There’s No Such Thing As Flu Season

There’s really nothing in particular about the fall and winter months that makes the flu that much stronger. It’s around all year long. What changes is that we become more susceptible to it.

This is due to a variety of lifestyle factors that happen to coincide with this time of the year for many of us.

So let’s break some of these down and figure out how to avoid the flu this year and some natural ways to boost your immune system.


One of the leading causes of a depressed immune system is that we just naturally eat a more high carb, high sugar diet over the winter months. Not as much food is fresh this time of year, so we reach for more refined foods- like pastas, rices, breads etc. But on top of that there’s the Halloween candy, pumpkin spice lattes, Thanksgiving feasts laden with sweet potato casserole and pumpkin pie and then Christmas treat galore- from figgy pudding to the Christmas cookies we leave out for Santa and his reindeer. It’s hard to resist even if we’re being super conscious of it. We only get to live this one life- right?

But one of the things about sugar is it’s an immune system killer for multiple reasons. 

First of all, diets high in sugar can lead to high blood sugar, and high blood sugar reduces white blood cell activity, therefore depressing immune function. 

Secondly, every time we eat sugar, our bodies need to produce insulin from our Pancreas to grab onto the sugar and transport it into the cells. This is how our bodies regulate our blood sugar levels and it takes metabolic energy- think nutrient expenditure. Often, our bodies do this SO efficiently and our pancreas produces TOO much insulin and transports too much of the sugar into cells that our blood sugar crashes soon after, leading to hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar. This is known as the blood sugar rollercoaster. When our blood sugar drops our adrenals release cortisol, our stress hormone, to go on over to the liver to break down stored sugar called glycogen back into sugar to raise our blood sugar back up. The process usually repeats aaannnd it usually makes us reach for more sugar to speed up getting over that crashy feeling- this is one of the reasons we get sugar cravings. 

The body sees high blood sugar as an emergency, and therefore all available energy and nutrients will be shuttled into producing cortisol, the stress hormone, just  to keep us alive. This leaves less energy and nutrients for the rest of the body, including the immune system. This phenomenon is known as the cortisol steal. 

Cortisol isn’t all evil, it’s very helpful for many things! It regulates our white blood cells, it speeds up the immune response to a white blood cell signal, and it boosts anti immune and anti inflammatory processes. All good things! It’s when it becomes imbalanced that problems start to arise.

Because cortisol has these anti immune and anti inflammatory properties it can keep colds and flus and sicknesses at bay. But too much of any one thing is rarely good. This is actually why it’s not a great thing to NEVER get sick. It’s a sign of too high cortisol, which has a slew of health issues- including endocrine disruption, gut disruption (high cortisol is enough to cause a leaky gut), neurological disruption etc. 

Too low cortisol becomes an issue as well- many times those who are sick and just stay sick for what seems like forever have too low of cortisol.

So you can start to see how much metabolic energy it takes for the body to process sugar. 

Your Pancreas, Adrenals and Liver take a hit and it takes nutrients to repair all of that damage. Sugar also takes nutrients to breakdown, for example it takes 56 molecules of magnesium to break down one molecule of sugar. 

Magnesium is responsible for over 300 metabolic functions including muscle contraction, regulating your heart beat, and for modulating the immune response- another way that sugar can affect the immune system. 

Therefore consistently eating a diet high in sugar will cause nutrient deficiencies and a depleted immune system.  

How to Combat The Sugar Beast:


  • Saying avoiding sugar seems a little on the nose and impossible, but limiting refined sugars and processed foods is a good start. 
  • It’s always best to eat sugary treats WITH a quality source of fat or protein, this slows down sugar absorption and the insulin response and helps keep the body in balance. If you know you’re going to indulge in dessert I encourage clients to eat it WITH their dinner as opposed to afterwards or worse even, right before bed. For one, you’ll likely eat less of it and for two, you’ll include it in a more balanced way with fats and proteins to slow down that insulin response. 

