Methylation and Mental Health: Why We Should Pay Attention to Our DNA
You might not know it, but a crucial bodily process is often overlooked when it comes to mental health. Methylation and mental health are naturally intertwined, and supporting methylation could revolutionize mental health care.
Mental health disorders are rising – about one in five adults is currently diagnosed with some type of mental health disorder. Knowing that, mental health experts are doing all they can to figure out what causes them and how they can help.
Methylation is part of the production and metabolism of neurotransmitters – chemicals that regulate mood, behavior, and cognition. It helps to ensure that neurotransmitters, like dopamine, serotonin, and norepinephrine, are produced and metabolized in the proper amounts, which is essential for maintaining good mental health.
It also helps to regulate gene expression in the brain, which can influence mental health outcomes. Research has shown that changes in methylation patterns can lead to altered gene expression, which can contribute to the development of mental health conditions, such as depression, anxiety, and bipolar disorder.
Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine in Boulder, Colorado uses a holistic approach to mental health which is why methylation is such a central concern. Keep reading to learn more about methylation and why it’s essential to a healthy brain.
What is Methylation?
Methylation is a process by which a methyl group – consisting of one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms – is added to various molecules in the body. This process is involved in a variety of important biochemical reactions in the body, including detoxification, cardiovascular health, and hormone regulation.
Methylation and Detoxification
Methylation is critical for the proper function of the liver – the body’s main detoxification organ. Specifically, methylation is involved in the processing of toxins, drugs, and other foreign substances that enter the body. It helps to convert these substances into a form that can be eliminated from the body, which is essential for maintaining overall health and well-being.
Methylation and Cardiovascular Health
Methylation also supports a healthy heart by regulating the homocysteine levels in the blood. Homocysteine is an amino acid that can be harmful when present in high amounts. Methylation helps to convert homocysteine into other beneficial compounds, which helps to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Methylation and Hormone Regulation
Methylation is also involved in the production, metabolism, and activation of various hormones in the body, including estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol. It ensures that these hormones are produced and metabolized in the proper amounts, which is important for maintaining overall hormonal balance.
“As research progresses, we’re learning more about the role that methylation plays in the brain, including the ways that it influences our emotions, thoughts, and behavior.” – Dr. Terry Wahls
Overall, methylation is a critical process that is involved in many important biochemical reactions in the body. By understanding its role in detoxification, cardiovascular health, and hormone regulation, we can better appreciate the importance of supporting methylation through proper nutrition, supplementation, and lifestyle habits.
What is DNA Methylation?
Methylation is part of a study called epigenetics. Epigentics is the study of how your behavior and environment affect how your genes work.
DNA methylation is when your body adds chemicals to your DNA. The added chemicals can effectively turn the gene “OFF.” Genes that are turned off no longer produce the necessary proteins that your body needs to function.
The effect of DNA methylation on your mental health can be drastic.
For example, if serotonin is not methylated, it becomes inactive. People with depression often suffer from a lack of serotonin and take medications designed to keep your brain from reabsorbing serotonin (SSRIs). The SSRIs increase the amount of serotonin available to receptors and thus improve your mood.
The epigenetic changes that cause your serotonin levels to drop, or alter your liver, heart, and hormone regulation, can be caused by normal development and aging. However, they may also be a product of your environment and lifestyle.
Poor Methylation Symptoms
Because methylation affects so many of the body’s systems, it can be hard to recognize when methylation is out of whack. Your body can under-methylate or over-methylate, and each imbalance has its own symptoms.
If you don’t methylate well, DNA and RNA expression is altered. Eventually, poor methylation can lead to disease and other symptoms.
Some symptoms of poor methylation include:
- OCD and perfectionism
- Digestive issues
- Frequent headaches
- High libido
- Low pain threshold
- Difficulty concentrating
- Poor short-term memory
Over methylation has distinct symptoms. The problem with over-methylation is that you produce too many methyls and your body can’t use them all.
Typical symptoms of over-methylation include:
- Paranoia and schizophrenia
- Sleep disorders
- Low libido
- High pain threshold
- Poor concentration
Both under and over-methylation come with their own problems and symptoms. But once you start treating them, you can see results within three to four months!
How to Improve Methylation for Better Mental Health
At Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine, we use several holistic approaches to support methylation for mental health. The functional medicine approach looks at the whole body. So, to make lasting changes to your methylation, you need to implement several lifestyle changes.
Eating a nutrient-dense diet: Consuming a diet that is rich in vitamins and minerals, particularly B vitamins, folate, and magnesium, can help to support methylation. Foods that are particularly rich in these nutrients include leafy green vegetables, whole grains, nuts and seeds, and lean protein sources.
Reducing stress: Chronic stress can have a negative impact on methylation, so it is important to take steps to reduce stress levels. This can include practicing relaxation techniques, such as meditation or deep breathing, engaging in regular exercise, and getting enough restful sleep.
Supplementing with methyl donors: Methyl donors, such as methyl folate, methylcobalamin (vitamin B12), and trimethylglycine (TMG), can help to support methylation. It is important to work with a qualified healthcare practitioner to determine the appropriate dosages and combinations of supplements.
Avoiding toxins: Exposure to toxins, such as heavy metals and pesticides, can disrupt methylation. It is important to minimize exposure to these toxins by eating organic foods, using natural cleaning and personal care products, and avoiding exposure to environmental pollutants.
By incorporating these holistic approaches into your daily routine, you can help to support methylation for optimal mental health.
Contact Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine
Methylation is a complex process and should be approached under the guidance of a qualified healthcare practitioner, particularly if you have a history of mental health conditions or genetic mutations that affect methylation.
Contact Boulder Holistic Functional Medicine in Boulder, Colorado to schedule an appointment to learn more about how methylation may affect your mental health. One of our experienced doctors will meet with you to discuss a treatment plan that addresses your unique symptoms. We offer MTHRF testing as well as comprehensive methylation testing to get you started on your road to better mental health.
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