WHAT is it? WHY is it Important to me?
Methylation defects can lead to 100’s of Diseases
Methylation, is a word you hear often now in mainstream medicine but may not fully understand its importance. You may also hear about the MTHFR gene and wonder…”does it apply to me?”
It is a process that is not fully understood by everyone but I will attempt to keep it as simple as I can so that you can grasp a better understanding of WHAT it is and WHY it is important to you.
Please take the time to read this because knowing about methylation could improve or save your life.
About 45 percent of people have this genetic trait, what is referred to as a MTHFR defect. That’s about 1 in 2 of people that have 1 copy of the C677T MTHFR gene (you can find out if you have this gene by testing, I’ll tell you more about that in a few minutes). Methylation is the process of taking a single carbon and three hydrogens, known as a methyl group, and applying it to countless critical functions in your body such as: thinking, repairing DNA, turning on and off genes, fighting infections and getting rid of environmental toxins to name a few.
Methylation defects are tied to a wide variety of conditions such as:
- Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Pulmonary Embolism
- Addictive Behavior, even alcoholism
- Autism or down’s syndrome
- Frequent miscarriages
- Bipolar or manic depression
- Allergies or Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
- Spina Bifida or Cleft Palate or Neural Tube Defects
- Multiple Sclerosis and other Autoimmune Disorders
- Hashimoto’s or Hypothyroidism (The Thyroid Summit- available here)
- ADD or ADHD
- Lyme Disease* (your body’s ability to heal it)
- Chronic Viral Infections
What Methylation Does:
- Turns on and off genes, this means it affects your DNA (genetic code).
- Helps you process toxins and hormones.
- Plays a role in making and breaking down various neurotransmitters, such as energy producing epinephrine and sleep producing melatonin. (If there’s a problem breaking neurotransmitters down, then they will hang around in excess which may cause unwanted issues such as seizures, insomnia, panic attacks and fits of rage to name a few.)
Consider the people who might have a methylation problem: Children with autism, anyone with a seizure disorder, neurological condition, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, severe Lyme disease, chronic infections, low T cells or reduced NK cells, diabetes, allergies, fertility issues, miscarriages, cardiovascular disease, chronic fatigue, anxiety or any psychiatric illness. Oh, and if you are extremely sensitive to medicine, or to nitrous oxide (laughing gas - given by the dentist) you might have a methylation problem, too.
Methylation snps (pronounced “snips”) are considered genetic defects that can cause a deficiency of methylfolate in your body, and thus a deficiency of Glutathione (known as the ‘master antioxidant’ of the body). This leads to toxin build up in your bloodstream and tissues. Low levels of glutathione can look like chronic fatigue syndrome or fibromyalgia, increased immune activation, multiple chemical sensitivities, and progressive diseases like ALS, MS, Parkinson’s, etc.
But it’s not just about genes.
Because people with a methylation difficulty have trouble eliminating poisons, these build up in the body and that’s what contributes to many health concerns. Opening up the methylation road block helps clear your body of poisons and that should help reduce symptoms.
If you can’t methylate properly, you cannot produce CoQ10, carnitine, creatine or ATP (energy). You will also have nerve pain termed “neuropathy.” That’s because the methylation process helps make the protective wrapping around your nerves. Disturbances in this pathway can occur for other reasons
A dozen other things interfere with your Methylation Pathway:
A lack of these vitamins & minerals will limit your methylation pathway ability. Why? Because these nutrients are needed to help make the most active form of folate in your body known as methylfolate.
Folate (from food or folinic acid)
- Poor diet, poor probiotic status, digestive issues, medical conditions like Crohn’s or Celiac, and other genetic traits may cause any or all of these nutrient deficiencies.
- Xenobiotics – which are chemicals found in our air, water, food, home, work, schools, parks, beds, cosmetics and more.
- Taking medications that deplete you of the nutrients in #1 above. Some of the worst offenders (in terms of stealing your methylation nutrients) are methotrexate, metformin, antacids, acid blockers, proton pump inhibitors, corticosteroids, estrogen-containing drugs and nitrous oxide.
