What is the big deal about the methylation cycle?
by Dr. Shelese Pratt ND @ Flatirons Naturopathic Clinic
Do you know much about methylation? You should! The methylation cycle is probably one of the most important metabolic pathways in your body.
Check it out. You can change the way you express your DNA, manage your inflammation, and reverse aging by learning more about this pathway. This cycle has historically been very confusing to both the general public and doctors so let’s break it down. I promise the next paragraph is not going to make your head explode.
By definition methylation is the process of a molecule bonding to a methyl group (a single carbon with 3 hydrogens attached). The methyl group changes the shape and function of that molecule and gives the molecule a new job. Are you still with me?
Within the methylation cycle, we are transforming folate groups into methylfolate. The most talked about gene mutation in this cycle is the MTHFR. (I know what your thinking, and no I am not cussing in acronym.) Many autistic children have the MTHFR gene mutation and 33% of the general population has mutations within this pathway.
Gene mutations do not always make us sick. What we have found is that the environment that we bathe our genes in matters even more. This is the study of epigenetics and nutrigenomics. I love words like these.
Nutrients and lifestyle choices can make a big impact on how our genes express themselves. We don’t necessarily have to inherit the diseases our parents and grandparents struggled with. So stop blaming Mom! Instead, there are ways to optimize these genetic pathways and direct our genes to keep us healthy.
See, I knew you could do it.
Now let’s understand what the methylation pathway controls.
Methylation is responsible for directing the following:
• Genetic expression and repair of the DNA
• Inflammation response
• Detoxification of hormones, chemicals, and heavy metals
• Production and recycling of the most important anti-oxidant in the body called glutathione
• Neurotransmitter formation and breakdown to determine our brain chemistry
• Energy production and mitochondrial health
• Immune response to fight infections
If we use nutrition and lifestyle changes to alter these pathways we can prevent and treat all kinds of diseases like bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, insomnia, autoimmune, hypertension, preeclampsia, fibroids, cardiovascular disease, cancer, autism, developmental delay, ADHD, infertility, and many more. Whew, I need to take a breath. We can avoid getting sick and we can also feel more energy, clear thinking, improved mood, less inflammation and pain by managing our methylation cycle.
How do we optimize this pathway? Use the force! I mean do this:
Don’t start treating the MTHFR pathway with supplements for the gene mutations. Using supplements to treat this comes later. There are several steps you must do to prepare your body to treat this pathway.
My first recommendation is to stop consuming all foods or supplements with folic acid. Folic acid is a synthetic chemical and although it worked well to prevent neural tube defects, it has caused many other health problems.
Folic acid is not methylated and the process of putting a methyl group onto this molecule takes a tremendous amount of energy that could be used for other metabolic processes. Folic acid also disrupts the methylation cycle by binding to receptor sites and carrier proteins so that the usable form of methylfolate cannot be used. It’s ok to read it again.
When folic acid binds to the receptor sites it also increases the risk of our bodies creating auto-antibodies to folate. Not good.
Since I geek out on this, I started reading the research behind the toxicity of folic acid. I ended up purging thousands of dollars of supplements from my pharmacy. In good conscience, I could not even give any supplements with folic acid away. I suggest you go to your vitamin cabinet and discard any vitamins with folic acid.
Make sure when you buy a product in the future, it is made with folinic acid or 5MTHF. Folic acid sounds similar to folinic acid but folinic acid and MTHF means the folate is already methylated when you buy it. Another good source of folate is raw leafy green vegetables. Just be careful you don’t eat too many raw greens because you can slow down your thyroid. I know, it’s hard to curb eating greens. Yeah right.
The next step to working with this pathway is to avoid toxicity and try to detoxify your body. 85% of methylation reactions happen in the liver. Oxidative stress, free radicals, chemicals, yeast and heavy metals impede this pathway. Love your liver and you will love the way you feel.
This is how we detoxify and reduce toxicity in our environment:
• Drink clean water and keep yourself hydrated.
• Check with your doctor to see if any of your over the counter or prescription drugs are impacting this pathway.
• Make sure to buy your produce and meats organic according to the Environmental Working Group’s list of the dirty dozen.
• Talk to your doctor about a personalized nutrition program.
• Reduce alcohol consumption, stop smoking and avoid chemical exposure.
• Go to bed early and get more sleep.
• Induce sweating as much as possible with exercise and/or sauna.
• Work on your digestion so you are eliminating at least once a day.
• Talk to your doctor about what probiotic is best for you.
• Take deep slow breaths to release tension in your body, encourage the parasympathetic nervous system and eliminate toxicity through your lungs.
• Decrease your stress and heal your adrenals.
By eliminating folic acid and reducing toxicity, you are supporting your methylation cycle and preventing your genes from expressing disease. Methylation is an essential key to bringing health back to your body. If you are totally confused or would like to know more, please call my office at 303.284.3180.