By Walter Sorochan
Posted November 26, 2015 updated November 29 2015; Disclaimer Disclaimer: The information contained on this site is intended for educational purposes only and is not a substitute for advice, diagnosis or treatment by a licensed physician. It is not meant to cover all possible precautions, drug interactions, circumstances or adverse effects. You should seek prompt medical care for any health issues and consult your doctor before using alternative medicine or making a change to your regimen. Work in progress.
New research about methylation since 2005 has displaced vitamins and minerals in explaining how the body works. Linking vitamin C to scurvy or vitamin D to ricketts may prevent these diseases but does not give us a complete bio-chemical explanation. This article explains the chemical links between vitamins and diseases with methylation and its importance to health. Costello: Vit Bs & Methylation 2001 Understanding methylation helps you become aware of the effect your diet and lifestyle have on methylation.
Although many factors impact disease risk, a growing body of research and clinical experience suggests genetically-targeted nutritional supplementation may have far-reaching health benefits.
Oh .... what is methylation? Methylation is a biochemical process that occurs in every cell in our body occurring billions of times/second. Methylation involves methyl groups. We are finding out now that if you can have enough methyl groups [CH3] in your diet, you can start removing or chelating out some of the bad toxins. Syed: Methylation & air pollution 2013
For example, Methyl groups like Betaine [ illustration on right ], or trimethylglycine (TMG). Betaine is found in beets. It's a carbon with three hydrogens [H].
When methylation is working, you’ll feel full of energy, in a good mood and you will feel generally well. When it is not working, you will feel tired, depressed, irritable, run-down, susceptible to infections, foggy-brained, and just plain “toxic.” DR. Doni Wilson Juicing with beet, carrot and celery gives you a methylate properly !
The surprise finding in this article was that B vitamins are essential for Methylation. Skokawa: B 3 & preventing cancer 2009 Although we have been brain washed to think of vitamins as being the big determiners of health, new research points a finger at methylation as being more important than vitamins. Mehtylation explains why our bodies may not be able to absorb nutrients and supplements more readily, why we may be predisposed to constipation, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, asthma and other disorders. Methylation requires that all the nutrients and enzymes work together in unision. You probably think that methylation does not apply to you; however, read on because knowing about methylation could improve or save your life.
"Methylation is a biochemical process involved in almost all of your body's functions! What is methylation? Without getting too technical, methylation is the addition of a single carbon and three hydrogen atoms [called a methyl group = CH3] to another molecule. The removal of a methyl group is called demethylation. Think of billions of little on/off switches inside your body that control everything from your stress response and how your body makes energy from food, to your brain chemistry and detoxification. That's methylation and demethylation." Corey: Methylation & health 2015
Methylation explained by Dr.Mark Hayman
What's the big deal with Methylation?
It should be obvious by now that body disorders reflect the person’s ability to properly detoxify, repair tissue damage and fight infections. This explains the severe symptoms that come and go in some people, and why some folks herx [feel sick] so badly and others don’t.
Without methylation there is no life. Methylation: SAME
The process of methylation turns genes on and off; this means it affects your DNA or genetic code. The ability to methylate helps you process toxins and hormones. For example, estrogen… you make it in your body, and you also get it from xenobiotics [ chemicals in shampoos, pesticides, herbicides, plastics and more ]. If you can’t break down estrogen and get it OUT of your body, you could develop all sorts of disorders. Cohen: Methylation & diseases 2014
Methylation also plays a role in making and breaking down various neurotransmitters, such as energy producing epinephrine and sleep producing melatonin. Most people are concerned about making enough neurotransmitters. If there’s a problem breaking neurotransmitters down, then they will hang around in excess which may cause unwanted issues such as seizures, insomnia, panic attacks and fits of rage to name a few. Cohen: Methylation & diseases 2014
Consider the people who might have a methylation problem: Children with autism, anyone with a seizure disorder, neurological condition, Alzheimer’s disease, cancer, severe Lyme disease, chronic infections, low T cells or reduced NK cells, diabetes, allergies, fertility issues, miscarriages, cardiovascular disease, chronic fatigue, anxiety or any psychiatric illness. Cohen: Methylation & diseases 2014 Williams: Methyl Gp regulation 2007 Pandika: methylation & asthma 2015
Other research has clearly linked impaired methylation with B vitamins and autoimmune conditions. Richardson methylation & vit B connection 2003 Costello: Vit Bs & Methylation 2001 Skokawa: B 3 & preventing cancer 2009 "Reductions in rat growth rates accompanying B vitamin deficiencies are consistent with the importance of B vitamins in cellular energy metabolism. Other adverse events observed in our study include hair loss, weakness, loss of appetite, inflammation, dermatitis, and bloody discharge. Necropsy showed reductions in liver and heart development, and absence of the thymus." Riordan: Vit B study 2012
Methylation defects reduce the person’s ability to properly detoxify, repair the damage and fight the infections. This explains the severe symptoms that come and go in some people, and why some folks herx [feel sick] so badly and others don’t.
