What is folic acid deficiency?

Folate (or folic acid or vitamin B9) is a chemical that is found in food and is needed by humans for growth and maintenance of our bodies.  

Folic acid is particularly important for the healthy growth and maintenance of nerves, blood cells and our DNA.  Without sufficient folic acid the body struggles to make blood and repair itself.

 

What does it feel like?

Mild folic acid deficiency often goes unnoticed.  Only when the folate levels are very low or when it has been a problem for a long time does it tend to cause symptoms.

Common symptoms include

Pins and needles in the hands / and / or feet

Feeling weak, tired and washed out

Feeling short of breath (this is a reflection of anaemia)

Sore mouth and tongue

Frequent mouth ulcers

Difficulty in thinking

Folic acid is especially important in pregnancy as it is necessary for the successful creation of a baby’s nervous system.

 

How did I get it?

Folic acid is released from food when we eat.

Normal folate requirements are around 200mcg per day which is usually easily achieved with a normal western diet.  

Common causes of folic acid deficiency include

Old age

Diet.  Foods rich in folic acid include –

    Broccoli

    Brussels sprouts

    Liver (but avoid this during pregnancy)

    Spinach

    Asparagus

    Peas

    Chickpeas

    Fortified breakfast cereals

Alcohol misuse

Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn’s Disease or Ulcerative Colitis)

Coeliac Disease

 

How long will it last?

Folic acid deficiency will last until the cause has been found and corrected.

 

Do I need any treatment?

Once the cause of the folic acid deficiency has been corrected the body is able to re-absorb folic acid effectively again, no further treatment is required.

  • Pregnant women should aim for 400mcg per for the first 12 weeks of pregnancy.  
  • Women with higher risk pregnancies might be offered a higher dose of 5mg per day.

To aid recovery from the deficiency we may offer you a folic acid replacement tablet.

Folic acid is available over the counter without a prescription.  However, it’s important to note that excessive folic acid supplementation may lead to vitamin B12 deficiency.

 

Is this dangerous?

For most people, folic acid deficiency is a mild problem that is easily corrected.

In some cases however folic acid deficiency can lead to significant and severe symptoms.