Bruce Alan Kehr, M.D. is the Founder and President of Potomac Psychiatry, ranked “Best Psychiatry Care Provider in Maryland” in 2020 by Global Health & Pharma. He has been named a Washingtonian Magazine “Top Doctor” for each of the past eight years. Dr. Kehr is a best-selling author whose works have been read by over 800,000 people in 206 countries. In 2020 and 2021, Dr. Bruce Kehr’s blog was ranked #2 in the nation among mental health-related blogs. Dr. Kehr’s book, Becoming Whole: A Healing Companion to Ease Emotional Pain and Find Self-Love, is an Amazon Best Seller in the self-help categories: Happiness, Counseling, Healing, and Self-Esteem.
Damaged DNA, Anomalous Atoms, and Molecular Mistakes lead to Senescent Cells
Every autumn, millions of Monarch Butterflies depart their summer home near Toronto to travel along a diagonal flight path for thousands of miles, until they land among the fir trees found in central Mexico’s Sierra Madre range—the site of their winter home. In the spring the Monarchs undertake a reverse journey to return to their summer feeding grounds. The journey in itself is spectacular—but what is even more remarkable is that the returning Monarchs are of an entirely different generation than those who left. The grandchildren of the ones that first departed their summer home, these Monarchs somehow know exactly where to alight back in Toronto, despite having never been there before. This precise navigation is accomplished by compass-like antennae that can see, smell, hear, detect air pressure, and even gravitational forces and variations in the earth’s magnetic field. Like all biological systems, these capabilities originate in the “blueprinting” created by their DNA that determines the structure and function of the cells comprising their antennae. And yet, like all of nature’s blueprints, this one too is utterly fragile. Scientists researching this elegant light-dependent system were able to disable it simply by painting some antennae black. The paint molecules disrupted the Monarch’s entire navigation system, rendering their “sentient” antennae cells “senseless.” As a result the Monarchs would become lost, or possibly even plummet to the ground.
How might these phenomena relate to the root causes of emotional suffering, and building better mental health?
What are Macro and Micro Traumatic Experiences?
My Dear Reader, take a moment to put your life on pause, and become consciously aware of all of the thoughts, feelings, and sensations that comprise and compose You. Your Self. Now consider your Self at other moments in time. Moments where you are happy, even joyful; at other times sad, maybe sobbing over the loss of a loved one, frustrated and angry, ashamed. This “Feeling Self” experiences the range of emotions that we identify as being emotionally healthy—being “fully human.”
Perhaps, as you consider these past moments, you sense a Self you once recognized and deeply identified with, who now feels dead and gone. Now you experience unremitting suffering, deep in your heart, permeating your Soul. What happened? A suffering Self, a Soul in searing pain, has been traumatized in one way or another. These may be “macrotraumas” such as surviving physical or sexual abuse, or “microtraumas” that affect the very fabric of your biological being. A variety of environmental influences, including atomic and molecular factors, may have “micro-traumatized” your DNA, the molecules within your cells, and those very cells themselves.
Like the scientists painting the Monarch’s antennae black, the macrotraumas disrupt and upend the unfolding of life provided by the blueprint of your DNA. The microtraumas, however, create a different kind of damage. They comprise a long list of potential villains. From chronic inflammation; to insufficient levels of amino acids, fatty acids, vitamins, minerals, and trace elements; to a shortage of critical cellular enzymes; to unhealthy fats; to toxic environmental substances ; to dysbiotic events in the gut microbiome; these “micro-assaulters” attack the DNA blueprint itself. When our DNA becomes damaged, our cells don’t just become senseless—they become senescent. Enfeebled. In time, they bring about unremitting cellular pain, resulting in a suffering Self and Soul. Why?
