Submitted by Rebecca Roentsch Montrone, Wondrous Roots, Inc.
In my kick-off to the brand new series “Roots of Health & Longevity,” I promised next to delve into what is perhaps the most complicated but supremely foundational “root” of all. This is the process of methylation, wherein the body uses the building blocks of sulfur to add methyl “donors” to various molecules in the body – proteins, DNA, neurotransmitters, etc. – to keep them clean, healthy, and operating well. Without successful ongoing methylation, DNA is left vulnerable to mutation, detoxification is impaired, the mitochondria (powerhouses) of our cells poop out, and, in short (or eventually) we get sick.
The residual byproduct of methylation is homocysteine, high levels of which are associated with many disease processes. What has to happen in the cycle is that the homocysteine has to be reconverted to methionine, which starts the entire process over again. As homocysteine (a “bad guy”) levels are lowered, glutathione (a very, very “good guy”) levels are raised, and detoxification occurs.
WHAT CAUSES PROBLEMS IN METHYLATION?
Methylation just “happens” when all of the players are in place and remember their lines. However, up to 60% of our population have players with poor memories! These people carry a genetic variant of the gene that codes for the expression of the enzyme methylene-tetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR). The two most common defects are found in the C677T or A1298C allele. Take heart; these defects can be overcome if you just know how (and soon, you will)!
Some of the disease states I list below have not been found to correlate with actual genetic defects in MTHFR but do correlate with poor methylation and/or sulfur deficiency. (Just check out the links I’ve provided to get that background information.) Sulfur deficiency is a big problem in the modern-day diet. The long and short of it is that even if you have what it takes to methylate, you can’t do it without the raw materials. I’ll get to that.
CONDITIONS OF ILL HEALTH ASSOCIATED WITH IMPAIRED METHYLATION
The illnesses and conditions of negative health status associated with poor methylation are many, diversified, and broad in scope. In many ways the manifestations of faulty methylation would seem completely unrelated to one another. However, in clients I have seen in my practice with methylation issues, usually several of them appear, not only in his or her own clinical profile but also in the family history.
These conditions include but are not limited to psychiatric illnesses such as major depression, bipolar depression, obsessive compulsive disorder, autism spectrum disorders; migraine headaches and other migrainous syndromes such as cyclical vomiting syndrome; reproductive health issues such as early spontaneous abortion, neural tube defects, preeclampsia, susceptibility to preneoplastic cervical disease; cardiovascular disease leading to heart attack and/or stroke; neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s (Alzheimer’s again), Parkinson’s and Lewy Body disease; autoimmune illnesses such as lupus, scleroderma, multiple sclerosis, and rheumatoid arthritis; obesity; cancer; insulin resistance; metabolic syndrome, and type two diabetes; psoriasis; gastrointestinal disorders including celiac disease. Other conditions that have been found to improve with strategies that increase methylation include fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, and Lyme disease. When it comes to some of these conditions, bacteria are involved, as in the case of Lyme disease, but the Lyme bacteria Borrelia burgdorferi LOVES to hide in heavy metal, and the end result of healthy methylation is heavy metal detoxification.
C’MON, AREN’T LOTS OF THESE DISEASES JUST GENETIC?
Absolutely! However, having a gene that predisposes you to a certain disease doesn’t mean you are doomed to develop it. Lots of it is about the environment that influences the expression of that gene. Methylation is the process by which DNA is supervised; errors are found and fixed regularly. Further, methylation helps to keep the telomeres of DNA longer for, well…longer, which is known to increase longevity.
METHYLATION IS ESSENTIAL FOR DETOXIFICATION…
…Especially of heavy metals. Glutathione is a tripeptide found in all of our cells. In good health, glutathione levels are high; in every condition of poor health glutathione levels are low. As homocysteine is broken down in the methylation process, glutathione levels increase. Glutathione is the master antioxidant (scavenging free radicals), master anti-inflammatory, and master detoxifier. It is especially potent in detoxifying heavy metals such as mercury, aluminum, lead, and cadmium. It also pulls out PCBs and synthetic estrogens. Further, when cells are rich in glutathione, it is more difficult to intoxicate them in the first place. Illnesses strongly associated with high systemic heavy metals include multiple sclerosis, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and Lyme disease to name a few.
Heavy metals are a big problem in this technologically advanced age; we can easily be injected with them over and over again via vaccinations, where heavy metals are used as preservatives so that one vial can be used for multiple patients(Ca-Ching for Big Pharma, huh? Not so hot for you…). Incidentally, I just listened to an interview with Russell Blaylock, MD, someone I have huge respect for, and he mentioned that contained in one Hepatitis-B vaccine is 50 times more the aluminum content than the EPA allows. I’m not making this up; check it out for yourself. Wow. Just gave birth to a healthy baby? About ready to leave the hospital and begin life together as a family? “Here, honey, have some ALUMINUM…along with your virus!”
We have seen diseases such as Alzheimer’s increase dramatically among the population during the last 30 years. Could it be that the first generation so fortunate to benefit from the “medical miracles” of vaccinations and mercury amalgam dental fillings be just as equally unfortunate to be unable to rid their bodies of those toxic metals? Methylation – beginning with dietary sulfur and supported with the right nutrient cofactors – is even more crucial in our present age than ever.
