Bioidentical Nutrients such as Folate – Bridging the Gap between Nature and Modern Day Food
One of the realities of the aging process is that our hormones begin to decline. This is best noted by menopause in females and low levels of testosterone in males. Both states are the result of inadequate hormone availability which goes on to often promote physical and emotional feelings that are less than ideal. To support the restoration of a better state of health, hormone replacement is often given. However, the administration of synthetic forms of hormones raises questions as they are not naturally found in the human body. As a result, many often turn to hormones in the form our bodies produce them. These are known as bioidentical hormones, meaning they are exactly identical biologically to the hormones that our body produces. Bioidentical hormones are recognized by many as a safer option to synthetic hormones with more predictable outcomes.
The Importance of Bioidentical Nutrients
If at this point you are thinking, great, another hormone article, don’t. I started out with the example of bioidentical hormones to illustrate the significance of using substances that are intrinsic to the function of our bodies. While it is often not discussed, the use of a bioidentical nutrient is just as relevant as a bioidentical hormone. Bioidentical nutrients are easily recognized by our bodies and quickly incorporated into crucial metabolic pathways that support everything from energy production to immune health. These are the same forms of nutrients that you would find in nature if you were picking and gathering food. These forms of nutrients represent some of the most important aspects of food when it comes to promoting overall health.
Therefore, if bioidentical nutrients are beneficial, that must mean that synthetic forms of nutrients have some inherent problem. Indeed, this is the case just as with synthetic hormones. The main problem with synthetic, or non-bioidentical, substances is that they are not easily incorporated into our normal bodily systems. Our body has to work overtime to get them to function and even then there remain some limitations.
The Folate vs. Folic Acid Dilemma
Likely the best example of the need for bioidentical nutrients can be found with B9, or folate. Many will better recognize the name folic acid. Folic acid has become the more common name in our society and can easily be found in many packaged foods and the average over-the-counter multivitamin or B complex vitamin. As effortless as it is to find folic acid in our food supply, one might think this is the best form of the nutrient. However, the buyer should beware. The incorporation of folic acid throughout the food supply has served the benefit of reducing birth defects, yet this is only part of the story. The rest of the story about this synthetic form of B9 is that it is not found in nature and therefore our bodies have to modify it to work. Over time there are negative outcomes associated with this, including the dreaded condition cancer. Folic acid truly is a double edged sword.
In contrast, folate, the bioidentical form of B9 has not been shown to have these same effects. The rationale seems logical. As folates are consumed, either through food or supplementation, they are quickly and easily assimilated into our body systems and used to promote growth, generate new tissues and drive detoxification, just to name a few. There are no detrimental effects from folate use as our body knows exactly what to do with it. In fact, studies have shown that when it comes to folic acid versus folate, the human gut has a very difficult time converting folic acid into the necessary folate form (Am J Clin Nutr. 2014 Jun 18).
While little is talked about with regards to bioidentical nutrients, this is a crucial concept that often goes unmentioned. The need for bioidentical nutrients underscores the importance of giving the body the proper form of a nutrient to make sure we adhere to the first motto of healthcare, “First do no harm”. Moreover, the need for bioidentical nutrients also emphasizes eating foods that are in the forms that natures gives them to us, not refined and adulterated. Thus the consumption of bioidentical nutrients is a concept that is inherent to the Paleo Diet. As this reinforces, you will not go wrong eating foods in their most natural state.