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Understanding methylation: a critical life process for optimal health

By Jockers:(NaturalNews) Methylation is a critical process that happens trillions of times in every cell each minute. It is one of the most essential metabolic functions of the body and is dependent upon a variety of enzymes. Adapting to stress and the challenges of life is an aspect that methylation provides the body. Without adequate methylation processes the individual cannot adapt effectively and will suffer the delirious effects of accelerated aging.

Methylation is a controlled transfer of a methyl group (one carbon and three hydrogen atoms) onto proteins, amino acids, enzymes and DNA in every cell and tissue of the body to regulate healing, cell energy, genetic expression of DNA, liver detoxification, immunity and neurology. There are many symptoms associated with inadequate methylation including the following:

• Cardiovascular disease • Neurotransmitter imbalances • Cancer • Diabetes • Abnormal immune function • Chronic fatigue • Multiple sclerosis • Dementia • Alzheimer's • Psychiatric disorders • Autism • Down's syndrome • Chronic inflammation • Fertility and miscarriages • Pregnancy problems

Why is methylation such a critical life process?

Methylation is involved in almost every bodily biochemical reaction, and occurs billions of times every second in our cells. That's why figuring out where there are challenges in the cycle and how to help it perform better will significantly improve our health.

There are many key functions of methylation, for example methylation is intimately involved in all of the following processes:

• Turn on and off genes (gene regulation) - this is important in cancer for example • Process chemicals and toxins (bio transformation) helping to reduce our toxic load • Builds neurotransmitters (dopamine, serotonin, epinephrine) • Processes and metabolizes hormones (estrogen) • Build immune cells (T cells and NK cells) • Synthesis of DNA and RNA (thymine is formed from uracil) • Produce energy (CoQ10, Carnitine and ATP) • Produce protective coating on our nerves (via myelination)

What influences the methylation process?

Methylation is regulated by key enzymes and cofactors for activation. This process is dependent upon certain vitamins and minerals. When we are deficient in the necessary substrates and cofactors it compromises the methylation processes.

There are many key nutrients that play a role in methylation. These include zinc, magnesium, B2, B6, folate, B12, niacin and others. Many people consume diets that are deficient or deplete their bodies of these key nutrients. Other individuals have genetic polymorphisms that reduce their ability to absorb and utilize these nutrients.

Medications such as birth control pills, NSAIDs and antacids deplete these nutrients and consume massive quantities of methyl groups for proper detoxification. Heavy metal exposure, chronic infections, alcohol consumption and heavy emotional stress also deplete methyl groups and put us at risk.

Genetic variations play a very important role in the methylation process. The prescence of SNP (single nucleotide polymorphisms) is often a major factor in identifying the underlying cause of imbalanced methylation. The most popular and well-studied SNP is the MTHFR or methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. Polymorphisms in this gene are known to cause minor to major problems with methylation.

Testing for methylation imbalances

Methylation imbalances are often not considered by most doctors and health coaches. Most health care practitioners have little to no education in methylation. Those who are well educated in this subject are the premium when it comes to getting to the underlying cause of your health problems.

Specific blood work can look at an individual's genetic risk for methylation imbalances through analyzing their SNP profile. This is recommended along with a methylation pathway panel that assesses the specific plasma levels of key agents involved in the methylation process and gives a methylation index to look for imbalances.

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