OKAY, THEN: WHAT ARE THE “RIGHT” NUTRIENT COFACTORS?
So glad you asked! This is where it gets a bit tricky. In the backdrop of a healthy diet with adequate sulfur intake, we need the B vitamins, and specifically folate (or folic acid), B12, and B6. Here’s the catch: People with MTHFR genetic mutations can’t convert folate or folic acid to its methylated form (5-methyltetrahydrofolate) and/or B12 to its methylated form (methylcobalamin). In the absence of these methylated forms, homocysteine cannot be converted back to methionine, methylation is impaired, glutathione levels are not raised, and detoxification does not take place, and… we get sick. Make sense?
HOW DO I KNOW IF I’M METHYLATING PROPERLY?
There is a simple blood test that can be done called MTHFR. It costs about $150. Most physicians, unless they practice functional medicine, are not informed about methylation, its relation to health, and MTHFR genetic mutations. However, if you ask your doctor for the test, he or she agrees, and have insurance coverage, it will be covered. Naturopathic physicians are more aware of MTHFR issues and are more likely to be willing to order a test. If not, you can always order this for yourself and pay for it through a service such as this one. For my clients with multisymptom clinical presentations for poor methylation, this can be very validating. As a practitioner it helps me to know what variation we are dealing with, but basically the approach moving forward is the same. Since methylation is so important – and putting the steps in place to facilitate it so simple – I tend to believe that everyone should add some simple strategies to their daily regimen to “get the job done.”
WHAT DO I DO?
1. Make sure you have adequate sulfur in your diet. Good dietary sources are eggs, meat, and fish. Other sources are garlic and onions, other vegetables and fruits, but it requires sulfur-rich topsoil for growing, and we don’t have that any more (not for a long time), so don’t count on those. Believe it or not, cottage cheese is high in sulfur. Think about it, though: Eggs are one of the richest sources of sulfur, and eggs also contain cholesterol, and cholesterol sulfate is needed to do so many things integral to health (such as build muscle and utilize glucose properly). With all of the hype about cholesterol and cholesterol-containing foods being bad for us, many in the same generation that enjoyed being the guinea pigs of vaccination and mercury fillings also abandoned the eating of eggs based on health concerns promoted by the statin-drug industry! Still, we shake our heads and wonder why everyone is so sick. For some enlightening information to help you get over the cholesterol scare, start here. It is written by an MD, PhD, and begins with this provocative line… “People with high cholesterol live the longest…” Ah… I love it!
2. Add key nutrients.
MSM (methylsulfonylmethane). This is a rich source of organic sulfur. I use a powder trademarked for OptiMSM which is the form I prefer for purity. The manufacturer I use is Jarrow. I don’t sell it; I order it from www.iherb.com. I recommend my clients start with ¼ teaspoon and work up to 1-2 teaspoons daily. It works best taken twice daily, although I usually just swill mine down in the morning.
Active form of folate. I use ActiFolate from Metagenics at 800 mcg daily, but what you are looking for is 5-methyltetrahydrofolate, and there are many good options out there.
Active form of B12. You will look for methylcobalamin instead of cyanocobalamin. I recommend a lozenge form over a pill, because many don’t make the intrinsic factor in the small intestine necessary for absorption. The one I use is 5000 mcg, and it hasn’t killed me yet. Injection is the best option, but not convenient for most.
Betaine (trimethylglycine) or SAMe. I prefer the trimethylglycine (TMG) because SAMe, although the most powerful methyl donor, is destroyed by stomach acid so must be enterically coated and is rather expensive. If you use SAMe the daily dose is 200-400 mg on an empty stomach. For TMG I recommend 700 mg or so to about 1500 mg. You may, by the way, remember SAMe for its reputation as an antidepressant. Yes! It works by helping to methylate the neurotransmitters, such as serotonin, making them active. Improving methylation using these other supplements will have a similar effect. As an aside, low serotonin is a decades-long predictor for the development of Alzheimer’s disease!
Trace minerals: Especially zinc, selenium, and molybdenum. Sulfur uses up molybdenum in the methylation process. Jonathan Wright, MD, for this reason recommends a supplement called “Homocysteine Redux” over MSM. However, it doesn’t contain the active form of folate, and the molybdenum is 30 mcg. My multivitamin contains 125 mcg of molybdenum and the other trace minerals I am looking for. I recommend taking trace minerals eight hours away from the methylating supplements, including acetyl-glutathione, as this will insure replacing any good minerals taken out with the bad.
Acetyl-glutathione. This is the big gun, because whether you methylate well or not, this is an incredibly well-absorbed form of glutathione and will help bring about the desired end result of methylation. Until the invention of the acetyl form of this peptide, we were unable to take anything orally that really did the trick. Glutathione alone is destroyed by stomach acid. The precursor of N-acetyl-cysteine helped but isn’t nearly as effective. Prior to acetyl-glutathione entering the arena, we were pretty much left to nebulized or intravenously administered glutathione for supplementation (good luck finding that!). I have seen dramatic things with the use of this supplement. I take 200 mg of this daily.
UNTIL NEXT TIME
As you’ve likely concluded, methylation is a very important topic when it comes to health. I want to share with you some of my own personal and family experiences, as well as some client case histories. So… next time I’ll be sticking with this topic. Stay tuned!
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