- Drinking alcohol will pretty much shut down your methylation and wipe out your glutathione stores.
- Green coffee bean extract is incredibly high in catechols and those use up your methylation pathway nutrients fast!
- If you have Lyme disease, and many people do whether they know it or not, the Borrelia burgdorferi germ uses up all your magnesium (this supplement is a unique and highly absorbable form) to make biofilms and hide. Low mag reduces your ability to methylate. As an aside, this explains why some ‘Lymies’ have bad reactions during antibiotic treatment.
- If you take nutrients that deplete methyl groups (like high dose niacin, or the prescription version of that called Slo-Niacin and Niaspan).
- Heavy metals (think mercury in your diet, or your teeth) or lead in your bloodstream, cadmium if you smoke, high copper, arsenic, etc.
- High levels of acetaldehyde, this is a potent neurotoxin released by Candida, and also a by-product of drinking alcohol (even red wine). Don’t drink if you’re a poor methylator. Most of you know who you are, meaning you are a lightweight when it comes to alcohol. Yep, it is likely you are a poor methylator.
- Anxiety or a lot of stress.
It All Starts With Your Gut
High-quality probiotics are incredibly important to people with a methylation problem because if you let Candida overrun your gut, you get excessive amounts of Candida’s toxin called acetaldehyde. Acetaldehyde is also a breakdown product of drinking alcohol. So job one is to repair the digestive tract and stop drinking alcohol. Optimize gut flora. The less candida you have, the less acetaldehyde. You may have yeast overgrowth and not even know it. People who have been drinking a long time have been robbed of Thiamine and probiotics.
Here are the symptoms of a HANGOVER, as well as YEAST overgrowth: (These symptoms also happen in people who have reduced methylation!
- Brain fog or poor concentration
- Migraine or headache
- Depression, anxiety or irritability
- Weakness or fatigue
- Tender points or soreness
If you’ve taken an antibiotic for more than a week, you are low in probiotics. If you have had your appendix removed, you are deficient in probiotics (and thus at higher risk for Candida). If you drink a lot of coffee, if you have recurrent vaginal yeast infections, if you have a lot of flatulence, if you crave sweets or have a white coating on your tongue… you are deficient in probiotics.
Why does it matter so much if you have Candida? If you do, you make a lot of acetaldehyde. Think of that as your hangover chemical, it makes you feel drunk and foggy, and messed up. And that compound will inhibit another enzyme very important and central to methylation called methionine synthase.
Anyone Gluten-Free or Grain-Free? If you’re gluten-free or limit your intake of grains, you may be low in B6. Vitamin B6 is important to help you drive the transsulfuration cycle which means you may be low in your master antioxidant, glutathione.
What Are Your Options?
Let’s assume you have a methylation defect and you want to correct that. One of the most famous practitioners is Dr. Ben Lynch, a naturopathic physician from Bastyr University who also has a Cell and Molecular Biology degree from the University of Washington. Dr Lynch has devoted years to researching this intricate pathway. You should visit his site which is www.MTHFR.Net and learn more about this.
DO NOT take a lot of folic acid thinking you will just push the pathway into making glutathione! It won’t work. Remember….you don’t methylate folic acid if you have a “snip”. Folic acid, just so you know, is not what your body uses. Natural folate comes from the foods that you eat, this is not exactly the same as folic acid supplements. The body uses methylfolate, or sometimes abbreviated as 5-MTHF, not folic acid.
There are two ways you can address your genetic personality or methylation “defect” as it is referred to but this is just a very basic guideline. I would absolutely recommend a doctor or naturopath who is trained in this handling your situation.
Take one of the following specialty formulas (sold online or through your naturopath or doctor):
- Homocysteine Factors by Pure Encapsulations (sold at New Life Spa Wellness Center in Grove, OK 918-948-2758)
- HomocysteX Plus by Seeking Health (Dr. Ben Lynch’s formula)(also available for order at New Life Spa Wellness Center -918-948-2758 or online)
A key point: Dr Lynch highly recommends you have on hand a bottle of niacin in the form of extended release nicotinic acid.
