Methylation – the only medical term you need to knowon Oct 17, 2016
Perhaps “only” is an overstatement but as far as biological processes go, methylation is very important and universally applicable. From birth defects to heart conditions typically attributed to advanced age, this process is key to harnessing them all. It affects young and old, participates in the functions of virtually every organ in our bodies and controls your health on the genetic level.
What is methylation?
What is methylation? The term describes a biochemical reaction that adds atoms to other molecules, which act as an “on” switch for a specific cell. Though it sounds redundant (why “add” anything to a cell?), this process naturally occurs inside our bodies millions of times per day and is responsible for the body functions we often take for granted.
Similarly, the process of demethylation removes the aforementioned cell composition, achieving the opposite effect. These processes send signals to our cells to react a certain way, and occur naturally.
What does methylation do?
- What does methylation actually do? The simple answer is “everything” but here are some examples:
- Ensures cardiovascular health
- Produces antioxidants
- Detoxifies your body from chemicals and heavy metals (more on this in another article)
- Balances energy levels
- Repairs DNA
- Reduces inflammation of the organs
- Curbs mood swings
- Provokes our “fight or flight” instincts
- Controls your autoimmune system, fights viruses, infections and generally manages your T-cells
- Prevents multiple diseases such as:
- cervical dysplasia
- mental and emotional disorders
- stroke, and many more.
What can go wrong?
Methylation, as you probably understand now, needs to be maximized to ensure the above functions work smoothly. The process is especially crucial for those suffering autoimmune conditions of any form. Lack of proper methylation can lead to a number of diseases ranging in severity.
There are two ways the process can be compromised: you could be suffering from a lower count of methyl groups or the process could be interrupted. Typical reasons for these shortcomings include:
- Poor diet — lack of vitamins, especially of the B group, along with folate, to be precise
- Smoking – needs no explanation but in this context, its effects on B vitamins are detrimental
- Unhealthy lifestyle — poor sleep, lack of exercise, high stress levels, i.e. “usual suspects”
- Excessive alcohol consumption — affects B vitamins, key component for healthy methylation
- Medication – certain drugs tend to contribute, e.g. contraceptives, acid blockers and blood pressure medication
- Digestive system issues — can contribute to poor vitamin absorption
- Aging process and genetics.
How do I know if I am in danger?
You may have realized by now that good methylation assumes high levels of vitamin B derivatives, B6 and B12, specifically. This is true of persons of any age and can even be an issue for those, already taking vitamin B supplements.
Ideally, you would want to address your doctor with a methylation-specific test. This can be as simple as an analysis of homocysteine levels or a genomic test to check your mutations on your MTHFR gene.
People exposed to more toxins than normal and sufferers of autoimmune conditions are the most vulnerable. In order to assist your methylation process beat the toxins’ constant assault, we should maintain a good level of glutathione, too. Luckily, both components of the detoxifying system are often improved by similar methods.
How do I “fix” it?
Increasing your intake of healthy, nutrient-rich foods is key. Think dark leafy greens like Swiss chard, kale, spinach and beet greens for methylation.
Add eggs, salmon and other ingredients, full of omega-3, as well as sulphur-rich broccoli and garlic for a boost of glutathione precursors, such as cysteine and glycine. These are key components for the body’s detox functions and serve our health on multiple levels.
Speaking of proteins, they are not only useful to gym maniacs. Drinking protein shakes, can help boost glutathione levels as well and that can aid in proper function of methylation. And while we are on the subject of supplements, selenium, folate, B vitamins, magnesium, zinc and betaine are all crucial components of a healthy methylation set-up.
A good supplement should try to target multiple of these key ingredients, so that we do not have to consume dozens of individual tablets. Some forms of B vitamins, such as B12, are not very well absorbed in tablet form, if any at all. Keep these factors in mind, when purchasing your next health boosting nutritional supplement.
A little more needs to be said on B vitamins. Sunflower seeds carry good amounts of B6, whereas fish, eggs and cheese provide good options for B6 and B12. You can see how the vegans amongst us need to consume plenty of non-animal derived vitamin B12, as they are at risk of missing out.
To ensure vitamins are well absorbed, keep your gut and digestive system supported by taking probiotics. Maintain a healthy stomach acid level, too. Some of the below mentioned healthy lifestyle suggestions have been linked to a digestive system benefits too, so kill two birds with one stone.
Needless to say, we need to maintain a healthy lifestyle and abstain from smoking and excessive alcohol consumption. Same goes for our java addiction. Naturally, saturated fat and sugar are enemies of all bodily processes, methylation included. And we have all heard of perils of overconsumption of canned and heavily processed foods.
Keeping your nutrition as close to organic, is linked to a host of health benefits. Methylation is but one such phenomena. And nobody can argue with the many benefits of exercise, so put on your walking shoes today, as this also helps maintain your detoxifying functions running smooth and methylation optimized.
As you can see, methylation is a comprehensive process and ways to keep it in check are straight forward. Now that we have deciphered its meaning, the overwhelmingly scientific-counting term is no longer too complex to wrap our minds around. And considering its importance, handling your methylation processes is not overly difficult, too. So let’s keep an eye out on this very crucial part of our health from here on.