Low Homocysteine? Not Good.
What do you think of when you hear the word – homocysteine?
Bad. Cardiovascular disease. High blood pressure. Toxic. Lower the better.
I am challenging this thinking right now.
When I think of homocysteine, I think of this:
The body has to make homocysteine. It’s an important building block for two very important compounds in our body. It must be balanced. Too low homocysteine is bad and too high homocysteine is bad.
When was the last time a health professional said, “Hmm. You have low homocysteine levels. We need to increase your homocysteine to help you feel better!”
This is a very rare occurrence.
If your health professional has said this to you, my hat is off to them!
Most research and, as a result most health practitioners and patients, focus on normal to high homocysteine.
Low homocysteine isn’t even on their radar.
Medically speaking, low homocysteine doesn’t really even exist.
I used the medical term for low homocsyteine, hypohomocysteinemia, in the National Library of Medicine to search for published papers on low homocysteine.
Here is what I got: (they wondered if I meant something else!)
Only 8 results for hypohomocysteinemia (low homocysteine) compared to nearly 8,000 for hyperhomocysteinemia (high homocysteine).
I reviewed the one and only abstract on low homocysteine. Here is what they found:
“There is a striking relationship between hypohomocysteinemia and the incidence of idiopathic peripheral neuropathy.”(2)
This makes total sense.
If one has low homocysteine, then how can they make glutathione?
If they cannot make glutathione well, then their nerves are very susceptible to oxidative stress and damage.
There it is.
We need a lot more research on the impact of low homocysteine on human biochemistry and physiology.
When research does publish findings on low homocysteine, they are confused or misinterpret it:
“Children with diabetes, in view of their higher future risk of cardiovascular disease, are characterized by a higher concentration of protective adiponectin and paradoxically lower blood concentrations of some other possible risk markers of atherosclerosis, i.e. ADMA and homocysteine compared to healthy children.”(1)
To me, children with diabetes have higher reactive oxygen species which requires glutathione to neutralize them. Thus, a lower homocysteine level in a person with high free radical / reactive oxygen species tells me that their body is trying to fight it by producing glutathione.
High free radical / reactive oxygen species -> increases demand for glutathione -> increases utilization of homocysteine especially in low sulfur diets
A Low Homocysteine is NOT Good.
First we have to define a ‘low homocysteine’.
There are many papers which demonstrate that homocysteine around 6 or 7 is quite healthy for lowering cardiovascular risk.
Is homocysteine only related to cardiovascular risk?
Homocysteine is needed to help produce our body’s primary:
- methyl donor, SAMe.
- antioxidant, Glutathione.
So why is it ok to have no homocysteine as shown here?
Who comes up with these things?
It is common sense that if we are low in a specific ingredient, we cannot make something.
If you’re trying to make a romaine salad and the recipe calls for romaine, yet you don’t have any romaine lettuce, can you make it?
You need to make a different type of salad or just go without it.
In the case of producing your body’s primary methyl donor, SAMe – you need homocysteine.
In the case of producing your body’s primary antioxidant, glutathione – you need homocysteine.
No to low homocysteine translates to . . .
Causes of Low Homocysteine and How to Increase It
- Low protein intake: need to make sure you are eating adequate protein. Approximately 1 gram per 2 pounds of body weight is a rough guideline.
- Low sulfur intake: if one does not consume enough sulfur-containing foods, homocysteine will break down in order to provide much needed cysteine for the body. Cysteine is very important for many reactions. If cysteine levels are low, the body will break down glutathione in order to provide it! So not only does one become low in homocysteine, but also glutathione. Eating your cruciferous vegetables is very important as they contain sulfur. You can also support with MSM or NAC. If you don’t do well with sulfur-containing vegetables or other foods – or sulfur-containing supplements, then you may have a molybdenum deficiency for various reasons. Molybdenum is the mineral needed to breakdown sulfites. Consider taking a molybdenum supplement and also determine why you need to. I prefer liposomal glutathione most the time to replenish lost sulfur levels. This is for many reasons.
- Poor digestion and absorption of protein: eating protein is step one. Being able to digest it and absorb it is important. Consider chewing your food (shocker), reducing stress before and during eating (shocker), not drinking a ton during meals as it may dilute your digestive powers. You can support your digestive enzymes with a digestive enzyme supplement and increase stomach acid with a HCL supplement. If taking antacids, your stomach acid is lower and that is going to impact your protein and nutrient absorption. Fix your gastritis and acid reflux.
