By Dr. Susanne Bennett
Your body is constantly going through key biochemical reactions and one very important process is referred to as methylation. In basic chemistry terms, it means that the metabolic process takes a single carbon and three hydrogen atoms called a methyl group and adds it to another molecule or substitutes an atom of that compound with a methyl group. For methylation to occur properly, you need optimal functioning enzymes, which are produced by your genes.
I hope I haven’t lost you already!
Bear with me now, because once you understand that methylation can turn your body’s genes on and off; meaning it can affect your genetic code (DNA), that’s when it gets really sexy and exciting!
What this means is that every one of us who’s been dealt with crappy genes by our parents and grandparents, whether it’s allergies, migraine headaches, heart disease, diabetes, manic depression, Alzheimer’s or even the Big C (cancer), we have the ability to turn those bad genes off by manipulating your methylation processes.
In this article, I am going to explain why methylation is important to look at for restoring your health and how to start improving these biochemical pathways in your body to start feeling better today!
The methylation processes control billions of on & off switches throughout your body that are vital to important cellular functions such as:
- The natural detoxification of chemicals, mercury and other heavy metals, environmental toxins and even hormones.
- Your body’s inflammatory and immune response.
- Repairing DNA and cellular damage caused by free radicals.
- Energy (ATP) production by the mitochondria
- The production and recycling of antioxidants such as glutathione (a powerful antioxidant that neutralizes free radicals and reduces inflammation throughout the body!). You can go to my RadioMD page to check out one of my recent Nature’s Secret’s segment on Glutathione.
- Methylation helps in the production of neurotransmitters such as serotonin and dopamine and supports other brain chemistry.
As you can see, methylation is extremely important to a healthy immune system, your energy level, your mood and brain activity, as well as naturally detoxifying your body of poisons!
Sounds pretty important, wouldn’t you agree?
Some of the symptoms and diseases associated with methylation issues are:
- Elevated homocysteine (associated with heart disease and stroke)
- Decreased ability for detoxification which shows up as headaches, tiredness, nausea and brain fog
- Chronic Fatigue Syndrome/Fibromyalgia
- Allergies and Multiple Chemical Sensitivities
- Autoimmune conditions such as Multiple sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
- Infertility and miscarriage
- Birth defects including spina bifida and cleft palate
- Dementia and Alzheimer’s Disease
- Bipolar, depression, anxiety and other mental disorders
- Thyroid disease
We all suffer from some of these issues don’t we?
Cutting edge science tells us the best way to circumvent these bad genes is through nutrigenomics (foods and nutrients that alter your genes) and epigenetics (your environment and lifestyle factors).
Let me give you an example to help you understand how food and environment can cause chronic and debilitating illnesses.
My son Cody was pretty much born with crappy genes, I had eczema and irritable bowel issues growing up and my husband George had asthma and chronic infections as a child.
Little did I know about mercury toxicity in the early 90’s, and I ate a great deal of tuna fish during my entire pregnancy and while I nursed Cody for a full year. I would eat tuna 4-6 times a week, and sometime twice a day! Cody started showing skin and respiratory symptoms at around 3-months old. His eczema and asthma got so bad that at 5 months old, I shaved off his hair and had it analyzed for toxic metal levels.
His level for mercury was over the top in dangerous poisonous levels! I felt so bad that I had been poisoning him with mercury during his entire life, even when he was in my body.
The mercury overload in baby Cody caused a great deal of stress and inflammation in his organs and cells, damaging them, especially his liver and lungs, where methylation is crucial to clear out the heavy metal.
The cellular stress and mercury was blocking the enzymes necessary to detoxify the mercury out of his little body, which triggered his food and environmental allergies, asthma, mucus filled loose stool, and the most severe– anaphylactic reactions. Mercury toxicity was just one of the reasons why he was so sick but a big reason for sure.
So what was the #1 strategy to turn off Cody’s bad genes and improve his enzyme reactions, his methylation pathways?
I immediately stopped eating tuna, cleaned up our nutrition, and cleanup our environment to reduce the toxic load and cell burden and within days, Cody’s symptoms subsided and he started to improve!
The body does amazing things when you take all of the chemicals and toxins away… it wants to be healthy, it wants to be free of symptoms.
By manipulating all of the different foods, nutrients, environmental and lifestyle factors we turned the bad genes off and turn on his good genes to heal and restore!
By the time Cody was 3 ½ years old, all of his debilitating symptoms disappeared, even his anaphylactic reactions.
Cody got healthy through Nutrigenomics and Epigenetics.
Nutrigenomics is the study of how food and nutrients influence gene expression. And Epigenetics is the study of how environmental and lifestyle factors influence gene expression.
Identical twins may have the exact same genetic variants that increase the risk for a disease, but only one gets the disease.
It’s because each twin affected the methylation process in the body differently… remember methylation is the volume control of our genes, and it all depends on the food we eat, the supplements we take, the environmental factors, the lifestyle decisions we make, it all affects the methylation process.
“If you’re going to eat junk food, you’re going to have junk genes!”
There are a number of dietary “do’s and don’ts” that can help provide you the key nutrients that will best support your methylation process.
As usual, please consult with your doctor before changing your diet, taking supplements or exercise program substantially in any way, as only your doctor knows your underlying health condition and medications.
Where do you start?
In my book The 7-Day Allergy Makeover, I go into detail on how to clean up your nutrition and environment, I will go into just a few strategies today.
Clean up your Environment with the 3 C’s
- Clean Water- drink purified reverse osmosis water not tap water filled with toxins and chemicals, that is damaging to your genes
- Clean Air- we live indoors 90% of our time! Get some fresh air, get an air purifier, with HEPA and charcoal filtration
- Chemical- Free: use less chemicals in your home and what you put on your body
Clean up your Lifestyle with the 3 S’s
- Sleep- 8 hours of deep uninterrupted sleep (ideal sleep cycle: 10pm-6am, or 11pm-7am)
- Stress- Deep Belly Breaths and Nature bathing!
- Stop- Smoking, Alcohol, Drugs
Clean up your Nutrition
- Eat only whole, natural, real foods!
- Dark, leafy green veggies have a lot of natural folate, very important nutrient for methylation support
- Foods rich in B vitamins (B2, B3, B6, B12, folate, choline): eggs, animal proteins, nuts and seeds, dark green veggies and beans.
- Better yet, get on a good B complex supplement. Note that many people (especially vegans) are deficient in B vitamins, in particular, vitamin B12. Best to use sublingual B12, such as liposomal methyl B12 that absorbs rapidly
- Eat healthy protein to promote healthy methylation: animal protein, poultry, chicken, eggs, wild salmon, .
- Organic, non-GMO, no hormones/antibiotics, etc.
- Try a modified allergy elimination diet to reduce inflammation in the gut and body… Remember that anything that increases inflammation will affect your methylation pathways.
- Heal your gut to maximize absorption of healthy nutrients and improve stomach acid levels (take a daily probiotic!).
- Optimize micronutrients by taking a multi-vitamin and multi minerals… All of these nutrients are necessary to optimize the function of the methylation enzymes!
- One more thing: Stay away folic acid in fortified foods and supplements, folic acid is synthetic version of folate and it actually can hinder the methylation process.
Discuss methylation with your doctor, and ask him/her to test for your homocysteine level, and check your vitamin B levels. Ask your parents about their health too! Start with the basics and improve just one thing, today, either in your diet or your vices!