Folate and folic acid are forms of a water-soluble B vitamin. Folate occurs naturally in food, and folic acid is the synthetic form of this vitamin. Since 1998, folic acid has been added to cold cereals, flour, breads, pasta, bakery items, cookies, and crackers, as required by federal law. Foods that are naturally high in folate include leafy vegetables (such as spinach, broccoli, and lettuce), okra, asparagus, fruits (such as bananas, melons, and lemons) beans, yeast, mushrooms, meat (such as beef liver and kidney), orange juice, and tomato juice.
Folic acid is used for preventing and treating low blood levels of folate (folate deficiency).
Having too little folate (vitamin B9) in your blood causes folic acid deficiency anemia. Folate is necessary for your body to make new red blood cells. Your body needs red blood cells to carry oxygen to your organs. Not having enough red blood cells causes a condition called anemia, which can make you feel weak and tired. Your baby may be at higher risk of developing serious birth defects like spina bifida if you have folic acid deficiency anemia during pregnancy. Spina bifida causes the baby’s spinal column to be malformed. If you’re folic acid deficient, taking supplements to increase your folic acid level can reduce your risk of developing anemia. What’s more: Experts at Harvard Medical School say that getting enough folic acid can reduce your risk of developing colon cancer and heart disease?
Folic acid is a type of B vitamin that is normally found in foods such as dried beans, peas, lentils, oranges, whole-wheat products, liver, asparagus, beets, broccoli, brussels sprouts, and spinach.
Folic acid helps your body produce and maintain new cells, and also helps prevent changes to DNA that may lead to cancer.
As a medication, folic acid is used to treat folic acid deficiency and certain types of anemia (lack of red blood cells) caused by folic acid deficiency.
Folic acid is sometimes used in combination with other medications to treat pernicious, aplastic, or normocytic anemia. However it will not treat Vitamin B12 deficiency and will not prevent possible damage to the spinal cord. Take all of your medications as directed.
Malnutrition is the most common cause of folic acid deficiency anemia. Eating a diet low in vitamins or overcooking foods can contribute to malnutrition. Heavy bleeding can also lead to anemia. Foods rich in folic acid include citrus fruits, leafy green vegetables, and fortified cereals. Some people have trouble absorbing folic acid from food. Other causes of folic acid deficiency anemia include the following.
- Pregnancy causes folic acid deficiency for several reasons.
- Malabsorption occurs when your body can’t properly absorb a vitamin or mineral.
How to Identify?
Folic acid is the synthetic version of the vitamin folate, also called B9. Your body loses B9 when you sweat and urinate. And your body can’t store it, so you need this vitamin daily.
Symptoms of folic acid deficiency include:
- Mouth sores
- Grey hair
- Swollen tongue
- Poor growth (also among the chief symptoms of malnutrition)
Once anemia occurs, you might experience the following:
- Feeling cold
- Difficulty breathing
- Pale skin
- Weight loss
- Loss of appetite
- Difficulty concentrating
Other blood conditions can cause symptoms similar to folic acid deficiency anemia. You’ll need to see your doctor for a diagnosis. Your doctor will do a complete blood count (CBC)test to determine if you have folic acid deficiency anemia. This test will reveal if your red blood cell count is low. Your doctor may also order a bloodtest to check your folic acid levels. This is called a red blood cell folate level test. If you’re of childbearing age, your doctor may order a pregnancy test to determine if this is the cause of your deficiency. They’ll also ask questions about your eating habits to see if malnutrition is the culprit.
What to Do?
The goal of treatment is to increase your body’s folic acid levels. The easiest way is to take folic acid tablets daily, until the deficiency is corrected. However, you might need to receive folic acid intravenously if your levels are too low. Along with taking supplements, you should eat foods that are high in folic acid, such as pinto beans, spinach, and oranges. Eat plenty of fresh foods and avoid processed or fried foods. They’re usually low in nutrients and high in fat.