Methylation is among the most important processes in the human body, occurring billions of times every second. It is crucial in the detoxification of chemicals and toxins. It plays a key role in DNA and RNA synthesis and repair, the stress response, cell membrane repair and fat metabolism. Methylation is involved in neurotransmitter production, hormone regulation and energy production. Folate, vitamin B2, B6 and B12 are essential to its function. Without diving into the science, it is defined as the addition of a methyl group to another molecule. In short just imagine billions of on/off switches inside your body that controls everything. Furthermore when methylation doesn’t function properly the consequences are far reaching.
Additionally poor methylation results in an increased accumulation of homocysteine. High levels of homocysteine are linked to increased oxidative stress, heart disease, cognitive decline and pregnancy complications (to a name a few).
Conditions associated with poor methylation
- Behaviour issues – ADD/ADHD
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic inflammation
- Chronic fatigue
- Poor immunity
- Fertility issues and recurrent miscarriage
- Mood disorders (e.g. anxiety and depression)
- Multiple sclerosis
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome
- Thyroid dysfunction
Causes of methylation defects
There can be several reasons we aren’t methylating properly. First of all genetic defects (e.g. MTHFR) impact how well a person methylates. Nutritional deficiencies of cofactors B12 and folate contribute poor function. Some medications may further cause a deficiency of cofactors, for example antacids reduce B12 levels. Additionally the commonly used oral contraceptive pill and Metformin reduces B12 levels. Toxins impact our ability to methylate, including heavy metal and chemical exposure. Furthermore lifestyle factors such as high alcohol intake, cigarette smoking or high coffee consumption deplete cofactors causing issues.
Methylation is a huge topic and this is just an introduction. I’ll continue to share more on this topic over the coming months. In addition to being interested in this issue professionally, I have explored my own methylation function. Consequently I found I have a defect with my MTHFR gene and this in itself was an interesting finding along my health journey. Finally if you suspect you have methylation issues or would like to explore further then visit a practitioner who is familiar with the topic. The ACNEM website is a great place to start your search for integrative GPs, naturopaths and nutritionists with a background in this field.
This is a topic I explore throughout my book. Order your copy of A Life Less Stressed here.