DNA’s Blueprint and Root Cause Psychiatry
The ability of your Self to survive and thrive depends on a kind of self-sustainability inside the 30 trillion cells and 100 trillion microbes that create and maintain your body as a life form. Inside there is a complex molecular machinery of enzymes, DNA, RNA, and other biomolecules, whose intricate equilibrium depends upon the subatomic forces described in our last blog that keep chaos, even death itself, at bay. And yet subtle forces only become possible if the atoms and molecules themselves—the very building blocks of the cells—are correctly “tuned” to harmonize their “vibrations” in such a way that facilitates the correct unfolding of quantum events at unbelievably high velocities, taking place in one trillionth to one quadrillionth of a second! If our DNA is healthy, such processes interact to create a beautiful “cellular symphony.” If our DNA is not healthy, a series of subatomic misfirings can occur, resulting in random, cacophonous noise. Without a coherent blueprint, the forces within us that constantly build and rebuild the Self begin to lose their way—and, like an abandoned house, the Self begins to decay and crumble.
Rebuilding Sentient Cells and Symphonic Selves
All life forms, such as us humanoids and those Monarch Butterflies, share in this magical property called “life,” as well as a vulnerability to these subtle factors that can disrupt and destroy us. Root cause psychiatry is devoted to helping the lead architect (you!) repair the blueprint, restore the highest quality building materials, and create a harmonious work environment needed for the forces at play within our own bodies to rebuild healthier cells—and a healthier Self.
DNA Methylation is Central to Life, and to Nutritional Psychiatry
Harmonizing the Self (and the cells) begins with the DNA blueprint—the genes that code for the structure and function of cells and determines what form life itself will take. DNA itself can be thought of as a simple digital information system, comprising various combinations of just four molecules known as “bases” (adenine, thymine, guanine, and cytosine). There are three billion bases inside each of your cells comprising their 30,000 genes—and while the numbers are astounding, the process of combination itself is fairly straightforward. What is far less straightforward is how this digital system comes to life—here, our DNA structure relies on an analogue information system comprised of every atom and molecule that affects the expression or suppression of those genes, moment to moment throughout the lifespan. And the cornerstone of this analogue information system is known as “methylation” of DNA. The state of methylation of our DNA can determine the health of our very genes themselves, and thus the health of our 30 trillion cells, and ultimately our mental health.
Methylation is the process by which certain genes get turned “on” or “off.” If DNA is at the core of genetics (the study of gene properties), methylation is at the core of what is known as epigenetics (the study of gene functions.) When our DNA is damaged, disrupted methylation is the force that causes our cells to age much faster than they should. They move from “sentient” to “senseless” to “senescent.” To dig deeper to understand how methylation works—and how certain genetic variations can disrupt it, I want to tell you the story of Jenny.
Brain Nutrition, Food Moods, and Supplements for Depression and Anxiety
“Dr. Bruce, I’ve lost my way this past year. My life compass has gone missing.” Jenny was 45 years old when she first came in to see me, suffering from depression, a lack of motivation, trouble concentrating, a lack of direction in her career, and trouble coping with a teenage daughter who suffered from bipolar depression and was cutting herself. In the past year she also lost her father and a niece. I thought of those Monarch butterflies as I listened to her, drawing a parallel between their fragile blueprint being disrupted and wondering what I’d uncover in hers. Jenny had been prescribed Zoloft by a psychiatrist, but she felt it was making her feel emotionally numb. She also believed she may have ADHD. In addition she complained of intestinal problems, including constipation, cramping pain, bloating and gastric reflux. Finally, she described a longstanding joylessness in her life dating back to childhood. I diagnosed her with a “double depression” characterized by an acute major depressive disorder with a background of lifelong low-grade depression. We performed a genetic test and found that her MTHFR genetic variant, C677T T/T, was consistent with a 70% reduction in the enzyme it manufactures, which would certainly disrupt the normal methylation of her DNA. To treat this genetic variant, I placed her on Enlyte, and one month later she happily reported that she was “50–70% better.”
