The term methylation refers to the biochemical process that is utilized in your body for the transport of essential nutrients, production of energy, and modulation of genes. With decreased methylation activity, also known as methylation deficiency, your body’s ability to perform various important chemical functions becomes impaired. This in turn can increase your risk of developing a broad range of medical conditions such as seizures, migraines, dizziness, mood problems, mental disorders, infertility, infections, autoimmune disease, and pregnancy complications. To keep your body working at optimum levels, you need appropriate supplementation with the proper methylated vitamins and nutrients.
The proper functioning of the methylation cycle ensures that the critical reactions in your body are maintained. Methylation occurs in every cell of your body over 250 billion times per second. This process is simply the addition of a small methyl group to a substrate (the substance on which an enzyme acts). Methylation leads to the activation of the methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) enzyme. MTHFR is responsible for the conversion of dietary folate to activated folate – a process that occurs in every cell of your body and is vital for the maintenance of optimal health. MTHFR is not the only vital enzyme in the methylation cycle. There are also many other enzymes. The inefficiency of MTHFR and other important enzymes can lead to a wide array of medical conditions. Currently, these genetic alterations can be identified by DNA analysis to help determine the root cause of your symptoms.
Aside from gene activation, methylation is also responsible for controlling inflammation via regulation of homocysteine levels, building neurotransmitters (brain chemicals), liver detoxification of harmful substances via regulation of glutathione levels, building immune cells, producing energy in your cells, DNA and RNA synthesis, processing hormones, and producing protective covering of nerves.
MTHFR is a gene that gives your body instructions for producing the methylene tetrahydrofolate reductase enzyme. In some cases, there can be one or more abnormal variants of this gene that can be passed down from the parent to the child. In general, the more variations you have, the higher your risk of developing health issues. A MTHFR gene mutation can have a negative impact on your overall health by changing the way your body metabolizes and convert dietary nutrients. As a result, these nutrients cannot be effectively converted into active vitamins, minerals, and proteins. This in turn affects your overall energy production. In addition, MTHFR gene mutation can have a detrimental effect on the levels of neurotransmitters and bodily functions such as cognition, digestion, and other vital processes.
This can lead to unpleasant symptoms, such as:
MTHFR gene mutations can lead to poor methylation. This in turn causes a broad range of health issues. They can vary in severity as they affect everyone differently.
ADHD is a condition that affects attention and self-control. Studies suggest that impaired methylation results in inadequate production of the neurotransmitter known as dopamine. [1-7] Dopamine plays a role in motor control, reward, motivation, and cognitive function.
Evidence suggests that impaired methylation can lead to various allergies as it can cause imbalanced TH1/TH2 ratio and high histamine levels. [8-11] This increased immune response stimulates the activation and recruitment of immune cells (e.g. TH1, TH2, IgE antibodies, or eosinophils) which in turn results in allergic inflammation.
This complex, lifelong developmental disability is characterized by impairment in social skills, communication, relationships, and self-regulation. A good deal of evidence suggests that people with autism have abnormal blood levels of methionine (Met), S-adenosylmethionine (SAM), S-adenosylhomocysteine (SAH), and the SAM/SAH ratio – these compounds are considered predictive indices of cellular methylation ability. [12-17]
Studies suggest that abnormal methylation (both overmethylation and undermethylation) can lead to the development of various types of cancer such as gastrointestinal, brain, head, and neck cancer. [18- 26] The mechanism behind this is that impaired methylation leads to a state of immune surveillance dysfunction. [27-30] As a result, the immune system is less likely to recognize abnormal cell surface antigens on precancerous cells.
Studies suggest that alterations in methylation impair the body’s ability to excrete toxins by decreasing the body’s glutathione stores. [31-35] Glutathione is one of the major antioxidants and is responsible for fighting free radicals. It is also helps maintain the levels of the antioxidants vitamins C and E, and detoxify heavy metals and other foreign molecules in the body.
