Understanding methylation to boost energy and general health
Have you ever heard the word methylation? It is quite a buzzword in the nutrition and functional medicine community which now I see more and more in magazines and social media posts, as well as mentioned by clients. But what actually it is?
What is methylation?
Methylation is a crucial biochemical process that happens in every cell of our body, playing a vital role in various physiological functions. It involves the addition of a methyl group (one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms) to molecules, such as DNA, proteins, and neurotransmitters. While methylation is essential for many processes, its imbalance can contribute to health issues, from fatigue to poor detoxification, to compromised immune system and lower mood, just to name a few.
Methylation and its role
Methylation is involved in several key functions within the body. It helps regulate gene expression, ensuring that genes are turned on or off at the right times. This process is crucial for normal cellular function, growth, and development. Methylation also plays a role in the production and breakdown of neurotransmitters, which are essential for mood and cognitive function.
What's the link between methylation and fatigue?
When methylation is impaired, it can lead to an imbalance of neurotransmitters, affecting mood and cognitive function. Additionally, impaired methylation can impact energy production at the cellular level. One important aspect is the methylation of homocysteine (a normally produced byproduct of metabolism), a compound that, when elevated, has been associated with an increased risk of fatigue and other health issues such as cardiovascular disease. Proper methylation helps convert homocysteine into beneficial compounds, promoting cardiovascular health and potentially reducing fatigue.
Nutrition's role in supporting methylation
Nutrition plays a critical role in supporting optimal methylation. Several nutrients are essential for the methylation process, including folate, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and other cofactors. Incorporating these nutrients into your diet can positively influence methylation and, consequently, help combat fatigue.
1. Folate (B9)
Found in green leafy vegetables, legumes, and fortified grains, folate is crucial for DNA synthesis and methylation. A deficiency in folate can impair methylation and contribute to fatigue.
2. Vitamin B12
This vitamin, abundant in meat, fish, and dairy products, is essential for the conversion of homocysteine to methionine, a process vital for proper methylation and energy production.
3. Vitamin B6
Found in foods like bananas, avocados, and poultry, vitamin B6 supports the synthesis of neurotransmitters and aids in homocysteine metabolism, promoting healthy methylation.
Present in eggs, meat, and cruciferous vegetables, choline is a precursor to acetylcholine, a neurotransmitter involved in cognitive function. Choline supports methylation processes and can contribute to overall energy levels.
While a varied diet will allow this process to happen, sometimes, due to genetic variations (also known as SNPs) the methylation process may not be as efficient or occur at all, potentially leading to imbalances in various physiological processes. This might be the reason why, despite a good diet, you are feeling tired, have hormonal imbalances or a lowered immune function.
A trained healthcare professional will be able to identify these SNPs via targeted questions or functional testing and provide you with the best supplementation to allow your body to perform this vital process and get your health back! This is an instance where I won’t just take “methylation support” supplements just to be “on the safe side”, as if not needed or in the wrong quantity, they can have a detrimental effect on your health.