If you lack vitamins and minerals, your ability to drive the methylation pathway is limited. Why? Because these nutrients are needed to help make the most active form of folate in your body known as methylfolate. These include: Cohen: Methylation & diseases 2014
People with a methylation difficulty have trouble eliminating poisons. These build up in the body and that is what contributes to many health concerns. An example of such poison blockage is high levels of acetylaldehyde, a potent neurotoxin released when drinking alcoholic beverages. Detoxifying acetylaldehyde allows methylation to clear this alcohol poison and that should help reduce symptoms of drunkeness.
If you can’t methylate properly, you cannot produce CoQ10, carnitine, creatine or ATP [energy]. You will also have nerve pain termed “neuropathy.” That’s because the methylation process helps make the protective wrapping around your nerves.
There are four cornerstones to the methylation cycle and on each cornerstone sit four molecules namely homocysteine, methionine, S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe) and S-adenosylhomocysteine. Each of these molecules leads into the next one by means of enzymes. The important co-factors that allow this to happen are the B vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6.
The methylation cycle is animated in the video below:
Video: 7:36 mns
In converting from S-adenosyl methionine into S-adenosyl homocysteine, a methyl group is given up and this can be used to stick on to other molecules - hence the name, the methylation cycle. However, there is a particular bio-chemical glitch here. In order for the methylation cycle to work these B vitamins have to be in their activated form, namely methylcobalamin, folinic acid and pyridoxyl-5-phosphate.
In order to get cobalamin [ vitamin 12 ] into methylcobalamin, the methylation cycle has to be working. So if this cycle has crashed completely, the body can't make methylcobalamin in order to get it up and running again. As an example: vitamin B12 deficiency is often found in vegetarians and this can predispose them to cardiovascular disorders. Woo: B12 deficiency & CVD 2014
Since this cycle is so fundamental to other biochemical cycles including trans-sulphuration and folate metabolism, it has to change the vitamin B6, folinic acid and cobalamin into the active forms necessary for the methylation cycles to work. This means that in order to get this cycle up and running initially we have to prime the pump with the activated vitamins. Hopefully once the methylation cycle is up and running, it can start other bio-chemical processes functioning and get the body to work properly.
To better understand methylation, we need to understand the methyl group. A methyl group [Me] is an alkyl derived from methane, containing one carbon atom bonded to three hydrogen atoms — CH3. [ illustrated by diagram on right ] Such hydrocarbon groups occur in many organic compounds [ compound represented by symbol 'R' in diagram ]. It is a very stable group in most molecules. Methyl group is the chemistry that makes methylation work. Williams: Methyl Gp regulation 2007
The methyl group has numerous helpers that help make methylation work. The methyl group turns the chemical switches on or off. Understanding the methylation cycle starts with methyl enzymes activating or stopping body processes from working. These enzymes include: Lynch: Histamine Intolerance, MTHFR and Methylation 2015
Another component of making methylation work is the link to genetics, or epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of factors that influence whether genes are turned off [silenced] or on [activated] when cells are replicated.