Nutrient Deficiencies

Aside from the nutrient deficiencies that go hand in hand with sugar consumption, another vital nutrient for immunity is often deficient in the winter time. Vitamin D. The lack of sunshine and increased time spent indoors in the winter leads to vitamin D deficiencies. 

What does this vitamin do for your immune function? 

Vitamin D is an essential nutrient for turning on certain processes in the body. Vitamin D turns on peptides that triggers your microbial fighting mechanism, allowing you to quickly and efficiently fight off Invaders such as the flu. 

And sometimes your vitamin D deficiency is do or made worse from your diet. Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, meaning it is only absorbed by the body in the presence of fat. If you are eating a diet low in fats, or high in poor quality fats, you will not be able to absorb or utilize your vitamin D.

One nutrient that I cannot skip the importance of here is water. Water is actually the most common nutritional deficiency in the American population. Water is needed by the lungs to keep air passages moist and prevent them from drying up as you breathe. Good hydration supports good lymphatic flow, and the lymph is very important for immune cell transportation.  Dehydration can exaggerate histamine activity, which can play a role in asthma and allergies.  We also need water to create healthy mucosal linings in the sinus, gut and lungs which are very important in regulating immune function and fighting off pathogens. During the winter months we tend to crave more warming beverages such as tea or coffee in favor of plain old water, and we think we’re getting this essential nutrient in with these beverages because we make them with water- right?

Wrong! Coffee and most teas are diuretics, as are other beverages such as soda, alcohol, juices etc. Basically anything that’s not water is likely a diuretic. Diuretics dehydrate and cause the need for even MORE water.

The formula for figuring out your water intake is half your body weight in ounces of water, plus an additional 12 ounces per every cup of diuretic.  So for example if you weigh 100 lbs, you’d need 50 ounces of water. 

If you weigh 100 lbs and drink 2 8 ounce cups of coffee you’d need the 50 ounces plus an additional 24 ounces for a total of 74 ounces of water. 

How to combat Nutrient Deficiencies during the winter months:

  • Eating a nutrient dense, whole foods diet is the best way to strengthen the immune system and stay balanced during these winter months. 
  • Make an effort to include plenty of nutrient dense foods such as bone broth, organ meats, grass fed and pastured animal proteins, seafood and fish, fermented foods, and lots of organic veggies.
  • Upping targeted supplementation can be helpful, vitamin d, Zinc and Magnesium are particularly helpful, but you can’t out supplement a nutrient dense diet. 

A Note Regarding Immune System Superfoods

A note on the very popular immune stimulating supplements that we hear of during this season, including but not limited to:

  • Elderberry
  • Echinacea
  • Ashwagandha
  • Spirulina
  • Maca
  • Bee Pollen etc

These are all immune stimulators, which means if you have an autoimmune disease or immune dysfunction (like with a leaky gut or endometriosis) then these will upregulate an already compromised immune system and may make you feel pretty lousy. Proceed with caution, and work with a practitioner to develop an individualized supplement protocol that works for your unique situation!

Lack of Movement

Another potential cause of depressed immune function in the winter is the tendency to be more sedentary during the cold rainy months. A sedentary lifestyle is associated with a compromised immune system and decreased resistance to stress. Movement is very important for circulation and getting blood cells around the body, as well as for lymphatic movement. For those of you who do not know, the lymphatic system has no circulation of its own. 

We have to stimulate it. That’s why rebounding, dry brushing and lymphatic drainage is a thing. 

The lymphatic system is an extensive drainage network that helps keep bodily fluid levels in balance and defends the body against infections. Other than our nasal mucosal lining we discussed, it’s our first line of defense against pathogens. 

It transports our immune cells around the body, as well as transports bacteria to our lymph nodes where immune cells called macrophages breakdown and filter these toxins to the liver for excretion out of the body.

Sedentary lifestyles also tend to cause poor sleep and circadian rhythm regulation. And of course, at night during deep sleep is when our bodies repair and heal. No sleep is obviously no good for immune regulation. 

