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Caution! Folate VS Folic Acid; Vitamin B9 Pregnancy Awareness

Folic acid is pressed upon pregnant women more than any other supplement.


This is the synthetic form of B9. That's right - made in a laboratory. It's a man made chemical.


The naturally occurring version is folate - the other name for B9.


But why does that matter?



Well research has proven that between 30-60% (approx 44% of women) of humans have a mutation in the gene that helps us process folate; the gene MTHFR. Parsleyhealth.com The mutation prevents the body from being able to convert folate into methylfolate.

***(Read the whole Parsleyhealth.com article if you want to see the 'symptoms' that can commonly occur when having this genetic mutation - it's friggin important.)


Methylfolate is what prevents neural tube defects; not Folate or folic acid.


So if you're dumping way over the daily dose of folic acid (OR folate) into a woman that is making a new human (or not) what could happen if you have this gene mutation?


You have an influx of B9/folate/folic acid & nowhere near enough methylfolate.


This can actually be very serious. Why?

High level of folic acid or unprocessed folate has the following potential symptoms:


Web MD : stomach upset, nausea, diarrhea, irritability, confusion, behavior changes, skin reactions


Healthline.com : accelerating mental decline in older adults and increasing the likelihood of cancer recurring


What the hell?! How is that possible?


Well folate/folic acid have a major role in catecholamine synthesis - a neurotransmitter involved in our stress response. This is your fight, flight, freeze response. High catecholamines cause headaches, sweating, pounding of the heart, pain in the chest, and anxiety.


Catecholamines are typically released when you experience physical or emotional stress. They are made in the adrenal glands!


So lets put this together: high levels of unprocessed folate or folic acid increase the production of catecholamines in your body which provoke stress response symptoms.


I might add - these sound like similar 'symptoms' that our social culture associates with 'pregnant women' such as being anxious, hypervigilant, having headaches, feeling overwhelmed or seeming unreasonably stressed, irritability, confusion & even random inexplicable skin reactions.


What. The.....F - - -


First of all - if you're eating a typical 'Western diet" you may already be getting a influx of folic acid (the synthetic stuff.)



There is already a huge amount of folic acid through fortified cereals, grain products like breads, pastas, crackers, even energy drinks and fortified nutritional yeast.


So if you're taking a multivitamin with folic acid in it, plus your consuming a typical Western diet with many of the items listed directly above - you could already be getting too much.


Let's talk about the term bioavailability for a second: this is how much of the nutrients of something you have ingested actually becomes available for your body to use when you ingest it. Eating salmon could offer Omega 3 at a 99% bioavailability, while taking Omega 3 in gel capsules could offer 70% bioavailability & taking Omega 3 in liquid form could offer 87% bioavailability. The rest of the nutrients not absorbed & used by your body are simply flushed down the toilet.


What you SHOULD be doing is getting as much FOLATE (the naturally occurring one) from dark, leafy greens. (I'm relentless with this, I know. It's like every nutrition blog I write tells you this. I'm not sorry.) This is the MOST bioavailable, naturally occurring version of vitamin B9 & is EASIEST for your body to convert to methylfolate.


So what about the mutation?

Well the good news is - you can just take Methylfolate. You can literally just buy it in the converted form on amazon.ca or iherb.com


You can also do genetic testing. Don't quote me on this, I haven't done the research into it, but getting packaged genetic testing that goes beyond your normal 23&Me ethnicity origins can provide you insight into whether or not you have this mutation.


If you don't want to bother with getting tested for the mutation - just take methylfolate.

You can find this product advertised as:

  • 5-MTHF

  • l-5-Methyltetrahydrofolate

  • l-methylfolate

  • 5 methyl folate


B12 folate, B12 Methyl & Folate 1000 are not forms of this. Even check your B complex vitamin bottles to see the detail of 'what' form of folate, folic acid, B9 or methylfolate it's providing.


What stands out most to me on this is that your mental heath can be massively impacted when your body has too much folic acid or is unable to process that folic acid. In addition, our health care providers are encouraging us to take larger doses for the health of our growing baby while possibly ignoring signs of a vitamin overdose & attributing them to 'normal pregnancy symptoms' that can easily become debilitating.


Overwhelming emotional responses while we are pregnant are not NORMAL even if they are COMMON. These labels are different. Extreme mental health shifts during pregnancy can often be addressed through our nutrition or through addressing the circumstances we are identifying as a threat to our developing child. This could be relationship strain, housing insecurity, lack of emotional trust & support in our tribe/community, financial strain or anything else that feels unsafe & uncertain while we are pregnant.


Pay attention & get curious.


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Julia is a Holistic Health Consultant, holding a Double Diploma in Community Support & Addictions Work, is a Certified Transformation Specialist, Personal Trainer & Nutrition Coach & a Lvl 2 Reiki Practitioner. She specializes in Trauma Informed Practice & Resiliency Coaching and Holistic Pregnancy & Postpartum Health Coaching. PrettyAggressiveRecovery@gmail.com 

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