Methylation might sound like something you put under the sink, but it’s actually one of your body’s most vital processes for healthy ageing.
Methylation is a natural chemical reaction that is essential for the function of most body systems. It’s like billions of little on off switches inside your body that control everything, every second of every day.
It assists us to cope with life’s stresses, fight infection and illness, and absorb food for energy.
The process also helps to make new, healthy cells and neurotransmitters for our mood. Methylation removes toxins in the liver and protects against oxidative stress which reduce inflammation and diseases that end with ‘itis’ [1, 2].
Effective methylation keep us healthy but if it isn’t working properly, you’re more likely to feel tired, irritable, run-down, foggy, with a low mood and you’ll be more susceptible to infections and illness.
Abnormal methylation can affect your health in many ways and even increase your risk of heart disease, chronic fatigue, mood disorders and diabetes.
Unfortunately, many people have a genetic problem that makes it difficult to methylate. You can get genetic testing (called the MTHFR gene test) to find out whether you have one of these defective genes.
Other factors that affect your methylation system including general ageing, poor diet, smoking, digestive conditions that reduce absorption of vitamins, decreased stomach acid and toxic exposures to plastics and chemicals.
Medications like acid blockers, blood pressure medications and some anti-inflammatory treatments for arthritis or autoimmune diseases can also reduce methylation [3, 4].
The B vitamin group largely powers the methylation process, so diet and lifestyle plays a significant role in keeping your methylation system ticking properly.
Often called the “B Vitamin Cycle”, methylation uses and processes B vitamins particularly B12 and folate .
Ensure you eat a diet rich in healthy, whole-food, non-processed food diet including turkey, tuna, liver, asparagus, avocado, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and legumes. Fermented foods are also great as they help your gut bacteria process B vitamins .
B12 is crucial to the proper functioning of your brain and nervous system and plays a vital role in mental clarity and focus.
Folate helps with brain fog, irritability, depression and emotional stress. It also helps repair DNA and healthy ageing .
Talk to your health practitioner about B vitamins with methylated (easily absorbable) forms of B12 and folate and whether they might be suitable for you.
Ask to your health professional about the right diet, lifestyle, testing and potential supplements that might be right for you.
1. Johnson AA et al. (2012) The role of DNA Methylation in aging, rejuvenation, and age-related disease. Rejuvenation Research 15(5): 483-494. doi:10.1089/rej.2012.1324
2. Bollati V et al. (2009) Decline in genomic DNA methylation through aging in a cohort of elderly subjects. Mechanisms of ageing and development 130 (4): 234-239
3. Robertson S (2015) What is DNA Methylation? News medical Life Sciences [Online] Retrieved http://www.news-medical.net/life-sciences/What-is-DNA-Methylation.aspx
4. Maier S, Olek A (2002) Diabetes: A candidate disease for efficient DNA Methylation profiling. J Nutr 132 (8) :24405-24435
5. Selhub J et al. (2000) B vitamins, homocysteine, and neurocognitive function in the elderly. Am J Clin Nutr 71(2): 614-620
6. USDA (2017) Food Composition Databases. United States Department of Agriculture: Agricultural Research Service [Online] Retrieved https://ndb.nal.usda.gov/ndb/search/list
7. Braun L, Cohen M (2015) Herbs and natural supplements: an evidence – based guide. 4th Edn vol 2. Churchill Livingstone Australia