Turning genes on and off means it affects your DNA or genetic code. An example of such genetic coding are small non-coding MicroRNAs [miRNA]. These regulate gene expression. Recent evidence suggests that miRNA expression may be implicated in a wide variety of genetic defects as noted below: Syed: Methylation & air pollution 2013 Cohen: Methylation & diseases 2014 Methylation, folate and birth defects Krakowsky Nutrition impacting epogentrics 2015 Skokawa: B 3 & preventing cancer 2009 Stidley Methylation, food & smoking 2019 Woo: B12 deficiency & CVD 2014
* Usually in severe cases, the symptoms are due to toxin build-up; please note the methylation defect does not cause Lyme, which is a tick-borne illness. But the infection causes ammonia, quinolinic acid, acetylaldehyde, etc..
Nutrients affect people differently, depending on genetic variation. "One size does not fit all!" We have different genetic backgrounds, different life styles, and so on. You may need to get a DNA test to determine which genes may be affecting your methylation. Science has discovered that there is a connection between diet and the epigenome [ Chemical changes to the DNA and histone proteins of an organism; these changes can be passed down to an organism's offspring. ]. Just as mapping our gene variations gives us a window into our personalized medical needs, so might a profile of one's unique epigenome. Formed through a lifetime of experiences beginning in the womb, our epigenome may provide a wealth of information about how to eat better.
Enter the future field of nutrigenomics [ how the foods we eat interact with our genes to affect our health ], where nutritionists take a look at your methylation pattern and design a personalized nutrition plan. It can help us understand how to eat or which supplements to use based on our genetic profile. Berardi:Nutrigenomics & Dr El-Sohemy 2008 Krakowsky Nutrition impacting epogentrics 2015 Your informed doctor can already tell a lot about the your disease risk by looking at your family health history and doing a DNA test. But .... the medical application of this information is somewhat controversial as the evidence for such application may not be all that complete. Pavlidis: Nutrigenomics controversy 2015 So you may have difficulty at this time finding out how the foods you eat interact with your genes and health. In spite of such limitations, you should not give up discussing with your health care provider the possibility of methylation and nutrigenomics helping you.
People with a methylation difficulty have trouble eliminating poisons and toxins. Toxins build up in the body and that is what contributes to many health concerns. Today we are exposed to a variety of environmental poisons that are absorbed into our body by inhaling them, absorbing these through the skin or ingesting them in our food. Syed: Methylation & air pollution 2013 Pandika: methylation & asthma 2015 Stidley Methylation, food & smoking 2019
The "body burden" of chemicals, as tested by the Atlanta-based Centers for Disease Control and Prevention every two years, has found that the average American now [ 2010 ] has 116 synthetic compounds in his or her body. Smith: chemicals make Y sick
"It is common knowledge that 80% to 90% of most chronic health conditions are triggered by toxins. Toxins are carcinogens which cause damage to our DNA, and brain function, cause cells to divide faster than their normal rate, thus causing all kinds of cancer, as well as neurological disorders and so forth." Paull team: Toxins
The ability to methylate helps you process toxins and hormones. For example, estrogen… you make it in your body, and you also get it from xenobiotics [ chemicals in shampoos, pesticides, herbicides, plastics and more ] if you can’t break down estrogen and get it OUT of your body, you could develop all sorts of disorders. Cohen: Methylation & diseases 2014
Another example of toxicity are high levels of acetylaldehyde, a potent neurotoxin released by the yeast infection Candida, and also a by-product of drinking alcohol [even red wine] is an example of a body toxin that blocks methyation in the body.
If you can’t methylate properly, you cannot produce CoQ10, carnitine, creatine or ATP [energy]. You will also have nerve pain termed “neuropathy.” That’s because the methylation process that normally helps make the protective wrapping around your nerves is blocked.
These few examples of toxin build-up in the body and that methylation can remove these from the body tells us that the body has a natural detoxification process. You do not need to use detox diets to cleanse your colon, although these may help. Instead, concentrate on cleansing the body of toxins by activating methylation.
Opening up the methylation road block helps clear your body of poisons and that should help reduce illness symptoms. Methylation challenges the traditional ways we have been led to believe we should detoxify; like fasting and ingesting special foods.
