I want to encourage yourself to continue your great
    work, have a nice evening!

    • July 8, 2014 Reply


      Thank you Rich. Glad you enjoyed it! – Dr Rostenberg

  • November 15, 2014 Reply


    Gad(glutamic acid decarboxylase) increases gaba by converting glutamate into gaba

  • May 11, 2015 Reply


    Dr Rostenberg – this is fascinating information, esp. about the adrenaline-gut-iron link. I have perpetually low ferritin (like around 18 if I don’t supplement) and am COMT ++ (for both), ACE Del 16 ++, MTHFR C677T ++, MAO +-, GAD ++

    Do you know more about ACE please because I am quite confused about this SNP. Is it an upregulation?
    There is a real lack of quality info about this one.

    I am ++ (GG) yet I test low in serum aldosterone (in range, but only just and the range is wide).

    Some of Yasko’s info suggests having this polymorphism is protective (like a natural ACE inhibitor) yet other info suggests it can result in high aldosterone. Also, she mentions that aldosterone can start off high but then become much lower due to adrenal fatigue. Perhaps that is what has happened with me.

    I am going to ask my doctor to run some tests like aldosterone again ….are there any other relevant tests for ACE? My homocysteine looked fine when tested (serum).

    thank you!

    • May 11, 2015 Reply

      Dr. Rostenberg

      Hi Allison,

      Thanks for your comments. You are asking great questions. ACE +/+ means the body has a tendency to INCREASE the activation of Angiotensin I —> Angiotensin II, which leads to an increase in sympathetic nervous system (stress) activity. This means that people with this SNP have a predilection towards higher levels of Angiotensin II. This may cause an elevation of aldosterone in the beginning, but as the body becomes progressively more adrenally-fatigued, then it is possible to have low-normral aldosterone levels as well. The moral of the story here is that ACE +/+ along with the other SNPs we look at increases the effects of stress, shunts blood away from the organs and digestive system, and increases adrenal hormone secretion.

      ACE +/+ is an upregulation. The medications called ACE-inhibitors are trying to do the opposite, to turn ACE off, while you are born with your ACE turned on. Its like being born with an ACE promotor (as opposed to an ACE inhibitor).

      If you would like more help then please contact my office 208-322-7755 or

      Yours in Health,

      Dr. Rostenberg

  • May 24, 2017 Reply


    Dr Rostenberg, thank you for this video, your website has been a permanent fixture on my computer for a while now! I am planning to do the 10-day mono meal diet that you recommend for gut health. Obviously the methylation supplements will go but I also take rhodiola rosea for my mood swings which – for the most part – seems to help. Do the herbs have to go during the mono meal diet too?
    Thank you

    • June 12, 2017 Reply

      Dr. Rostenberg

      Hi Jen,

      Yes, you should take the herbs and all the recommended supplements concurrently, at the same time. This is the way the program is most effective. Hope that helps!

      In Health,

      Dr. Rostenberg

  • July 6, 2017 Reply


    I was just told I have the COMT gene variant and can’t clear estrogen or adrenaline. Are there specific blood tests to verify this? I am still perimenapausal, and been having hot flashes, heart palpitations, migraines, daily headaches, dizziness, brain fog, fatigue, low ferritin and have dropped into a severe depression this last week. Need support and help and am trying to get it.

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