folic acid foods

Folic acid deficiency and symptoms – the risk of deficiency of one of the most important vitamins

Folic acid (also known as vitamin B9) is actually an extremely important component of a healthy diet and thus of the supply of our organism. Since our body can hardly store it, it must absorb it all the more regularly. But this is exactly what people in the industrial nations seem to find increasingly difficult. Either not enough vegetables and fruit are eaten or it has already lost a large part of its folic acid through transport, storage and incorrect preparation.

Vitamine in der SchwangerschaftLet us take a closer look at this important vitamin below. The focus will be on symptoms of an insufficient supply, the consequences of a folic acid deficiency and how to combat it. An extra chapter is dedicated to pregnant women, whose folic acid requirement increases in their nine months up to twice that of a normal person, and who therefore suffer particularly from a folic acid deficiency.

What is folic acid? – An extremely important vitamin

Folic acid has an extremely important function within our biochemical body processes. It is not only responsible for the formation of blood and our nervous system. Rather, this vitamin is involved in the construction and repair of our DNA. In addition, folic acid, in addition to vitamin B6 and vitamin B12, also breaks down the amino acid homocysteine, which is increasingly made responsible for weakening the cardiovascular system if the concentration is too high.

Folic acid deficiency and anaemia – these are the symptoms, risks and effects

One of the first signs that the body has too little folic acid is the lack of drive and a general feeling of slackness. Some affected patients also complained to doctors about changes in the mucous membrane of the oral cavity. The tongue can appear swollen, bulky, red or shiny. The deficit that is immediately caused by a flagrant folic acid deficiency is anemia – the underproduction of red blood cells – also known as anemia. Symptoms of anemia caused by a folic acid deficiency include: Lethargy, unusually pale skin, shortness of breath and increased irritability.

For a truly reliable diagnosis of folic acid deficiency, a doctor should always be consulted. This is the only way to determine the – not harmless – deficiency beyond doubt.

Here is a brief summary of the symptoms:

  • change in blood count (hyperchromic macrocytic anaemia – fewer but too large erythrocytes)
  • changes in the mucous membrane of the oral cavity
  • diarrhoea
  • depression
  • reproductive disorders
  • serious problems for the child
  • degeneration of the spinal cord

Folic acid is important for pregnant women

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Due to its outstanding role in the DNA structure, cell construction and division as well as all growth processes in the body, folic acid is also known as “pregnancy vitamin”. It is therefore no wonder that women have a particularly high need for this vitamin during pregnancy. This is even twice as high as in a normal person.

For this reason, pregnant women should pay particular attention to the fact that they regularly consume the required amount of folic acid so that the unborn baby does not show any unpleasant symptoms and impairments in growth and thus also no malformations.

What is the recommended daily amount of folic acid?

A healthy adult should consume about 400 micrograms of folate per day. According to some statistics, men absorb on average only 200 to 380 micrograms and women only 200 to 360 micrograms. These figures make it clear that the problem of folic acid deficiency is actually one.

What causes the folic acid deficiency?

The causes of folic acid deficiency are manifold. The process of undersupply can, for example, be triggered by a diet. If this diet contains little vegetables, fruit or fortified cereals, the diet can actually be the main cause of folic acid deficiency. In addition, overcooking, especially of vegetables, can destroy the folic acid components. Folic acid is very sensitive to heat, light and oxygen and can volatilize quickly when overcooked.

Trigger for a blatant folic acid deficiency can also be various diseases of the gastrointestinal tract and kidneys. These include Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, certain types of cancer and severe kidney problems requiring dialysis.

There may also be genetic predispositions. This is primarily a biochemical dysfunction that prevents the body from converting folic acid into the perishable form of methylfolate. Certain drugs also have an unfavorable utilization of folic acid. These include phenytoin (dilantin), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, methotrexate and sulfasalazine.

A not inconsiderable reason for a dangerous folic acid deficiency in the body is excessive alcohol consumption. This significantly disrupts the absorption of folic acid and increases the immediate excretion of folates through the urine. Alcohol is one of the most common causes of unpleasant symptoms and damage to the child.

Folic acid deficiency – What to do? Nutrition, recipes and dietary supplements

The best way to provide the body with a sufficient daily ration of folic acid is to change your diet accordingly.

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Especially rich in folic acid is leafy, green vegetables such as broccoli, spinach or Brussels sprouts. Oat flakes are recommended for breakfast. Soybeans, wheat germ and food of animal origin are also rich in folic acid. Particularly offal such as liver and kidneys offer just as high a dose of the recommended daily ration.

Even if one helps with some food supplements to be on the safe side, there is hardly any danger of an overdose. Folic acid belongs to the group of water-soluble vitamins, the excess of which the body immediately releases via the urine.


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