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Your body makes creatine. It’s important for building muscle. Creatine is found in meat and is also available as a supplement. It’s been declared a legal bodybuilding supplement for athletes. But under the right circumstances your body should be able to make what you need.

However, making creatine requires methyl groups. Methylation is a key process in which your body makes and shares methyl groups. A methyl group is nothing more than a single carbon atom surrounded by hydrogens. It’s pretty basic but critical to many chemical reactions in the body. You use methyl groups to stabilize DNA, to detoxify many substances including histamines and excess hormones, to make and get rid of neurotransmitters (essential brain chemicals) and more

A significant percentage of people have genetic mutations which can slow down the process of creating methyl groups, or methylation. Up to 60% of Americans have at least one mutation (or SNP) in the MTHFR gene*, a key gene needed to make methyl folate. There are dozens of other fairly common genetic mutations which can also slow down the methylation process. In addition to genetics, if you don’t get enough raw greens–the main source of folates – and other food sources of B vitamins B1, B2, B3, B6, B12 and key minerals, may have trouble making methyl groups.Canned collards don’t count!

If you are exposed to toxins – and all of us are, think of car and diesel exhaust, herbicides and pesticides, etc.–these can use up methyl groups in the process of detoxification, also leaving you deficient. Stress, hormonal imbalances, and histamine reactions also use up methyl groups. I find many people I see have often low level, chronic infections, we call them stealth infections, which also interfere with methylation and use up what methyl groups are made. Think of chronic low-level gut infections, periodontal infections in the mouth, and many low level viral infections particularly in the herpes family including Epstein-Barr virus.

Poor methylation is associated with depression, birth defects, heart disease, dementia, histamine reactions, and on and on.Taking creatine is one way to take the stress off the methylation system. Choline, needed for good brain function, also lowers the need for methyl groups.

You can do fine, even if you have some of the many of the common genetic mutations, if you eat plenty of vegetables and moderate amounts of good protein, and do not have excess mental, physical or immune system stress. But that means that evaluation and treatment of under methylation can be critical for many of us who don’t or can’ t make enough of these critical groups.If you aren’t doing fine, I have tools to evaluate your genetic status and how those genes are functioning in your body. I can help you find solutions to support healthy methylation which can increase energy, resolve depression, and help with many body functions including preventing heart disease and dementia. And if you are trying to gain muscle mass, creatine in moderate amounts appears to be safe and is probably helpful. But always start with a good diet first as a foundation.

Want to get strong? Eat your greens (and yellows and reds.)

*Int J Mol Med. 2001 Nov;8(5):509-11.

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