To take an active form of folate NOT folic acid
Pregnant women, and women trying to get pregnant, are advised to take Folic Acid supplements for various reasons. The majority of prenatal vitamins have consisted of folic acid, a synthetic form of folate, rather than the naturally occurring and metabolically active form of folate.
What many people don’t know is that this synthetic folic acid must be converted to folate in the body, and it is estimated that up to 60% of the population has at least one genetic mutation that makes this conversion difficult. For women who do have these mutations, our bodies have a harder time getting rid of the excess folic acid because of a reduced detoxification capability. Taking too much folic acid can therefore lead to a buildup in the body, potentially causing cardiovascular and other health issues. Bottom line, taking a more active form of folate, such as L-methylfolate, may be a better option for you.
Even without the genetic mutation, it's likely best to choose a more metabolically active form of folate and to avoid high doses of the synthetic folic acid. Folate can also be found in a variety of foods including dark leafy greens, avocados, legumes, and liver.
*It’s always best to discuss any supplements or change in supplements with your doctor and functional medicine practitioner. Supplementation needs can vary greatly depending on genetics, labs, diet and underlying conditions.
2. To work on my gut health
Diet and lifestyle practices are modifiable factors that can affect the brain-gut axis, and ultimately, the long-term health of women and infants. Women’s gut health related to pregnancy is only now beginning to be studied and published, but its role has been assumed for some time.
In one study of women with abnormal intestinal permeability, it was found that this leaky gut might allow passage of immune triggers from the external environment that could elicit immune response which could lead to endometrial inflammation and, thus, potentially to miscarriage. Furthermore, we know that poor gut health can lead to hormonal imbalances, lack of nutrient absorption, immune disfunction, and mental health issues. We can clearly see that these are not an ideal environment for the health of a mother or fetus.
Working to improve gut health may not only result in a healthier pregnancy, it may also help someone struggling with fertility issues to rebalance hormones and reduce inflammation in order to increase their likelihood of getting pregnant.
3. To switch to safer skincare/make-up and non-toxic cleaning products
Many pregnant women avoid raw fish, highlighting their hair, and retinols during their pregnancy because these are more commonly discussed as potentially dangerous, but there are many other culprits out there. Our skin is one big mouth and absorbs the toxins we slather on it daily. Many ingredients and chemicals have particles that are small enough to pass through the skin into our bloodstream, and these particles can break down even further and pass through the umbilical membrane to the baby. Beauty products are hardly regulated in this country, so its up to us to source out reputable companies that advocate for safer beauty.
It’s impossible to completely avoid chemicals, but there are things you can do to reduce your exposure and the level of toxicity in your body. There are studies that have found dangerous chemicals in women’s breast-milk and in the umbilical cord of newborn babies. It is important to remember that although switching to non-toxic ingredients takes time, it should not be delayed. Empower yourself to start reading labels, sourcing safer beauty (ewg.org is a great start), and using non-toxic cooking and cleaning products.
Working with a functional medicine health coach can help you get on track with all three of the suggestions listed here, including exploration of MTHFR gene mutation and ways to support your body, working on gut health, and educating on non-toxic products and how/why to make the necessary swaps.
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*Disclaimer: None of the information provided here is intended to serve as medical advice or practicing medicine. Please use the information to do your own research and take any questions, concerns or potential changes to your doctor.*