Methylation is vital for energy production within the cells. It does this by supporting the production of coenzyme Q10 (CoQ10) and mitochondrial fatty acid oxidation. According to studies, impaired methylation can lead to low energy levels, chronic fatigue syndrome, and chronic pain syndromes. [36-41]
Impaired methylation inhibits the conversion from the molecule homocysteine to methionine and leads to dysfunction in the blood vessels of the heart – both of which significantly increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. [42-50] In addition, breakdowns within the cycle decrease the level of CoQ10 which in turn increases the risk of congestive heart failure and other heart diseases. [51-53]
The methylation cycle is important for the production of various neurotransmitters such as dopamine, serotonin, melatonin, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. Impairment in this cycle increases the risk of depression, anxiety, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and other serious mental illnesses. [54-62] This is because neurotransmitters help regulate mood, appetite, sleep pattern, and the body’s circadian rhythm.
Methylation involves the conversion of dietary folate to activated folate. Folate is very important during pregnancy as it helps in red blood cell formation and maintenance of healthy cell growth and function. Impaired methylation can lead to folate deficiency which in turn increases the risk of birth defects of the brain and spine. [63-70]
The methylation cycle is also vital for maintaining a healthy weight by promoting effective fat metabolism. Studies found a strong link between impaired methylation and increased risk of obesity and being overweight. [71-76]
Any impairment in the methylation cycle can speed up the aging process by affecting numerous body systems. In addition, it can lead to many age-related degenerative processes as well as increased mortality rate. [77-83]
Methylation results in the DNA needed for the production of new cells of the immune system. New T cells are integral part of the immune system’s response to infection and other foreign bodies. Poor methylation ultimately leads to poor regulatory control of immune cells which significantly increases the risk of infection and autoimmune disease. [84-91]
Myelination refers to the coating of neurons with myelin sheath, which is known as the protective covering of neurons. This myelin sheath allows electrical impulses in the brain and spinal cord to be transmitted at a faster and efficient manner. Impaired methylation affects the process of myelination which leads to damage to neurons, resulting in demyelination disorders such as multiple sclerosis. [92-100]
Methylation plays an important role in metabolizing and detoxifying estrogen, a hormone that promotes the development and maintenance of female body characteristics. With impaired methylation, the process of estrogen metabolism and detoxification is slow, resulting in premenstrual syndrome, polycystic ovarian syndrome, fibroids, endometriosis, and heavy menstruation. [101-107]
Methylation and blood pressure are strongly linked. A convincing number of studies found that patients with higher systolic blood pressure, diastolic blood pressure, and/or hypertension have lower methylation levels. [108-117]
Impaired methylation is also known to cause infertility in men. An overwhelming body of clinical evidence suggests that abnormal DNA methylation is associated with sperm alterations such as impaired sperm production and low sperm count, resulting in infertility. [118-127]
Memory, learning, and other cognitive functions can also be affected by abnormal methylation. A number of high-quality studies have linked poor methylation to cognitive problems such as dementia, Parkinson’s disease, and Alzheimer’s disease. [128-141]
Effective methylation is essential for the production of bile, a thick, yellow-green fluid that is produced by the liver and is stored in the gallbladder. This fluid has anti-microbial properties and aids in the absorption of vitamin A, D, E and K. In addition, bile helps excrete toxins and excess cholesterol. Studies show that poor methylation leads to inadequate phosphatidylcholine, a key component of bile, resulting in digestive problems such as fat malabsorption and gall stones. [142-148]
When the availability of methylated molecules in the body is negatively affected, various essential processes will be impaired. As a result, the levels of inflammatory substances start to increase, leading to the development of different inflammatory disorders such as arthritis and inflammatory bowel disease (IBD). [149-156]
A methyl group (CH3) is provided to your body through a universal methyl donor called SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine). In this way, methylation occurs which enables different body systems to perform at optimal levels. In order for the system that produces SAMe to function at a hundred percent, it requires 5-MTHF, the most active form of folate, or vitamin B9. With adequate amounts of 5-MTHF, the methylation cycle will work efficiently.
To enhance the methylation process, SAMe levels should be restored. There are several ways of increasing SAMe levels such as taking supplements that contain the following:
To find out if you have a problem with your methylation cycle, you can undergo a simple genetic test. This test will analyse your blood or saliva to determine the presence of genetic changes that may affect important biochemical processes in your body. After the test, a treatment plan specific to your needs will be created to improve or restore your methylation cycle.
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