Thyroid Health Depends on Balanced Methylation

January 13, 2020 | Dr. Linda J. Dobberstein, DC, Board Certified in Clinical Nutrition

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 Thyroid Health Depends on Balanced Methylation
Every day, your body works hard at maintaining healthy physiology while you go about your work and cares for the day. Immune responses occur at the slightest hint of a threat, cholesterol is made and used for cell membrane repair and steroid hormones, digestion and detoxification occur in multiple steps, and your brain and nervous system work as the most elaborate and sophisticated super computer and information highway ever.

Immersed in all these functions is your thyroid gland. Thyroid hormone is an important part of these metabolic processes and affects every system in your body. For your thyroid to do its job, it needs to have several things in working order and adequate nutritional reserves. One particular thing that your thyroid requires for optimal function is methylation, a biochemical process that occurs in all cells. Disruption of this process increases the risk for thyroid dysfunction and even autoimmune thyroid disorders.


Methylation is a biochemical process that involves transfer of methyl groups back and forth from one substance to another. It is a complex process with numerous on/off switches involving the back and forth movement of methyl groups. Methylation (on) and de-methylation (off) happens thousand of times each second throughout your body. This mechanism is required for DNA production and repair, detoxification, histamine metabolism, estrogen metabolism, fat metabolism, cell energy, growth and development, cell differentiation, maintenance of cells, and many other things – including healthy thyroid function.

Thyroid Health Depends Upon Balanced Methylation

In the last several years, evidence points to dysregulation of methylation as one reason for autoimmune thyroid disorders like Grave’s and Hashimoto’s thyroid disease. Studies suggest that impaired methylation may cause some genes to inappropriately turn on, which can lead to increased risk of thyroid concerns. Dysfunctional methylation and inappropriate activity of genes sends inflammatory messages that causes immune cells to attack the thyroid and leads to autoimmune destruction. Depending on which gene(s) are affected, it will trigger destruction that leads to the disease presentation of Hashimoto’s or Grave’s disease.

Folate is Critical

The process of methylation depends on the availability of several nutrients. At the heart of this critical activity is folate along with vitamins B6, B12 and other B vitamins. Folic acid as methylated folate is the rate-limiting step of methylation. Folic acid (synthetic) must be converted to methylated folate in order to work. Unprocessed, non-fortified foods have natural (methylated) folate, whereas fortified foods have folic acid (unmethylated) added. Chicken and beef liver, cooked legumes/beans, asparagus, and spinach are some of the richest sources of natural folate.

Methylation Concerns are Common

It is estimated that at least 60 percent of the population or more has difficulty making enough methylated folate because how their methylation genes work. Some of the genes SNPs (single nucleotide polymorphisms) or mutations involved with methylation include MTHFR, MTR, MTRR, CBS, COMT, FUT2, and TCN2. (Lab tests and some of the popular ancestry-health genome tests may identify these genes.) If one lacks adequate folate intake, it creates roadblocks for the methylation process.

Folic Acid vs Folate

Lack of nutrients in the diet is a significant concern for everyone. There are no perfect diets that supply all the necessary nutrients every day, especially with 21st Century challenges. Even when B vitamins are added to processed foods, methylation dysfunction can still occur. Foods with added synthetic (unmethylated) vitamin B6 (pyridoxine HCl), B12 (cyanocobalamin), and folate as folic acid may actually create more stress for the methylation process. To learn more about this concern, check out the article Are You Taking Folate or Folic Acid? Read This First

Other Nutrients Needed for Methylation

In addition to the natural, coenzyme/methylated forms of folate, vitamins B6 and B12, other nutrients are needed for methylation. These include magnesium, calcium, zinc, selenium, molybdenum, methionine, and choline, etc. Trimethylglycine (TMG) which converts to S-adenosyl methionine or SAMe is another critical, make-or-break nutrient for methylation. TMG conversion into SAMe is also necessary for the amino acid tyrosine to convert into dopamine which helps supports healthy mood, energy, and focus. Mood distress, decreased energy and diminished focus may be related with impaired thyroid function.

Common Factors that Impair Methylation and Affect Thyroid

Other common things impair methylation, which may secondarily impact thyroid function. These include toxins and aldehydes from Candida overgrowth and Epstein Barr virus. Alcohol intake (acute or chronic) also severely impairs methylation.

If your diet lacks foods that provide folate or any other critical nutrients for methylation, you have one or more gene SNPs linked with methylation defects, or there is a history of Candida, etc. overgrowth or alcohol use, your nutrient needs increase. Don’t forget about medications that deplete nutrients needed for methylation. Your thyroid health may be at risk.

Natural Support

Exercise (acute and long-term) supports methylation. In addition to the folate-rich foods listed above, avocado, beets, broccoli, green leafy vegetables, Brussels sprouts, legumes (peas, beans, lentils) and whole grain rice help support methylation. Choose organic foods when possible. Roundup/pesticide treated foods create more stress to the body and generally have fewer nutrients.

Supplementation with coenzyme or methylated B vitamins may be quite helpful for many. In addition, magnesium and choline are frequently lacking in the diet and can also benefit methylation and thyroid health. You may also benefit from other methyl donors like trimethylglycine (TMG).

Taking thyroid hormone is one solution to thyroid problems. It, however, does nothing to address a fundamental physiological process integral to normal metabolism and thyroid function. Before your thyroid gets to the point of non-function because of autoimmune destruction and requires medical hormone replacement, you must provide your body with proper care. Quality foods and intentional nourishment is more critical today than ever before. Make it your resolution to intentionally nourish your body today to have a healthy tomorrow.

You may find additional related information below.

MTHFR Gene Defects, Methylation, and Natural Support

Are You Taking Folate or Folic Acid? Read This First

Ten Things That Interfere with Thyroid Function

Common Medications That Rob the Body of Nutrients

Super Form of Vitamin B12 – Adenosylcobalamin

Hair Loss Disorder Alopecia Areata Linked to Thyroid, Celiac, Methylation

Infections Linked to Autoimmune Thyroid Problems

Asthma, Methylation, Leaky Gut Syndrome, and Roundup 

Insufficient Magnesium – Public Health Crisis Declared

Memory Neurotransmitter & Gut Health Linked

Folic Acid & Vitamin B12 for Cognitive Health and Stress 

When SSRI’s Fail: Causes of Depression

SIBO Linked with Thyroid Medication and More

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