Nutritional foundations and the process of methylation

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My approach to addressing health concerns is sequential and progressive. This means that I always start by optimizing foundations to well-being like eating whole, real, fresh and low glycemic local foods.

I think good quality water, especially spring or filtered water, is essential — though I feel I don’t drink enough at times especially when I get busy at work. I do well on a high-fiber, phytonutrient-rich diet with plenty of slightly cooked vegetables, some fruits, and a moderate amount of clean meats, fish and good fats.

But the reality is that diets are so personalized and I think best seen as dynamic. What works for one person may not work for another. As our bodies and the seasons change, so, too, should the food we eat.

I even allow myself latitude to eat on the edges of what I would normally consider healthy. Especially over the holidays, where I find my taste buds like to take the driver’s seat. I don’t mind the short ride and know that my body is pretty resilient at finding its way back home.

So I always come back to the diet I feel my body does best on. This means I have to pay attention and respond accordingly. For example: I’m going to be doing a multi-day fast as a reset for the new year. This has the advantage of reducing cravings, shifting hormones that control my weight and gives my liver a break from processing the everyday toxins I ingest (like too much red wine).

It has taken me years to individualize my own diet and I’m still making adjustments. Overall nutrition is important to so many functions in the body that the next thing I look at (after food, water and exercise) are the core nutrients I take on a daily basis.

There are a few things I consider foundational, what most of us don’t get from food alone. My top four supplements include clinical effective probiotics, Vitamin D with K, a great multivitamin, and Omega 3s with no detectable toxins. The best multivitamins start at four capsules a day.

For some of us, there are a few other nutrients I would put in the essential category. I think extra magnesium and calcium sometimes is important, as well as the very critical B vitamins. I also take curcumin and systemic enzymes for inflammation management.

B vitamins play an important role in keeping our bodies running like finely tuned machines. These nutrients covert our food into fuel, the energy that we need throughout the day. Either we can become deficient or our bodies genetic structure won’t allow for proper utilization of the nutrients.

There is a process in our body called methylation that depends upon these B vitamins. Methylation plays a role in making and breaking down the neurotransmitters that produce energy and control sleep, turning on and off genes, and fighting infections. Another role is to help the enzymes in our bodies work efficiently, initiating very important processes in every cell and tissue.

The methylation of proteins helps the body detoxify. If your body cannot methylate properly, toxins build up in your bloodstream and may eventually cause disease. Defects in methylation are tied to a wide variety of conditions such as autoimmune disorders, cancer, hypothyroidism, dementia, allergies, multiple chemical sensitivities, chronic viral infections and chronic fatigue syndrome.

Some nutrients affect the process of methylation quite dramatically, like folate and vitamin B12. How well your body can methylate can also be affected by specific enzymes. Impaired activity of these enzymes adversely affects other methylation reactions.

We can sometimes compensate by adding in the correct forms and dosages of Vitamin B6 (pyridoxal 5’-phosphate), Folate (5-methyltetrahydofolate) and B12 (methylcobalamin). That’s why I consider them foundational. Next time you come in, ask me about how MTHFR genes affect optimal health.

Scott Porter is a functional medicine pharmacist at Sandpoint Super Drug. He is a member of the Sandpoint Wellness Council.

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