Methylation and it is not just a MTHFR ‘thing’ and neither is it as simple as taking methyl-folate.
Methylation occurs billions of times a second in the body.
Dys-regulation in methylation can result in a series of pathologies such as:
Auto-immune conditions such as Multiple Sclerosis
Oestrogen related issues such as PCOS, fibroids, menopausal mayhem
What exactly is methylation?
Methylation is the addition of a methyl group. A methyl group is one single carbon with three hydrogen atoms. Sounds very simple and it is, a simple methyl group.
In order for methylation to work efficiently it is dependent on genetic, environmental (including nutrients) and physiological factors.
The impact of methylation is incredibly vast.
Methylation is vital in
Structure: DNA synthesis, formation of new cells (think growth and development of cells, of the foetus), gene expression, supports the formation of bones. Key in cell membrane structure due to the phosphatidylcholine in the cell membrane which requires methylation.
Nervous system: the ‘making and metabolism’ of neurotransmitters such as dopamine, adrenaline, serotonin, melatonin etc. In the formation of acetylcholine (think Alzheimer’s) and the myelin sheath, think MS.
Immune system: Cancer cell surveillance, histamine metabolism, the making and maturing of immune cells, recognition of foreign ‘invaders’
Energy: key in thyroid hormone synthesis via an amino acid called tyrosine. Vital in the production of carnitine and CoQ10 that are critical in ATP production (ATP is our currency of energy)
Sex hormones: healthy growth and development of the foetus, oestrogen balance. Vital in the formation of sperm and egg cells (ova).
Detoxification system: supports the synthesis of glutathione and sulphation. Key in phase II of detox pathway. Plays an important role in the detox of toxic metals, hormones and catecholamines (such as adrenaline, dopamine and noradrenaline). More on detox HERE
Digestive system: Synthesis of bile via phosphatidylcholine (bile is also key in detox)
That in 'bite size' chunks is the function of methylation. Nearly every biochemical process is impacted by methylation. Some mores than others.
We can be pre-disposed to fast or slow methylation, this all depends on the type and frequency of our SNPs (Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms, we dive into these at the New School of Nutritional Medicine) but for the purpose of this blog, lets just say that it helps to know your DNA SNPs, to primarily prevent disease and if you have a dis-ease then knowing your DNA SNPs will help in putting together a personalised plan according to your DNA, this is biochemical individuality at it’s core.
At the New School of Nutritional Medicine we only use DNA tests that look at SNPs that have been proven to have a clinical outcome in dis-ease prevention. There are many companies that offer the whole list but some of these SNPs have no science to back up their relevance in health and dis-ease.
Genes code for enzymes that are involved in the methylation cycle
Hold on, what is this cycle? You maybe asking. So the folate cycle and methionine cycle are collectively known as the METHYLATION CYCLE.
Both these cycles have to be in rhythm, one is supporting the other. Imagine if you will, two cogs working together, one will impact the other. And they both need to be in a healthy relationship to keep producing the 'methyl' which is actually in the form of SAMe (S-adenosyl-methionine).
So if you know your DNA SNPs, in this case your methylation cycle SNPs, then a qualified practitioner can identify your UNIQUE nutritional and lifestyle requirements.
Various environmental factors can regulate the expression of these methylation cycle genes.
These genes can be positively or negatively be impacted by:
nutrient availability such as vitamin B6, folate, vitamin B12, vitamin B2, vitamin B3, zinc etc
toxins such as stress hormones like cortisol, toxic metals, pesticides, synthetic oestrogens, mould etc
So where does MTHFR come in?
MTHFR stands for Methyl Tetra-Hydro-Folate Reductase. This is simply an enzyme (enzymes usually end in an ‘ase’) that is involved in the FOLATE cycle. But it is ONE enzyme. We have plenty of others such as;
SHMT ( Serine hydroxymethyltransferase 1)
MTHFR (Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase )
MTR (Methionine synthase )
MTRR (Methionine synthase reductase )
BHMT (Betaine-homocysteine S-methyltransferase )
GNMT (Glycine N-methyltransferase)
However it is incorrect to lump methylation with MTHFR alone. MTHFR is one enzyme amongst a number of them.
Definitely more research has been done on the MTFR gene and it is a more prominent altered SNP.
One mamma has a child with attention deficit dis-order and the other does not, do we blame the MTHFR SNP?
So some people may have the exact same MTHFR SNP such as the MTHFR 677 C/T which reduces MTHFR activity by 30-40% and one mamma may end up having a child with attention deficit issues yet another mamma has a baby that has no attention deficit issues.
Now, we can argue that both mammas took folic acid, both had pretty stress free pregnancies and had planned pregnancies, loving conceptions etc
It could be that there are other SNPs in the methylation cycle in the mamma that has the baby that goes onto develop attention deficit dis-order versus the mamma who has a child that does not go onto develop attention deficit dis-order.
BE MINDFUL, this is an example of why just looking at one SNP can be mis-leading and it does not mean that mother’s who have MTHFR SNPs will have babies with attention deficit dis-order. This also depends on other factors too, but the likelihood of this happening is increased if there is a SNP in key genes that involve methylation.
However, we have the power to feed our genes, feed our cells, bathe our organs, our bodies in an environment that does not mean SNPs lead to dis-ease.
At the New School of Nutrition, we teach our students to look at the bigger picture, look at the WHOLE person mindbody, not solely the lab results, the SNPs or solely the food. We are more than just a physical body.
There is now research showing that our belief systems can impact our physiology which we address in our coaching modules.
Nothing is ever as simple as it looks, we are complicated and beautiful human beings.
From the team at the New School Of Nutritional Medicine.
Learn about the Founder & Principal of the New School of Nutritional Medicine, Dr Khush Mark PhD HERE.