You've probably noticed the link between how you eat and how you feel. But what about when you eat well enough for long enough: have you noticed how a healthy diet gives you more energy, better blood panels, and radiant skin? How are these all related?
One reason is related to your “B” vitamins and your methylation status.
A "methyl" is just a small molecule. It's one of the smallest things you can make with the materials readily available in your body. Because it's so small and so common, a methyl group is one of the easiest ways your cells can signal to each other to make things happen.
The methylation process is so universal that the only metaphor I can think of is your time. Need to accomplish anything? You're going to need time - and methyl groups - to do it. It's used as a part of almost everything your body does, but do you know if you have enough methyl groups to keep up with your body's demand?
For example, methylation is used for:
- Repairing damaged skin and any other cancer-causing DNA damage
- Making neurotransmitters and maintaining mental clarity
- Coding how your genes are expressed
- Making new cells (think of your blood cells, which have to turn over every 3 months to keep you working and energized)
The list goes on. So if you've got a sunburn, your body is directing extra energy and methyl groups into repairing damaged DNA. And if your levels are being used up there, your body has less to use for something else on that list. That's a reason why you might consider getting more riboflavin - a methyl donor - help prevent DNA damage while tanning and keep your skin healthy and beautiful. With skin health and methylation, there’s an interesting other key nutrient that might be able to help; read on for more details.
Other ways you might have low methyl stores are if you're not getting enough in your food or if you're part of the 25 - 40% of people whose bodies don't recycle methyl groups well (hint: you might be at risk if you’re of European, Mediterranean, or Hispanic descent). Oxidative stress can lower your methylation status too - is there anything oxidative stress doesn’t harm?! If your levels are low, you might not have enough to make the neurotransmitters to keep depression at bay and your mental energy up. A part of your methylation cycle - something called “homocysteine” - might get backed up, increasing your risk of heart disease.
Woah there, not having enough methyl groups could make me more at risk for heart disease?
The short answer is yes, this is why some people at risk of heart disease take a folate supplement (it's a great methyl source). But for some people this might be treating the blood test and not the root cause of the issue - for example, using hormone replacement therapy in post-menapausal women might not lower heart disease risk even though it can lower homocysteine.
What’s the big picture on methylation?
Let’s back up a bit. The methylation cycle is required for making DNA, repairing damage, detoxing, and many other beneficial processes, meaning it’s crucial for understanding how to age gracefully. It requires B vitamins (B12, folate, B6, riboflavin) and some small proteins (amino acids: glycine, methionine, homocysteine), but that’s only part of it . Since it’s such a fundamental process, how it functions can affect all kinds of other systems.
For example, let’s look at skin health. We all want beautiful skin as we age. The primary thing keeping us from looking radiantly young is radiation from sun exposure, which is good in small doses but can leave sun scars, dark uneven coloring, and wrinkles. Sun exposure causes DNA damage and DNA is repaired using parts of the methylation cycle. Now, if your methylation cycle isn’t working well, homocysteine shoots up, and it might impair your natural nitric oxide. Having low nitric oxide means your blood vessels are stiff and can’t get enough nutrients to parts of your body. And if your blood isn’t delivering enough nutrition, your cells can’t repair themselves, leaving you with dry, wrinkly, burned skin that shows its age. It might be a long path, but it shows the methyl connection between the health of your heart and the beauty of your skin.
The players in the methylation game
Normal levels of homocysteine are important for keeping the methylation cycle going. Homocysteine is the weak link in the methylation cycle: if you don't have the proper nutrition to keep up with your demand for methyl groups, the cycle gets stuck on homocysteine. Note the "cysteine", that antioxidant, anti-inflammatory sulfur-source we talked about in our post on glutathione and sulfur. Eating a lot of sulfur in meat and green veggies only increases your homocysteine levels when you're not getting enough of the other vitamins in the methylation cycle. Read on.
Homocysteine is essentially in balance with S-adenosyl-methionine (SAMe). SAMe is supported by your other B vitamins (B12, folate, B6, riboflavin), choline, and betaine. So, not enough B vitamin support can tip the scale and lead to higher homocysteine and poor outcomes. High homocysteine can hurt the way nitric oxide works, which spells trouble for your heart and everything your blood touches, which is almost everything in your body.
Nitric oxide - read more on our article here - plays a key role in relaxing blood veins to combat high blood pressure. Having the right amount is crucial for heart health and energy. It is a good player in this fight: nitric oxide might be able to overpower high homocysteine. Although studies in humans haven’t looked at this powerful feature of nitric oxide, it appears that as long as you have enough folate, nitric oxide can detoxify high homocysteine. With government mandated folate fortification in most processed foods, the question is then, do you have enough nitric oxide? Try out our Resync recovery blend and see if it makes the difference in your heart health! Add in the other players like folate and B vitamins along with reducing oxidative stress with diet, lifestyle and exercise, and you’ve got a winning combo to knock out homocysteine, rev up your energy levels, and keep your risk for heart disease in check!
What do I eat to support my methylation cycle?
Methyl groups aren’t something you eat by themselves. They come as part of vitamins and proteins in your food, so it’s important to know where to get them. We’ll break it down by individual nutrients you should pay attention to in order to support your methylation status:
B vitamins: Folate, B12, B6, and Riboflavin. The B vitamins are collectively important for the methylation cycle and all the good things it can do for you, but they’re crucial for everything else you do as well! You want to turn food into energy. You need B vitamins. Want to optimize your B vitamins with food? You can get almost all of them with nature’s delicious multivitamin, liver or with the great seasoning, fortified nutritional yeast. Otherwise, get a variety of whole foods like: green vegetables, fish, eggs, yogurt, avocado, nuts, seeds, and beans.
Choline. Besides being a key player in methylation, choline is crucial for preserving cognitive health, especially in people at risk of Alzheimer’s disease, and can help prevent non-alcoholic fatty liver disease, the silent epidemic that anybody carrying more than a few extra pounds should learn about. Choline is highest in eggs and liver, but it’s also in other animal products like fish and yogurt, whole grains and seeds, soy, and green leafy vegetables like beets and spinach.
Betaine. Supplementing with betaine has been shown to lower homocysteine but scientists are unsure if it decreases heart disease risk. It’s made from glycine, which is very high in our collagen blend, or from choline. Get it in wheat bran, spinach, beets, and shellfish.
Sulfur. This super important mineral is important for more than your spa treatment! Your body makes cysteine, vital for maintaining your antioxidant status, and methionine which helps keep your methylation cycle working strong. Find sulfur in animal products or go for spicy alliums (onion, garlic, leeks), and leafy greens, among others. Check out our post on sulfur and glutathione for more practical tips on optimizing your sulfur!
Nitrates (which turn into nitric oxide). Want to learn more about why nitrates are essential for your health, especially if you’re trying to keep your youthful vitality? Read more in our science post on nitric oxide! Get your healthy nitrates from red veggies like beets, carrots, and especially oxystorm’s red spinach and greens like spinach, chard,
- Methylation is important for how your body works, including repairing damage, detoxification, neurotransmitters, coding how your genes are expressed, making new cells, and detoxification, to name a few.
- If you tan or get a lot of sun exposure, you might try getting more B vitamins, riboflavin, and other nutrients to support your antioxidant system.
- Folate might help to safely lower high homocysteine and slightly reduce the risk of heart disease.
- Poor methylation and high homocysteine can impair nitric oxide - the key to blood vein flexibility - but research shows that extra nitric oxide might overcome high blood pressure caused by homocysteine.
- Support your methylation cycle with food sources of your B-complex vitamins, choline, and sulfur.
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