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Folic Acid vs. Folate

Updated: Feb 25, 2023

We are told that it’s important to get enough folic acid during pregnancy as it prevents birth defects. There is an important difference between folate and folic acid and what you really want is folate. What's the difference? Folate = naturally occurring water-soluble B vitamin. Folic acid = a synthetic compound made in a lab, aka. not natural

Many people cannot process folic acid very well as our livers don’t contain the enzymes to do so. Folate is easily absorbed through our small intestine. If you have the MTHFR genetic mutation, it's especially important you only take folate. People with MTHFR  have a highly reduced ability to convert folic acid or even folate into a usable form. Undiagnosed MTHFR can lead to infertility, miscarriages as well as other serious issues affecting the fetus. It can also affect your cardiovascular health. Don't know if you have MTHFR? You can ask your doctor to have it tested, it's a simple blood test. Working with a Naturopath or Functional MD will probably be the best option as they are well versed in MTHFR and it's a very complex mutation that requires monitoring and supplementing accordingly.

How can I make sure I'm getting folate? Look for folate in your prenatal.  Some of my favorite's are the Seeking Health PrenatalThorne Prenatal, New Chapter Prenatal, and Innate Response Prenatal. The current recommendations are 600 mcg for pregnancy and 400 mcg for women not pregnant.

Where can you get folate in your food? Leafy greens(spinach and romaine lettuce), cauliflower, beets, eggs, nuts and beans. And the best source of folate? Beef liver! I took liver capsules during pregnancy, and still do now. Dr. Ron's is my favorite because it is very high quality. How can your avoid too much folic acid? Avoid processed foods where it's commonly found. Eating a whole foods diet focused on organic and grass fed meats is the key. If you would like to learn more about MTHFR, here are two resources I like, Dr Lynch and  here.

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