On the other side of the spectrum, too much physical activity is actually even worse for the immune system than too little, so it’s all about finding that sweet spot where exercise GIVES you energy instead of drains you. Incorporating movement into our day is the most beneficial thing we can do. Walk around the block when we grab the mail, doing a quick youtube dance class in the morning before starting your day, stretching out and doing yoga while watching tv with the family, etc. 

Too much or too little physical activity also decreases resistance to stress (through that same adrenal mechanism we discussed earlier) which leads us to our next point…


Of everything we discuss, stress is probably the most important and relevant to most of us. 

The holidays are freaking stressful. They’re fun and lovely and beautiful and yadda yadda, but they are stressful! 

The days are shorter, schedules become more tight, there are more parties and get togethers to plan and attend than usual. There are cookies to bake, presents to buy, people to see. There’s travel and hosting family and dealing with family. There’s financial burden. You get the picture. 

Constant stress again dysregulates our HPA axis and creates a chronic cortisol response. What’s interesting is the body doesn’t have the ability to differentiate different types of stress. If a cortisol response is noted, it’s stressful for the body. 

So this means sitting in traffic stressing about being late for a meeting is just as stressful as being chased by a bear. 

Yeah- read that again! Let it sink in!

The bodily response is the same for both occurrences. It activates our fight or flight response which stops all metabolic processes, including things like digestion and immune function, in order to produce the cortisol needed to sustain these stress levels. The body thinks you are in danger, and the cortisol shuttles all metabolic energy into giving you the strength to survive a stressor- such as a bear attack. It does this by stopping all current metabolic processes (including but not limited to digestion, making healthy hormones, repairing tissues, reducing inflammation) and instead shuttles all energy into cortisol, adrenaline and epinephrine production to increase the heart rate and force all blood flow into the arms and legs to increase your odds of surviving the attack.

But you weren’t attacked- you were just arguing with your boyfriend about where to go for dinner. Unfortunately the body didn’t get the message.

So in the case of chronic or regular stress, you can see that the body shuts off the immune system in order to shuttle all nutrients and metabolic energy to just surviving. This plays a really big role in fertility too! If the body is registering chronic stress, it’s not going to prioritize making healthy hormones and fertility if it’s sensing an unsafe or stressful environment for raising offspring. The body can be frustratingly intelligent. 

Some tips for regulating stress:


  • Don’t be afraid to say no and try to not overcommit. 
  • Boundaries are so important.
  • Meditation, visualization, deep breathing
  • Alternate nostril breathing
  • Prioritizing 8 hours of sleep

And lastly, stress reduces stomach acid production, which leads us to my last and final and the most important part of this discussion which is…

Digestive Function

If your digestion isn’t working properly, this whole lecture and discussion is kind of moot. If you are not properly digesting your food, it’s not possible to get all the nutrients we need to function let alone create a robust immune system.

Signs of digestive dysfunction can be really obvious and include:

  • Bloat
  • Constipation
  • Diarrhea
  • Burping
  • Heartburn/Acid Reflux
  • Stomach Cramps or pains

But signs of indigestion can be more subtle as well:

  • Muscle fatigue
  • Hair loss
  • Loss of taste for meat
  • Feeling better after skipping meals
  • Becoming sleepy after meals etc

If you suspect you have poor digestive function, talking to a functional practitioner (like me!) to heal the gut and work on digestion is going to be the best thing you can do to heal the immune system and achieve overall optimum health. 

