MTHFR or not, this is the minimum that EVERYONE should be doing to support methylation, boiled down into five simple rules.
Tune in to learn the rules!
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Read the Transcript
Here are five things that everyone should be doing about methylation.
Hi. I’m Dr. Chris Masterjohn of chrismasterjohnphd.com. And this is Chris Masterjohn Lite, where the name of the game is “Details? Shmeetails. Just tell me what works!”
There’s a lot of information out there including information that I’ve put out that’s about specific polymorphisms, which are genetic variations, related to the process of methylation, such as MTHFR. Here I want to put out what everyone, no matter who you are or what your genes are, should be doing about methylation.
So these are five rules to follow to make sure you’re getting the baseline minimum necessary to nourish the process of methylation, a process that as I’ve explained in past episodes, is extremely important to both your mental and physical health. If you have MTHFR polymorphisms or other polymorphisms in folate metabolism, you may need to increase this as I’ve described in the other episodes.
Rule number one to follow is to eat a good diet in general as the background, and in the last episode, I outlined five rules to a healthy diet. So rule number one for methylation is follow those five rules.
Rule number two is about getting enough folate. To get enough folate, you want two to three servings of the three L’s: liver, legumes, or leafy greens. When possible, sprout the legumes, or buy them sprouted.
When you’re dealing with veggies, they should always be fresh, never frozen, preferably from the farmers market so they’re even fresher than in the store, and refrigerated and used within 3 to 5 days. When you’re dealing with veggies, always do any of the rinsing or washing before you do the cutting or shredding. For serving sizes, in general as a rule of thumb, 100 grams or 3 to 4 ounces. You can measure that before cooking for the liver, after cooking for the plant products. When you are talking bout raw veggies instead of cooked veggies, double the amount, so a serving size is 200 grams or 6 to 8 ounces.
When it won’t cause digestive distress, so for example, lentils are a good example and a lot of veggies, where when it wouldn’t cause digestive distress to throw out the water—to not throw out the water, don’t throw out the water. In other words, if you’re making, let’s say, you’re making lentil soup, and you can cook the vegetables in the soup and consume the broth, that’s better than cooking the vegetables by steaming them or boiling them and throwing away the water and then adding them to the soup.
But there are certain beans, especially beans, where you might get digestive distress if you don’t soak them, throw out the water, cook them, throw out the water, then use them. And in those cases, you want to prioritize being able to digest the food well. But when it doesn’t matter, err on the side of using the cooking water. If most of your folate is coming from plant products where you
cook them and throw out the water, then you want to get three to five servings instead of two to three.
Rule number three is about getting enough vitamin B12. For vitamin B12, there’s a peculiarity about its digestion that you can only absorb a day’s worth at any given one time. And there are a lot of foods that contain a lot more than a day’s worth, like liver or clams.
If you want to rely on these for your B12, you can’t just eat one meal that has a massive amount and be done with it. You only harness the full B12 potential when you eat small amounts frequently. So for B12, it’s important not only to eat B12-rich foods, but to eat them often enough to get the B12 on a consistent enough basis to absorb it.
To do this, you want to eat a full day’s worth of B12 at at least one third of your meals, or a half a day’s worth at two thirds of your meals, or a third of a day’s worth at all your meals. But you have to have at least a third of your meals throughout the year that are rich in B12, and if it’s only a third of your meals, they need to be so rich in B12 that they contain a whole day’s worth in that one meal. To get a sense of what that means, one day’s worth of vitamin B12 can be gotten from any of the following: 4 to 8 grams of liver; 8 grams of oysters or clams; 12 ounces, that’s three quarters of a pound, of meat, poultry, or fish; three 8-ounce glasses of milk; or 12 ounces of cheese.
There’s some promising research suggesting that vegans can get their B12 by substituting purple or green laver, also called nori, for the oysters and clams, or black trumpet, chanterelle, or shiitake mushrooms for the meat and fish. It’s important to note that this research is in its infancy. Statistically the likelihood of being B12-deficient if you’re vegan or vegetarian is very high, so I think it’s a better idea to supplement your diet when you are vegan or vegetarian to make sure you’re getting enough B12, but if you’re careful about monitoring your status, you can try using these foods.
Anyone over the age of 65, anyone with stomach ulcers or gastritis, vegans, and vegetarians should all be very proactive about monitoring B12 status because the risk of B12 deficiency is high in all these groups. If you have a problem with vitamin B12 absorption, you may need high-dose supplements or injections of B12 instead of getting it from diet.
Rule number four is about getting enough choline. You can get choline, or you can get a closely related nutrient betaine. You want to get two to three egg yolk’s worth of choline per day. And you can get up to half of that as the closely related nutrient betaine. To think of what it means to get one egg yolk worth of choline, obviously you can get that from one egg yolk. You can also get one egg yolk’s worth of choline from 50 grams of liver, and I would use that up to two to four times per week.
You can also get it from 200 grams of nuts or cruciferous vegetables. I would not consume more than 200 grams of either of those types of foods per day. Or you can get it from one tablespoon of lecithin, or 600 milligrams of a supplement called Alpha-GPC. Up to half of your choline requirement as an alternative can come from betaine. To get one egg yolk’s worth of choline as betaine, you can get it from 25 grams of wheat germ, 100 grams of cooked or canned beets, 200 grams of raw beets, 100 grams of cooked spinach, or you can use one 500-milligram capsule of trimethylglycine, or TMG, to count as two egg yolk equivalents.
The fifth and last rule is about getting enough glycine. As a general rule of thumb, to get enough glycine, I would consume 1 to 2 grams of supplemental collagen or gelatin for every 10 grams of protein in your diet. For example, if you consume 150 grams of protein, you want to balance that with 15 to 30 grams of gelatin or collagen. Instead of taking supplemental gelatin or collagen, you can also use bone broth if you know the amount of protein in it. For example, if you know that your bone broth has 10 grams of protein per serving, then you can count that 10 grams in one serving as 10 grams of supplemental gelatin or collagen.
As I’ve covered in other episodes, you may need to consume more than this for some of the nutrients if you have specific genetic variations in folate metabolism. Some of this may be hard to remember. There are also blood tests that can be useful for monitoring nutritional status. For more detail and all my methylation resources collected in one place, go to chrismasterjohnphd.com/methylation.