According to SPORTINGOLOGY.COM, Folic acid is absorbed through food and plays a crucial role in many processes in the human body. A deficiency in folic acid has a correspondingly strong impact on our health. However, no one has to suffer from such a shortage in our latitudes – it is enough food with which one the folic acid deficiency effective prevention or fight it and can perform folic acid.
What is Folic Acid Deficiency?
If you suffer from a folic acid deficiency, your organism has too little of this vital vitamin available to be able to work optimally. The fact that folic acid is particularly known as the “pregnancy vitamin” is due to the fact that folic acid is needed to form DNA.
Of course, this is particularly important during and especially in the early stages of pregnancy. But folic acid is also simply necessary for cells to divide. Cell division is one of the most important processes in life. Blood cells and mucous membrane cells, i.e. cells that divide particularly often, indicate a deficiency in folic acid particularly early on.
Thus folate deficiency, for example, to anemia, an anemia lead. The human store of folic acid is the liver. If this memory is exhausted, the lack of folic acid becomes noticeable.
Anyone who does not take in enough folic acid with their food and also does not take a supplementary vitamin preparation runs the risk of a folic acid deficiency. The liver can store a lot of folic acid, but if not enough is supplied, then this depot is also depleted.
But it does not have to come to that, because folic acid is contained in many different foods. Of course, the fact that too few of these foods, such as green vegetables, are consumed can also lead to the deficiency symptom. However, pregnancy is particularly often the reason for a deficiency. Pregnant women have an enormously increased need for folic acid.
So it’s no wonder that in this country people are advised to take additional folic acid not only if they are already pregnant, but also if they just want to have children. But pregnancy is not the only thing that leads to a deficiency of folic acid; excessive consumption of alcohol, smoking or the use of various medications can plunder the body’s folic acid stores and lead to a deficiency.
Symptoms, ailments & signs
A folic acid deficiency mainly leads to anemia with pronounced inefficiency and fatigue. Since not only the production of red blood cells, but also that of leukocytes (white blood cells) and thrombocytes is impaired, there is also an increased susceptibility to infections and an increased tendency to bleed. In addition to tiredness, anemia also manifests itself in difficulty concentrating, noticeably paleness and a reddened and inflamed tongue.
In severe cases, there are even cardiac arrhythmias and breathing difficulties because the body can no longer be properly supplied with oxygen due to the lack of red blood cells. As a result of the increased susceptibility to infections, there is a risk of serious infections. At the same time, the increased tendency to bleed often leads to bleeding from the mucous membranes, bruises and punctiform hemorrhages in the skin.
Other symptoms include loss of appetite and severe weight loss. Pregnancy can lead to increased miscarriages and miscarriages with neural tube defects (open back). Folic acid deficiency also affects the nervous system. In adults, in addition to anemia, there is sometimes a mental deterioration, a lack of concentration and memory gaps and even dementia.
Furthermore, the susceptibility to stress is increased and sometimes nerve pain also occurs. In children, folic acid deficiency manifests itself in severe physical and mental developmental disorders due to impaired cell division. In addition to neural tube defects (open back), the development of the brain and skull can also be disturbed.
Diagnosis & course
If a folic acid deficiency has been determined, a preparation is usually prescribed that quickly supplies the body with a sufficient amount of the vital vitamin. A quick reaction is also necessary, because since the symptoms are not very specific, the deficiency is usually only recognized late.
Loss of performance, a generally weak feeling, constant tiredness and poor concentration could be associated with many clinical pictures. Only when the stores are really empty and the anemia becomes noticeable with weight loss, cardiac arrhythmias and similar symptoms can the deficiency symptoms usually be found out.
Sufficient folic acid can then usually no longer be supplied with food quickly enough, so that concentrated preparations are necessary. A daily dose of 5 to 15 milligrams of folic acid is – at least at the beginning of treatment – as a guideline.
A folic acid deficiency that lasts for several weeks can lead to a regression of the mucous membranes, which in turn can lead to inflammation of the mucous membranes in the mouth, in the gastrointestinal tract and also in the urogenital tract. Wounds and injuries on the mucous membranes heal more slowly. A lack of blood platelets (thrombocytopenia) and anemia can occur, as well as megaloblastic anemia, a rare form of anemia in this country.
Other symptoms caused by a lack of folic acid include diarrhea, nausea, weight loss, and inflammation of the tongue (glossitis). Other possible complications are hair loss, skin problems and depressive moods. A lack of folic acid also increases the homocysteine content in the blood.
Homocysteine can attack the blood vessel walls, which can lead to faster oxidized LDL cholesterol being deposited there. In the long term, this leads to a narrowing of the blood vessels and arteriosclerosis. This in turn represents a significant risk factor for heart attacks and strokes.
In unborn children, a folic acid deficiency in the pregnant mother can lead to severe deformities of the embryo. These malformations include neural tube defects such as the so-called open back (spina bifida) and anencephaly (missing parts of the roof of the skull, meninges, scalp and brain). Folic acid deficiency can also increase the risk of premature birth or miscarriage.
