What is "Methylation" and "MTHFR"? And why should I care?

Methylation seems to be the new buzz word in Nutrition and Health.

And rightly so.

But most people really have no idea what it is. So put your '23andMe' results away (yes, I know the results freak you out) because I am going to give you the very quick run-down on Methylation.

Methylation is just a simple biochemical process that occurs in your body: 

It's the transfer of four atoms, (CH3) one carbon and three hydrogen, from one substance to another.  

Bam! Now you know what Methylation is.

We need methylation so our bodies can perform critical functions for pretty much everything: neurological, reproductive, cardiovascular, fat metabolism, hormone function, cellular energy (mitochondria), detox, DNA, histamine metabolism (histamine is produced during any allergic reaction).....I could go on and on.

The act of methylation requires certain co-factors or "assistants" to help the transfer be a success.  Like friends helping you move furniture. If you have little or no helpers, the furniture goes nowhere.

 

The famous co-factors (friends) you have heard of are:

5-MTHF (also known as active folate or methylfolate) and

Methylcobalamin (active vitamin B12)

*keep in mind, there are many important co-factors necessary for methylation, but we will just touch on these two.

 

MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase)

This is an enzyme that helps make 5-MTHF (active folate). Around 60% of people have a genetic variation called "single nucleotide polymorphisms" or "SNP" that makes it harder for them to make enough 5-MTHF.

So, if you have this SNP:

  • you make less 5-MTHF which means                                                                                        
  • slower methylation and                                                                                                                    
  • all these processes in your body are negatively effected. 

Don't freak out George

If you have this SNP, or even if you don't, the easiest way to support Methylation without buying a zillion supplements is this:

Eat natural, whole foods that SUPPORT Methylation and remove things that hinder Methylation.

Here's a quick list:

  • green, leafy vegetables
  • B-Vitamin rich foods like pastured eggs, wheat germ, walnuts, sunflower seeds, almonds and liver
  • Sulfur rich foods like cabbage, onions, brussel sprouts, garlic and ginger
  • support your healthy gut microbiome (probiotics, prebiotics)
  • avoid methylation killers like smoking, toxins (pesticides, herbicides, etc), alcohol and excessive caffeine
  • detoxify any heavy metals (get tested!)
  • avoid sugar

 

If you want an excellent resource on all things Methylation with charts, recipes and more, I would highly recommend Dr. Kara Fitzgerald's Methylation Diet and Lifestyle eBook.