A Physician Explains the Role of Methylation in the Human Body
There has been a growing level of understanding of various medical diseases that correlate with a deficient level of essential B vitamins such as methyl folate (l-5methylenetetrahydrofolate) and methyl-b12 (methylcobalamine). More than 40% of Americans carry one of two common polymorphisms for the enzyme MTHFR. This enzyme is responsible for the conversion of folic acid to an alternate form of folate called l-5MTHFR which is used in several chemical pathways in the body. For one, methylfolate is involved in one of the critical pathways of detoxification in the liver. For this reason, individuals who have insufficient levels of methylfolate, be it from low folic acid ingestion or a polyphorphism in producing adequate methylfolate, have diminished ability to detoxify substances that are routinely cleared through methylation.
Secondly, many individuals who have delayed methylation detoxification also have impaired synthesis of glutathione (glutathione synthesis is dependent on sufficient methylation). Patients who have poor glutathione synthesis have impaired detoxification, accumulate more free radicals in the body, and are at higher risk for immunosuppression and cancer.
Thirdly, methylfolate is essential in neurotransmitter synthesis and the balance of inhibitory and excitatory neurotransmitters. For example, methylfolate is essential in the synthesis of serotonin the critical neurotransmitter involved in sleep, moods, resolution of stress, gut motility, vascular contractility, and appetite. There is a known association with MTHFR A198C homozygote patients and schizophrenia, bipolar, seizure disorder, and dementia.
Fourthly, methylfolate is involved in phase II estrogen detoxification pathways. Patients who have poor methylation have impaired elimination of hydroxyestrogens, which can increase the risk of breast cancer and can lead to elevated levels of serum testosterone, leading to polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and insulin resistance. These patients also have more associated symptoms of PMS, fibrocystic breast, menometorragia, estrogen-induced autoimmunity, cellulite, and weight concerns.
Furthermore, patients with impaired methylation struggle in cell division since formyl-folate balance is affected as well. Formyl-folate is involved in DNA synthesis and is critical in the healthy cell division related to organs such as skin, hair, nails, gut, and hematopoiesis. These patients therefore can struggle with cosmetic concerns related to skin, hair, and nails, and more serious problems related to slow gut turnover, leading to leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome. They often have sluggish hematopoietic turn over affecting the ability to increase an immunologic response by the rapid production of immunologic cells and natural killer cells and red blood cell production leading to macrocytic red blood cells.
Lastly, impaired methylation creates extensive problems along the gastrointestinal tract. There is impaired motility due to poor serotonin synthesis, slow colonocyte turnover leading to more leaky gut, bacterial overgrowth, reflux, constipation, and poor pancreatic enzyme output. In general, patients with impaired methylation tend to suffer from more chronic pain syndromes, chronic infections, migraines, chemical sensitivities, iron overload, diabetes, metabolic syndrome, advanced heart disease, autoimmunity, food sensitivities, leaky gut, mental disorders, various cancers, and hormone imbalance. We can help our patients with so many different medical complaints when supporting methylation. These ingredients include: l-5 MTHFR, methylcobalamine, TMG, choline, B6, B complex, methionine, Sam-e, phosphatidlyserine, B2, N-acetylcysteine, and glutathione.