Chronic health challenges are very disruptive to living the life you deserve. Just treating the symptoms with drugs obviously is not the answer, or you would be back to vibrancy.
Many people just exist day to day with low energy, pain and dysfunction. If this decscription fits you, then you need to learn about a concept that may be new to you called methylation. My aim is to help you reclaim your life by deciphering your metabolism.
Since my professional mantra is "The more you learn about how your body works, the better you can take care of your health", I am happy to provide this introduction to methylation. In fact, part of my driving force to my continuing education is to learn more about what drives the illness that plagues my family lineage. My father, his father and his mother all had Parkinson's disease. My mother had Hashimoto's, rheumatoid arthritis, irritable bowel syndrome, colitis and dementia. You can bet my family history is one strong driving force to my incessant investigation into the nuances of functional medicine.
Methylation allows us to be human. Essentially methyl groups (CH3 in chemical format) act as keys or switches to turn reactions on or off. In some situations, adding methyl groups stops reactions (DNA replication) and in some situations adding methyl groups allows chemical reactions to occur. Millions of methylation processes occur every second in every organ in every cell, and in the fluids between our cells. Methylation plays a role in our physical, chemical and emotional status.
Reduced methylation capacity and defects in methylation can be tied to nearly every chronic disease and disorder (see the list below). The level of our health is really determined by the function of our methylation processes. By definition, methylation is the process of adding a methyl group (CH3) to a chemical (hormone, toxine, gene, etc.) to change its function, activate the chemical, or deactivate the chemical.
I promise you that learning about this concept of methylation can bring you joy and hope! Dive in and learn the answer to this question: Can optimized methylation be the key to your health recovery?
The complex diagram above is just part of the methylation pathways that are at work in your amazing body every second! The concepts of methylation and application and use of appropriate and specific laboratory tests can bring about core level healing and blessed relief from your chronic health challenge. Whether you have stubborn thyroid symptoms that won't go away, fibromyalgia, neuropathy, or some "mystery illness no one can figure out", this article will have relevance to you.
I was fortunate to take part in a detailed summary course on methylation hosted by Dr. Eric Balcavage, DC of Glen Mills, Pennsylvania recently. I attended, as did the other doctors, to learn more about what we could do to unravel the mystery of our most difficult patients. I am excited about the potential of the information I learned to help several o these challenging patients.
To understant the impact that methylation has on our health, look at this basic list of functions directly linked to the adding fo thrree little molecules (CH3 in exchange for an H) to another substance:
Functions of Methylation
- Turn on and off genes
- Process chemical; endogenous [chemical made in our body] an xenobiotic [chemicals not made in the body] compounds (biotransformation)
- Build neurotransmitters [the chemicals that run our nervous system] (norepinephrine to epinephrine, serotonin to melatonin)
- Metabolize neurotransmitters (dopamine, epinephrine)
- Process hormones (estrogen)
- Build immune cells (T cells, NK cells)
- Produce energy (CoQ10, Carnitine, ATP)
- Myelination production [the speed enabling covering on our nerves and brain]
- Build and maintain cell membranes
- DNA & Histone synthesis
In short methylation either directly or indirectly impacts nearly every process in the body!
Drug manufacturers know this and produce drugs that can interfere with certain processes of methylation, such as statin medications to control cholesterol.
The problem is when you interfere in a process of the body, rather than taking the time and effort to do the right types of test to decipher the reason(s) why the process is not working right, more problems are created. Often the problems created by the drugs are as bad or worse than the original problem AND the original problem is still an issue...it is just covered over. Would you ever consider painting over a moldy wall day in and day out, just to give the appearance that the problem is solved? Well, if you were in the right state of mind, you would not consider that solution a viable one. But that is exactly what happens when someone takes a medication daily to suppress a symptom rather than dig deep to solve the metabolic mystery with proper testing and intervention.
What happens when methylation breaks down?
Here is a list fo the main negative effects that occur when methylation breaks down:
- Reduced ability to regulate gene expression
- Reduced ability to detoxify and reduce toxic load
- Reduced ability to make neurotransmitters (dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine)
- Reduced ability to metaboloze (breakdown) neurotransmitters (dopamine, epinephrine, noreepinephrine)
- Reduced ability to process hormones (estrogen)
- Reduced ability to make and regulate immune cells (T cells, NK cells)
- Reduced ability to ability to produce energy (CoQ10, Carnitine, Creatine, ATP)
- Reduced ability to produce myelin
- Reduced ability to build and maintain cell membranes
- Reduced ability for DNA and histone syntheis
In short, methylation either directly or indirectly impacts nearly every process in the body.
What Conditions Can Occur As A Result of Methylation Problems?
- Fibromyalgia/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome
- Pulmonary embolism
- Addictive behavior, even alcholism
- Autism or Down's Syndrome
- Frequent miscariages
- Bipolar or manic depression
- Allergies or multiple chemical sensitivities
- Spina bifida or cleft palate or neural tube defects
- Multiple sclerosis and other autoimmune disorders
- Hashimoto's or hypothyroidism
- ADD or ADHD
- Lyme disease
- Chronic viral infections
What tests could be used to solve your health challenge that could be due to a methylation mishap?
First of all a good look at a FULL complete blood test with the following attributes:
- Complete blood count with differential
- Complete blood sugar evaluation with fasting blood sugar, fasting insulin and HbA1C
- Complete iron panel
- Inflammation panel that includes homocysteine, C-Reactive Protein and fibrinogen
- Electrolytes amd minerals
- Complete thyroid panel with 10 markers including thyroid antibodies (not just TSH and T4)
Secondly, a test to look at variants in genetic makeup that affect the enzymes that carry out the methylation reactions. I like using 23andMe due to the easy method of collection (saliva) and the relatively low fee. The 23and Me test provides a raw genetic data file that you can then use to find your methylation gene flaws called SNP's or Single Nucleotide Polymorphisms. To decipher the raw genetic data via we use sites such as GeneticGenie or LiveWello.
Thirdly, using a test called a methylation profile provides another "piece of the puzzle". This test will fill in the blanks on what quantities of methylation biproducts you are producing such as Glutathione (oxidized), Glutathione (reduced), S-adenosyl-methionine (RBC), S-adenosyl-homocysteine (RBC), Tetrahydrofolate (THE), 5-methyl-THF, 10-forrnyl-THF, 5-formyl-THF, Folic Acid, Folinic Acid, Folic Acid (RBC), Adenosine. The quantities of these substances need to be evaluated to see if various chemical reactions in the methylation cycle have occurred properly.
Fourth, its important to use a test that measures the chemicals your body makes that are part of the enzymes or the products of the enzymes in the methylation pathways. The results of this test helps the functional medicine practitioner know whether you are makeing insufficient or optimal quatities nutrients that supply the enzymes your methylation enzymes require to function properly. This test is called the Optimal Nutrition Evaluation (ONE) test.
Armed with the results of these tests Dr. Karl R.O.S. Johnson, DC or someone else versed in the concepts of methylation can help you unravel the mysteries to your chronic health challenge and get you back on the road to vibrant health!
For more details about the natural approach I take with my patients, take a look a the book I wrote entitled: Reclaim Your Life; Your Guide To Revealing Your Body's Life-Changing Secrets For Renewed Health. It is available in my office or at Amazon and many other book outlets. If you found value in this article, please use the social sharing icons at the top of this post and please share with those you know who are still suffering with chronic health challenges, despite receiving medical management. Help me reach more people so they may regain their zest for living! Thank you!
ALL THE BEST – DR. KARL R.O.S. JOHNSON, DC – DIGGING DEEPER TO FIND SOLUTIONS