When should you go to the doctor?
Chronic fatigue, difficulty concentrating and paleness may indicate a folic acid deficiency. A visit to the doctor is recommended if the symptoms do not subside within three to five days or if there are additional complaints. If symptoms such as palpitations, shortness of breath or dizziness occur during light physical exertion, a doctor should be consulted within the next few days. Diarrhea, persistent breathing difficulties and cardiovascular complaints that severely impair wellbeing are best clarified immediately.
If there is a folic acid deficiency, it must be treated in any case. Otherwise, the deficiency can become severe and, under certain circumstances, lead to memory loss, neurological failure symptoms or even a heart attack. Children, the elderly and the sick are particularly at risk. Allergy sufferers and patients with a congenital immune deficiency or a hormonal disorder should also speak to their doctor if the symptoms mentioned. Further contacts are internists and specialists for the respective symptom. In the event of a medical emergency, the ambulance service must be alerted.
Treatment & prevention
Those who eat a balanced diet do not have to fear a folic acid deficiency. Many foods receive enough of the vital vitamin to adequately supply the human organism. Green vegetables are particularly recommended.
In particular, green leafy vegetables and lettuce, but also cabbage and asparagus contain plenty of them. The same applies to almonds and legumes, but also to egg yolks and liver. Since folic acid is found in many different food groups, including whole grain products, vegetarians and vegans are just as capable of getting enough folic acid with their food as omnivore eaters. Those who consume these foods – green vegetables, whole grains, eggs, etc. – automatically get a lot of folic acid.
People with increased needs – such as pregnant women – would do well in any case to take a supplement as well. It should be noted, however, that an occasional or daily pill cannot replace a healthy diet, but only supplement it – this is no different with folic acid.
In most cases, folic acid deficiency cannot be treated with follow-up measures. The patient is primarily dependent on direct medical treatment for this condition to avoid further complications. In most cases, there is even lifelong therapy because the folic acid deficiency cannot be treated from the ground up.
The person concerned is mostly dependent on the ingestion of certain foods or on the intake of supplements to counteract this deficiency. Special complications or other measures are usually not necessary. It is important to ensure that these medications or foods are taken regularly in order to limit the folic acid deficiency.
Regular examinations by a doctor are also very useful. In pregnant women, special measures are necessary in the event of a folic acid deficiency so that the development of the child is not harmed by this deficiency. First and foremost, a doctor should be consulted who can properly treat the folic acid deficiency.
Regular examinations are also very useful here. Further measures are usually not necessary to treat this disease. The life expectancy of the person affected is also not reduced.
Outlook & forecast
The prognosis for folic acid deficiency is usually favorable. The deficiency can be reduced within a few days and weeks by changing and optimizing your diet. Most of the time, symptoms will be free within the next few months. In the case of a severe deficiency, the organism can be additionally supported by the administration of medication, especially in the initial phase of treatment. If there is a relapse in the course of life and the folic acid deficiency occurs again, the prognosis is also favorable.
People who smoke or consume excessive amounts of alcohol should change their lifestyle consistently in order to improve their health. The folic acid storage in these patients decreases continuously over the course of several years until a deficiency symptom occurs. As soon as the person concerned refrains from taking the pollutants and is ready to eat a healthy and balanced diet, their health improves.
The prognosis for pregnant women in the initial phase of gestation is particularly unfavorable. A severe folic acid deficiency can lead to deformities of the embryo, premature birth or miscarriage. The deformities cannot be remedied in the further course of development. In the expectant mother, the abnormalities or the loss of the child increase the likelihood of a psychological complication. This contributes to a significant deterioration in the general feeling of health.
You can do that yourself
If there is a suspicion of a folic acid deficiency, a blood test should be ordered from the treating doctor. If this deficiency is confirmed, nutritional supplements help provide high concentrations of folic acid. Compensating for the deficiency with food would take too much time and could worsen symptoms.
For the further course of treatment, however, a conscious diet with foods rich in folic acid is recommended. These include a wide variety of leafy vegetables and types of cabbage, and asparagus is also rich in folic acid. Other suppliers of folic acid are whole grain products and hen’s eggs, as well as almonds, liver and legumes. Also eggplant and all herbs provide the body with the important folic acid. Basically, all green vegetables are very rich in folic acid.
Ideally, these are only steamed before consumption in order to preserve the high content of vital substances. Between 75 and 100 percent of the important vitamin is lost through cooking and frying. Vigorous chopping also reduces the folic acid content. It is advisable to consume herbs and vegetables in raw form throughout the day.
With a consistently balanced diet, the risk of persistent folic acid deficiency is minimal. Vegetarians and vegans can also cover their needs very well with a plant-based diet. Pregnant women have an increased need and should resort to a folic acid supplement during this time.