The term “methylation” may not be familiar to you, but it’s a process that’s happening in your body as you read this. Occurring over a billion times per second in every one of our cells, methylation is essential for helping the body make biochemical conversions.1
Good methylation is key to your overall well-being, and poor methylation has been linked to conditions including heart disease, dementia, chronic fatigue, cancer, and many more. Research has found a particularly strong connection between methylation and autoimmune disorders.2
Unfortunately, many people — between 30 and 40 percent of the population, according to some estimates3 — may have a genetic mutation that inhibits methylation, which can leave them vulnerable to a number of different health problems. Let’s take a closer look at methylation and the mutations that can affect it.
When a group of atoms known as a methyl group (consisting of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms) attaches to a molecule, this is known as methylation.
Why should you care? Every time a methyl group attaches to a molecule, it acts as a kind of switch that triggers the molecule to perform a specific action. This process of methylation affects nearly every bodily function, including:4
Methylation is also critical for converting B vitamins into their active form so they can be used by the body, performing jobs like turning food into energy and maintaining healthy brain and skin cells. Without methylation, the B vitamins we take in are unusable, and therefore unable to carry out these important functions.5
Now that you know a bit more about methylation, you can understand why it’s so troubling that many people may be experiencing poor methylation because of a gene mutation known as MTHFR. Short for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, MTHFR is an enzyme that’s responsible for the methylation process, and the MTHFR gene is what controls the production of this enzyme. A mutated MTHFR gene is unable to correctly guide MTHFR enzyme production, meaning the body may not have what it needs for methylation.6
There are many variations of MTHFR mutation, but two of them seem to have the biggest impact on health. These variants, C677T and 1298C, can be passed on from one or both parents in a variety of combinations.7
The ways in which MTHFR gene mutations affect methylation vary — some people may not experience symptoms, while others may feel the effects of decreased MTHFR enzyme production quite deeply. The list of health problems that have been associated with MTHFR mutations is astonishingly long. Here are some of them.8
Because MTHFR mutations affect the body’s ability to utilize B vitamins, many people with an MTHFR mutation are deficient in folate as well vitamins B6 and B12, which can lead to problems like anemia and poor immune system function.
The first step toward addressing an MTHFR mutation is finding out if you have one. Speak with a qualified medical professional about getting tested, or consider an at-home genetic test like those offered by 23andme.
If your test results show you have an MTHFR mutation, there are steps you can take to treat it. Here are some of the ways you can naturally support good methylation in your body.9
A vitamin B-Complex that contains methylated forms of folate and B12 will provide your body with the B vitamins it needs in a form that it can absorb. Fish oil and turmeric can help with inflammation, and probiotics can support your digestive system, so it’s better able to absorb nutrients.
Spinach, kale, Swiss chard, and other leafy greens are all good sources of methylated folate. And choosing organic produce means you won’t be exposing your body to toxic pesticides and other chemicals that your body has a hard time processing because of MTHFR.
In addition to choosing organic food, try to minimize your exposure to environmental toxins by using natural body care and cleaning products and filtering your water. An air purifier is a useful tool for detoxifying your living space.
Understanding methylation and MTHFR mutations aren’t easy. For more information and support, I welcome you to contact us at My Pure MD: