One topic that has been receiving lots of attention the last few years but can still be hard to understand is the process of detoxification and methylation. The reason why I thought this was important to write about, is simply because supporting methylation will support your whole entire healing process with any disorder. This could also relate to the person that just doesn’t understand why their hangovers last longer than others! So, here it goes… a very ‘in a nutshell’ explanation so we can all understand what the methylation cycle actually does and how it can affect you.
So, first, what is methylation? Basically, it is the second phase of the liver removing toxins from the body. Biochemically, it’s the addition of a single carbon plus three hydrogen atoms constellating a methyl group. Methylation takes any toxin in your body and converts them to ‘lesser’ toxins so they can be removed from the body easily. But this is not all about toxins! Let’s take a look at all the benefits of what methylation actually does for you on a daily basis:
- synthesizes neurotransmitters such as dopamine and serotonin
- protein synthesis, which is so important in genetic transcription (DNA/RNA synthesis)
- hormonal regulation
- reduces inflammation
- builds up mitochondria and repairs your cells
- helps out folate metabolism and cardiovascular health – specifically converting homocysteine (a toxic amino acid in excess) to methionine (a healthy amino acid)
- Boosts glutathione – the largest antioxidant in the body
These are super important functions, am I right? Imagine when you have a dysfunctioning methylation cycle. Well, with a dysfunctioning methylation cycle on top of daily stressors and for some, emotional trauma, we can get sick.
You may have heard of buzzwords out there already talking about genetic mutations (SNP’s – single nucleotide polymorphisms). The MTHFR gene produces an enzyme (methyl-enetetrahydrofolate reductase), when mutated, slows down our methylation process, boosts homocysteine levels which can lead to a myriad of symptoms and disorders – 50% of the general population have one out of two methylation enzymes mutated, either the C677T or A1298C SNP; I have the latter mutation. In fact, many of us that have dealt with illness or struggle with autoimmune disorders don’t have adequate methylation OR healthy glutathione levels (the super antioxidant in our bodies). This means that your body becomes clogged with toxins and you have to help them out of your system altogether on your own with a lot of support.
When the body has been fighting infection or is simply run down, glutathione levels aren’t at their optimal best. In a perfect world, our body makes glutathione from amino acids, cysteine, glycine and glutamine which all gets processed and synthesized via methylation using methyl donors such as B vitamins, (b12, folate, betaine) and other minerals. So, without getting even more technical, what can you do to improve your methylation process?
- Limit alcohol, cigarettes, sugar and caffeine – all of these deplete your glutathione levels and steal methyl donors away from the methylation process (besides doing the other obvious harmful things to your body and liver). Ok, this can be sad for some. Take it from someone that ‘enjoyed’ herself for many years before getting Lyme disease. It feels much better to just eliminate. I am able now to have coffee again in small doses and a very clean and non-sugary cocktail on occasion. It’s ok! Look at it as giving your body a vacation.
- Supplement with a good B vitamin + folate
- Include leafy greens, sulfuric foods like broccoli and brussel sprouts (if you’re not sensitive to sulfites)
- Curcumin (Turmeric) to support liver function and fight inflammation
- Pay attention to your gut with probiotics and bone broth
- High doses of Vitamin C
- Stress relief – yoga, acupuncture, mediation, dance, any form of movement or body work
- Heavy metal chelation (or at least avoiding heavy metals in foods and in your environment)
- Sauna, Epsom Salt Baths
- Lots of uninterrupted sleep
How to get tested?
There are simple blood tests and saliva tests to have C677T or A1298C SNPs done if you’re feeling this is all you want to see; however, there are quite a few labs out there now that will test anywhere from 5 to 1,000,000 SNP’s! I believe I went through 23andme which can be a bit of a process, but worth it. SpectraCell and Genova Diagnostics have great panels and are simple and focused. My favorite, Dr. Amy Yasko has testing available and a very thorough program for children dealing with Autism, but frankly, I think her program is beneficial with anyone dealing with methylation issues. I used it for myself to a certain extent when dealing with Lyme Disease and highly recommend her books and website.
I hope that this was helpful! This topic can be incredibly overwhelming, especially for those that are not well. My suggestion is to take one thing at a time when working with methylation and understand that it is a long and arduous process that can take well up to a year to notice significant changes as well as get used to the changes you need to make. Over time, you do notice a difference. Stick with it and let me know your experiences as well.