Methylation: The Quiet Regulator of Your Hormones and Mental State
Many people don’t know a lot about methylation or how it works. You might be surprised to know that methylation is a fundamental biochemical process that occurs in all living organisms, from plants and animals to humans.
Methylation is the regulator behind almost every bodily system: neurological, cardiovascular, reproductive, immune, and detoxification. Methylation is the reason that your body can produce vital substances such as DNA, RNA, hormones, activated nutrients, amino acids, hormones, and other compounds required for the proper daily function.
Methylation patterns can be modified by many factors, which can subsequently impact overall health.
This article will explain the ins and outs of methylation and why it matters. We’ll also cover what can happen when the methylation process is out of balance, and how you can optimize your own methylation for better health.
What is methylation and why is it important?
The DNA methylation process involves the transfer of a small set of chemicals (known as a methyl group) to other molecules, namely DNA, proteins, and lipids. A methyl group comprises four atoms - one carbon atom and three hydrogen atoms (CH3). CH3 is provided to the body via S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), a universal methyl donor. By ‘giving away’ its methyl group, SAMe allows every other body system to function properly. 
The production of SAMe relies on the availability of active folate - also known as methylated folate, methylfolate, or L-5-MTHF. A lack of active folate means methylation cannot happen as it should, which has numerous downstream effects for the body.
Compounds such as hormones, proteins, and enzymes must be methylated in order to function optimally or to create other substances required by the body.
DNA methylation is a common epigenetic modification. Epigenetics are the changes in gene expression between one generation to the next. These changes can be influenced by environmental factors such as diet, stress, and exposure to toxins. Methylation modifies the structure of DNA so that certain genes are accessible to the cellular processes that read and respond to genetic information. This regulation of gene expression is essential for proper development, growth, and maintenance.  It’s also crucial for numerous processes including embryonic development and cellular differentiation. Problems in DNA methylation patterns have been linked to various diseases, including cancer and developmental disorders.
Methylation and Hormones
DNA methylation acts at many levels to regulate hormonal functions in the body. It’s involved with hormonal development and the hormonal response to environmental factors and certain endocrine disruptors. 
Some research has suggested that DNA methylation can influence the activity of genes involved in stress response and cortisol regulation. Stress during pregnancy, for example, may disrupt the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal (HPA) axis signaling in offspring, resulting in dysfunctional cortisol secretion. It’s been found that methylation can have long-term effects on cortisol levels, particularly in people born to mothers with prenatal PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). 
Some research suggests that exposure to certain environmental chemicals, such as endocrine-disrupting compounds, can alter DNA methylation patterns in genes involved in hormone regulation. These changes to DNA methylation may lead to disrupted hormone signaling and adverse health effects. 
DNA methylation patterns can change during puberty and influence the expression of genes related to hormonal regulation. This can impact the timing and progression of puberty and the associated hormonal changes. 
Changes in DNA methylation can influence the balance of sex hormones and impact reproductive health later in life. It may also affect genes involved with coding for certain receptors and enzymes involved in estrogen synthesis and metabolism in endometriosis. 
Methylation and mental health
DNA methylation has a significant influence on mental health. Methylation impacts the genes involved in the synthesis, metabolism, and signaling of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine, and GABA (Gamma-aminobutyric acid ) . Abnormalities in the regulation of neurotransmitter release and/or insufficient levels of neurotransmitters play a major role in many behavioral and cognitive disorders, as well as neuropsychiatric and neurodegenerative disorders. In fact, many of the drugs that treat mental health disorders have been designed on the basis of their effects on neurotransmitter release and resulting receptor stimulation. 
The active form of folate (5-MTHF or L-methylfolate) is required for homocysteine to be re-methylated into methionine  via S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe). SAMe is then involved in numerous biochemical methyl donation reactions, including reactions forming monoamine neurotransmitters. If folate isn’t available, this methylation process cannot happen, and the neurotransmitters are not produced. Dysregulation of neurotransmitter systems is commonly associated with many mental health disorders, including depression and schizophrenia. 
What if methylation doesn’t happen as it should?
When methylation is impaired due to folate deficiency and the body can’t produce enough SAMe, a long list of other important molecules also cannot be produced properly. This includes the neurotransmitters required for healthy mood, such as serotonin, norepinephrine, epinephrine, and dopamine.
Folate deficiency is shown to occur in up to one-third of patients with severe depression.  Studies have also shown a link between folate deficiency and the body’s inability to produce adequate neurotransmitters. 
Symptoms of poor methylation
Abnormal methylation patterns have been associated with various health conditions, including cancer, neurological disorders, cardiovascular diseases, and more.
DNA hypomethylation, also known as undermethylation, happens when a tiny part of DNA loses its methyl group. This change leads to a decrease in the number of specific building blocks (cytosine bases) in the DNA that usually have a methyl group attached. This can alter methylation and also how our genes work.
Undermethylation (hypomethylation) has been linked to autoimmune disease as it increases both the activity of immune cells such as TH2 and IgE. Hypomethylation has been associated with conditions such as atopic dermatitis and systemic lupus erythematosus. 
Overmethylation (hypermethylation), on the other hand, occurs when extra methyl groups attach to DNA. This can cause certain genes to become less active or even “switch off”. Hypermethylation can contribute to conditions such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes by affecting genes involved in metabolism and blood vessel health. 
It's important to note that methylation patterns are complex and are influenced by various genetic and environmental factors. They are not direct causes of symptoms but rather factors that can influence the development of certain health conditions.
The importance of balanced methylation
Overmethylation and undermethylation can each lead to certain health issues.
Balanced methylation is essential for supporting your overall mental and physical health. This can be achieved with methylated vitamins.
But what are methylated vitamins?
Supplements to improve methylation
It’s estimated that around 50% of the global population have at least 1 of 2 common variants of the MTHFR mutation - which means that methylfolate supplementation may be necessary for most people. 
The Methyl-Life® range of supplements is specifically formulated for optimizing methylation and supporting the role of folate in the body. The Methyl-Life® Methylfolate products are made with a crystalline calcium salt form of L-5-MTHF, which offers better absorption through intestinal cells than other commercially available forms of methylfolate. Dosages include 2.5 mg, 5 mg, 10 mg, 15 mg, and 7.5 mg with active B12 included.
Methyl-Life® has also created an exclusive range of supplements specifically to support the methylation process. The Chewable Methylated Multivitamin contains methylfolate, active B6 and active B12, plus a host of other crucial components supporting the methylation process.
For women who are pregnant or planning pregnancy, Methyl-Life® also offers the Pregnancy Bundle. The Chewable Methylated Multi, L-Methylfolate 2.5 mg, and Hydroxocobalamin (B12) support methylation during pregnancy, which is crucial for the proper development of both mother and baby.
Healthy methylation is crucial for supporting the mind and body. It’s central to almost every bodily system, particularly hormonal regulation and mental health.
We can support our own methylation process with the right nutrients, whether through diet or supplementation. If you have concerns that certain factors may affect your own methylation, it’s worth seeing a health professional or other qualified practitioner for a personalized assessment.