Folic acid deficiency is a condition that occurs when you do not have enough folic acid in your blood. Folic acid is also known as folate and it is an essential vitamin that your body needs to acquire through your diet. Folic acid is needed to sustain basic human functions such as producing red blood cells and making and repairing DNA. A person with a folic acid deficiency can exhibit symptoms such as fatigue, headaches, swollen tongue, gastric ulcers and diarrhea. Without intervention, serious health problems can arise.
The prevalence of folic acid deficiency is not very high for the general population. But certain groups of people have a higher potential for folic acid deficiency. The following are the five most common treatments for this condition.
1. Proper Dietary Nutrition
The best method to prevent and treat folic acid deficiency is through better nutrition. In general, an average adult needs to take a minimum of 400 micrograms of folic acid everyday to supply the body’s demand.
Folate is naturally abundant in a variety of foods, such as:
- Dark leafy vegetables
- Citrus fruits and juices
- Beans and legumes
- Animal liver and red meats
- Whole grains and fortified cereals
- Sunflower seeds
Having a well-balanced diet plan that includes foods from all food groups is the simplest way to ensure enough folic acid intake.
2. Correct Food Preparation
Folate is water soluble. Prolonged washing, soaking and storage will diminish the amount of folate in your food. Folate is also highly sensitive to excessive heat. For vegetables, some light cooking can help with the release of folic acid from the cell walls for better absorption. But hard boiling or deep frying will destroy the vitamin and its functions. When cooking is required, steaming or microwaving are the best methods to preserve folate as well as vitamins and minerals.
3. Take Vitamin Supplements
Women who are pregnant or thinking of becoming pregnant need extra folate to support themselves and their developing fetuses. Since folate is needed from the very start of fetal development, it’s recommended that women take an extra 400 mcg of folate as part of their normal diet.
Lactation also drains women’s folate supplies. Nursing mothers especially have higher folate requirements to provide for their babies’ nutritional needs. Extra daily intake of folate supplements need to continue until after lactation.
The elderly and people with impaired digestive systems, like those with coeliac disease, are not able to efficiently absorb folic acid from their diet. These people also need to supplement their regular diets with extra doses of folate.
4. No Drinking or Smoking
Alcohol and smoke damage your digestive system. They impair your body’s ability to breakdown food and transport folic acid across your intestinal walls for tissue use. Alcohol also induces faster depletion of folate from your body, significant increasing its folate requirement. Smoke is toxic to folate, causing it to lose function.
5. Avoid Excess UV Radiation
Folate absorption is inhibited by ultraviolet radiation. Avoiding excessive sun exposure and limiting the use of tanning beds will reduce your risks for folate deficiency.