DGP: How do I Get Folic Acid Out of My Body? [Episode 13]
Welcome to this week’s SNPit. This is where we get down and dirty on a specific topic about your health. Today’s topic is: How do I Get Folic Acid Out of My Body?
This is the Dirty Genes Podcast, and I’m Dr. Ben Lynch. I hope you enjoy the episode! If you do, be sure to give a thumbs-up, rate it, leave a comment, and subscribe here.
Table of Contents
- Watch the Podcast (YouTube)
- Show Notes
- Episode 13 Transcript: How do I Get Folic Acid Out of My Body?
- Subscribe to the Dirty Genes Podcast
Click the video below to watch the Dirty Genes Podcast or keep scrolling to read the transcript of Episode 13: How do I Get Folic Acid Out of My Body?
- Discover your DHFR gene status with the StrateGene DNA Kit
- 10 Folic Acid Side Effects
- Folate Metabolism Test by Doctor’s Data
- Shop L-Methylfolate Supplements at Seeking Health
Episode 13 Transcript: How do I Get Folic Acid Out of My Body?
So I get this question a lot…
“All right, Dr. Lynch, you convinced me. I get it. Folic acid sucks, and I want it out of my life. I’ve stopped buying it. I understand the bad side effects of folic acid. I’ve stopped folic acid supplementation, but at times I get some in me because I go out to dinner or a friend’s house, so I just grab a quick energy bar, and it’s got some in there. But generally speaking, I’m avoiding it, but I also want to know how I poisoned myself. Is it stuck in there forever? How do I get it out of my system?”
The good news is, you can get folic acid out of your system. The bad news is that it’s too easy to keep folic acid coming in.
By understanding the time it takes to get folic acid out of your system, you’re going to be more careful in the decisions you make about the food and drink that you ingest.
How Much Folic Acid is in Your Body?
First off, you need to remember where folic acid is because you will keep ingesting it. I’m a label reader, but I also go out to dinner. So, you are going to get some folic acid in your system. If I tested my body right now, would they find folic acid in my blood? Yeah, but what I want to share with you is a key statement that I recently learned when researching this.
Folic Acid & Meal Frequency
The appearance of folic acid in your blood is not only related to the dose, meaning how much you are consuming, but also to the timing. Smaller doses of folic acid consumed more frequently result in higher amounts of folic acid in your body, more so than larger doses consumed less often.
If you’re a snacking type of person that eats a little bit of folic acid throughout the day, the likelihood of you having higher levels of folic acid in your body is greater than if you just took a supplement full of folic acid once a day. Then you didn’t eat any processed foods with folic acid in them.
Timing is important; eating processed or enriched foods more frequently tend to increase your blood folic acid levels to a detriment.
Knowing that it is not entirely possible to eliminate folic acid out of your system because it’s everywhere, just be comfortable with that. I say that because if you are a nervous wreck, and from the research I’ve shared with you, I don’t want to make you nervous. I want you just to be aware. Awareness is where I want you to be. There’s a difference between awareness and obsession. So let’s get right down to it.
How Long Does it Take to Detox Folic Acid?
How much time is required to get folic acid out of your body? Now, again, it depends on the dose. It depends on the frequency. Having said that, there is a paper written in German … thankfully, this part was translated … that looked at the speed at which the body excreted folic acid. They did this by giving individuals folic acid and tracing it and finding it in their urine later. Within the first six hours, 81 percent of the administered folic acid appeared in the urine; and in the following four hours, 17 percent more was peed out. So we’re looking at six-plus hours to remove. Okay, now, since the article is in German, I don’t know the dosage used.
Another paper was published where researchers used a mathematical model, and the results said at least five hours is needed to process an average of 350 micrograms (mcg). That’s five hours for less than the RDA of folic acid for an adult!
Pregnant women and breastfeeding women are told to get more than twice that, so pregnant women are looking at probably, I’m assuming here, around eight hours to process one dose of the folic acid out of their system. So if you are consuming any type of folate-enriched foods, it’s going to be even longer. And if you intermittently consume food from restaurants, then you’re going to be getting more exposed.
What is Too Much Folic Acid?
At the end of the day, it’s going to take you upwards of six hours to get about 350 micrograms of folic acid out of your body. So it basically takes you a day to get rid of it. Now, the majority of us are consuming way too much folic acid, which means we’re getting high doses of over 1,000 mcg of folic acid every day. This means it’s going to take well over five hours to get rid of that 1,000 micrograms, especially if you’re eating it frequently every single meal throughout the day.
The good news is your body will get rid of it. The bad news is you’re going to keep getting it. The good news is you’re going to make decisions: you’re going to be reading labels, and you’re not going to buy supplements with synthetic folic acid in them.
Folic Acid vs. Methylfolate
It’s harder for your body to get rid of synthetic folic acid if you have low folate levels of your body’s number one preferred type of folate. Your body’s preferred form of folate is L-methylfolate. If your methylfolate levels are low, it will take you longer to get rid of that synthetic folic acid in and out of your body. The higher your methylfolate levels are, the faster you’re going to get rid of that synthetic garbage folic acid, which is cool.
So focus on your real folate intake. Eat your leafy green vegetables, eat your organ meats, and use supplements containing methylfolate. And minimize your folic acid intake. Avoid breakfast cereals, bread, grain products, dietary supplements, and other sources of folic acid fortification. The research did not look at if your folinic acid levels were sufficient; I bet your synthetic folic acid levels would be eliminated faster. But since your body’s primary form of folate is methylfolate, well, it makes sense that the researchers looked at that.
Your DHFR Gene on Folic Acid
There are also genetic variations, which really, really slow down your ability to get rid of folic acid, and they are often found in the dihydrofolate reductase enzyme. If you’ve inherited a genetic variant (i.e., even a dilution of the DHFR gene), then your ability to process folic acid goes way down.
