The Need for the Proper Form of Folate in Chronically Ill People

by Heidi Toy, NTP

In my practice, I meet with some clients with who are chronically unresponsive to medical treatments who have been very sick for a very long time. Some medical professionals around the area see me as clients and they also refer their patients to me. One of the primary items I see in chronically ill people that doctors often miss is the person’s need for the proper form of Vitamin B9 or folate. Let’s explore why this nutrient is so important and how we can avoid missing it.

First, the term folic acid refers to the synthetic form used in some supplements and in food fortification. Folic acid is in an oxidized form and must be converted by the body to the reduced form called folate. When we take a synthetic form of folic acid either as a stand-alone or in a multivitamin, we are not doing ourselves any favors. Be very cautious of buying drug store vitamins or anything fortified with folic acid rather than folate, simply because the body doesn’t know what to do with this synthetic form, and you could be blocking your cell’s receptor sites for the natural form 5-MTHF.

In the body, folate is converted to dihydrofolate then into tetrahydrofolate then into methylene tetrahydrofolate and finally into the 5-methyltetrahydrofolate or 5-MTHF. Or very simply, Folate  →  5- MTHF.

It may seem a little technical, but having a practitioner who understands this conversion and if the person can properly make the conversion is crucial. The inability to make the conversion in some folks is because they have what is called a mutation on their genetic personality or more technically known as a single nucleotide polymorphism or SNP, which is pronounced “snip.”

In the very simplest genetics explanation, we know that every living person has their own genetic code and that they got this DNA from their parents. One half of our DNA came from our mom and one half came from our dad. Along the DNA strand are alleles, which means “one member of a pair.” Alleles will be either negative (-) or positive (+), and if we received two positive alleles (+/+) one from each of our parents on the SNP known as C677T, then we have the most severe mutation and a decreased ability to convert folate to 5-MTHF.

About 40 percent of the population, myself included, has a mutation on this SNP (C677T). And while a person could have zero symptoms at all, they could also have increased homocysteine, pro inflammatory immune reaction resulting in hundreds of disorders including heart disease, progressive neurological disorders, or cancer. Moreover, folate is essential for vitamin B12 metabolism as well as in the functioning of the central nervous system and the immune system. It also means that the body has impaired ability to detox.

We have had these mutations on our SNPs since the beginning of man; however, we live in a very toxic world and our bodies’ ability to rid themselves of the toxins we encounter daily is crucial for health and wellbeing. Consider the facts of toxins in our immediate world for one minute.

Nearly 80,000 new synthetic chemicals have been released into the environment. Over 350 different pesticides are used on the food we eat. Roughly 300 known harmful substances can be found in most blood samples. Newborn babies typically contain 50 to 70 dangerous toxins at birth. The average home contains 3 to 10 gallons of hazardous materials. In the United States alone, over 4 billion pounds of pesticides are used every year. There are at least 5,000 chemical ingredients in cosmetics. Prescription medications are now showing up in our water supply. And to add insult to injury, certain medications referred to as “drug muggers” actually steal vitamin B9/folate from the body.

These staggering toxicity exposure statistics coupled with the fact that over one third of the world’s population lacks the ability to adequately convert folate to 5-MTHF has set us up for what I refer to as the perfect storm. No wonder we are chronically ill as are our children.

Finding out if you have a SNP mutation is easy. It also arms you with the knowledge of what you need to do to get, and stay, healthy in our ever-increasing world of toxicity. I offer a free fifteen-minute discovery consult call to new clients where you can find out the right course of action for you to take charge of your health today.

Heidi Toy is a functional medicine nutritional therapist, and the owner of Educated Nutrition, located in Altoona, Wisconsin. Her focus is helping people heal holistically, with an emphasis on digestion, weight loss, depression, female hormone issues, and fatigue. 

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