Like many of the “building processes” inside our cells as the diagram below illustrates, methylation converts “raw materials” into “finished products,” many of which are absolutely critical to our mental health. Through the process of methylation, utilizing coenzymes such as Vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B9, and B12, and cofactor atoms such as Magnesium and Zinc, our cells produce serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine, neurotransmitters that are intimately involved in mood states and cognition; glutathione, another neurotransmitter which calms an “excitotoxic” neurotransmitter known as glutamate; and SAMe, which helps to lower a molecule called homocysteine which causes brain inflammation and damage to arteries that supply brain cells with oxygen and nutrients. High homocysteine also impairs the brain’s ability to grow new brain cells and repair damaged ones.
As you can see, methylation is hugely important to cellular health and mental health. How do we evaluate the health of our methylation system to see if it may be one of the root causes of our Suffering Self? Time to call in the “Engineers” to give us the structural information we need to build a robust methylation system within each and every one of our 30 trillion cells.
DNA Methylation Determines our “Biological Age”
Methylation is life’s master clock winder, and is arguably the most important analogue information factor as it is able to produce youthful or senseless-senescent cells in our brains. There are many environmental factors that can damage our methylation pattern, such as such as temperature, nutrient supply, heavy metals, early life stress and radiation. The good news is that our methylation pattern can also be positively altered by dietary and lifestyle factors toward youthfulness—producing greater energy, muscle strength, and improved brain function—with diets rich in fruits and vegetables, and increased exercise and reduced leisure screen time.
To understand more about your own body’s methylation pattern, we like to recommend two different tests to our patients. One test analyzes human DNA methylation patterns to provide patients their biological age, and then provides various products that can restore your blueprint and further protect your brain cells from damage and destruction. Second, Genomind’s Mental Health Map or Professional PGx are genetic assays that determine whether one has certain variations in one or two of their MTHFR genes, which manufacture an enzyme known as MTHFR (methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase) shown in the diagram above. MTHFR deficiencies can greatly impair the methylation cycle, resulting in low levels of critical neurotransmitters and high levels of inflammation and oxidative stress that damage the brain. This can result in treatment-resistant depression, a lifelong joylessness, and an anxious, worried emotional state just like the one Jenny had. These DNA-induced damaging effects can be effectively neutralized by products such as Enlyte (the product I recommended to my patient in the story above), which bypasses the MTHFR enzyme deficiency and provides most of the necessary atoms and molecules to support healthy DNA methylation.
My Dear Reader, from butterflies to humans, the processes that create and maintain life are sophisticated and truly miraculous—and the more we know about them, the more we can protect them from the forces that threaten to destroy them. Should you or someone you love have a Suffering Self that may feel lost without a compass, as Lead Architect you may want to consider hiring the “engineers” mentioned above, to begin to blueprint root causes to build better mental health by using Mental Health Map (a simple cheek swab) and Index (a simple tube you fill with saliva), to help you repair your damaged blueprint, ease those cells in pain, and alleviate your emotional suffering.
Read my Amazon Best Seller Book, ratings on Amazon and Goodreads, Becoming Whole: A Healing Companion to Ease Emotional Pain and Find Self-Love, if you would like to feel better through genetic testing, and improve your love relationships.
Proceeds from your purchase of my book will be used to directly help rape survivors and victims of child abuse through donations to RAINN
*Although lessons learned from the treatment of actual patients are included in the patient stories on this website and blogsite, the historical events and facts represented have been changed to protect the identities of any real patients and to protect their confidentiality. For example, the names, ages, careers, the number and sex of their children, as well as the careers of the patients’ parents have been deliberately altered, as well as other alterations that have been made. Consequently, all characters appearing on these sites are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.
**Author’s financial disclosure: Genomind and Potomac Psychiatry have an ongoing marketing collaboration aimed at raising visibility for Genomind pharmacogenomics services and Potomac Psychiatry’s Genetic Testing Consultations. Dr. Kehr holds no ownership interest in Genomind and receives no consulting fees.