Methylation/MTHFR

Let’s start with whether you are likely to need methylation support.. this is a post from the blog with an article written by Biocare (and adapted by me)…

Why do you need to care about methylation? What is it anyway? 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, polymorphisms that reduce their ability to methylate quite significantly (which you can check here with the Methylation Gene Test).

You can also test functionally if your methylation activity is doing OK – use the Methylation Profile here.

How would you know if you need methylation support more than someone else? We have picked the most common signs we look out for:

1. Hormonal imbalances: PCOS, PMSfibroids, 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 (both 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. Poor bile production leading to digestive problems, fat malabsorption, and gallbladder issues like gall stones etc.

Bile is a thick, yellow-green fluid produced by your liver and stored in the gallbladder. It plays a few vital roles. When 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. You can see how vital it is to our health! However, if your methylation is disrupted, you may not produce enough phosphatidylcholine – a key component of bile.

10. You have an inflammatory condition e.g. arthritisinflammatory 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.

That might feel a bit like everyone potentially has methylation problems! The truth of the matter is that it is a process that affects an awful lot of systems and actions in the body, hence the wide-ranging signs and symptoms.

If you do feel it might be an issue for you and/or your results functionally suggest a problem, it can be quite simple to resolve. A good start would be to consider taking a supplement that supports methylation – one that contains methylfolate or ‘5-MTHF’ and vitamin B12, especially methylcobalamin eg. Methyl Multi. (If TGF, please use ones from the master list). That might be all you need, although it can get a tad more complex than that – of course!

MTHFR: A Primer and Cautions

I have long been aware of the trend in MTHFR gene mutation-seeking currently going on and have expressed my worries about this previously. I worry that people are genetically testing willy-nilly and then getting anxious about what they find and introducing complex supplement protocols to address the SNPs found. (By the way if MTHFR and methylation sound like double-Dutch to you, don’t worry: read part 1 below as it’s a good primer on the subject for you!)

My advice, when contacted by such people – worried and confused most often! – is to remember that just because you have an SNP gene mutation does not mean you have the related condition. And the same goes for MTHFR mutations that affect methylation. I know it’s trendy but this whole gene testing is sometimes causing people more worries than they had before! Obviously, if you find a mutation and you have the functional test done to check eg. methylation and there is indeed a problem there, then by all means do something about it, but do not treat unless you know the actual condition is present. Does that make sense?

That’s why I offer both types of test:  Methylation Gene test and Methylation Function test. You can see more about those and purchase them on the Tests Overview page here. And you can see my Gene Tests page, where I have put a very simple test that covers most of the really key SNPs, including methylation.

Personally, I go for the functional test more because if the function is out, you already know you are likely to be one of the almost 50% of the population who has a gene mutation! If you have the gene test, it shows you have a mutation but you still then have to check the function to know if the genes have been triggered, if you see what I mean. I must stress this is not my field but that approach seems to make most sense to me anyway.

Anyway, I was pleased to see an excellent 2-part article recently making this very point about MTHFR and blanket methylation treatments. The overriding impression given is, as one of the commenters beautifully puts it, that ‘we are all snowflakes’. I love that. It refers, of course, to the fact that one treatment will not fit all and our bodies are complex mazes we need to find our way around. Ooh, mixing methaphors nicely there!

The other main point that comes out strongly is that diet and environmental changes can help an awful lot and sometimes the simplest approaches work best.

Anyway, have a read of part 1:

MTFHR GENE MUTATIONS – THINK TWICE BEFORE IMPLEMENTING STANDARDIZED TREATMENT REGIMES

and part 2:

Mutants R Us: We all have gene mutations

Some interesting points to think about anyway if this is something you are interested in.

Incidentally, to make it clear, when I was revising and updating the Gluten Plan , I did quite a lot of research into methylation and believe it is an important area for TGFers. I have put a couple of sections explaining methylation and the importance of it to us and why, plus a suggested protocol to start you off if the functional test comes back positive. It’s somewhere to start at least for you. It’s on the ‘simpler approach’ end of the scale, but, from the few of you who have contacted me, it seems to be not sparking problems so that’s pleasing!

Meantime, here is some useful info on methylation defects and testing from Doctor’s Data – I recommend the test they refer to here.

There is also a really useful video – quite technical – from Dr Lynch below.