Some things to do to enhance digestive dysfunction:

  • 1-2 tbsp of Apple Cider vinegar before meals, OR herbal bitters 15 or so minutes before meals. Not both! These help to increase your stomach acid production which is a GOOD thing! We often think that we have too much stomach acid and that’s why we get upset tummies and/or heartburn, but 99.9% of the time the exact OPPOSITE is true! More info on this in a later post!
  • Making sure we are in a parasympathetic, or rest and digest state before we eat. This is so so so so so so (I could go on and on, but I won’t) important.  Remember if we’re stressed it turns off all metabolic function- including digestion! Meal times are not ideal times for ‘family meetings’ or arguing, and it’s really best to not be eating and doing things during- like watching tv or reading or working. Meal times are for laughing and giving thanks and gratitude and enjoyment. 
  • Working with a practitioner to investigate digestive dysfunction and help you improve function

To Sum

So- to recap, many lifestyle factors that are common during the winter months culminate in the unfortunate decline of the state of the immune system. Diets high in holiday sugary treats, nutrient deficiencies, lack of sunshine, lack of movement, high stress and digestive dysfunction are just some of the lifestyle factors that we can be proactive about as we gear up for the so called flu season. 

Overwhelmed! I still have a few one on one counseling spots open before the holidays! Get a free consult on the books!

Gluten’s Role in Chronic Illness

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ll likely have heard about the gluten free ‘fad’ in the wellness community. Especially if you have any kind of chronic illness. More and more are being diagnosed with Celiacs disease, but even some without Celiacs are reporting with symptoms of gluten intolerance. These cases are referred to as gluten intolerant or non celiac gluten sensitive individuals.


People have very strong opinions when it comes to this and you may have heard the following comments about it:

  • ‘gluten free is a fad’

  • ‘non celiac gluten sensitivity is a hoax’

  • ‘cutting gluten when you don’t have to is harmful’


And I’m sure you don’t want to hear this, but I hate to say that these comments (that we even sometimes here form our doctors and practitioners) are not supported by the science.


There is an ever growing pile of evidence proving that gluten increases inflammation, contributes to a leaky gut, preferentially feeds harmful gut bacteria and is associated with a growing list of conditions seemingly every day.


And this doesn’t just apply to those with illness, there is further evidence to support that gluten causes intestinal damage to everyone, ‘healthy’ individuals included.


Let’s dig into the science and debunk what these naysayers have to say about gluten.


You’ll often hear that gluten is an inflammatory food. This is due to a few reasons. It’s effects on the gut, the way it’s prepared, and the fact that it is often treated with harmful chemicals such as Glyphosate.



What is a leaky gut? I’ll be sure to do another post detailing what exactly it is, but to sum, a leaky gut is when something happens to the integrity of the lining of the small intestine, and food particles, toxins and other things that do not belong outside of the small intestine get into circulation.


This is bad news bears for multiple reasons.


  1. This activates the immune response and immune cells mount an attack on this foreign invaders. “But it’s just food?” you may be thinking. Well sometimes yes, and sometimes no. Not all of our food is pure- think of things such as herbicides and germs that are commonly on our food. Or parasites from meat or fish that the body usually would deal with during the digestive process. These things can leak into the body as well and cause damage to our tissues. In addition, our circulation is meant to handle individual isolated nutrients, not undigested food particles. So the immune system will treat these as harmful substances and will seek them out. If our gut is leaking, this means every time we eat we are leaking food into our circulation and activating the immune response.

  2. Nutrient deficiencies. Obviously if we are leaking our nutrients into our circulation, we are not absorbing and assimilating them for proper use in the body. Additionally, the immune system is an immune hog on a good day, let alone when it is constantly being triggered. More immune action=more nutrients used, and less to go around for other metabolic functions.

  3. Inflammation. These foreign substances can damage surrounding tissues and cells, creating a chronic inflammatory state. Again, this damage requires nutrients to heal, further adding to the nutrient deficit.


So leaky gut = a big problem. A leaky gut is the gateway to many autoimmune diseases. In fact, every single autoimmune disease studied has been linked to a leaky gut.


And as you know if you follow me on Instagram, while endometriosis is not considered an AI disease (yet!) there is a very strong immune component to the disease AND there is also a very strong link between endometriosis and a leaky gut. So this applies to all of my endosisters as well.




