Folate Vs. Folic Acid
So as some of you may know that I was interviewed for a blog called Bring Your Own Kombucha a few weeks ago! It was a ton of fun to do and I was really happy to have the opportunity to talk about being a doula, as well as touch on the whole folate vs. folic acid debate.
You can definitely check out her article but I just wanted to talk a little bit more about folate and folic acid here!
What Are Folate and Folic Acid?
Everyone tells you when you're pregnant that you need folic acid right? It's everywhere! But we're gonna break it down a bit more so you can understand why some of you may not need it, why it could potentially be dangerous, and that there's an alternative!
So, folate is the term for water soluble b-vitamins (like B9). We get it naturally through foods that contain it such as dark leafy greens like spinach, and liver. Folic acid on the other hand is a synthetic compound used for food fortification in things like cereals. Many people use the terms interchangeably but they are very different.
You see, everyone has something called an MTHFR gene (I know, it sounds dirty to me too) which produces an enzyme in the body that is necessary for properly using vitamin B9. Some people however (estimated half the population) have a MTHFR gene mutation, which means they have a reduced ability to convert folic acid into a usable form.
Everybody needs folate, it's good for brain development and muscle growth, and for preventing anemia, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, certain cancers and more. All women should be getting around 400 mcg (micrograms) (or 0.4 mg) daily, but pregnant women need twice as much, about 600-800 mcg. Pregnant women need folate to prevent neural tube defects (like spina bifida) from occurring in their babies.
What To Do For Optimal Health
Because of the risk of the MTHFR gene mutation, taking supplemental folic acid isn't actually beneficial and could possibly be harmful. When unusable folic acid is taking up space in the receptors where real folate is needed, defects (midline problems) can occur in babies, such as spine problems, brain problems, and tongue tie. That could possibly be why we see such an increase in these types of problems nowadays.
Now, you can't change your genes but what you can do to minimize any potential for problems is take care of your gut! That means eating fermented foods full of probiotics, like sauerkraut & kombucha, avoiding environmental toxins, and not taking folic acid. Just be sure to get the folate you need from your diet, so lots of leafy greens, asparagus, liver, beans, and nuts/seeds.
If you still feel like you'd like to take a supplement, you can always talk to your doctor and ask about a natural folate supplement, like methylfolate. The important thing is not to worry. Do all your research and make the best decision for you!