The Importance of Folic Acid

The Importance of Folic Acid

What is folic acid?

Folic acid is a form of vitamin B.
It is also known as vitamin B9.
It is soluble in water, hence no storage within the body.
Folic acid is an important factor in the synthesis of nucleic acids found in DNA and RNA.

Benefits of using folic acid

Folic acid provides many health benefits

In general:

It is essential in synthesizing and repairing DNA and RNA.
It promotes cell growth and division.
Folic acid is important in production of red blood cells in the body. As a result, it can prevent anemic conditions. It is commonly used along with vitamin B12 to treat pernicious anemia.
Folic acid can increase brain functions and memory.

For a pregnant mother:

Starting to take folic acid at least one month before getting pregnant reduces the risk of neural tube defects such as anencephaly, spina bifida by a significant percentage.
Folic acid also reduces the risks of congenital defects like cleft palate and cleft lip.
The risk of congenital heart diseases is also reduced significantly.
Folic acid is necessary for proper brain development of the fetus.
It reduces the risk of autism.
A pregnant mother taking folic acid is less prone to get diseases like preeclampsia.

Proper Usage of folic acid

CDC recommends that all women of childbearing age (15-45 years) should consume 0.4mg (400µg) of folic acid every day. This is mainly because a majority of congenital birth defects occur in the first few weeks of pregnancy. Sometimes it takes several weeks for a woman to realize that she is pregnant. When she finally becomes aware of her pregnancy it can be too late to reverse any birth defect that might have already occurred.
If you take a multi-vitamin you should check that it contains the required amount of folic acid in it. However, it is advised not to take more than 1000 µg of folic acid within a day.
You can take folic acid along with water. In case you missed a dose, and it is already time for your next one, never take both doses together. Just skip the missed dose and take the scheduled one. If somehow overdosing happens, you will have to seek medical attention. When overdosed, you will feel numb, confused, weak, and there will be pain in the mouth or tongue.
Sometimes, it is required to adjust the doses of other drugs when used in combination with folic acid. If you have been using any of the below mentioned drugs, it is better to seek some medical advice before jumping into using folic acid straight away.
Phenytoin
Tetracycline
Methotrexate
Phenobarbital
Pyrimethamine
Nitrofurantoin

Side effects

There are few reported side effects of using folic acid such as,
Fever
Discomfort
Difficulty in breathing
Skin rashes and reddening
Tightening feeling in the chest

You might have to consult a doctor if you feel something is wrong while using folic acid tablets. However, the important benefits of folic acid usually trump these minor side effects.

Natural sources of folic acid

There are food items which are rich in folic acid. Besides taking supplements, you can easily include these food items in your meal to meet your daily folic acid requirements.

For example, asparagus, cabbage, broccoli, lentils, and egg yolk are good sources of folic acid.

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