Updated: Apr 6, 2020
Are you a good methylator? What is methylation?
These are questions that I never really gave too much thought until I started to research more on epigenetics. I also got tested on the topic in school and realized when studying that my knowledge towards to topic was lacking....
What I now know is that it is one of the very important chemical processes that our bodies use to ensure our genes work properly. But really understanding what methylation is in regard to its definition can be a bit tricky. I listened to a few podcasts that address the topic and needless to say, I’m still a bit confused but feel that I am starting to understand it better. I tried to break it down into an analogy to better understand it, hopefully this can help somebody.
You can think of methylation as giving an order to parts of DNA, maybe a gene or to a vitamin or an enzyme. Think of this “order” as what’s technically called the methyl group, which is why it’s called methylation. When this “order” (the methyl group added) gets given to that gene, vitamin, or enzyme, it actually changes the function.
And in the case of DNA, by adding this methyl group, genes are being turned “on” or “off”. This can be referred to as gene expression. The way in which methylation affects our DNA is incredibly important. One of these reasons is because many of us have genes that predispose us to certain diseases, like cancer or maybe schizophrenia. By turning these genes off, they’re not expressed, so we may be able to actually reduce our risk of developing certain diseases by optimizing our methylation.
So how do we impact methylation to optimize the function of our genes?
I’m not claiming whatsoever that we can directly impact epigenetics with our diet and lifestyle changes, but proper choices are not going to hurt. There are several factors involved, genetics being one of them. Did you know, many of us are predisposed to high homocysteine!
We have access to literature that supports the use of different nutrients that seem to positively impact our methylation pathways. Here are some which support this process. (I would recommend focussing on foods with these nutrients and consulting a healthcare professional if supplementation is necessary. )
Vitamin B12: Did you know that B12 requires a highly acidic stomach to be absorbed? Low stomach acid can directly hinder our B12 absorption, which is vital micronutrient needed for methylation.
Vitamin B6: This nutrient is required to produce SAM-e, which stands for S-adenosyl methionine, needed to carry a methyl group from one molecule to another.
Magnesium: I love this vitamin, and I recommend magnesium citrate. Magnesium ions Mg2+ influence the balance of many of the cellular reactions throughout our body. With magnesium in our diets we can increase the availability of their ions for these cellular processes increasing the body’s ability to manufacture ATP! Magnesium is a vitamin in which several of us are deficient in, so it’s a key mineral to take into account.
Betaine: Betaine is a byproduct of sugar beet processing. Betaine works by preventing the build-up of an amino acid called homocysteine.
Folate: Your body needs folate to make DNA and other genetic material. Your body also needs folate for your cells to divide. A form of folate, called folic acid, is used in fortified foods and most dietary supplements.
Here are my favourite foods that contain these vitamins and minerals:
Dark, Green Leafy Vegetables: such as spinach, collard greens, kale, swiss chard and dandelion greens for their magnesium and folate.
Eggs: For their choline content and B12
Liver: From good quality protein sources-think critically; The liver is a detoxifying organ. High toxic loads from animals burdened from a poor diet, chemicals, stress and medication will pile up in the liver.