What Is Methylation And Why Is It Important?

There are many aspects to health. We know this. Everything from diet, to stress, to movement affects how we feel, how we respond to stimuli, and how resilient we are to the various things we are exposed to in life. One process that is absolutely vital to our health is a process known as methylation.

Some of you may or may not have heard of this. Methylation is one of the key factors in expression of genes, that is the turning on or off of genes that benefit our health or encourage disease. If our methylation system is not running properly a multitude of chronic diseases can take hold. A big one that is effected by genes is our susceptibility to cancer. From this terrific overview of how methylation works in our body:

“Most DNA methylation is essential for normal development, and it plays a very important role in a number of key processes including genomic imprinting, X-chromosome inactivation, and suppression of repetitive element transcription and transposition and, when dysregulated, contributes to diseases like cancer”

So What Exactly Is Methylation?

We are all made up of carbon molecules that are mostly attached to hydrogen, nitrogen, oxygen, and sulfur. When a carbon atom attaches to one of these molecules it is classified as a methyl group. Methylation is the process by which these molecules are transferred around the body. The two most common molecules that are synthesized from this process are creatine and phosphatidylcholine. Creatine is key player in muscle development, nutrient absorption, and healthy skin and joints.

Phosphatidylcholine is present in every one of our cells membranes. It is vital in the removal of fat from our liver, as well as the basis of many neurotransmitters that power brain cognition and the stimulation of muscle movement. Those that don’t manufacture enough Phosphatidylcholine are much more prone to fatty liver disease, which over 70 million Americans are afflicted with.

Other methyl groups are vital in the turning off and on of genes. Research now shows that there are genes that promote cancer proliferation and genes that suppress tumor growth. Methylation is key in turning the right amount of genes on or off to properly suppress cancer growth.

How Do We Encourage Proper Methylation?

Optimal methylation depends on getting the right nutrients in. In particular the body needs B vitamins and certain minerals to optimize the methylation pathways.

  • Folate is one of the most studied nutrients in the mythylation pathway. To get adequate folate eat 2-3 servings of ether liver or dark leafy greens. If you are adverse to liver freeze it and take it in small pill sized chunks. This also has the added bonus of preserving the nutrient quality by eating it raw. Cook the leafy greens gently to ease the digestive process.
  • Choline is absolutely essential. A lack of choline is actually associated with impaired fetal brain development and hypomethylation (low levels of methylation). The densest source of choline can be found in egg yolks. If you eat about 4 a day you will be absolutely set on choline (I wipe that out in my big-ass 8 egg omelette every morning). Other sources include cruciferous vegetables, liver, and nuts. Take a tablespoon of sunflower lecithin for a supplemental form of choline
  • B vitamins are found mostly in animal products. There are some in select plants, but they are not nearly as bio-available. Get at least 12 ounces of meat in a day, or a few ounces of liver, or a cup[ of raw milk. Seafood like oysters all also a potent source.

Basically, I recommend to get your body weight in protein a day. Get it from a variety of sources like eggs, muscle meat, fish, and organs. This will ensure you are getting folate, B vitamins, and choline. A lack of animal products in the diet will surely lead to deficiency’s in nutrients necessary for methylation. Trying to get all of these nutrients from plant foods is very difficult.

Eating for proper methylation needs to be a way of life, not a fad diet. If this key function for life is optimized your health span will be much longer than what it would be on a nutrient void, processed food/plant based diet.

That’s it for this week everyone. Make sure to leave any comments below, and sign up for our newsletter for updates and a free copy of our ebook, 3 Elements To Lifelong Health!

Elliot Steele is a Primal Health Coach based in Chelan WA.  He strives to empower those looking to regain their health after a lifetime of misinformed  practices.  This is the essence of Steele Back Your Health, to truly learn how to be healthy with sustainable habits.  Check out the coaching and blog page for more info!

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