If that’s the case, folic acid ingestion for you is an even bigger no-no. I don’t talk about DHFR very much, and I didn’t because, we couldn’t test for it in the old StrateGene genetic test because 23andMe and Ancestry do not look for DHFR. But since my team and I designed our own genetic chip for the StrateGene DNA Kit, we specifically requested to have DHFR put onto our genetic chip for StrateGene. You can now test to see if you have this dihydrofolate reductase genetic variation, and it’s common in the population; about 40% of us have it.
So the good news is that even if you have a mutation in your DHFR gene, it doesn’t mean that you’re going to have significant issues.
I just interviewed a woman today who managed to have three healthy pregnancies having this genetic variation despite taking folic acid supplements. But she was also living a very clean lifestyle, a whole foods diet, with low stress. All that aside, taking synthetic folic acid in her prenatal vitamins, she was uninformed at the time, she still was able to get pregnant and have three healthy baby boys. So just remember, genetic variations are not an absolute destiny, and they’re not going to be driving you. Your lifestyle, everyday decisions, environmental exposures, your moods, your social circle, and your community really, really overpower most genetic variations.
Folic Acid Lab Testing
If you go to the typical lab or your standard healthcare provider, you can say, “I want to measure my folate levels.” What you’re going to get is a serum folate level as I discussed in my podcast Folate versus Folic Acid. It’s basically going to be a mosh pit of all the different types of folate in your body labeled as serum folate.
You can’t just go to any lab because serum folate can include folic acid, folinic acid, dihydrofolate, tetrahydrofolate, or methylfolate. You don’t know. It’s just all labeled as folate.
But if you want to pinpoint the amount of folic acid in your blood combined with looking at how much methylfolate and folinic acid are there, you can with the folate metabolism test by Doctor’s Data.
Doctor’s Data is based out of Illinois, Chicago, I believe, and David Quig is their chief scientific officer, brilliant guy … and I know the owner personally. I’m not compensated at all to mention this. They don’t even know I’m mentioning this, but I want to give you the ability to measure it if you want to.
Should You Get Folate Lab Testing?
Now, do you need to get folate lab testing? Unless you have a reason to be concerned about folate deficiency, I don’t think so. I really don’t. I think if you just avoid the use of folic acid the best you can, without freaking out about it, that’s good enough. Why? Because you’re going to pee it out over a period of a day.
Now, if you want to see how your multivitamins or vitamin supplements are working, how much L-methylfolate you’re taking, how much folinic acid you should be taking, how your body is converting folic acid, folinic acid, methylfolate, then I would recommend getting the folate metabolism test because you will see the different types of folates, and it’s pretty interesting.
And that is how you get folic acid out of your body.
Remember, the best way to get folic acid out of your body is to not get it inside your body in the first place.
Thanks for listening today. I hope this information serves you. Until next time, please like, subscribe, and share, and leave a review also of how you’re enjoying the Dirty Genes Podcast. I love reading them. If you have any ways that you want to share with me about how I could improve this or guests I should bring on, you can always reach out to email@example.com. Thank you.
Dr. Lynch’s Folic Acid Cheat Sheet
How do you get folic acid out of your body?
Before you ask that, you need to be aware that folic acid is not just found in your body.
It’s found in your breastfed baby’s body – through your breastmilk.
So by mom eating folic acid, baby is also ingesting it.
Yes breast milk is best – but it’s only as good as the mother’s diet, lifestyle, and quality of supplementation.
There are 2 ways.
Stop ingesting it!
Folic acid is everywhere
- Energy bars
- Energy drinks
- Fortified flour
- Organic foods, non organic – doesn’t matter
- Processed food
- Breakfast cereals!
The appearance of UMFA in plasma is not only related to the dose, but also to the timing, of ingested folic acid (i.e., smaller doses consumed more frequently result in higher UMFA concentrations than larger doses consumed less frequently)
Now it’s impossible to avoid completely if you go out to restaurants, travel, go on vacation, etc. Eating it at times for the most part is ok – unless completely contraindicated by your healthcare professional.
Yes – there are times when folic acid is absolutely contraindicated.
Within the first 6 hours, 81.4% +/- 6.1% of the administered folic acid appeared in the urine and in the following 4 hours, an additional 17.3% +/- 5.4%.
“At least 5 h may be needed to eliminate or immobilize an average of 363 μg folic acid”
So basically takes about a day to eliminate it.
Issue is if you keep eating folic acid – it remains and interferes with natural folate – reducing its ability to do its job.
There is a twist.
Some people can remove folic acid faster than others. Why?
Genes – DHFR variants
Folate status – specifically L-5-MTHF made by MTHFR
There is significantly faster elimination of folic acid in those who have sufficient methyl folate levels in their blood compared to those who have low methyl folate levels in their blood.
“it shows that after ingesting supplements containing folic acid, a higher amount of UMFA disappears from the circulation when people have a high baseline of serum 5-methylTHF (∼48.0 nmol/L), when compared with the eliminated amount of UMFA at a lower concentration of serum folate (∼29.7 nmol/L).”
Testing for Folic Acid
You can – Folate Metabolism Panel by Doctors Data
It looks at your UMFA, Folinic Acid, MTHF and THF
- CDC.gov – Folic Acid Safety, Interactions, and Effects on Other Outcomes
- Plasma kinetics and elimination of folic acid
- Serum Unmetabolized Folic Acid: The Straw That Broke Dihydrofolate Reductase’s Back?
- Knowledge gaps in understanding the metabolic and clinical effects of excess folates/folic acid: a summary, and perspectives, from an NIH workshop
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