What Dr. Lynch is referring to is a metabolic defect that involves ubiquitous chemical reactions in the body called methylation. A methyl molecule is a simple compound of one carbon and three hydrogen’s. Its function is to pass from one nutrient to another in a very specific pattern, a bit like a bee pollinating flowers. In passing from folate, to vitamin B12, to homocysteine, to methionine, and to SAM-e this methylation process sets the stage for health or disease. Health if the sequence goes without a hitch, disease if the process is compromised in any way.
Proper methylation is what gives us our happy moods, good sleep, stress protection, and removal of toxic waste products. The methylation process ensures balanced hormones, strong muscles, good energy, healthy immune system and a nervous system without defects. Methyl activity creates the membranes that surround every cell in the body. Even the function of DNA and RNA is dependent on a healthy unhindered methylation exchange between various nutrients.
Defects in methylation activity called methylation inhibition can lead to a variety of ailments. I suspect methylation inhibition issues when an ailment hasn’t responded as expected to appropriate treatments.
Folate deficiency is the most common nutrient deficiency worldwide (see website newsletter on Folic Acid). Folate deficiency results in methylation inhibition, resulting in a host of problems including cardiovascular disorders, neurologic disorders, birth defects, increased cancer risk and deficiency of the active form of vitamin B12: methylcobalamin. B12 deficiency (see website newsletter B12) leads to a pool of unusable methyl groups that will in the end mimic a folate deficiency.
In addition to folate and B12 deficiency concerns, hypothyroid disease can cause methylation inhibition. Also many prescription medications can compromise the methylation process including antacids, Methotrexate, Metformin and nitrous oxide. Genetic mutations account for methylation inhibition in 20-40 percent of the population and these numbers are growing. Further complications occur because most American diets are deficient in essential nutrients required to support the methylation process.
The first step to address methylation inhibition is to look at the diet. A healthy diet, organic as able, with all the colors of the rainbow is important to prevent methylation inhibition. Following are many of the important nutrients necessary for methylation and significant food sources for these nutrients.
Methionine: eggs, sesame seeds and some other plant seeds, Brazil nuts, fish, meats, cereal grains
Folate: green leafy vegetables, bean sprouts, beans, sunflower seeds, asparagus
B12: animal foods ie seafood, cheese, eggs, lamb, beef
Betaine: quinoa, beets, lamb, broccoli, grains, shellfish, spinach
Cysteine: poultry, yogurt, egg yolks, red peppers, garlic, onions, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, oats, and wheat germ
Choline: soybeans, egg yolk, butter, potatoes, cauliflower, lentils, oats, sesame seeds, grass-fed beef, and flax seeds
B6: bell peppers, summer squash, turnip greens, shiitake mushrooms, grains, and spinach
Creatine: wild game, lean meat, fish
There are three primary supplements to address methylation inhibition. The active form of vitamin B12 or methylcobalamin, the active form of folate or 5 methyltetrahydrofolate and S- Adenosyl methionine or SAMe, the main methyl donor throughout the body.
SAMe produces 50 percent of the creatine that we need; the other half of the creatine supply coming from a carnivorous diet. Insufficient creatine in the diet can lead to fatigue, muscle spasms, depression, weakened immune system and autism. Vegetarian individuals are at risk for this due to a low creatine diet. SAMe is responsible for the creation of many neurotransmitter including dopamine, serotonin, melatonin and norepinephrine. Supplementing with SAMe will often correct these concerns.
The emerging field of Genetic testing helps people identify genetic methylation defects; especially important for ‘mother’s to be’ for ensuring the health of their children. While there are numerous genetic variants that pertain to methylation dysfunction, the MTHFR genetic enzyme defect is the primary and most prevalent genetic concern to be tested for.
Genetic testing can be expensive, is very much open to interpretation and does not account for the impact of environment which alters genetic expression. For these reasons I generally make decisions regarding methylation issues based on symptoms and patient response to treatments.
In summary, methylation inhibition is a growing issue and often the cause of unexplained illness and lack of response to seemingly appropriate treatments. Supplementing with appropriate nutrients as discussed in this newsletter will generally address these concerns. One caveat is that some people who need the supplements I’ve discussed experience a negative reaction to them. In this situation I offer a comprehensive methylation inhibition repair program to restore this vital process in order to regain optimal health and well being.
I hope you have enjoyed and found useful this month’s newsletter. Comments and questions are always welcome.
Jon Dunn, ND