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Folate Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Folate Deficiency?|Symptoms of Folate Deficiency|Causes of Folate Deficiency|Risk Factors of Folate Deficiency|Diagnosis of Folate Deficiency|Treatment for Folate Deficiency|Lifestyle Changes for Folate Deficiency|Home Remedies for Folate Deficiency
Folate Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

What is Folate Deficiency?

As the name suggests, folate deficiency, also referred to as folic acid deficiency, means having less amount of folic acid in your blood. Folic acid, commonly referred to as vitamin B9, is an important nutrient that is essential for the formation of red blood cells and functioning of the healthy cells. Folate deficiency can lead to anaemia causing symptoms like fatigue, weakness, and change in the complexion. Green leafy vegetables, nuts, oranges, lemons, strawberries, etc. are rich in vitamin B9. One thing to note is since folate dissolves in water, your body flushes it out through urine, and so you need to keep consuming the vitamin.

Abnormal levels of folic acid may increase your risk of developing other health conditions such as cancer, heart diseases, etc. It may even affect fertility. It is essential to have a good amount of folic acid during pregnancy. Abnormal levels of folate during pregnancy may cause severe complications such as neural tube irregularities in the baby. If you are pregnant and have abnormal folate levels, your doctor may prescribe folic acid supplements.

Symptoms of Folate Deficiency

Common symptoms of folic acid deficiency include fatigue, premature greying of hair, and swelling of tongue. If vitamin B9 deficiency causes anaemia, you may experience other additional symptoms such as difficulty in breathing, weakness, change in the skin complexion, irritability, etc.

Causes of Folate Deficiency

Folic acid deficiency is caused due to numerous factors. Some of the factors include:

  • Not consuming enough folic acid – A diet that does not include fruits and vegetables rich in folate can cause folic acid deficiency. Also, overcooking the food can destroy the vitamin.
  • Alcohol – Consuming an excess amount of alcohol can make it difficult for your body to absorb the nutrient as it is flushed out of your body through urine.
  • Family history – If the condition runs in your genes, your body is more likely to have issues with absorbing the nutrient. If you have a family history of the condition, it is advised to check if your baby has the condition and immediately begin the treatment to avoid further complications.
  • Health conditions – Certain health conditions like cancers, kidney ailments, or Crohn’s disease affect the functioning of the gastrointestinal tract and may cause folate deficiency.
  • Medications – Certain medications like methotrexate, triamterene, barbiturates, etc. may affect your body’s ability to absorb folate.

Risk Factors of Folate Deficiency

You are at a greater risk of developing folic acid deficiency if:

  • You are pregnant.
  • You don’t consume a well-balanced meal.
  • You have a medical history of the condition.
  • You consume excess alcohol.
  • You have health conditions that affect the absorption of nutrients.

Read More : Gestational Diabetes: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Diagnosis of Folate Deficiency

If you experience any of the symptoms associated with the condition, consult your doctor. Your doctor may ask you about your symptoms, medical history, and family history. Your doctor may do a physical examination. He/she may also recommend doing blood tests and complete blood count (CBC) test. Based on your results, your doctor may recommend appropriate treatments.

If you are pregnant, your doctor may recommend doing blood tests to check for folate deficiency as part of routine checkups. In pregnant women, abnormal levels of folic acid may result in the baby having low birth weight, birth defects, or premature birth. Low levels of folic acid may even lead to miscarriage.

Read More : Complete Blood Count Test: Why and How is it Done?

Treatment for Folate Deficiency

If you are diagnosed with the condition, your doctor may recommend appropriate treatment based on a number of factors. To recommend an appropriate treatment, some of the factors your doctor may consider include your age, medical history, physical and mental health, current medications, and allergy triggers.

The first thing your doctor may ask you to do is increase the intake of folic acid in your diet. He/she may also recommend food that is good for your health and food to avoid. In addition, your doctor may prescribe a folic acid supplement that you may need to take daily for a specific period.

Make sure you take the supplements as prescribed by your doctor and avoid skipping any dosages. Your doctor may recommend certain tests to check if your folate levels are back to normal. If there’s an improvement in the condition, your doctor may gradually ask you to stop taking the supplements. If your treatment is not effective, your doctor may change the treatment option and check what works best for you. In some cases, individuals may need to take supplements for a longer period.

Supplements are also available in shots. Though taking oral supplements is generally safe, in some cases, individuals may experience some side effects. Some of the side effects of the oral supplement may include insomnia, irritability, loss of appetite or taste, nausea, etc. In severe cases, if you are allergic to folic acid supplements, you may experience skin rashes and difficulty in breathing.

If your condition is due to any underlying medical condition, you may need treatment for both.

Read More : Skin Tags: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment

Lifestyle Changes for Folate Deficiency

  • Your recommended daily folic acid may vary based on a number of factors such as your age, gender, medical history, physical health, etc. Talk to your doctor about the amount of folic acid you need to intake in a day. Change the diet and medications accordingly.
  • Avoid smoking and consumption of alcohol.

Read More : Lifestyle Changes for Diabetes that’ll Help you Lifelong

Home Remedies for Folate Deficiency

Consume food rich in folic acid. Some of the foods that are rich in folic acid include leafy vegetables, peas, bananas, legumes, asparagus, mushrooms, cereals, legumes, tomato, lettuce, broccoli, kidney beans, orange, papaya, avocado, etc. Before including any new food in your diet, make sure you are not allergic to it.

You may also consult your doctor to know the suitable food options and the right amount you may need to consume. Taking certain foods in excess quantity may also cause other side effects. You may take the help of a dietician or a nutritionist for a customised meal plan.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Folic Acid (Folate) Deficiency/https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK535377/Accessed on 19/06/2020

Folate-Deficiency Anemia/https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/folate-deficiency-anemia/Accessed on 19/06/2020

Folate deficiency/https://medlineplus.gov/ency/article/000354.htm/Accessed on 19/06/2020

Folate (folic acid)/https://www.mayoclinic.org/drugs-supplements-folate/art-20364625/Accessed on 19/06/2020

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Written by Nikita Updated 02/09/2021
Medically reviewed by डॉ. स्नेहल सिंह