B Vitamins and Methylation
Last week a client came to me following an abnormal pap smear. Any nutritional advice – she asked?
I suggested she consider taking folate and B12, since studies show the combination can help with the prevention of cervical cancer.
But I made sure she opted for the right B12, and the right folate.
In other words the methyl version of these vitamins – the natural form your body knows how to use.
Methylation is how your body manages to stay in balance.
When you’re blood sugar is high, you rely on the process of methylation to release insulin; when your body is burdened with toxins, you need healthy methylation to detox and methyl enzymes are essential to convert and absorb key nutrients.
‘Methylation helps the body rid itself of toxins and assures that the new cells you make everyday are exact copies of the ones that are being replaced,’ explains Dr. Garry Gordon, co-founder of the American College for Advancement in Medicine (ACAM).
‘Amazingly, many doctors today still know nothing about the methyl form of folic acid and why I insist on giving it along with the sublingual methyl form of B12.’
Along with getting enough B vitamins – we’ll cover that in a second – there are other factors that affect methylation.
4 Factors that Mess with Methylation
Low stomach acid: Stomach acid is necessary to digest food and help you absorb vital nutrients including B12. Age can reduce stomach acid as well as certain health conditions and medications including antacids.
Plastics Bisphenyl A (BPA) found in plastic water bottles can disrupt the methylation process, triggering DNA changes. In one landmark study, scientist Randy Jirtle and his group of researchers exposed pregnant mice to bisphenol A and watched as more of their offspring developed into yellow, obese mice (Dolinoy et al., 2007). Start sipping from stainless steel now.
Smoking The carbon monoxide from cigarette smoke inactivates vitamin B6.
Heavy Metals Especially mercury, which binds to the amino acid methionine and interferes with methylation.
Unfortunately we’re constantly exposed to this neurotoxic metal – mercury is in mascara, your favourite sushi restaurant, in the water you drink and the air you breathe (16 per cent of airborne mercury in the UK is estimated to be from crematoria burning fillings and teeth).
So how do you protect the vital methylation processes in your body?
Improve your stomach aid by taking digestive enzymes or increasing your intake of bitter foods like lemons, rocket and apple cider vinegar; reduce your exposure to plastics and mercury (for instance swap plastic Tupperware for Pyrex and choose low mercury fish) quit smoking and most importantly up your intake of B vitamins.
Foods rich in B vitamins include the following:
For Folate, think fibre. You need to eat plenty of dark leafy greens like kale, spinach, bok choy, parsley and mustard greens to get your dose.
Good sources of B12 include organic eggs, oily fish (preferably line caught and low in mercury) mussels, oysters and organic meat.
For B6, eat more sunflower seeds, salmon and sweet potato.
However you may still want to consider a supplement, for the following reasons:
If you are vegan it can be hard to get adequate levels of B12 through food – in fact some argue it’s impossible.
If you have been on the contraceptive pill you might want to take folate – since oral contraceptives interfere with folate metabolism. In addition, a common gene mutation means many people cannot convert food folate into the usable methyl form.
Going supplement shopping? Here’s your crib sheet:
Look for supplements that contain methyl folate ie 5-methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MTHF. Such as Methyl-Pro5-MTHF Extrafolate-S® 5mg.
Avoid products that say ‘folic acid’ – most multivitamins contain this synthetic form, which has been linked to cancer. In the US, rates of colorectal cancer began to increase in 1996 and the same happened in Canada in 1998 following folic acid fortification of foods.
Look for supplements that contain methyl cobalamin. Such as Better You Boost B12 Oral Spray.
Avoid products containing cyanocobalamin, which is found in 99 per cent of the vitamins on the market containing B12.
Not only does cyanocobalamin contain cyanide, but it is made from recovered activated sewage sludge or ‘produced through total chemical synthesis’ according to health researcher Sayer Ji from GreenMedInfo.
In addition, a study published in 1997 in the journal Blood, found that cyanocobalamin ‘antagonizes vitamin B12 in vitro and causes cell death from methionine deficiency.’
Bottom line, you’ll feel better with methyl vitamins according to a growing number of holistic physicians. Dr. Richard Moore is one of them. At his clinic in Bondi Juntion Sydney, he offers a range of intravenous nutrition including methyl B12 shots: ‘The methyl group of vitamins are necessary for serotonin production – the feel good hormone – so sometimes B12 can really help people with mood issues.’
Research is increasingly showing that diet is intimately linked with our mental health – probiotics being hailed as the new Prozac is a case in point – but it’s also true that our mental state affects our biochemistry. For instance when we’re stressed we burn through C and B vitamins as well as selenium and essential fatty acids.
That’s why as a health coach I look beyond food: sometimes I’m there to talk supplements other times it’s stress – I will work with a client to identify triggers and find strategies to help them manage fist-bighting situations better.
That in turn can help with everything from losing weight and balancing hormones, to boosting immunity and slowing hair loss.
For a short time only – until the end of this year – I have dropped my health coaching prices. If you are interested in booking a session with me, you can find out more here
Laura Bond is a journalist, author and health coach. She specialises in helping clients beat stress, reduce their toxic load and prepare their bodies for babies. To find out more, click here.