The reason I bring this up is because gluten exposure has been shown to cause and worsen a leaky gut. This is due to it’s  direct effect on the cells of our intestines.


Prolamins are a component of all grains and pseudograins (amaranth, quinoa etc) and is very prominent in Gluten, in particular the protein component of gluten called Gliadin


Prolamins resist proper digestion because we lack the necessary enzymes to do so, but also because they are rich in protease inhibitors such as phytic acid, which are not only very tough to digest (hello bloat!) but also can bind to our minerals, making these compounds known as ‘anti nutrients.’


Prolamins trigger the release of a substance known as Zonulin, a protein that regulates the opening and closing of our gut junctions, which are basically the structures that glue our epithelial cells (the cells that line our intestines). Zonulin is meant to be a part of the normal digestive process, and one of it’s functions is to assist in the selective nutrient absorption of certain nutrients, but the problem arises when there is too much zonulin secretion.


Think of how often gluten is consumed. Toast, bagels, pastries or english muffin for breakfast. A sandwich or wrap for lunch. Pasta or garlic bread for dinner. Not to mention cookies, cakes, pies that make up dessert and our favorite snacks. 


You can see how this adds up to an unhealthy zonulin production, and contribution to a leaky gut. 




If that wasn’t already enough science to convince you to try going gluten free, here’s some more compelling information. Gliadin is known to inhibit enzyme activity. Enzymes help to break down our protein into individual amino acids, or complex sugars into monosaccharides. When gluten interferes with these processes, it leaves a lot more of our food not broken down into utilizable nutrients, and it can then act as fodder for our gut bacteria. This can lead to gut dysbiosis- an imbalance in the gut bacteria. This is what leads to pathogenic gut conditions such as SIBO or Candida.


In other words- gluten feeds the bad bacteria in our gut. 




Gluten containing foods are often high caloric- meaning they are high calorie. They are also often lacking in nutrients. Most gluten items are made from refined flour. The refining process essentially strips any and all nutrition from the foods. After the second world war many food companies began to notice the increase in nutrient deficiencies and began to fortify these foods with synthetic vitamins to correct the deficiencies. Now people think of these grains and refined flours as high in certain nutrients, such as iron, folic acid (see my article about folic acid vs folate here), and fiber. This is often touted as a reason to not go gluten free because then you will be lacking in these nutrients.


This is a gross fallacy. With all of that room for additional calories/fuel in your diet you will have to reach for whole food forms of fuel- such as veggies, fruits, meats etc. And these foods have a much more diverse and substantial nutrient content than any gluten containing food.



Nothing beats meat (especially organ meats) in terms of iron, leafy greens are excellent sources of folate. And of course a variety of veggies is going to provide plenty of fiber, and unlike gluten containing foods- these whole foods feed the beneficial gut bacteria and also avoid the blood sugar spike associated with grain foods.

But gluten foods aren’t only high caloric, they are also high glycemic. Meaning that they are high in sugars that spike our blood sugar. Continued and frequent ingestion of these types of foods will continue the pattern of spiking the blood sugar, only for it to crash a few hours later, leaving you feeling shaky, hungry and desperately reaching for sugar/carbs to elevate your blood sugar yet again. This leads to dysregulated blood sugar, a sluggish liver as the liver is involved in the blood sugar metabolism, and causes what is known as the cortisol steal- leading to disrupted hormones.

If you’re eating a lot of glutenous foods- breads, pastries, cereals, cookies, pastas etc- that doesn’t leave a whole lot of room for other fresh foods that contain a much higher nutrient content, without the unwanted blood sugar symptoms.


Gluten has been associated with many illnesses, here is a list of just a few.







Insulin Resistance


General Inflammation

Do a few of these  sound familiar? I’m guessing yes if you’re reading this article.





