Whilst eternally integral for human function, the topic of methylation has, of late, taken on a cult status in the health field and all the cool kids are talking about it.
So what is it, what do you need to know about it and do you need to fix it?
Methylation: Let’s start at the beginning
Methylation is an essential biochemical process of the body. Without it, we couldn’t survive.
Think of it like a relay race with a methyl group (a simple carbon atom attached to three hydrogen atoms) as the baton. Methyl groups are passed from one molecule to the next (i.e., to your DNA or proteins). The addition of a methyl group then allows that molecule to function as intended.
Methylation is responsible for every process in your body, from breaking down neurotransmitters and clearing hormones to regulating your DNA and manufacturing your body’s master antioxidant, glutathione.
So what does that mean for me?
Well it means there’s a direct correlation between your body’s ability to methylate and disease. Diseases like allergies, cancer, bipolar, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obesity, addictions, oestrogen dominant conditions like endometriosis and fibroids, or infertility and miscarriage. Diseases that we feel are beyond our control and for which we are often over-medicated. Diseases that could be addressed with an understanding of the methylation process and at very least assisted with highly targeted nutrients, minerals and vitamin protocols.
Dr Ben Lynch (for the foodies out there, he’s like the Pete Evans of biochemistry) posted a recent FB update this week which stated:
…defects in methionine metabolism [aka methylation probs involving that amino acid] may be related to breast cancer risk in BRCA carriers…If you are low in choline, you are more susceptible to breast cancer. You have to change the PROCESS of how the cancer got there in the first place. Choline deficiency is a big one. (28 Sept 2014)
Now I’m not suggesting supplementing with choline is the cure for breast cancer. But by supporting the methylation cycle of methionine and addressing a simple choline deficiency in those at-risk groups, could we not be lowering their potential for disease?
How do I know if I need to fix it?
So, if you’re suffering ill health, fatigue, whacky hormones, have a family history of chronic disease or simply are considering shares in Merck Sharp & Dohme to support your Claratyne habit, you could probably do worse than to think about how your methylation processes may be crying out for some attention.
Not only could it help your current health problems, but also go some way toward supporting you if you’re wanting to take preventative health measures (especially if, for example, you know grandpa, grandma and great aunt Georgina all had high blood pressure and a dodgy ticker.)
We can go a certain way by listening to your immediate symptoms and concerns, your health history and your family’s history in gauging potential problematic areas, and making some small dietary and supplemental changes may be all that’s required to make a big impact.
Or if you really want to find out the root of the problem, we move into the arena of genetic testing.
I’ll walk you through the what, whys and how’s of having your genetic profile generated and analysed in a later post, but if you want to get a start, you can take a look at 23andme (though I now use a different company – ask me for details)
The “Mother” of all genes, well the one that’s creating the biggest fuss at the moment anyway, is the gene controlling folate metabolism, MTHFR. True to its name, it can be … t r i c k y … to treat correctly. If you’d like to read a bit more about it (to get in with all the cool kids) click on the links: MTHFR and Folate/Folic Acid metabolism.
But methylation is not just about issues with MTHFR and the folate cycle. It’s about your entire body. It’s huge. It expresses not only in disease, but also in a bunch of symptoms that may be difficult to pull together. Things like brain fog, unexplained fatigue, aching joints, headaches, insomnia, depression and anxiety, food intolerances (despite your best efforts in mastering both kefir and bone-broth) … even a hatred of eggs (who could hate eggs?? ops, except for my vegan friends :-)
Which is why it’s important to understand the bigger picture and how methylation, or maybe lack of, is expressing its unique signs and symptoms via what’s showing up for you in your mental, emotional and physical body.
If the multi you bought at the chemist is doing nothing for you or your moods are crashing or swinging wildly despite your daily intake of green smoothies, green tea and green sandwiches (kale between 2 slices of kale. OK I made that up, but I bet there’s someone out there doing it) then it may be time to consider how an impaired methylation cycle could be impacting your health.
Kate is a qualified naturopath who is passionate about helping women heal from hormonal havoc and inspiring women to know their own power, worth and wisdom.
Kate offers one-on-one Skype consults for irregular cycles, PMS and period pain, endometriosis, PCOS, peri-menopause, mood swings, fatigue and mental and emotional stress.
Simply drop me an email to see how I can help you!