What you need to know about methylation

What is methylation?

Although it sounds complex, it’s actually a simple but essential chemical process that is happening constantly in your body. Methylation involves adding a ‘methyl group’ onto other chemical compounds which then allows the body to do most of its processes.

Because it is so essential, and because of our busy lifestyles and nutrient-depleted foods, it could be that many of us need support when it comes to methylation. Some people may even have genetic differences that reduce their ability to methylate quite significantly. But you don’t need to know about your genes necessarily. How would you know if you need methylation support more than someone else?

Here are the most common signs:

1. Hormonal imbalances: PCOS, PMS, fibroids, endometriosis etc.
Methylation is important for metabolising and detoxifying oestrogen, and so if it is a little slow, it can lead to the symptoms above. Also, if your periods are excessively heavy, you may need more iron, folate and B12 to build new blood.

2. Infertility (male and female), history of miscarriage or pregnancy related complications e.g. pre-eclampsia
Methylation is absolutely crucial to the growth of new tissue, so it is vital for fertility, maintaining a healthy pregnancy and supporting foetal growth. Your need for nutrients, (folic acid from folate in particular) increases exponentially during pregnancy. In addition, if you have experienced any of the problems above, your requirements may be even higher in comparison to a person who hasn’t, therefore diet alone may not be enough.

3. Cardiovascular disease, high blood pressure, poor circulation
If you’re not methylating properly, you may end up with high levels of homocysteine. Excess homocysteine can lead to inflammation and free radical damage, especially in your blood vessels.

4. Mood and mental health issues: mood swings, depression, anxiety, bipolar, OCD etc.
Methylation is needed for the production and metabolism of several key mood-modulating neurotransmitters; dopamine, serotonin, noradrenalin, adrenalin. Therefore, if disrupted, it can lead to either low, high, or fluctuating levels, having a negative effect on our mood and stress resilience.

5. Autoimmune conditions: e.g. multiple sclerosis, rheumatoid arthritis, autoimmune thyroid
Methylation is key to immune regulation and repair. Many studies link high homocysteine and genetic factors affecting methylation, to autoimmune conditions in general.

6. Memory problems, insomnia, dementia, Alzheimer’s disease
Just like high homocysteine can be damaging to our blood vessels, it can have the same effect in the brain by damaging our neurons and causing inflammation. Multiple studies have linked poor methylation to cognitive problems. In order to sleep, we need to produce the sleep hormone – melatonin, from serotonin, and guess what, this process also happens through methylation!

7. Chronic fatigue, ME, low energy
Energy production, healthy thyroid, adrenal and nervous function are all dependant on methylation and a good supply of vitamin B12, B6, folate, zinc and magnesium all of which get the methylation cycle going.

8. Allergies and histamine intolerance: eczema, hay fever, headaches, congestion, hives etc.
Allergies are characterised by an increased production of histamine – a chemical that causes all of the symptoms we associated with allergies: sneezing, itching, runny nose or watery eyes. Excess histamine in the cells is cleared by adding a ‘methyl group’ to it. This makes it inactive and ready to be excreted.

9. Digestive problems, fat malabsorption, and gallbladder issues like gall stones etc.
When bile is secreted into the intestines, it has anti-microbial properties, cleansing the bowel and preventing overgrowth of unwelcome bacteria/yeast. It also aids absorption of fats and fat-soluble nutrients (vitamin A, D, E & K), and helps your body excrete toxins and excess cholesterol. However, if your methylation is disrupted, you may not produce enough phosphatidylcholine, a key component of bile.

10. Inflammatory conditions e.g. arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
Constant inflammation is a big strain on the body in general and it can drain your ‘methyl pool’ – the availability of methylated molecules in the body that are ready to be donated to various essential processes. If that pool is continuously ‘drained’ by inflammation, other essential processes, such as tissue repair or neurotransmitter production can be affected. If you have a chronic digestive disorder such as IBD or pernicious anaemia, your absorption of vital nutrients, such as vitamin B12, may also be significantly reduced.

(information from Biocare Education)

If you have any of the issues above it could be that you need support in helping promote healthy methylation. A good start would be to try a multinutrient with the right nutrients that support methylation – methylfolate or ‘5-MTHF’ and vitamin B12, especially methylcoblamain. However, it is advisable to seek the guidance of a registered Nutritional Therapist.

Please contact me if you would like advise on whether you might need support with methylation:
vanessa@wellbeingandnutrition.co.uk