What is Folic Acid?
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.
Where is it found?
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.
Benefits of Folic Acid
Folic acid is used for preventing and treating low blood levels of folate (folate deficiency), as well as its complications, including “tired blood” (anemia) and the inability of the bowel to absorb nutrients properly. Folic acid is also used for other conditions commonly associated with folate deficiency, including ulcerative colitis, liver disease, alcoholism, and kidney dialysis.
Folic acid is used for memory loss, Alzheimer’s disease, age-related hearing loss, preventing the eye disease age-related macular degeneration (AMD), reducing signs of aging, weak bones (osteoporosis), jumpy legs (restless leg syndrome), sleep problems, depression, nerve pain, muscle pain, AIDS, a skin disease called vitiligo, and an inherited disease called Fragile-X syndrome. It is also used for reducing harmful side effects of treatment with the medications lometrexol and methotrexate. Some doctors recommend to apply folic aciddirectly to the gum for treating gum infections.
Importance of Folic Acid before and during pregnancy
If you’re pregnant or might become pregnant, it’s critically important to get enough folic acid, the synthetic form of vitamin B9, also known as folate. Women who are pregnant or might become pregnant must take folic acid to prevent miscarriage and “neural tube defects,” birth defects such as spina bifida that occur when the fetus’s spine and back do not close during development.
How much folic acid you need?
To reduce your baby’s risk of developing a neural tube defect, experts recommend that you take 400 micrograms (mcg) of folic acid a day, beginning at least a month before you start trying to get pregnant. Don’t take more than 1,000 mcg per day of folic acid unless your healthcare provider advises you to. This is particularly important if you are a vegetarian. Vegans are at risk of being deficient in vitamin B12 and taking too much folic acid would make it hard to diagnose that deficiency.
Is the supplement recommended?
Yes. Many authorities, including FOGSI, ACOG and the March of Dimes, recommend that all women of childbearing age take a multivitamin with folic acid or a folic acid supplement every single day
Signs of a folic acid deficiency
The signs of folic acid deficiency can be subtle. You may have diarrhea, anemia, loss of appetite, and weight loss, as well as weakness, a sore tongue, headaches, heart palpitations, and irritability.
If you’re only mildly deficient, you may not notice any symptoms at all, but you won’t be getting the optimal amount for your baby’s early embryonic development.