Methylation and DNA Repair. Methylation helps repair your DNA on a daily basis. It is a key process that is essential for proper function of almost all of your body’s systems. And it occurs billions of times every second! If you don’t methylate well, you aren’t well. It controls homocysteine (an unhealthy compound that can damage blood vessels). It helps recycle molecules needed for detoxification. And it helps maintain mood and keep inflammation in check.
Based on extensive research from recent years, the good news is that cognitive decline is not an inevitable consequence of getting older! If you are experiencing any of the following symptoms you can do something about it!
Some of the earliest signs of an aging brain are:
- Getting fatigued by brain activity, such as driving long distances, reading and mental tasks. If you remember driving long distances when you were in your twenties and thirties, but now feel less and less inclined to take long road trips, you are experiencing a symptom of brain fatigue, not body fatigue. Or if you used to be able to sit down and read for two to three hours but now can only manage one, this too is brain fatigue.
- Depression: This can be a sign that the frontal cortex is not firing.
- Poor digestive function: This is surprising! There’s an important nerve that runs from your brain to your digestive tract, called the vagus nerve, which stimulates the production of enzymes, gallbladder contractions and motility in the intestines. Weak stimulation of this nerve can lead to all sorts of digestive problems.
What happens to your body without proper methylation?
Dementia, mood disorders, poor sleep and brain degeneration, to name a few.
Methylation and DNA Repair: Homocysteine and Methylation
- Ask your doctor to test your homocysteine level. This is the most important test! The normal homocysteine level is less than 13, but the ideal is between 6 and 8. Or go to a functional medicine practitioner who can order a methylation panel.
- Look at your latest CBC (complete blood count) blood test for red blood cells with a mean corpuscular volume (MCV) greater than 95 which can signal a methylation problem.
- Get a blood or urine Methylmalonic acid test. This is a more specific test for vitamin B12 deficiency, to help diagnose an early or mild B12 deficiency. It may be ordered as a follow-up to a Vitamin B12 test result that is in the lower end of the normal range. This test is mostly used by functional medicine practitioners. The homocysteine and methylmalonic acid tests are not routinely ordered, so you’ll need to ask your doctor.
How do we support methylation?
1) Eat more dark, leafy greens! You want to get at least one cup a day of either:) bok choy, escarole, Swiss chard, kale, watercress, spinach, or dandelion, mustard, collard, or beet greens. These are among the most abundant sources of the nutrients needed for optimal methylation.
2) We all need optimal levels of the B vitamin family to keep methylation running smoothly. B vitamins (particularly B12, B6), trimethylglycine (also known as TMG and betaine). When looking for a supplement, I recommend using a combination product of several B vitamins and, in light of recent damning evidence on synthetic folic acid, look for a product containing a particular form of folic acid: L-5-methyl tetrahydrofolate, ( L-5-MTHF) to ensure efficacy and safety. Don’t take extra folic acid if you are dealing with cancer. The most beneficial form of Vitamin B12 is “methylcobalamin,” now readily available and a preferred alternative to cyanocobalamin. Good B Vitamin food sources include sunflower seeds and wheat germ (vitamin B6); fish and eggs (vitamin B 6 and B12); cheese (B12); beans and walnuts (vitamin B6 and foliate); leafy dark green vegetables; asparagus, almonds, and whole grains (foliate); and organic liver (all three).
3) Minimize animal protein, and saturated fat. Animal protein directly increases homocysteine. Working on the emotional/mental levels: EFT and Matrix Reimprinting (MR) are two powerful techniques that help relieve stress, anxiety, grief, depression, or when you are feeling stuck in your life or unhealthy behavior. Working with EFT on a regular basis can help you break old patterns as well as develop new, more constructive ones. Some people have likened this tool to “psychological acupressure” that helps discharge and unblock any emotional upset or pain that you might be holding in your experience. You instantly recognize what is holding you back from doing what you want to accomplish in life and begin to attain a much clearer understanding of yourself. Both techniques help to improve your self-esteem and boost your self-confidence. You can learn these self-help techniques and use them on your own, or work with a practitioner for more complex issues.