Methylation is an important biochemical, cellular process for optimal fertility, producing healthy eggs and sperm for a healthy conception. Simply put, methylation affects the health and integrity of your DNA, gene expression and hormone regulation, especially via epigenetics. You may not know it, but you likely (at least hopefully) are already taking a supplement to support methylation and a healthy pregnancy, because optimal methylation requires folate.
Folate is the naturally-occurring form of this vitamin (vitamin B9) found in our foods. Metabolism of folate relies on a series of conversion steps. As well as a number of enzyme activities before it can be used by our cells. Other vitamins such as B6 and B12 are also needed for this important methylation function.
It is thought that around 40 per cent of the population may have an inherited genetic alteration that impacts on our folate metabolism. This gene mutation is referred to as MTHFR gene mutation – Methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase. Whilst it may affect a large percentage of the population and is relevant for both men and women, it may only be an issue for some. Other variables such as your B6 and B12 status and your homocysteine levels impact the effect it may have or supplementation required too. It is worthwhile discussing with your doctor or your naturopath whether these are tests you should consider, especially if you are older or have experienced:
MTHFR is a complex issue beyond the scope of this blog, so we recommend you do seek the help of a qualified naturopath with fertility experience to ensure you get adequate exploration and support.
Green leafy vegetables give loads of folate required for methylation and healthy DNA. Even if you haven’t been tested for the MTHFR gene mutation you can still ensure you up your folate levels by eating one to two cups of green leafy veggies daily such as spinach, asparagus, broccoli – plus include in your diet avocado, eggs, green peas, dried beans such as chickpeas and lentils.
Folate supplementation is essential for everyone trying to conceive, ideal for at least three months prior to conception until you birth your baby. Ensure you are taking a minimum (across all supplements) of 400mcg/day.
If you are over 35 or if you have been diagnosed with the MTHFR gene mutation, the requirements are higher, and supplements are available that are more readily utilised by people with this condition. In addition, as folate is a B vitamin it requires all the other B vitamins to be utilised properly by the body.
Methylation also depends on other nutrients including methionine and choline (found in protein foods), vitamin B6 (whole grains, vegetables, nuts and meat) and B12 (meat, organic liver, shellfish and milk).
As usual we recommend seeking advice from a naturopath about good levels of these nutrients suitable for you. There are many specific nutrients, herbs and other natural medicine supplements that have the potential to turn your fertility around. Of course, these are best individually assessed as specific nutrients come in different forms, the dose and quality of the supplement along with the length of time you need to be on these does vary significantly from person to person. Don’t wast your time and money self prescribing – you will need expert advice on what you require for your specific needs.
For more information or to get help on your fertility or pregnancy journey, book in with a Fertile Ground Naturopath or anyone you resonate with on our expert fertility team.
This information comes from our book Create A Fertile Life in Part 3 (You Health, Hormones and Fertility), Chapter 16 (Beating Biology) written by Gina Fox, Charmaine Dennis, Rhiannon Hardingham, Tina Jenkins and Milly Dabrowski.
Create a Fertile Life is the culmination of more than 20 years of clinical experience by practitioners at Fertile Ground Health Group that will inspire you to change your life for the health of yourself, your baby, and your future family.