Our body needs many nutrients, vitamins, and minerals to keep ticking and work healthily, like calcium for strong bones. We easily remember the vitamins like C and D as they are often referenced in many of our adverts. And there are some vitamins with a vast range of differences, like Vitamin B and how there are eight different types. One of those types is folic acid, and it’s a vital acid that our bodies need to function.
Today I will explain what folic acid is. And why you need to keep it at a healthy level in your body.
What is folic acid?
Folic acid is a part of the vitamin B family as it is B9 vitamin. But it is a man-made version of the B9 vitamin as it is folate that helps keep red blood cells healthy. We usually think of pregnant women when we remember folic acid exists. However, men and women need a healthy supply of folate to keep fit.
What does it help?
Folic acid is essential as it can help combat folate deficiency anaemia. Folate deficiency anaemia is when the body doesn’t have enough vitamins to create and maintain healthy red blood cells. Usually, they are larger and underdeveloped.
It is prescribed to pregnant women to help the baby’s brain, spinal cord and skull develop correctly. Which can prevent conditions such as Spina Bifida (But this is not always a given.)
If you take a medicine called methotrexate, having it can help reduce the side effects!
If you are a man, you might think you don’t need to have a healthy level of it in your system. However, Folic acid is known to be advertised with zinc to improve fertility.
What happens if it’s low?
If your levels are too low, you might start to develop symptoms related to folate deficiency anaemia. Such as Fatigue, lethargy, feeling faint and headaches. And that’s to name a few!
If you are pregnant and your folic acid level is too low, it can stunt the brain, skull, and spinal cord development. Leading to more problems down the line!
Another thing that is rarely mentioned is that if your folic levels are too low, that can cause irregular periods. It won’t make them any less heavy or lighter. It’ll just kickstart the process and stop anaemia if blood loss is severe.
How can I get more Folic Acid?
As I said, Folic acid is man-made folate. Meaning it can’t occur naturally in the body. So you have to get it from elsewhere. One of the most accessible places to get folic acid is from your diet, and it is found in a lot of foods such as:
- Leafy greens such as spinach and kale
- Brussel sprouts
- Citrus fruits, i.e. oranges
- Legumes (anything in the Fabaceae family, which is a fancy word for peas, beans and lentils)
- Nuts and seeds
Ultimately changing your diet and eating more healthily will increase your intake without adding another pill to your routine.
If a child needs more folic acid in their diet, this might be harder to achieve because ‘ugh, vegetables.’ But it might be easier than a pill because they might struggle to swallow it.
However, even if you’ve changed up your diet and the levels are still too low, it might be time to go to a doctor and find out whether you could be prescribed some multivitamins or folic acid supplements.
Don’t just go out and buy the folic acid supplements, as you could overdose! And that’s worse than the levels of it being too low.
Or because other medication could cause a reaction or might not be absorbed into the blood as efficiently.
Some people can’t take folic acid supplements and need to improve those levels through a diet change.
These people include:
- Those who have had an allergic reaction to folic acid or other types of medication in the past
- People who have cancer (unless they have deficiency anaemia.)
- Are having a kidney dialysis treatment known as haemodialysis
- Have a stent in their heart
You also have to double-check with the doctor as to why you need folic acid could require a different dosage.
If you do, take a pill supplement (instead of changing your diet.) There could be some annoying side effects such as:
- Loss of appetite
- Bloating or wind
- Sickness (unless you are pregnant, in which case it might be morning sickness.)
As you can see, folic acid (B9) is an essential vitamin that many assume is just for pregnant people. But that is not the case. Next time you see a doctor get your B9 levels checked and see what options are open to you about improving it!
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