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Why Do People With Seizures Have to Take Folic Acid?

by
author image Hannah Rice Myers
Based in Jamestown, Pa., Hannah Rice Myers has more than 10 years of experience as a freelance writer, specializing in the health industry. Many of her articles have appeared in newspapers, as well as "Curing Epilepsy: Hope Through Research." Rice Myers received her master's degree in nursing from Upstate Medical University in 2001.
Why Do People With Seizures Have to Take Folic Acid?
A collection of vitamins with a glass of water and stethoscope. Photo Credit amanaimagesRF/amana images/Getty Images

Seizures interfere with a person's life on many levels. The interruption in nerve cell messaging that controls body movements and function can result in changes in behavior, cause muscle spasms or full body convulsions. The amount of folic acid your body requires may also be a victim of this disorder.

Folic Acid Defined

Folic acid is a B vitamin also known as folate. Folate is the natural form you can find in certain foods, while folic acid is the manmade version you take in over-the-counter multivitamins or supplements. It aids in the production of blood cells, and can reduce birth defects by 50 to 70 percent, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Although it can lower the risk of heart disease and some cancers for men, it appears the focus of its benefits are teenage girls and women who may become pregnant. The recommended daily dose is 0.4 mg.

Seizure Medications

Certain seizure medications interfere with the absorption of folic acid in your body, which can result in a deficiency of this vitamin. These medications include phenytoin, carbamazepine and phenobarbital. When taking these drugs, your doctor may recommend increasing your dose of folic acid to 4 mg per day. If you take more than two seizure drugs, or a minimum of 1,000 mg of valproate, you may require an even higher dose.

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Seizures and Pregnancy

Folic acid can play a more important role for women who have seizures and become pregnant. The hormone changes from pregnancy can change the way your body processes your seizure medication, which can pose a greater danger to the fetus. All women face the risk of delivering a baby with a birth defect. However, in women without seizures the risk is 2 to 3 percent, while in women with seizures the risk is 6 to 8 percent. Increasing the amount of folic acid you take each day can help prevent this. Your doctor will determine the dosage based on your personal medical history.

Natural Sources

You can receive some benefits of folic acid, or folate, in the foods you eat, however, it may not be enough for you to receive the full amount your body needs. WomensHealth.gov recommends taking a vitamin containing folic acid each day, even if you consume a well-balanced diet. Some natural sources of this vitamin include dark, leafy greens such as spinach, turnip greens, broccoli, romaine lettuce and asparagus. Fruits and fruit juices such as oranges, strawberries and orange juice. Dried peas and beans such as pinto, navy, lima, black-eyed and chickpeas. Whole grain cereals and liver meat such as liver are good sources as well.

Considerations

When choosing a vitamin or folic acid supplement, read the label. Make sure it says, "400 mcg," or "100 percent" next to the daily value. If you have seizures, and are planning on having a baby, speak to your doctor first. He may want to change the dose of your medication, or try a safer medication for the sake of your baby.

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