- High demand for glutathione: if you are struggling with high amounts of inflammation, stress or free radicals, you are going to require a high amount of glutathione. Producing glutathione requires homocysteine. One can minimize their need of glutathione by reducing or minimizing stress with adaptogens, improving deep sleep, reducing inflammation and reducing exposure to chemicals. One can also reduce their demand for glutathione production indirectly by taking liposomal glutathione. Taking liposomal glutathione is helpful for many but if they are deficient in selenium, riboflavin or molybdenum or have high oxidative stress, it may backfire. This is why I formulated a liposomal glutathione with needed cofactors.
- Too much methylation support. I’m a fan of methylation support. However, when it is not needed, it can lower your homocysteine levels too much. Maybe this is yet another reason why some people do not feel good from taking methyl donors? If your homocysteine level is too low, talk with your health professional about reducing your methylation support. You can use a multivitamin without any folate or B12, or you can use a multivitamin without any methyl donors yet contains folinic acid and hydroxocobalamin. If you are taking a B Complex with methylfolate and methylcobalamin, you should consider switching to one without these for a bit or just stop if possible. I formulated a B complex without folate and without B12.
Who else is thinking the same way I am about low homocysteine?
I scoured the research again to see if anyone else is thinking that low homocysteine is a problem.
It turns out that the only other one that I see out there is another naturopathic physician – and a well known one at that. Dr Joseph Pizzorno, one of the founders of Bastyr University, wrote a paper called: Homocysteine: Friend or Foe?
It’s a must read.
Do you have low homocysteine?
Is your homocysteine lower than 6?
Share your story below.
Did your doctor say anything?
Work with you to correct it?
Thank you so much for talking about this. I’ve hovered around 4-5 with my homocysteine, and I’ve been told by doctors “there’s no such thing as a homocysteine that’s too low”. I knew that couldn’t be true! WE definitely need optimal amounts to properly detox. I’d say that’s pretty darn important! There’s a balance in everything. Grateful to have people like you digging in and providing real data to work from.
My homocysteine is 5.2 and my vitamin D is low again and it’s summer and I am in the sun for an hour when I walk my dog every day . I wish Dr Lynch could be my doctor so he could suggest some options for me . I am always SO tired .
My son has had homocysteine levels in the 4’s for past 3 years. His pediatrician thinks it is good. His appetite is too large for his age and he gains about 20 – 25 pounds / year for past 4 years. At 9 years old, 4’9″ he is 120 pounds now. I came to your page looking for a good B vitamin for children. Not sure where the supplements are.
Hi Cheryl –
Children have lower homocysteine levels naturally. If he’s gaining too much weight, he likely has mitochondrial deficiencies and a reduced ability to burn fuel (fat). Consider acetyl-l-carnitine along with electrolytes and a complete multivitamin. Consider Optimal Multivitamin Powder (mix in water as it has a nice flavor already) and use 1/4 – 1/2 scoop with breakfast. You may find the supplements at http://www.seekinghealth.com
Interestingly many people in Scandinavia have autoimmune issues
I take NAC and feeling like me before this autoimmune and hashimoto issues.
Taking nac 1200 mg twice or three times a day.
I tried taking methyl b vitamins b6 b9 and b12 and immediate reaction
Nac Selenium zinc and betaine HCI goes well with my system.
Obviously I have low homocysteine.
Thanks for the good work
Thank you for this article! I agree that it’s been almost impossible to find resources on low homocysteine. I’ve been chronically sick for years, but all of my lab work came back at optimal levels besides homocysteine which came in at 3.6- yet my ND didn’t know how to explain this or what it meant.
Interestingly though, I just looked and my B12 was much higher than the high end of the range provided…
after my bloodwork came out with homocystein 2 µmol/l, my healtcareworker advised me to take mfthr suport supplements (b2,b3,b12,sam-e,b6). But I wonder if this is right after reading your information (I suffer from ms and lyme).
Muriel from the Netherlands.
Hello. I was hoping to discover if low homocysteine levels can cause hypertension but the article doesn’t actually say this is the case. I am interested in your opinion. Thank you.
Hi Linda –
I would say yes. Low homocysteine means there is lower amounts of glutathione. If low glutathione, then blood pressure can go up. Also lower homocysteine may mean reduced methyl groups which may be associated with all sorts of enzymatic deficits.