It All Starts With Your Gut
"High-quality probiotics are incredibly important to people with a methylation problem because if you let Candida overrun your gut, you get excessive amounts of Candida’s toxin called acetylaldehyde. I should tell you that acetylaldehyde is also a break down product of drinking alcohol. So job one is to repair the digestive tract and stop drinking alcohol. Optimize gut flora. The less candida you have, the less acetylaldehyde. You may have yeast overgrowth and not even know it. People who have been drinking a long time have been mugged of thiamine and probiotics." Cohen: Methylation & diseases 2014
Dr. Andrew Rostenburg - Gut Origin of Methylation problems video: 19:05 mns.
We understand getting sick from outside our body, like getting a virus that causes flu or a chemical toxin; or we can get sick from the inside, like an organ not functioning properly. But what we were not aware is that feelings of discomfort and illness may be related to the bacteria in our digestive system. We can get sick from the the wrong kind of bacteria or when the proper balance of good and bad bacteria in the body is disrupted. You may find a very good and easy to understand article by two medical doctors, Kay Judge and Maxine Barish-Wreden, from Sacramento, California, about how obesity may be linked to the bacteria in our gut. Judge: gut germs linked to obesity 2013
Researchers since 2000 have discovered that there are over 400 good and bad bacteria living in the large intestine or colon. If the normal balance of 80 - 85% good and 15 - 20 % bad bacteria is disrupted, then the bad bacteria multiply and can cause many of our illnesses and diseases. Today, most of us show the reverse ratio; therefore, it’s no coincidence that the incidences of chronic and degenerative diseases have multiplied dramatically since World War II. Common everyday symptoms of not feeling good [ intestinal dis-balance of bacteria ] are bloating, abdominal cramping, constipation and diarrhea. Sorochan: Immune digestive link 2013
The good news is that changes to the mix of microbes in the digestive tract have already successfully treated disorders and illnesses like leaky gut syndrome, stomach ulcers, inflammatory bowel disease and Crohn's disease. Sorochan: Immune digestive link 2013 Restoring the healthy balance of 80%good and 20% bad bacteria in the gut will help methylation.
And now, a little information about histamine and Homocysteine
Histamine and Homocysteine are both part of the methylation cycle.
Histamine: As an integral part of the immune system, histamine is involved in immune system disorders, allergies, regulates physiological functions in the gut and acts as a neurotransmitter. Histamine is involved in the inflammatory response and has a central role as a mediator of pruritus [ itchy skin ]. As part of an immune response to foreign pathogens, histamine is produced by basophils and by mast cells found in nearby connective tissues. Histamine increases the permeability of the capillaries to white blood cells and some proteins, to allow them to engage pathogens in the infected tissues. Histamine is also regulated by methylation. In order to determine the actual functional methylation status in the body, whole blood histamine must be measured. Histamine levels correlate with the functionality of the methylation process. Histamine and methyl are inversely related to one another. That is to say, if whole blood histamine is low, the individual will be over-methylated and if it is high, they will be under-methylated. The protocols to treat the two conditions are different.
Homocysteine: Once a SAMe molecule [ part of the methylation cycle ] loses its methyl group, it breaks down to form homocysteine, which is potentially toxic if it builds up within cells. SAME
SAMe or S-Adenosyl methionine: is found in almost every tissue and fluid in the body. SAMe circulates in the blood naturally and acts as a 'methyl donor'. SAMe donates a methyl group [ CH3 ] to another molecule to make that molecule bio-active! Most SAMe is synthesized from the amino acid, methionine, and consumed in the liver. SAMe activates cellular methylation reactions. U Maryland: SAMe Examine: SAMe information 2015 NCCIH: SAMe 2013 Other methyl donors include: folate, B12, TMG [Betaine], DMG and DMAE; as well as some vegetables like onions, garlic and beets.
