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Larry Newman is the Chief Operating Officer, Technical and Regulatory Affairs of Kirkman Group, Inc. (Kirkman). Contact Kirkman at 1-800-245-8282; 6400 Rosewood St., Lake Oswego, OR.

Monday, January 10, 2011

What You Should Know - Facts About Methylation, Sulfation and Oxidative Stress

By Larry Newman

I get many requests from parents to explain sulfation, methylation and oxidative stress in detail so a plan of action or supplement regimen can be implemented.  
These are complex topics and typical comments to me are, "I hear my doctor talk about sulfation, methylation and oxidative stress, or I hear these topics discussed at conferences or on my user groups. I don't understand these subjects and really don't know how to address them with my child. Can you help?"

Sulfation, methylation and oxidative stress can be considered biochemical pathways that are normally not an issue in healthy individuals with well-functioning immune systems. These pathways get regulated by the body and seldom cause any negative effects for these individuals. Individuals with special needs and sensitivities tend to exhibit abnormalities in biochemical pathways, however. Each of these individual pathways has a unique purpose and an abnormality can lead to numerous health issues, which are explained in the subsequent discussions.

The sulfation process is linked to an enzyme system known as phenol sulfotransferase (PST). Normally, PST is involved in a process called sulfoconjugation, whereby a group of potentially harmful chemicals known as phenols are attached to sulfate and thereby eliminated from the body. When there is a deficiency of sulfate in the bloodstream, phenolic compounds may build up in the body, and this, in turn, can interfere with neurotransmitter function. Sulfate deficiency and the resulting impairment of PST activity may explain some sensitivity reactions to a variety of phenol-containing foods, such as apples, grapes, chocolate, food colorings, and some herbs and spices.

Individuals with special needs seem to have only about 20% of the normal level of sulfate in their bodies, the rest having been excreted excessively in the urine. In addition to the phenolic buildup described above, sulfate deficiency can contribute to other negative aspects of body chemistry including:
  • preventing the detoxification of metals and other environmental toxins from the body
  • inhibiting the release of pancreatic digestive enzymes, thereby hindering digestion
  • limiting the activation of the hormone CCK, which plays a role in socialization
  • contributing to a leaky gut because of an unhealthy ileum.
Sulfation can often be supported and improved by topical Epsom salt products, such as Kirkman's Epsom salt cream (Magnesium Sulfate Cream) or by giving individuals Epsom salt baths.  A combination of the two also works very well, such as using the cream in the morning and giving a bath at night.  Oral sulfate such as glucosamine sulfate may be effective to some degree in some individuals.  Additionally, Kirkman's digestive enzyme formulation Phenol Assist™ is designed to help digest part of the cell wall structure of plant cells in fruits, vegetables and grains. 


Methylation is a series of very important biochemical reactions in the body that are responsible for overall good health.  In special needs individuals, this process is very often lacking, to some degree, making these individuals poor methylators.  A properly functioning methylation pathway has life rewarding health benefits including: 

  • proper brain function
  • healthy detoxification
  • DNA protection
  • a healthy, normal, non-premature aging process
There are many nutritional supplements that support proper methylation.  You should discuss these options with your physician carefully because each special needs individual is unique and requires a methylation improvement program specifically tailored to their situation.  Products used to support the methylation process include:

Oxidative Stress
Special needs and sensitive individuals often have elevated oxidative stress. Certain toxins called oxidants enter the body and begin causing oxidative tissue damage otherwise known as oxidative stress. These toxins can be in the form of chemicals, pesticides, heavy metals and other environmental pollutants. Some of these cell-injuring oxidants are known as "free radicals." It is important to minimize oxidative stress damage by consuming antioxidants that retard the process. Some of theses antioxidants that limit oxidative tissue damage and free radical formation include vitamins C, E, and A, selenium, melatonin, L-carnosine, L-carnitine, pycnogenol, grapeseed extract, resveratrol and coenzyme Q10.
There are laboratory markers that measure levels of antioxidant compounds present in the body. Talk to your doctor about appropriate testing and subsequent supplementation with antioxidants.