Methylation Diet By Brooke Erickson, MS, CN
The mapping of the human genome in 2001 was a significant milestone for the science of epigenetics and catapulted us into a new world of research. The opportunity for individuals to learn their DNA has become easily accessible through direct-to-consumer companies. While this has great potential for health outcomes as we learn more about the science, it can also lead to the misuse of supplements to compensate for genetic variants, also known as single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs), which may or may not be causing any health issues.
The methylation cycle is arguably one of the most important biochemical pathways in the body. It plays a role in an endless amount of functions in the body including immune function, detoxification, gene expression, energy production, inflammation, hormonal balance, and neurotransmitter function to name a few. Balancing methylation is a highly complex dance that involves many different genes and pathways. Think of it as a game of dominos where each one has to be lined up just right in order for them to continue to fall. This is similar to how enzymatic reactions work in the methylation cycle. Without taking into consideration the methylation cycle in its entirety, the dominos could stop falling and as a result cause other imbalances. This is one reason that people are often very sensitive to high dose supplementation and need to work with a practitioner who can see the big picture and ease them into it. Discovering that you carry one of the SNPs for MTHFR and starting to supplement with large doses of folate or B12 could actually make you feel worse.
The primary goal is supporting the methylation pathway by reducing/removing toxins and other burdens that drain essential nutrients while nourishing the body with a variety of nutrients that not only support methylation, but also detoxification, immune regulation, as well as gut health. Using food as medicine to support methylation is a safe place to start, especially for those who can’t tolerate supplementation. It is also a good long-term approach for those who are using supplementation to work through imbalances or for maintaining balance afterward. A methylation supportive diet and lifestyle would also benefit those who know they have SNPs (such as MTHFR), but maybe aren’t experiencing any negative health outcomes from them and would like to take a preventative approach.
So, what exactly does a methylation diet look like? Well, it includes foods that are rich in nutrients that support these cycles and can also depend on which SNPs you carry and where you need additional support. Methylation nutrients include the amino acids methionine, cysteine, and taurine, the omega-3 fatty acid DHA, zinc, magnesium, potassium, vitamin B2, B3, B6, B12, folate, betaine, choline, and sulfur. Some examples of methylation food sources are:
Folate – leafy greens, liver, legumes, asparagus, Brussels sprouts
Methionine – eggs, sesame seeds, spirulina, poultry, beef, salmon, Parmesan cheese
Zinc – oysters, pumpkin and sesame seeds, beef, lamb, shiitake mushrooms
Vitamin B6 – liver, turmeric, pistachios, potatoes, spices (paprika, chili powder, sage)
To learn more about the Methylation Diet and Lifestyle and whether it would be a good fit for you, you’re invited to attend our next Methylation Diet Class being held on Thursday, May 17th at 6:30pm. Please call our office to register for the class or to schedule an appointment.
Fitzgerald, K & Hodges, R. 2016. “Methylation Diet and Lifestyle.”
Zhang N. Epigenetic modulation of DNA methylation by nutrition and its mechanisms in animals. Animal nutrition. 2015 Sep 1;1(3):144-51.
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