Methylation: The Basics

For those who have had genetic testing done, or are interested in nutrigenomics, genomic medicine  or have MTHFR mutations, its helpful to understand an essential reaction called methylation.

What is methylation?

Simply put for the science minded, it is the transfer of a one carbon group. Essentially one molecule comes along and will give a ‘methyl group’ to another molecule. This results in a change in function of the receiving molecule.

Methylation is essential to life. It is a key metabolic process involving many enzymes and genes that are central to our existence.

The important thing to remember about methylation, particularly when talking about our DNA, is that methylation can turn on or off a gene’s expression. It can be beneficial or not as beneficial depending on the situation. This is central to what we know as epigenetics. Epigenetics is the study of the change in genetic expression without changing the DNA sequence. Basically our DNA stays the same but what genes are expressed will change depending on epigenetic influences such as DNA methylation.

Methylation reactions happen in more places than your DNA. It also happens in many other crucial metabolic reactions.

The functions of methylation:3d render of dna structure, abstract  background

  • To turn on and off genes from your DNA
  • Process chemicals
  • Processing neurotransmitters  (brain chemistry – mood)
  • Processing hormones
  • Immune cells
  • Controlling inflammation
  • Building and maintaining cell membranes

What things affect your ability to methylate:

  • Lack of the right nutrients or excessive nutrient intake
  • Some medications
  • Toxins
  • Genetic mutations (SNPs)
  • Mental state (stress, anxiety, lack of sleep, pessimism)
  • Hormonal imbalance

As you can see methylation is important and one of our goals is to ensure that you are getting just the right amount of methylation when you need it. Over methylation can be just as harmful as under methylation. More on that in another blog…

Contact us if you want more information on how to optimize your methylation.


Meaghan McCollum, ND

Meaghan-130x150After graduating with a degree in nutritional sciences from the University of British Columbia, I went on to complete my naturopathic medical training at the Boucher Institute of Naturopathic Medicine. I am a strong advocate of integrated healthcare. To me this means bringing together all forms of healthcare from your healthcare team and communicating to help you reach your health goals. I work along side all types of practitioners and treatments.

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