Brain Fog





Abdominal Cramping




Painful muscles

Nutritional deficiencies

Weight loss or weight gain

Gallbladder and liver problems

Aching joints

Sleep disturbances

Mood issues and trouble managing stress



Infertility, irregular menstrual cycle and miscarriage

Cramps, tingling and numbness

Decline in dental health

Asthma and allergies

Notice that many of these symptoms are not even digestive issues. So if you think you’re getting away with gluten because your stomach is fine, there is still a big chance that you are reacting to it.


In addition to all of the above information, wheat and glutenous croups such as barley are often sprayed with Round-Up. AKA Glyphosate. You might have heard about it, it’s the chemical that’s giving everyone cancer. Studies are showing a 41% increase in cancer chance with glyphosate exposure.

In addition to it’s weed killing properties, glyphosate acts as a dessicant, or drying agent, for the wheat. So many farms will use it to increase production speed. 

Glyphosate is known to have many effects on our health such as:

Gut dysbiosis

Endocrine Disruption

Increased Cancer Risk

Mineral Malabsorption

Oxidative Stress

Just one more reason to stay away. 


Many have tried a temporary gluten free diet and claimed that the effects were not noticeable or enough to justify omitting this food. But studies are showing that it can take up to 2 years to heal from gluten exposure in the case of Celiacs, and up to 6 months for those with IBS to expect symptoms. So unless you gave it a few months and are 100% certain you were completely gluten free (it’s a sneaky ingredient that is in many processed foods) then you can’t say for sure that it doesn’t affect you. 

“But wouldn’t gluten show up on a sensitivity test?”

Not likely. Conventional testing for Celiacs and gluten intolerance only tests for antibodies to  alpha-gliadin and transglutaminase-2. So if you are sensitive to other components of gluten, such as beta-gliadin, gamma-gliadin or omega gliadin then you’ll test negative even if you’re severely sensitive.

So even a negative Celiacs testing can’t get you away from this potential issue.

What are we to do?

The Elimination/Provocation Method is the gold standard for identifying gluten sensitivity. The idea is to remove the offensive food COMPLETELY from the diet, allow the gut and immune system to heal, then reintroduce it and monitor symptomatology. If any symptoms crop up, you know you are sensitive to this food.

Most doctors will only ask you to do this test for 30-60 days. But hopefully now you see the importance of committing to this change for at least 6 months.

It’s a lot to ask, I know. But if you are experiencing any of the symptoms I’ve detailed on this page, I urge you to invest this time into your health. There are so many nutrient dense and delicious foods out there to replace it with. With so many gluten free flours and alternatives on the market these days, it’s never been easier. 


Remember how we talked about how gliadin causes an exaggerated Zonulin release? Turns out 55% of the population has a genetic predisposition to exaggerated zonulin release. If you are one of those 55% of people, gluten is going to be a double whammy for you, and you’ll also benefit from a gluten free diet.

So even if you don’t have a chronic illness, if you have these genetic mutations (HLA-DQ2 and HLA-DQ8) you are extra at risk for developing a leaky gut, and it’s subsequent health issues.

WHEW!! That’s a lot to day about gluten, and you know what? I could say even more. We didn’t even discuss the environmental effects, cross reactivity, hyper palatability, or the evolution of gluten from when our ancestors were preparing it. So I’m thinking there might be a part 2 to this post.

What do you guys think? Are you gluten free? Did you experience relief? You can read my story here to read more about how cutting gluten was one of the catalysts to me becoming who I am today.

Post your questions about gluten below and I’ll address them in part 2 of this blog.


About Kristy Dishmon


Not feeling your best? Are you struggling with low energy? Digestive discomfort or gut imbalances? Blood sugar issues? Do you struggle with chronic illness or autoimmune disease? You’ve come to the right place.

I am a certified Nutritional Therapy Practitioner. I conquered my chronic illness with the amazing healing power of nutrition and I want to help you do the same and feel your best.I can help you optimize your health, and get the most out of your life.

Contact me for a free consultation to see if my services are a good fit for you. I can’t wait to aid you in your healing journey.



