Methylation is a biochemical process that builds neurotransmitters like dopamine and serotonin, produces energy, processes hormones, builds immune cells, turns genes on and off, synthesizes DNA, produces the protective coating on your nerves and transforms toxins into safer substances. Chemically speaking, methylation describes the addition of a methyl group to a substrate (source material) thereby producing a new chemical. Sometimes instead of simply adding a methyl group, some other atom or group in the substrate is replaced.
Methylation happens in all the cells of your body distributing methyl (CH3) groups to as many as 50 or more other chemical processes in the body. That’s why you can’t be vibrantly healthy if methylation isn’t running smoothly in your body. That’s also why the symptom list associated with methylation disfunction is so long – it includes allergies, Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, Autism, PMS, erectile dysfunction, heart arrhythmia and palpitations, IBS, Crohn’s disease, depression, Seasonal Affect Disorder, MCS, Alzheimer’s, sleep disorders, dementia and countless others.
Methylation depends on a number of vitamins and cofactors which must be present for adequate functioning – those include folate and vitamin B12. Each of these is a potential weak link which may hobble your methylation cycle because of deficient diet, genetic mutation, toxic exposure, high stress, virus, infection or any combination of those.
The toxic exposure factor is particularly interesting because most of us think we’re in the clear when we’re not. You may never have thought about your exposure to toxic chemicals because you don’t work in a factory, but today, just about every manufactured item you touch leaves traces of industrial chemicals in your body. Every can of tuna, every plastic bag, Styrofoam cup, cleaning product and consumer product you touch is introducing chemicals into your blood that were unknown 200 years ago.
You don’t even need to touch anything — just get in your new car and drive to OfficeMax to pick up some paper. The air you’ve breathed is full of petrochemicals and they make their way into your bloodstream. Or maybe you have mercury containing dental fillings. That’s all it takes.
There’s not a person alive today that doesn’t have heavy metal levels wildly exceeding those that would’ve been found 500 or 1,000 years ago in humans. That’s a problem because heavy metals like mercury probably have the ability to partially block the methylation cycle.
Methylation is catalyzed by enzymes which are fragile and easily damaged by toxins like heavy metals (especially mercury).
Here is an explanation of how Mercury may be related to vitamin B12 (and thus methylation) written by Christina Bolander-Gouaille:
Well, there may well be some important links. The monovalent cobalt atom in methyl B12 is readily oxidized by various compounds – for instance nitrous oxide. This oxidation inactivates methioninsyntase (MS) which has then to be formed de novo. Mercury, as we know, does oxidize many compounds, logically also cobalt. lf this hypothesis (which is about to be verified), is confirmed, it means that mercury can block the methylation cycle and thus induce a functional B12-deficiency (folates are not altered). This in turn is one explanation of why symptoms of mercury overload and vitamin B12-deficiency may be identical!
There is also a second possible interaction between vitamin B12, and mercury. Mercury has indeed been shown to impair the Transport of vitamin B12 over the blood-brain barrier which results in a low CSF/serum concentration ratio of the vitamin. Low CSF levels of vitamin B12 (and high CSF-homocysteine levels) have been observed in fibromyalgia (chronic fatigue syndrome), MS and in dementia. High doses of vitamin B12, that overcome the block to some extent, has had sometimes stunning results in these conditions.
And from LEF, A review of Methyl Magic: Maximum Health Through Methylation by Craig Cooneyon on exercise/sauna:
Cooney also states that moderate exercise is important for better methylation. He too warns against strenuous exercise such as marathon running, which has been found to decrease the levels of choline, among other things. Moderate exercise, however, is vital for improving circulation. Good circulation, in turn, insures better handling of homocysteine. Cooney recommends exercise that is sufficiently vigorous to make a person sweat, and one that alternately dilates and constricts blood vessels in the extremities. Sauna followed by cooling down has a similar effect. Cooney mentions that massage likewise enhances circulation. Exercise also helps us stay slender. In general, the lower the body mass index (BMI), the lower the homocysteine.
Here’s how I got started exploring methylation – with the great video below (thanks Sean) starring Ben Lynch about the genetic defect MTHFR which disrupts methylation. This is a really good primer on the subject of methylation because lots of us affected by heavy metals probably have the MTHFR defect. Of note, the methylation process plays an important role in detoxification. If this video is too technical, you may want to start with the video Methylation Made Easy or if you’re ready to try a methylation therapy, you may want to jump over to Active B12 therapy and methylation FAQ.
Finally, here is the summation of methylation written by Viking that got me started on this journey. Note that I’ve changed the timing of the Folate & B12 dosing based on Dr. Lynch‘s comments in the video (folate-first causes unpleasant side effects):
- Methylation is a central and vital process in the whole body and if this get’s disturbed, all sorts of things go wrong. Mercury is known to disrupt this process.
- There are lots of different supplements that you can take to improve this, but the basic ones are: B vitamin complex, folate and vitamin B12. All of these are recommended by Cutler.
- In my case, B12 acted as a sleeping pill for the first 3-6 months. Really knocked me out, but in a good way.
- There is a great deal of debate about what exact form one should take of these supplements. Many people on FDC, including me, more or less follow the advice of a person called Freddd, that has a very long thread about this at Phoenix Rising and here. What it boils down to is:
- The folate needs to be in active form (Metafolin) and the recommended one is this. BUT for it to work, you must eliminate all non active folate (folic acid). Many normal B complex has this and in the US it is also added to some food.
- One recommended B complex that has only Metafolin is this.
- Finally, the recommended B12 is this and this. Important: These needs to slowly (minimum 40 minutes) dissolve under the lip or tongue.
I use all of those and it has really worked. Here’s how to start up.
All of this should take about 2-3 weeks. But if you try it, be ready for some reactions! I got racing heart and palpitations in the beginning, but it soon went away. Just be careful and if you get meaningful reactions, stay on (or lower) the dose until it feels safe.
Word of warning: Cutler says that some individuals can get angry and agitated by B12, so watch out for this and if it happens, stop and do more research.
And, as always, this is just something that worked for me. It may or may not work for others and everybody should do their own research.
- http://forums.phoenixrising.me/index.php?threads/b-12-the-hidden-story.142/ and http://forums.phoenixrising.me/index.php?threads/active-b12-protocol-basics.10138/
- http://mthfr.net/ and http://mthfr.net/methylfolate-side-effects/2012/03/01/