Methyl-what? A Beginner’s Guide to Methylation

Methylation is a hot topic in health these days, but do you have any idea what it means? Put simply, it’s a cellular process constantly happening in your body, and when it’s working optimally, so are you. If methylation is not working effectively, it can have a major impact on your overall health. Let’s dig into what it is and how you can support your own methylation journey.

Why Should We Care About Methylation?

Methylation significantly affects our health through gene activation, gene silencing, and regulation of cellular functioning. It facilitates many critical processes in the body including:

  • Detoxification
  • DNA repair
  • Energy production
  • Hormone regulation and mood
  • Neurotransmitter synthesis
  • Inflammation regulation

Since methylation is vital to a variety of body processes, when this biochemical process is impaired or not functioning optimally, there may be an increased risk for disease. Faulty methylation has been associated with a variety of health conditions including Alzheimer’s, heart disease, cancer, diabetes, depression, insomnia, infertility, histamine intolerance, ADHD, and autism. It’s no surprise then, that according to Dr. Frank Lipman, methylation may be the silent issue affecting longevity!

What Exactly is Methylation?

Methylation is a biochemical process occurring in every cell of our body, everyday. It involves the addition of a methyl group (CH3) to a molecule, which can change the structure and function of that molecule. “Methyl Donors” refer to the methyl groups which come from a variety of micronutrients in our diets such as folate (B9), vitamin B12, vitamin B6, Riboflavin (B2), choline, and others. A relay race is a good metaphor to explain how methylation involves the attachment of a methyl group to strands of DNA to turn genetic activity on or off.


(image shared from 3X4 Genetics)

Genetic Testing for Variants That Impact Methylation:

Now that we’ve learned about the downsides of poor methylation and about what it is, let’s dive into how you can better understand your own methylation status and ensure that it’s working properly!

Methylation patterns are influenced by our genetics and environmental factors such as diet, lifestyle, toxins, and stress. All of which can impact our risk of developing various chronic health conditions. Therefore, testing for genetic variants that affect methylation and assessing methylation status through testing can help identify potential imbalances and guide personalized treatment plans.

For those more familiar with methylation, you’ve likely heard of the MTHFR gene, for which there are 2 variants associated with poor methylation. It has been estimated that 40% or more of the population may be impacted by MTHFR genetic variants!  

At Eleven Eleven Wellness Center, we use 3×4 Genetics to investigate whether our patients have variations within their methylation cycle. By looking for SNPs, or specific genomic variants,  such as MTHFR, we can better understand our patients’ unique needs and support them with important molecules that may be underproduced with a faulty methylation cycle. Other key SNPs involved in methylation include: COMT, MTHFD1, CBS, MTR, NBPF3, NQO1, OGG1, PEMT, and TCN2. When methylation is not functioning optimally, many molecules involved in important system processes cannot be effectively produced. These include: glutathione, Coq10, Melatonin, Serotonin, Nitric Oxide, Norepinephrine, Epinephrine, L-Carnitine, Cysteine, and Taurine. When these molecules are inadequately produced, detoxification and optimal functioning of the cardiovascular and neurological systems (just to name a few) cannot be achieved.

Utilizing 3×4 Genetics helps us create individualized treatment plans including nutrient supplementation, lifestyle modifications, and detoxification support to optimize methylation function and improve the overall health of our patients.

The Functional Medicine Approach to Support Methylation:

So what can you do to ensure proper methylation to prevent issues related to your energy, mood, brain health and sleep and promote optimal production of hormones, neurotransmitters, amino acids and antioxidants in the body? Here is how functional medicine can support your methylation journey.

    Nutritional Support:

A nutrient-rich diet is essential for optimal methylation. Foods rich in B vitamins (such as leafy greens, legumes, and whole grains), magnesium (dark chocolate, nuts, and seeds), folate (leafy greens, asparagus, and citrus fruits), and choline (eggs, liver, and cruciferous vegetables) can provide the necessary building blocks for successful methylation.

Avoiding alcohol, increasing fermented foods, and incorporating more fiber can also help support the body’s own production/balance of B-vitamins and promote a healthy gut microbiome!  

    Lifestyle Modifications:

Stress management techniques, regular exercise, and quality sleep can all contribute to optimal methylation. Chronic stress and inadequate sleep can negatively impact methylation pathways, so it’s important to address these factors.


In certain cases, targeted supplementation may be recommended to support methylation. This can include methylated forms of B vitamins, such as methylfolate (5-MTHF) and methylcobalamin (B12), as well as other nutrients like magnesium, zinc, and betaine.

    Detoxification Support:

Methylation is closely linked to the body’s detoxification processes. Supporting liver function and enhancing the elimination of toxins through practices like sauna therapy, adequate hydration, and liver-supportive herbs (such as sulforaphane, milk thistle, and dandelion root) can help optimize methylation.

    Reduce toxin exposure:

Environmental toxins can impact methylation function. Reducing exposure to toxins such as heavy metals, pesticides, and industrial chemicals can help support methylation. Eating organic foods, filtering water, and using natural cleaning and personal care products can all help reduce total toxin burden.

    Address Gut Health:

The gut microbiome plays a crucial role in methylation and overall health. Addressing gut imbalances, optimizing digestion, and supporting a healthy gut microbiome through probiotics, prebiotics, and a fiber-rich diet can support methylation.

It’s important to note that while these approaches may be beneficial for many individuals, consulting with a qualified healthcare provider, such as a functional medicine practitioner or a integrative nutritionist, is recommended for personalized guidance and treatment plans based on individual needs and health conditions.

In summary, methylation is a critical process that can impact our health in numerous ways. By optimizing nutrient intake, addressing stress, supporting detoxification, and reducing toxin exposure, we can support methylation function and improve overall health. Here’s to optimal methylation!

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