Kristy knows what she’s talking about, shes dedicated and passionate about this field of study. It was definitely a life-changing experience. I know Kristy herself has made massive improvements in her own health, but I never thought I could feel SO much better than I already had. Thank you, Kristy!

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This is so wonderful especially when you have exhausted all medical recommendations. Give this process a try. It is painless, private and could be the long awaited help you have been looking for. Our family is very grateful for this wonderful new process.

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Folic Acid vs. Folate

What is folic acid exactly?

Folic acid is the synthetic form of the nutrient folate. Otherwise known as vitamin B9. Folic acid in itself cannot be utilized by the body, it must be converted to its active form, 5-MTHF before the body can use it. 

You’ll mainly see folic acid in many conventional foods and supplements because it is easier to produce, more shelf stable and much more affordable, but you should think twice about using products with folic acid in them.

The short story is that once again, this comes down to bio individuality- what nourishes one body may be doing harm for another.

Folate / Folic Acid Uses

You’ve probably heard about the necessity of sufficient folic acid/folate in women for proper fetal development, but Folate is necessary in the body for a variety of reasons. 

  • Proper Fetal Neural Tube Development (5)
  • Heart Health (4)
  • Red Blood Cell Production (3)
  • Neurotransmitter Synthesis (2)
  • DNA Synthesis + Repair (1)
  • Promotes a Healthy Immune System (6)(7)
  • Regulates Homocysteine Levels

So you can see that this is a vital nutrient for our health.

Due to a rise in neural tube defects, the United States and many other countries began to fortify foods with folic acid.

Folic Acid in our Food Supply

In 1998, it was mandated to fortify cereal grain products with folic acid to prevent neural tube defects in babies. (7) This public health initiative was very successful, reducing the occurrence of neural tube defects by 19-32%. Other countries following suit saw decreases in NTD as high as 55%.

Since then it has been recommended that women capable of becoming pregnant should be getting at least 400 µg of folic acid daily.

So, what’s so wrong with folic acid then? Why would this be an issue if it’s helping babies being born without defects?

It isn’t much of a problem for the 60% of people who are successfully able to convert that folic acid into the active form of folate in the body. But for the 40% of people who cannot, (more on that below) that folic acid can lead to big problems.

Folic Acid and MTHFR

40% of the population have a genetic mutation called MTHFR (8). MTHFR is a genetic snp that interferes with the way our body does something called methylation, a process by which methyl groups are added to a DNA molecule. This is a process that affects how the body ‘reads’ genes after a methyl group has attached to a DNA molecule… Yeah, it’s a bit complicated. 

Basically, this particular gene, MTHFR that stands for methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, just in case you were wondering, gives genes their instructions for converting folic acid into the active form methylfolate, or 5-MTHF in the body.

Those with the mutation MTHFR C677T cannot convert folic acid into the active form of folate in the body. As a result, supplemental folic acid will build up toxic levels in the body. This could explain why those with this gene mutation experience more miscarriage (9). Elevate folic acid levels has also been found to stimulate pre-existing cancer cells. (10)

Women who are thinking about conceiving may want to check themselves for this mutation through genetic testing, such as 23andme and run their raw genetic data through another report such as

Given this information, you can see that supplementing with folic acid is not ideal. So what’s a better option.

Firstly, it’s always preferable to get your nutrients from real and whole foods. Secondly, if one chooses to supplement then supplementing with methylfolate is a much better choice.

Whole Food Sources of Folate

Folate can be found in the following foods:(11)

  • Dark green leafy vegetables
  • Romaine lettuce
  • Beans
  • Peas
  • Legumes
  • Avocado
  • Broccoli
  • Eggs
  • Liver
  • Asparagus
  • Brussels sprouts


Methylfolate is a much more safe supplement alternative than folic acid. This supplementation is optimal regardless of your MTHFR status because it comes from whole food nutrients, and is not created in a lab.

I hope this article has helped to clear up some confusion about the differences between folic acid and folate and which is a better alternative for you!