Here are the main points:
- Folic acid is the synthetic version of Vitamin B9, or folate.
- 40%-50% of the US population have a mutation of the MTHFR gene.
- MTHFR mutations can cause folic acid to block folate receptors.
- Consuming folic acid, while pregnant, with MTHFR can lead to brain and spinal cord defects, due to Vitamin B9 (or folate) deficiency.
Folic Acid During Pregnancy
If you’re an expecting mother, chances are you’ve heard how important it is to consume enough folic acid during pregnancy. In fact, websites like Baby Center, March of Dimes, WebMD, and even the CDC (Center for Disease Control) recommend women consume daily doses of folic acid. Even before becoming pregnant, I had heard how important it is to consume folic acid during pregnancy. Without it, babies are more susceptible to spinal cord defects, like spina bifida, and brain defects, such as anencephaly. At least, that’s what we’ve been told…
What is Folic Acid?
Folic acid is the synthetic version of Vitamin B9, also known as folate. While folate occurs naturally in foods like dark, leafy greens, beets, and soybeans, folic acid is only found in fortified foods and supplements. In other words, folic acid is the man-made version of Vitamin B9, and folate is the natural version of Vitamin B9. Unfortunately, many medical practitioners, nutrition experts, and health organizations use folic acid and folate interchangeably. They are not the same. Knowing the difference can be crucial in preventing spinal cord and brain defects in developing fetuses.
The Problem With Folic Acid During Pregnancy
Folic acid during pregnancy can cause mid-line issues, such as spinal cord defects…Funny enough, avoiding these types of defects is the reason people take folic acid in the first place. Confused? You should be.
About 40%-50% of the US population have a mutation of the MTHFR gene. This gene mutation affects 25% of the population severely, and 50% of the population mildly. So, it affects a HUGE number of expecting mothers.Those with MTHFR have an inability to convert folic acid into l-methylfolate. Because folic acid cannot be converted properly to methylfolate it actually blocks the folate receptors. In other words, consuming folic acid can prevent someone with MTHFR from being able to absorb real folate/vitamin B9. Do you see the problem now?
Folate is REALLY important to consume during pregnancy. It’s what helps prevent those brain and spinal cord defects. For those with MTHFR, consuming folic acid can prevent any folate from being absorbed and properly converted. In trying to use folate in the form of folic acid, many prevent their bodies from getting any folate at all!
If you’ve never been tested for gene mutations, you may not know if you have an issue with MTHFR. Most people are unaware that they have it. However, it affects around HALF the US population. So…There’s a really good chance that you do.
Because it’s not routine to get tested for MTHFR, folic acid during pregnancy should be avoided by everyone. Even those without this mutation can benefit from consuming real folate as opposed to folic acid.
What Can You Do?
- Spread the word about MTHFR. It affects nearly half the US population. Someone you know could benefit from learning about it.
- Avoid folic acid. Consume plenty of Vitamin B9 in the natural form of folate. Folate can be found in dark leafy greens, soy beans, and many plant-based foods.
- Avoid exposure to heavy metals. MTHFR mutations can make it hard for the body to detox. Fish, bone broth, e-cigarettes, vaccines, and many make-up and skincare products are known to contain heavy metals. In general, try to eat local, plant-based foods and make your own body care and cleaning products.
- Consider getting tested for MTHFR mutations, especially if you’re struggling with miscarriage, have had a baby with midline issues, or have unexplained health ailments.