Everyone knows how important B vitamins are, especially for energy and nerve health. One of the most famous vitamins is B9 or what you see on store shelves as “folic acid.” This is a nutrient that’s required for proper spinal development in fetuses, and very commonly suggested by obstetricians. Folic acid is a synthetic precursor to natural folate or 5-MTHF which your body manufactures in a very complex biochemical process. The MTHFR gene is the primary gene that conducts methylation. A heterozygous or homozygous SNP in this gene can lead to many diseases (see my featured graphic above for some problems associated with MTHFR).
Now there’s a new scientific paper that shows folate can help your brain. Researchers examined a bunch of clinical studies in what’s called a “meta-analysis” and discerned from all the data (across all 60 studies/publications) that folate can help with Alzheimer’s disease. The article is published in Frontiers in Neuroscience. More specifically, they found that folate levels (tested via blood) were reduced in Alzheimer’s patients compared with healthy controls.
Alzheimer’s is a memory disorder that affects more than 6 million Americans according to the the Alzheimer’s Association. On an interesting side note, I can’t help but question how any people with memory disorders are suffering from the ‘drug mugging’ effect of other medications they started a few years ago. Did you know that certain drugs impact your ability to absorb folate, as well as other nutrients needed to make acetylcholine, your memory chemical? I have an article at my website that discusses this very important fact. If you are interested in the drug mugging effect of medications and your levels of folate, take a few minutes to read my other article entitled, How Popular Medications Wipe Out Folate and Lead to Depression.
Folate is mugged by at least 178 different drugs, and probably more. This is well documented in my world, and I’ve studied and written a famous book about it called “Drug Muggers” which is available on Amazon. A folate deficiency can change your personality. It will exacerbate, or cause depression and poor focus making you feel like someone entirely different than who you are! In my opinion, it’s easier to at least try to restore a lost nutrient or two, and get you feeling better naturally, than to take serotonin-pushing drugs right off the bat… which by the way, do nothing for folate levels. If I could get that simple point out to every psychiatrist in the nation, I would be the happiest girl in the world!
Many medications even those used for reflux and for allergies can lead to cognitive deficits via the depletion of folate, B12, thiamine, C, D and other vitamins. While nootropic herbs like Lion’s Mane and Bacopa help (and of course folate), sometimes you have to switch medications to fix the root problem. There are many therapeutic equivalents that your doctor can suggest if you bring this to his/her attention. To find out if you take a medication that depletes your folate, please refer to my Drug Mugger book, or CLICK HERE to read a free article I wrote about it.
On the topic of drug muggers, I have to just tell you that one of the most prescribed medication categories in the entire world is a big drug mugger of folate! It’s the analgesic category of NSAIDs like ibuprofen and others. These are terrific drugs for pain and inflammation, but if you take them chronically, you should supplement with some folate, or a good B complex formula. Take a moment to skim THIS ARTICLE if you or a loved one take NSAIDs for your arthritis or other aches and pain.
As for folate versus folic acid, the choice is clear to me. Take the biologically active form (folate which is also called 5-MTHF) and spend the extra money to buy the body-ready form of it otherwise you won’t get optimal effects. Don’t believe people who tell you that your body will convert the folic acid to folate. A very small percentage becomes activated. It is an extraordinarily complex biochemical pathway, and one that requires you to have every single nutrient available to drive the chemical reactions. If you are short on riboflavin for example, the pathway comes to a screeching halt.
See the graphic here shows you how difficult this process actually is. I want to prove that to you so you no longer buy poor forms of this nutrient because your brain and mood, and personality depend on it. That isn’t to say you even need this, most people are not short on folate. But if you are, then you should be supplementing with the very best, and eating foods rich in folate like salads, leafy greens, peas, broccoli, and hummus. If you’d like to eat your way to better folate status, consider making my delicious folate-rick “Summer Savory Salad.” One of the most trafficked articles on my entire site is THIS ONE. Methylation problems are closely associated with many conditions including fibromyalgia, anxiety, autoimmune diseases (ie Hashimoto’s) and even neuropathy.
Folate plays a huge role in cell and tissue growth. You have trillions of cells and the crystalline DNA strands in each cell are highly susceptible to harm. Folate encourages DNA synthesis and repair of “injured” strands of DNA. Don’t take anything less than the best. Finally, do not overdo it on folate. It will enhance methylation and can make you terribly anxious, irritable, a little confused, agitated, or in severe cases cause a seizure. The topic of genes and methylation is a little controversial, but it’s something I am passionate about. I’ve written a fascinating article that will help you understand the importance of folate, and whether or not you need to eat or supplement with this B vitamin.
Too much folate will increase methylation and cause all those symptoms plus diarrhea, nausea and upset stomach. So be wise, start low with folate, and go slow. Stick to normal doses and follow all the label directions for the product you buy. Even smarter for some of you is to buy a full-range B complex so you don’t tilt your B’s out of balance by taking excessive folate, and thus causing a relative deficiency of all the other B vitamins. Some people alternate with folate one day, and a B complex the next. Everyone is different, each of you reading this has to take your own genetics into account, your own medication list into account and your own metabolism into account. There isn’t a single dose that’s right for each. If you’re thinking about getting pregnant, or if you have fertility problems, please read THIS ARTICLE entitled, “Nutrients You Need Before Pregnancy.”