Have you heard of “Methylation”?
If you are like many people, you’ve probably have heard this buzzword being thrown around the health industry specifically in regards to the gene mutation, MTHFR.
What is Methylation and is it important?
Methylation is a vital metabolic process which happens in every cell and every organ of your body and is vital to basically all of your body’s functions!
Life would simply not exist without it.
(I guess it is kind of a big deal)
So, without getting overly technical (some of us are still traumatized from organic chemistry or general chemistry), methylation is the addition of a single carbon and three hydrogen atoms (called a methyl group) to another molecule. While the removal of a methylation group is called demethylation.
Imagine having billions of little on/off switches inside your body that control everything from your stress response and how your body makes energy from food, maintains moods and keeps inflammation in check, repairs your DNA and controls homocysteine (an unhealthy compound that can damage blood vessels), to your brain chemistry and detoxification…that’s methylation and demethylation.
In the event that you have a shortage of methyl groups, or your methylation cycle is interrupted, then any or all of these process can become compromised leaving you at a higher risk for conditions like osteoporosis, diabetes, cervical dysplasia and cancer, colon cancer, lung cancer, depression, pediatric cognitive dysfunction (mood and other behavioral disorders), dementia, and/or stroke.
What affects how the body “methylates”?
There are many factors that may affect how the body methylates, but they can generally be broken down into two broad categories: Genetics and Environmental factors.
There are several enzymes that partake in the methylation cycle. Mutations in certain genes that code for those enzymes can lead to decreased activity of those enzymes and, thus, decreased activity of methylation in general. The most important enzymes in that cycle are MTHFR – that probably the one that’s best known; it stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase — and then CBS, COMT, VDR, MT, and MTRR are other genes that are involved in the methylation cycle.
Poor diet – The word “folate” comes from the term “foliage.” (light bulb). So you need to be eating plenty of leafy greens, beans, and fruit to get adequate levels of vitamins B6 and B12, and folate. Egg yolks, meat, liver, and fatty oily fish are the main dietary sources of vitamin B12. Additionally, certain things such as excess animal protein, sugar, saturated fat, coffee, and alcohol can raise homocysteine levels and deplete the B vitamins.
Gut Health – Digestive disorders, food allergies, and even aging can hinder the absorption of specific nutrients. Additionally, if you have decreased stomach acid levels it can alter how vitamin B12 is absorbed.
Exposure to Toxins – Toxins can potentially interfere with vitamin production.
Pre-Existing Conditions – Hypothyroidism, kidney failure, cancer, and pregnancy can have an effect as well.
How To Improve Methylation
Below are a few all-natural tips to improve your methylation pathways:
Eat Dark, Leafy Greens
By eating dark leafy green veggies daily, it provides you with natural folate (a methyl donor), necessary for proper methylation. Make sure to get at a minimum of two cups.
Get B Vitamins
B vitamins are methyl donors, especially folate, B6, B12, and riboflavin. Sources of B vitamins include fish, eggs, dark leafy greens, asparagus, almonds, sunflower seeds and walnuts.
Keep the bacteria in your gut health
Take a prebiotic (or probiotic) supplement to make sure the bacteria in your gut are healthy so you can produce and absorb B vitamins and folate.
Support methylation with supplementation
Make sure to get adequate amounts of magnesium and zinc, which support methylation.
Reduce Stress, Booze, and Smoking and Toxins
These things burden your life and hijack methyl groups.
Through optimizing your methylation cycle you can increase your resiliency in combating those “diseases of again.” When you do, you will be well on the road to lifelong vibrant health.
Do you have symptoms of poor methylation?
What are you doing to optimize this process?