Signs & Symptoms of Folic Acid Deficiency

Pea pods
Folic acid can be naturally obtained from peas. (Image: Comstock Images/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Folic acid is a B vitamin that aids your body in producing new cells. You can find this vitamin in foods such as dried beans, peas, nuts, leafy green vegetables and fruits. Enriched breads, cereals and other grain products are also fortified with folic acid. You can also obtain it in a supplement and you can consult your doctor about taking one. According to MedlinePlus, the recommended daily intake for folic acid in adults is 400 mcg/day. Consuming enough folic acid is important for a healthy body and if you become deficient, you may experience health problems.

Prevention Of Anencephaly

A Caucasian female hand holding a vitamin next to a glass of water
Folic acid (Image: Liquidlibrary/liquidlibrary/Getty Images)

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says that women should take 400 mcg of folic acid per day, beginning a minimum of one month before getting pregnant. This can help prevent major birth defects, such as anencephaly, a serious type of neural tube defect that occurs in a newborn baby. In this condition, a baby is born without certain parts of the skull or brain. A neural tube defect refers to birth defects that occur during the first month of a woman's pregnancy.

Prevention Of Spina Bifida

Doctor examining pregnant woman
Pregnant woman at doctor (Image: Jupiterimages/Creatas/Getty Images)

A folic acid deficiency can also lead to spina bifida, a type of neural tube defect that is present in a newborn baby. This condition can occur along the spine when the neural tube does not fully close. As a result, the backbone that normally protects the spinal cord does not form or close properly. The result is damage to the baby's nerves and spinal cord. This disorder can lead to both mental and physical disabilities. The CDC recommends that women consume 400 mcg of folic acid starting at least one month before pregnancy. Talk to your doctor about taking a supplement.

Anemia

Close-up of young woman sitting on sofa with hand touching head
Headache (Image: Stockbyte/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

A condition called folate-deficiency anemia can occur due to a lack of folate in your body that leads to the reduced production of red blood cells. Anemia occurs when your body does not have a sufficient quantity of healthy red blood cells to deliver oxygen to body tissues. The resulting symptoms include fatigue, headache, pale skin, reduced productivity, poor concentration and sore mouth and tongue, according to MedlinePlus. You can consult your doctor if you think you may have this condition.

Other Symptoms

Woman with stomach ache
Stomach pain (Image: Jupiterimages/Polka Dot/Getty Images)

You may experience other symptoms as a result of a deficiency in folic acid. These include diarrhea, mouth ulcers, stomach ulcers, gray hair, poor growth and a swollen tongue. You can consider getting your folic acid levels checked with a blood test by your doctor. You can then boost your intake of this vitamin through natural food sources and fortified sources. You may require a supplement if you fail to take in enough folic acid through diet alone.

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