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MAO-A Slow and Your Short Fuse

MAO-A is an enzyme of singular importance, and the gene SNPs that alter its activity have additive effects, just like the COMT gene SNP that we spoke about some months ago, to produce either fast or slow action.

MAO-A stands for Monoamine Oxidase A, and it is the primary breakdown pathway for your monoamine neurotransmitters, which means serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine. I’m hoping just that tiny introduction is raising red flags in your thoughts because those three little things, serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, determine so much of how you behave, feel, and present in the world.

An interesting note about the MAOA gene – most of the genes SNPs we’ve talked about are linked to regular chromosome pairs, meaning there are two functioning copies of every gene. This particular gene is X-linked, meaning that it sits on the X chromosome or chromosomes that are responsible for physiological gender determination. This means men have only one copy of the MAOA gene and women have two, but one is silent. In women’s genes there is no way, from a genetic report, to tell which copy of the MAO-A gene is active so symptoms are the best place to look.

As with COMT that we spoke of before, MAO-A slow means that breakdown of the neurotransmitters is slow, therefore levels of these neurotransmitters are higher than they would be in a person with the wild-type genetics.

High neurotransmitters sounds amazing, right? Extra serotonin – who doesn’t want that? Well, as with everything else in health, the key factor here is balance. Excess is not balance.

Neurotransmitters are one of the ways you respond to life and the things around you. If neurotransmitters are too high, that can lead to too much response.

Signs of a Slow MAO-A and Signs of Excessive Neurotransmitters

  • Irritability or aggression in a heartbeat – swift acceleration from 0 to 100 on the anger scale.
  • Jumpy, anxious, easily startled
  • Difficult to calm down or regulate moods after stress, anger, or excitement.
  • General anxiety or irritable mood.

The hallmark here is rapid escalation that is difficult to normalize.

MAO-A Balance: What You Can Do

What You Can Do To Balance A Slow MAO-A

One of the key factors with a slow MAO-A is helping your psychology and physiology to calm down, and there are a number of things that can help you to do that.

  • Riboflavin – Make sure you’re getting enough riboflavin or vitamin B2. MAO-A needs this vitamin as a cofactor.
  • Blood sugars – Stabilize your blood sugars with three regular, higher protein meals per day with no sugary drinks or snacks in between.
  • Remove stressors – Stress is not your friend with a slow MAO-A. Life has lots of stressors, but a lot of them are self-imposed. Let go of the toxic friends, the extra duties at work that aren’t actually going anywhere, the projects you think you should do but don’t actually want to. Do a stress edit on your life.
  • Boost your Glutathione – We’ve talked for ages about this so check out Season 1, Episode 14: MTHFR and Glutathione, and Season 2, Episode 32: Glutathione Review. Glutathione helps to decrease inflammation and reduce some of the hydrogen peroxide caused by high stress hormones.
  • Eliminate Food Sensitivities – Eating foods that your body is sensitive to raises your inflammation, which in turn boosts stress hormones. The goal with a slow MAO-A is to keep stress hormones under control.
  • Meditate – Meditation is one of the most effective non-drug methods of balancing neurotransmitters with any kind of gene SNPs. Even something as simple as 3 minutes of mindfulness meditation daily can have huge results over time.
  • Step Away From The Trigger – Because of the tendency to explode into anger or irritability, if you encounter a situation that causes anger, instead of fully engaging and boosting your neurotransmitters even more, step away. Take a brisk walk for a few minutes, do some jumping jacks in your office, or even just take a few minutes to look at a painting you love or listen to a song that makes you happy. Once you’ve used this technique a few times, you’ll figure out what works for you.
  • Reduce your tryptophan Intake – Tryptophan is the precursor to serotonin and is mostly found in protein-heavy foods. Often, people with a slow MAO-A will crave carbs, but eating too many carbs is like dousing the angry fire with gasoline. It isn’t the best idea. Make sure your meals are protein heavy and carb-lite.
MAOA, MAOA slow, MAOA anger, MAOA tryptophan | To Health With That

Next week, we’ll talk about the corollary MAO-A fast picture. Thank you so much for listening today and if you are looking for an amazing community of folks who are also working with their genes to get better, then Genetic Rockstars is for you. Enjoy a free two-week trial at

Slow MAOA – what is it?

What are the signs of slow MAOA?

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MTHFR is a common genetic mutation that can contribute to anxiety, depression, fatigue, chronic pain, infertility, and more serious conditions like breast implant illness, heart attack, stroke, chronic fatigue syndrome, and some types of cancer. If you know or suspect you have an MTHFR variant, schedule a free 15-minute meet-and-greet appointment with MTHFR expert Dr. Amy today.

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Amy Neuzil
Amy Neuzil

Dr. Amy Neuzil, N.D. is a leading expert in MTHFR and epigenetics, and she is passionate about helping people achieve optimal health and wellness for their genetic picture. She has helped thousands of people overcome health challenges using a simple, step-by-step approach that starts with where they are today. Dr. Neuzil's unique approach to wellness has helped countless people improve their energy levels, lose weight, and feel better mentally and emotionally. If you're looking for a way to feel your best, Dr. Amy Neuzil can help. Contact her today to learn more about how she can help you achieve optimal health and wellness.

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  1. I’m confused by the suggestion to reduce tryptophan rich foods (Proteins) but then to make sure meals are protein heavy and carb light.
    I definitely feel better when I eat low carb, and I do, but I am having a hard time finding a protein that is tolerable. Most work for me for a day or two and then I start to feel a toxic build up in my system and very slow gut motility.
    I have a fast COMT, a slow MAO-A and ( I forget if this is fast or slow) an AG on my MTHFR C677T, among other things in my methylation pathway. According to The Choline Calculator on Chris Masterjohns site I have a 71% decrease in my methylation.

    • Hi Samantha,
      It can be a lot to keep track of, right? I should clarify that my protein-heavy version is not like paleo protein-heavy. I like to look down at a plate and see 1/2 veggies, 1/4 protein, and 1/4 complex carbs/starches/dessert if you eat it. So it’s not a super low-carb diet, but it will be easy on your blood sugars and have good protein, but hopefully not so much that you’re getting too much tryptophan. I hope this helps!

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