I’m new to all these terms but was directed here by some natural mommas since my blood work came back showing “low” homocysteine and was told to take b12, but this article says not to take b12? My triglycerides and vit. d are also low. So I’m just trying to read up on all this to see what/how to fix it but it’s all very confusing! If no to b12, then what?
Vitamin B12 helps to further breakdown homocysteine, so taking it may decrease its levels. However, you will need to speak with your qualified healthcare professional about the best options for you, as homocysteine has many factors involved!
I also have a low homocysteine level 4,51µmol/l. I had a 2 miscarriages in row, unfortunately any Doctor see thats as a problem.
Hi, my homocysteine was 4.7 and b12 was 1,045. I was supplementing due to nearly 2 decades of a vegetarian diet. If I decrease the b12, will the homocysteine return to normal? I’m also homogenous for the MTHFR polymorphism. Thanks
Dr. Lynch always suggests working with your health professional to review serum tests/lab work along with symptoms. Solely using a vegetarian diet as a way to supplement may not be the best choice, as lab testing is extremely important. Check out the recommended lab tests in the resources section of Dirty Genes, Dr. Lynch’s book.
B12 and folate can help to metabolize homocysteine as seen on the methylation pathway. Please know that we are not authorized to answer your personal medical questions because we are not your treating healthcare professional. Please see your qualified healthcare professional to get answers to questions regarding your personal health concerns.
Hi from sweden.
I’ve got low homocysteine, 2,8.
My doctors says it good. But Ive been sick my whole life.
I’ve got ankylosing spondylitis ibs fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue. Been so sick since I was 13.
I love your work and just find out about you. Hopefully I will find som answers here cuz I’m so tired of guessing and doctors just prescribe me meds.
Thank for your time
We are glad to hear you love Dr. Lynch’s work. We are wishing you the best on your health journey, and we hope that you gain some insight about your homocysteine control from this article.
My homocysteine was 5.4 on my yearly labwork. On my DUTCH / OAT it showed my methylation was in the low range, my glutathione was in the high end of the range, yet my B6, 12, 9, were within range. I’m perplexed about the low homocysteine and methylation.
Hi Ben 1 year ago my homocysteine levels were 8.8 and my histamine was 1.4. the Dr told me I was undermethylaing and that my histamine was quite high so I started methylofolate with activated Bs. We tested again and my homocysteine has dropped to 5.5 and my histamine only dropped to 1.3. Dr thought that was fine and said keep taking supps but I am now realising 5.5 may be a problem?
What do I do if the methylfolate was meant to reduce my histamine and have me methylating properly if it is suspected of lowering my homocysteine levels too far and if I keep taking it will it keep driving my homocysteine down?
Hello! Thank you for your question.
Please know that we are not authorized to answer your personal medical questions because we are not your treating healthcare professional. Remember that health is holistic. This means that in order to determine the root cause of your issues, you need to look at multiple avenues of health including lab markers, genetics, current conditions/symptoms, lifestyle, diet, and environmental toxins. To do this, your qualified healthcare professional will need to review your full medical history, order lab testing, and determine a protocol tailored for you. Though Dr. Lynch is a naturopathic doctor (ND), he is not your treating physician, and will not have all the information he needs to give you accurate advice – sometimes, a single issue will have underlying causes that can easily be overlooked via a simple, virtual comment or question. It is the responsibility of your qualified healthcare professional to answer your questions and assign a protocol for you.
Homocysteine, as noted in this article, if its too low could be too much methylation support (such as B12 and methylfolate) may cause levels to decrease too far. Please see steps 1-5 for “Causes of Homocysteine and how to Increase it” in this article and speak with your health professional to determine the best action for you.
I just got my blood results back and it’s at a 5.4! I’ve been feeling really tired lately and my lab work has come back normal, except for this.
My b12 levels aren’t around 532 but that’s only after I took b12 injections about a month prior.
Hmmm so hopefully now my doctor can get to the root of my fatigue and see if glutathione increase helps!
Wishing you the best on your health journey – great work!
So what is under your opinion low homocysteine? Mine is 2.9 micromols per liter. I’m also having some neurological issues. Where I can find out more about this issue or are you willing to share a suggestion or two with me?
Per Dr. Lynch’s article here and the screen shown regarding SAMe and glutathione production, you will see that he considers homocysteine to be low when its less than 6. However, you will need to talk to your qualified healthcare professional about what levels are considered low for you, as every individual will have different biochemical, lifestyle and other factors that influence their optimal levels of homocysteine.