Folic acid, otherwise referred to as folate or B9, and vitamin D are two essential vitamins for good health. Folic acid is a B vitamin, and according to Elson Haas in his book "Staying Healthy With Nutrition," a deficiency in folic acid may be the single most common vitamin deficiency. Vitamin D deficiency is also quite common; Harvey B. Simon, M.D. of Harvard Medical School notes in his article, "Vitamin D-Don't Get Caught D-ficient" that a 2010 report indicates that approximately 60 percent of Americans are vitamin D deficient. Luckily, you can easily remedy both deficiencies with dietary supplements. Both vitamins can produce toxic side effects, however, and you should only take the under the supervision of your health care practitioner.
The Importance of Folic Acid
Folic acid is important for the production of healthy red blood cells, the metabolism of protein and for a healthy brain and nervous system. It also plays an integral role in the formation of DNA and RNA, and thus the growth and reproduction of every cell in your body, says Haas. Due to its role in cellular reproduction, folic acid is often prescribed to pregnant women because a deficiency at this time can cause serious fetal development problems.
Those Most Likely Deficient in Folate
Populations likely to have folic acid deficiencies include the elderly, alcoholics, heavy smokers, psychiatric patients, epileptics, people who eat unhealthy refined food diets and women who are pregnant or on the birth control pill. Stress, illness, intestinal malabsorption and stomach surgery may also all lead to a folic acid deficiency, adds author Haas.
Folate Deficiency Symptoms
Common early deficiency symptoms of folate are poor memory, apathy, lack of motivation, irritability, withdrawal and a decrease in mental abilities. If the deficiency progresses then several symptoms may manifest: anemia, fatigue, depression, anorexia, weight loss, diarrhea, forgetfulness, headache, sore and inflamed tongue, heart palpitations, hostility and paranoia. In addition, the red blood cells become enlarged and deformed, which can inhibit their ability to properly carry deliver oxygen throughout the body.
Common Causes of Vitamin D Deficiency
Vitamin D is a fat-soluble, hormone-like substance that is often referred to as the sunshine vitamin because your body makes it when your skin is exposed to the sun. Although it is supplied in small amounts in certain animal foods, such as fish, butter, and egg yolks, most of it is made in your body; as such, a prolonged lack of sunlight can lead to a vitamin D deficiency. Circumstances that can contribute to a D deficiency include darkly pigmented skin, wintertime, sunscreen, clothing, clouds, aging and pollution.
The Importance of Vitamin D
The primary role of vitamin D is to regulate the concentration of calcium in your blood. It does this by aiding in the absorption of calcium from your intestines. When you are deficient in vitamin D, your body becomes unable to absorb calcium from your intestines and is forced to pull calcium from your bones to maintain the necessary blood-calcium concentration. Demineralized bones are weak bones and arthritis, as well as numerous joint problems, can ensue.
Vitamin D Deficiency Symptoms
Common vitamin D deficiency symptoms include depression, decreased immunity, muscle pain, mood swings, low energy, fatigue, intestinal disorders and sleep irregularities, notes author Marcelle Pick on the website Women to Women. If left untreated, it may lead to impaired lung function, cancer, cardiovascular disease, unhealthy gums and teeth, neuromuscular problems, skin issues, multiple sclerosis and diabetes.
- "Staying Healthy with Nutrition"; Elson M. Hass, M.D.; 2006
- Gale Encyclopedia of Medicine: Vitamin D Deficiency; Tom Brody; Jan 2006
- "Vitamin D-Don't Get Caught D-ficient": Harvey B. Simon, M.D.
- Women to Women: Is Vitamin D Deficiency Casting A Cloud Over Your Health?; Marcelle Pick, OB/GYN NP