Methylation is a biochemical process that occurs in the cells of the body and plays a role in many areas of our health, including mental health- anxiety, depression, mood regulation; hormonal balance, detoxification and cardiovascular health.
What is methylation
The process of methylation on a biochemical level involves the donation a methyl group (three hydrogen atoms bound to one carbon atom) from one substance to another to facilitate many functions of the body. Methyl groups are created by the methylation cycle and requires specific nutrients including folate and vitamin B12.
What is MTHFR
Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) is an enzyme involved in the metabolism of folate into 5-methyl-THF (5-MTHF). This process creates methyl groups for use in methylation cycles. Some people have genetic variations in the MTHFR genes and this may impact their ability to metabolise folate, folic acid and their methylation cycles. MTHFR genetic variations may lead to a reduced production of methyl groups and this is termed ‘undermethylation.’
What does methylation effect
Methylation effects many processes and areas of health including:
Hormone health and the detoxification of oestrogens from the body. Hormonal imbalances may lead to fibroids, endometriosis, PMS to name a few.
DNA synthesis and repair (DNA makes up our genes)
Mental health: depression, anxiety, mood regulation
Fertility and miscarriage
Methylation and how we feel
Adequate methylation is required for serotonin and dopamine production. Low serotonin and dopamine levels can predispose a person to experiencing life as more stressful.
When we have enough serotonin we feel happy. Some of the symptoms of low serotonin levels may be felt as depression, anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), irritability, aggression and sleep disorders. Dopamine is felt as a sense of motivation and reward. When we don’t have enough dopamine, we may feel symptoms of addiction, loss of satisfaction, apathy, reduced motivation and social withdrawal. Since methylation also affects our levels of energy, chronic fatigue may have an impact on our emotions too.
Methylation and MTHFR Testing
The methylation process is influenced by several genes, including MTHFR C677T and MTHFR A1298C as well as several others. In testing for genetic variations (GVs) in these genes we have the ability to gauge whether your body may have a predisposition to undermethylate- that is, to not produce sufficient methyl groups to support the wide array of health processes that require this methylation process to function effectively. GVs with the MTHFR genes may indicate a reduced ability to convert folic acid into a metabolically active and useable form, hence supplementing with folic acid may lead to a build-up of un-metabolised folic acid in the body.
We can also test to see how any potential GV may be playing out in your body by utilising lab tests for specific nutrients involved in the methylation process. These lab tests may help us to determine the most useful and appropriate forms and specific nutrients that may support your unique genetic profile and expression with the view to reduce risk of overloading certain enzymes and oversupplying certain nutrients such as folic acid that your body may not be able to metabolise effectively.
With the availability of genetic testing we are able to offer truly personalised medicine unique for your individual genetic makeup.