You will be hearing a great deal about this topic in the coming years as the research is starting to support its involvement in so many processes in the body. I receive many questions from clients as to what methylation is, why is it important and how can you test for it? I will explain in great detail as my clients and patients need to be well versed when they speak with their doctors or health care practitioners. Methylation is a biochemical process that produces energy, processes hormones, creates immune cells, builds neurotransmitters, regulates gene function, synthesizes DNA and helps protect your nerves. From a science based perspective, it is the process of taking a single carbon and three hydrogens (methyl group) and applying it to many critical functions in your body that have been outlined above. Methylation happens in all the cells of your body by distributing methyl groups to dozens of chemical processes in the body.
The question then becomes what can impair your methylation cycle? What causes it to become out of balance and cause problems for your body? Some of the factors are insufficient diet, genetic mutation, toxic exposure, high stress, anxiety, medications, drinking alcohol, xenobiotics, virus, infection or any combination of those but not limited to. I measure toxicity every day with the labs I run and I can tell you that many of my patients have very high toxicity levels and they are not necessarily the result of working in a toxic environment. Many manufactured items you come in contact with leave traces of industrial chemicals in your body. These can range from cans of food, plastic bags, styrofoam cups, cleaning products, shampoos, hairsprays, makeup and virtually any consumer product you touch can introduce chemicals into your body. This is why I always have my patients run this BH101 toxicity lab.
The most popular SNP getting a great deal of attention in 2016 is the MTHFR gene (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase). Almost half of all people living have this trait which is the main reason for all the press. You can thank your parents if you carry the gene but as mentioned previously, lifestyle and nutrition play an important role on if it is expressed and utilized within the body. Vitamin and mineral deficiency will play an important role in disrupting the methylation pathway. The reason being is that these nutrients are required to make the active form of folate known as methylfolate. They include B2, magnesium, B6, Zinc, B12 and Folate. There are other SNPs that are looked at and they include SHMT, BHMT, MTRR, COMT and MTR. As per the aforementioned, you can run genetic tests to find out what you are predisposed to.
So why does all of this matter? It matters because methylation defects have been tied or associated with many health issues and diseases. Here is a sample list of potential health risks associated with poor methylation. Methylation defects are tied to a wide variety of conditions like:
Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
Allergies or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
Spina Bifida or Cleft Palate or Neural Tube Defects
Multiple Sclerosis and other Autoimmune Disorders
Hashimoto’s or Hypothyroidism
ADD or ADHD
Testing For Methylation
There are a few ways in which you can test your methylation cycles and certain SNPs. One way is from the genetic testing mentioned above in 23andMe and it will show if you have relevant DNA polymorphisms that will reduce your ability to make many of the enzymes which collectively form the methylation cycle. The second approach is a serum test of homocysteine levels which will highlight problems with recycling methionine back to homocysteine. The third and final test I recommend is by Genova Diagnostics. They offer various test panels which monitor how your methylation processes are working. I use this lab for many of my functional lab tests and they are always excellent in their efficiency and quality. Please reach out to our team if you have any questions at all about genetics or methylation.