The Most Simple Methylation Explanation Ever
Many people are beginning to learn about a little process called methylation. It is occurring about a billion times in your body right now so it's kind of a big deal. This little cycle is absolutely amazing in it's power and complexity and in it's ability to completely change a person's life forever. However, most of the articles you read are full of jargon and are difficult for a beginner to understand. Don't worry, soon enough words like single-nucleotide polymorphism and methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase will just roll right off your tongue, but for now let's just step back and start from the beginning.
This cycle is made up of smaller cycles that go round and round like cars on race tracks so there isn't really a beginning or an end so we will just pick a point and start. Keep looking back to the diagram as you read along and you will get it! For now, we aren't even going to worry about the big long scientific names and will, instead, just use the alphabet. So, we have 3 cycles- A, B, and C. Simple, right? They connect with A and B overlapping and B and C doing the same. As my 4 year old would say, easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy.
Now, let's talk about cycle A. This is important for a few reasons. When functioning properly, it helps do a lot of things: 1) keeps your blood flowing right and helps prevent stroke and other cardiovascular/heart issues, 2) leads into antioxidant production, 3) leads into detoxification, 4) helps balance acids, 5) helps balance mood, 6) helps with energy production, 7) helps with ability to focus. Whew! Ok, so that is a lot! Convinced at how important methylation is? So, if you have issues with cycle A you can see how you might not feel so good, right? Issues with cycle A (and arrows 1 & 2) can cause ammonia levels to rise, antoxidant levels to fall, and can lead to a lot of chronic issues, like fatigue, digestive issues, autoimmune issues, frequent illnesses, gout, anxiety, depression, lack of focus, and more.
So what about the other cycles?
Well, they all tie together and are reliant on each other, so if you have issues with cycle A, it can also cause issues with cycle B and C, since A feeds into these. Not enough "stuff" made in cycle A, not enough "stuff" to be processed in cycles B and C. Cycle B is very important when it comes to processing vitamin B12 and folate. About 40% of the population has some gene variation that causes issues with this cycle, decreasing activity by as much as 70% in certain individuals. If you have issues with cycle B you can end up with the issues we talked about in relation to cycle A, plus things like aluminum build-up and miscarriages.
Ok, on to cycle C. Cycle C is also important in fetal development and issues with this cycle can cause severe health concerns in newborns. It also plays a huge role in keeping blood vessels and circulation healthy and in the prevention of allergies. If this cycle is not running fast enough then your histamine levels will go up and you will develop allergy symptoms. It also feeds into other pathways (arrow 3) that help control mood and sleep. Issues along arrow 3 can lead to anxiety, depression, insomnia, irritability, anger issues, and even severe mental concerns like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia.
Throughout all of these cycles, different "things" are needed to keep the cars running smoothly. These are the vitamins and minerals that act to keep these vehicles going- they are the fuel, the steering wheel, the spark plugs, and all those other fun car terms. At this point, we aren't going to care what they are- we just want to understand that this is why vitamins can make people feel so much better when taken correctly (or make them feel awful if used improperly). These vitamins speed up and slow down these cycles and, like those cars on the race tracks, if they speed things up too much, crashes will happen. It's about keeping them running just right.
Now, there are a whole lot of people out there absolutely cringing at the simplicity of these arrows and circles and I will say that yes, there are many, many more arrows that come into and out of these circles and the arrows 1-3 further split, travel, split again, and the journey is long and complex. I like to start simple, though. VERY simple. Once you understand this, we can layer on the next level of understanding, delve a little deeper, and start making connections without being overwhelmed. Sounds nice, right?
For now, the breakdown is this:
- 3 cycles turn, turn, turn and are very important in keeping us healthy.
- This turning process requires vitamins and minerals (from food or supplements)
- These cycles need to stay in balance for optimal health
- Diet and lifestyle are very important in keeping things turning properly
- When things are out of balance there are a WHOLE lot of issues that can occur.
Finding gene issues doesn't mean that we find symptoms and this is often just part of a larger picture that we need to consider when evolving a treatment plan. A HUGE part of this is about your lifestyle and if you are exercising, eating well, relaxing, and doing everything right, you may naturally be overcoming any blockages that you inherited in your methylation cycle. People with numerous issues tend to just have less wiggle room in their lifestyle- if they eat something unhealthy or get sleep deprived a little they will feel way worse than someone who naturally has a good methylation cycle. Nobody is perfect, but figuring out exactly how big that wiggle room is can be a great first step. A lot of these issues also will go undetected until suddenly they are a very big concern, so this is also about optimizing health and preventing illness.
To start exploring more check out some of my favorite resources here.