Faulty Sulfation and Methylation

If the biochemistry of sulfation and methylation are too complex or
(like calculus in high school) just aren’t relevant or interesting to
your daily life, here’s all you need to know about it.  To see many
details on sulfation/methylation (including biochemistry) to keep up
with your DAN! doctor(s), and phenol protocols, read Nourishing Hope.

One of the reasons we seek to best understand sulfation and
methylation is that it explains so much of autistic spectrum
disorders.  The impaired biochemical processes of sulfation (or
transsulfuration) and methylation (or transmethylation) layout a
framework that appears to create a detailed picture of much of what
ails those with ASDs. Work done by one of the leading researchers in
this field, Rosemary Waring of England, has found that in several
studies between 73% to 92% of those with ASDs have disordered sulfation
chemistry (based on the various studies).  With such a high percentage
of the population affected and the biochemistry fitting with what we
see clinically, it is a crucial area to be aware of.  Understanding
these biochemical processes helps us comprehend the complex chain of
genetic, environmental, and biochemical factors that affect those with

Methylation and sulfation are required for many of the systems and
processes we all need daily, and are the same systems that are impaired
with ASDs.  Understanding the basics can help us piece together what
systems are not functioning well, why, and how to support them.  These
processes include:

    * Detoxification
    * Heavy metal elimination
    * Digestion
    * Immune function
    * Cellular/metabolic function
    * Gut integrity
    * Microbial balance

By understanding these complex chemical processes, we can begin to
better troubleshoot and address why certain reactions may be occurring
and which nutrients to supplement.  In addition to adding nutrients
that are vital to these biochemical cascades, we also want to address
and remove toxins that overburden the systems, such as offending foods,
environmental chemicals, and microorganisms that create toxins.
So what causes faulty sulfation?

While there is no single answer to this because of bioindividuality
and the need for more research, genetics appears to play a role as we
see many common disorders running in families.  Additionally, mercury
and other heavy metals appear to damage this cascade.

Phenols and PST

Phenols, such as artificial food ingredients, salicylates (naturally
found in fruits and vegetables), and phenolic amines such as dopamine
and serotonin are processed by the enzyme PST and the sulfation
pathway. The Feingold Diet is very helpful for those with faulty

Phenolsulfotransferase (PST) is an enzyme that processes sulfur
compounds namely phenols – hence the name phenol-sulfo-tranferase.  It
is used to process phenols such as artificial food ingredients,
salicylates (naturally found in fruits and vegetables), and phenolic
amines such as dopamine and serotonin.  Dr. Feingold recognized that
this process was not working correctly in children with ADHD when they
were unable to process artificial ingredients and foods high in phenols.

Signs and Symptoms

It’s important to know the signs of phenol intolerance, or poor
processing of phenols.  These reactions (unlike food intolerances) come
on pretty quickly, typically 20 minutes to 2 hours after consumption.
Some of the most common include: hyperactivity, fatigue, inappropriate
laughter, red cheeks and ears, aggression, self-injurious behavior,
impatience, poor sleeping habits, headaches, and poor neuro-muscular
function.  However, be aware that many of these can be signs of other
imbalances. A few of the most obvious are inappropriate laughter
(often seen with yeast overgrowth), self-injurious behavior and
aggression, which are often seen with gluten and casein opiates, etc.
As it can be confusing, take all of the signs, symptoms, and reactions
into consideration when trying to determine if phenols are an issue.

Currently, there is no test to directly determine phenol intolerance
or faulty sulfation.  I suggest a combination of physical, biochemical,
behavioral, and cognitive sign/symptoms to get a sense as to whether
reducing phenols and addressing sulfation may be helpful. Reactions to
foods and substances are the first things to look for – any obvious
reaction to artificial ingredients and other strong chemical phenols
like Tylenol.  Next, look for unusual or extreme cravings for natural
salicylates like apples and grapes.  A few examples that I have heard
in my practice from parents should help illustrate this: inconsolable
tantrum after consumption of colored sprinkles on birthday cake,
extreme aggression from consumption of candy sweetened with grape
juice, and consumption of only apple juice as a beverage.

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