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COMT: The Warrior vs Worrier Gene Explained

by | Jul 16, 2019 | Genes | 0 comments

Understanding COMT; A Life-Changing Gene

Catechol-O-methyl-transferase or COMT is a chemical made to help the body break down neurotransmitters like serotonin, dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine.  COMT is very important in helping the brain to regulate neurotransmitters.  This happens mostly in the prefrontal cortex of the brain, which is responsible for organizing and coordination information.  Some specific things the prefrontal cortex is in charge of include personality, emotions, planning, abstract thinking, short-term memory, and inhibition of behaviors.  Those are very important characteristics of human behaviors, which is why COMT is needed to regulate them.

From an epigenetic standpoint, if a person has trouble regulating COMT where it does not break down the neurotransmitters properly, it could lead to behaviors of alcohol abuse, opioid addiction, fibromyalgia, schizophrenia, ADHD, eating disorders, bipolar, anxiety, or obsessive-compulsive disorders.

An epigenetic coach can look at the two copies of this gene, the one you get from mom and the other from dad.  The COMT gene that is most looked at is one called COMT V158M allele.  When you look at your COMT gene on a report you will see a + and a -.  What that means is you are homozygous (+/+) which is you do not have a high risk of the gene not working effectively or heterozygous (+/-) which means you have a higher chance of it not working effectively.  You can also see a (-/-) which means you have the least risk of it not working effectively.  This can lead to a dopamine imbalance of too low or too high.

“The true delight is in the finding out rather than in the knowing.”

~Isaac Asimov

Let’s look at some of the common symptoms related to potential COMT levels:

Too low can lead to
·      Cravings
·      Substance abuse
·      Addictions
·      Anger
·      Impulsivity
·      High-risk behaviors

Too high can lead to:
·      Anxiety
·      Chronic pain
·      Worry
·      Delirium
·      Tachycardia
·      High blood pressure
·      Insomnia
·      Schizophrenia/other mood disorders

Higher dopamine is not always bad.  If you were born with a homozygous (+/+) COMT that means your COMT is slower and dopamine can build up, in less stressful situations you will have better memory and brain function.  That makes you smarter than the average person.  This is where working with an epigenetics coach shows you how to manage your COMT and looks at it in conjunction with other genes to see how to improve your gene expression through your lifestyle.  If a person just looks at this gene, it would be easy to think there is something wrong with me or I will never be “normal”.  I hope with this example you see that is not necessarily the case. Managing stress for a homozygous person can make them a rock star!