Why? Because, remember, niacin uses up methyl groups provided by the methylation cycle. If you speed up your methylation too quickly, taking some niacin as nicotinic acid will help calm your methylation cycle down quickly!
REMEMBER: The methylated form of folic acid (which is not the same as plain folic acid sold at pharmacies and health food stores) is called 5-MTHF or another activated form called “Methylfolate.” Methylfolate drives the whole transmethylation cycle! Methylated form of B12, this is called methylcobalamin or methyl B12 is very important (NOT cobalamin which is the non-methylated form of B12).
Do a lab test to see if you really have methylation (or other) defect. The MTHFRgene helps make methylfolate which is the main driver of the methylation cycle. This is an important gene to test for first! The two most common gene snps for MTHFR are C677T and A1298C.
Medicines that Make MTHFR Much Worse(never stop taking any prescription medications without the direction or supervision of your doctor)
1. Acid blockers and Antacids (even the over-the-counter sort): Because they deplete your probiotics, and suppress your ability to make methylcobalamin. They reduce your ability to absorb nutrients which are needed to drive the methylation pathway.
2. Cholesterol-binding drugs such as Cholestyramine or Colestipol: These drugs not only are drug muggers for vitamin A, D, E and K, but they also reduce absorption of folate and cobalamin from your food. This enhances the methylation problem, allowing for more toxins to build up.
3. Nitrous oxide: From the dentist or surgeon, it inactivates an enzyme, causing more problems.
4. Niacin: High doses will deplete SAMe and reduce B6. It’s a good thing to remember if you are over-methylating! You can put the brakes on with niacin.
5. Anti-seizure drugs: ** Do not stop any of these!!! You need to ask your doctor what to do if you want to wean off, and which drug you CAN take if you can’t take these. The worst offenders for people with methylation defects include carbamazepine, oxcarbazepine, phenytoin and valproic acid. These drugs are folate antagonists, they are drug muggers of folate… that is how they work. They deplete folate, but that’s not a good thing if you have a genetic snp that reduces your ability to methylate. (*see my caution below)
6. Estrogen drugs like birth control and menopause medication: They are drug muggers of folate.
7. Sulfa-containing drugs like Sulfamethoxazole and trimethoprim (brand name Septra or Bactrim) or sulfasalazine, or triamterene (found in Dyazide). These inhibit the enzyme DHFR which makes methylation problems worse. DHFR or Dihydrofolate reductase is an enzyme that reduces dihydrofolic acid to tetrahydrofolic acid and ultimately allows for the creation of 5-MTHF, the goal.
8. Methotrexate: * This is a popular Rheumatoid arthritis drug, and it’s a drug mugger of folate. That is how it works, it antagonizes folate. (*see my caution below)
9. Metformin: As you learned in my Diabetes Without Drugs book, this is a drug mugger of methyl B12 (methylcobalamin). Make the situation worse because you need methyl B12 to drive the methylation pathway forward.
* Even though these drugs with an * are drug robbers of folate, you do not want to supplement with folic acid (or 5-MTHF, or methylfolate) AT THE SAME TIME, because you are negating the effect of the drug. This could cause breakthrough seizures in a person with epilepsy who is supported on an anti-seizure drug that is a folate antagonist (see list above). Supplementing may be ok, and that’s a maybe, only if your physician approves (some will, some won’t), and the restoration of folate would only be done if you space away your supplement from your drug so as to not interfere. Folate is found in leafy greens too.
I CAN’T STRESS THIS ENOUGH…..When you get results, don’t panic if you happen to see various gene snps that increase your risk for say, heart disease, cancer or dementia. I have to warn you, we ALL have gene snps, it doesn’t mean you’re going to get anything. It just means the potential is there ( a “predisposition” so to speak), and since you know your weakness you can better protect yourself with a few key nutrients.
Taken mostly from https://suzycohen.com/articles/methylation-problems/#iLightbox[gallery1611]/