Methylation Made Simple and Why You Should Care4 years ago | Methylation
By Joy Stephenson-Laws, J.D., pH Labs founder
“Methylation” is a word you probably have not heard of before. The first time I heard it, I had no clue what it meant. What I now know is that it is one of the very important chemical processes that our bodies use to ensure our genes work properly. Moreover, this methylation process requires optimal levels of B vitamins to function efficiently.
Cancer, birth defects and autoimmune diseases are good examples of what happens when the methylation process does not run smoothly. Further, when the methylation process breaks down, there may be an elevation of an amino acid in the body called homocysteine. Elevated homocysteine levels are associated with blood clots in the veins and hardening of the arteries, which could lead to a heart attack and stroke. No effort is being made here to discuss the very technical aspects of methylation such as the various methylation pathways, gene expressions or even to provide a scholarly breakdown of this critical biochemical process that occurs within our bodies. For a little more in depth and technical explanation, read here and here.
As a health care consumer, all I really want to understand is why I should care about methylation and what I can do to ensure that this methylation process – whatever it is – is functioning optimally in my body.
So what are some other consequences of methylation breakdown?
- Various imbalances that can lead to a variety of disorders including depression, anxiety, panic attacks, irritability, mood swings, schizophrenia, insomnia, and poor concentration and focus.
- Lack of hormone regulation, which may lead to diabetes, breast cancer or endometrial cancer.
How can you know if your methylation process is breaking down?
There are lab tests that can be used to measure the methylation process. You can test your:
- Homocysteine levels.
- B vitamins.
- Complete blood count (CBC). Anemia may be a sign of poor methylation.
- Certain urinary amino acids levels can be used to detect disorders with metabolism involving vitamins B6 or B12 or folate.
How can you optimize the methylation process?
1. Get more B vitamins and folate from foods such as:
- Sunflower seeds and wheat germ (B6)
- Fish and eggs (B6 and B12)
- Cheese (B12)
- Beans and walnuts (B6 and folate)
- Dark leafy green vegetables, asparagus, almonds and whole grains (folate)
- Liver (B6, B12 and folate)
2. Try to limit how much animal protein you consume. Homocysteine levels tend to be highest in people who eat a lot of animal protein.
3. Avoid smoking. The carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke may interfere with vitamin B6.
4. Nutritional supplements are available for support. There are supplements to assist in homocysteine metabolism, such as folate, vitamin B6, vitamin B12 and betaine (amino acid derivative). Discuss these options with your doctor.
5. Be aware of certain medications’ effect on B vitamins. Speak with your doctor about whether any medications you are taking are depleting or interfering with your B vitamins. You may need to offset the negative effects of medications such as acid blockers, methotrexate (for cancer, arthritis and certain autoimmune diseases), oral contraceptives, hydrochlorothiazide (for high blood pressure), and phenytoin (Dilantin, for seizures), which can all affect levels of B vitamins.
Enjoy Your Healthy Life!
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