What is Methylation?
Methylation is becoming buzz worthy now that we are discovering that the 5-MTHFR genetic mutation is very common, approximately 60%, in the United States!
What does the 5-MTHFR gene have to do with Methylation? Well everything really! It’s the gas for the methylation car and without it, well you won’t get very far and the car itself will start to break down.
Now let’s rewind a bit and first talk about what methylation is.
Methylation is an essential metabolic process that happens in every cell and every organ of our body. It takes place more than a billion times per second in the body, how crazy!
It happens when one molecule passes a methyl group, which is a carbon atom linked to three hydrogens, to another molecule, acting as a basic biochemical process. These reactions that occur when one molecule passes a methyl group to another make things like creatine, carnitine, CoQ10, phosphatidylcholine, melatonin, and tons of other important substances in the body. Methylation influences the production of ATP, which is the fundamental energy unit of the cell. If the cell can’t produce ATP, then there’s not going to be much energy to run all the other systems in the body!
This is something that can affect almost every tissue and organ system in the body, because it’s working from the most fundamental processes within the body.
One way methylation can affect the body is the detoxification process. Methylation is required to produce glutathione, which is one of the major molecules in a detoxification cycle.
If you don’t methylate properly, you won’t be able to detoxify properly, which can lead to a whole slew of issues down the road and make us more susceptible to chronic illnesses!
Methylation can also influence histamine breakdown in the gut. Histamine intolerance and mast cell activation syndrome are markers of inflammation that can wreak havoc on our immune system.
Another crucial function of methylation is that it regulates gene expression, which is the turning on and turning off of genes that relate to specific traits in the body. A methyl group binds to a gene, and then it changes the way that a gene expresses itself. This is known as DNA methylation, and it’s one of the mechanisms that cells use to control gene expression. You can literally turn bad genes on and off through proper methylation. That’s huge for someone who feels like they got dealt a poor hand when it comes to their own health!
Some other examples of how methylation can impact the body include:
-Immune system function
-Red blood cell formation
Understanding the Methylation Cycle
I want to keep this as simple as possible but there some important players in the cycle that you should know about.
The methylation cycle is kick started by SAMe (S-adenosylmethionine). SAMe readily gives away its methyl group to other substances in the body.
The system that produces SAMe is reliant on one switch being turned on by a critical B vitamin, 5-MTHF (methylfolate). Now you might see why 5-MTHF is critical for the body to work.
Folic acid from the diet or supplements must be converted to this active form, 5-MTHF, before it can be used in the body in the methylation cycle. If we have a genetic dispersion, then we are going to have a hard time converting over to usable energy in the cycle.
Additional B vitamins (B1,B2,B3,B6,B9,B12) from our food (or supplements) supply the energy needed to run the cycle. B vitamins are the helps that put the 5-MTHFR gas in the the methylation engine.
When your methylation is in flow you will be in a relatively good state of health, have plenty of energy, and be in a good mood. When methylation is off you will know. You will be tired, “burnt out”, irritable, stressed out, and have poor immune function.
The cycle itself can sound complex but when you break it down to the key parts, it can be pretty straight forward.
Our key players here are:
- MTHFR – Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. It converts folic acid to 5MTHF(methylfolate ) using B2.
- MTR – Methionine Synthase uses 5MTHF and methylcobalamin (B12) to turn homocysteine into methionine.
- MTRR – Methionine Synthase Reductase creates B12 from cobalamin.
- MAT – Creates S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) from methionine.
- CBS – Removes homocysteine from the methylation cycle (using B6) and converts it into cysteine and glutathione.
By the cycle acting as a domino effect, enzymes start processing nutrients, one enzyme affects the next and so on. If one is out of line, the next one doesn’t fall and causes a backup of the other enzymes that follow which in turn, affects how we feel and how well we function.
For example the MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase) mutation decreases our ability to turn folic acid into folate. This stops the domino effect in the methylation process because your body is not able to use the B vitamin as efficiently.
Simply put, if there is adequate 5-MTHF available, the methylation cycle will work.
As mentioned earlier, approximately 60% of people in the United States have a genetic mutation that makes it challenging for their bodies to create enough 5-MTHF. Something we definitely don’t want when we are depending on it to make all the other systems in our body function properly!
How To Support Methylation
Okay okay so you might be thinking, “What if I have the gene? What do I do? How do I know?”
Don’t worry! There are several ways you can take action to support this important process. The first being is to support your foundation and make it strong. Eat nutrient dense foods, practice stress management, move your body daily, and make sure to have proper hydration. You will be well on your way to improving your own methylation.
Those who need more of a quick start or have the 5-MTHFR gene mutation can benefit from methylated B vitamins. In an already methylated form, your body is able to better utilize these crucial cofactors in the methylation cycle. This is why Empirca has created Vital B’s, a supplement composed of the essential B Vitamins needed to support our system when our genes are out of whack and our body needs some extra love.