S-Adenosylmethionine (SAMe) is involved in many important processes. SAMe plays a role in the immune system, maintains cell membranes, and helps produce and break down brain chemicals, such as serotonin, melatonin, and dopamine. It works with vitamin B12 and folate (vitamin B9). Being deficient in either vitamin B12 or folate may reduce levels of SAMe in your body. U Maryland: SAMe Examine: SAMe information 2015 NCCIH: SAMe 2013
Homocysteine, which is like a bad drunk of metabolism, is the result of a missing a methyl group. When you start looking at the bad estrogen, toxins and homocysteine, they are missing methyl groups. If you have enough methyl groups in your diet, you can start chelating out some of these bad toxins. People who eat raw food have a lot of methyl groups in their diet, especially if they drink vegetable beet juice and eat goji berries. Borscht is made with beets and other vegetables and it is the methyl group betaine found in beets that restores detoxification and makes you feel good.
Cholesterol-lowering medication is a result of the whole theory that believes that high cholesterol is associated with imminent heart attack. Half the people who have a heart attack have normal cholesterol, but all people who have a heart attack have elevated homocysteine – so elevated homocysteine is a better marker than cholesterol for predicting heart disorders. If you review your homocysteine levels, then you will know how close you are to a heart attack. Homocysteine is by definition missing a methyl group. So if you take stuff that is able to methylate, like beets, goji berries and B vitamins, then you naturally bring down homocysteine. Research shows us that if you have adequate vitamin B6, vitamin B9 and vitamin B12 in your diet, then your homocysteine goes down. Wolfe: New info Methylation 2011
Lastly, methylation can regulate your immune system. If you have a shortage of methyl groups, or your methylation cycle is interrupted, any or all of these immune processes can become compromised, and you could get sick. Research has clearly linked impaired methylation with autoimmune conditions. Richardson: ethylation & immune system Corey: Methylation & health 2015
Testing for how well the methylation works: We don't have a simple test to see how well the methylation cycle works. What we can do is measure levels of homocysteine and SAMe. If these were elevated this would show a blockage in one part of the pathway. Indeed, a raised homocysteine would be a major risk factor for arterial disease, almost certainly because this represents blockages in the methylation cycle. However, one could have a normal homocysteine and normal SAMe but blockages elsewhere in the system, which would still impair the ability to methylate. So there is no simple test. McNill: Methylation 2015
Treatment Suggestions video: 5:31 mns
Foods rich in methyl groups: [ The list below is incomplete but a quick reference. ]
Here is a list of foods rich in methyls from University of Utah:
Methyl donors in the column on the left are nutrients involved in a biochemical process called methylation, in which chemicals are linked to proteins, DNA, or other molecules in the body. The foods supplying these nutrients are in the middle column. The column on the right explains briefly the role of nutrients. Dietary intake of methyl donors has been shown to affect the risk of developing a number of diseases, including heart disease and cancer. ATS: Food & methyl donors 2014 Han: Diet & methyl doners 2013
Here is a helper web-site that is free, sets up a custom program for you, complete with a menu, exercise goals, a shopping list, and helps you loose weight. You need to do the rest: Get Healthy
Final last words: If you have an auto-immune disease or disorders like lupus, psoriasis, arthritis, autism, digestive disorders, continuous constipation, memory problems, obesity, diabetes, itchy skin, cannot sleep, migraine headaches or other disabilities, then your methylation is not working properly. You should consult with an informed health care provider and a bio-chemist to help turn the appropriate switches on or off. Search for an experienced methylation therapist in your area.
In light of the information presented in this article, activating methylation can be a game changer for everyone. It will change the way medicine is practiced!
ALERT: Your feedback on this article is most appreciated. Thank you: E-mail author
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SAMe – And other Methyl Donor Molecules, SAME
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Smith Christina, "CHEMICAL EXPOSURE CAN MAKE YOU SICK," SOZO Nutritional health Consulting, May 10, 2010. Smith: chemicals make Y sick
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Wolfe David, "Hormones: The Natural Approach," The Longevity Now Conference Costa Mesa, California, October 2011. Wolfe: New info Methylation 2011
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Woo Kam S., Timothy C.Y. Kwok, and David S. Celermajer, "Vegan Diet, Subnormal Vitamin B-12 Status and Cardiovascular Health," Nutrients, August 19, 2014, 6(8): 3259–3273. Woo: B12 deficiency & CVD 2014