The Magic of Folic Acid
Folic Acid is a water-soluble, b-complex vitamin. It has plenty of benefits in a number of areas of the body. The vitamin helps with the health of cells and formation of body tissues. It prevents birth defects, certain types of cancer and anemia.
We often hear about folic acid’s role in preventing birth defects, including spina bifida. Women of child bearing age should take supplements with 400 mcg or higher of the vitamin prior to conception. Taking it after conception is not as beneficial as before—but it is still recommended. Women who have had children with neural tube defects should be taking even more folic acid to prevent problems in future offspring.
Studies have shown that folic acid is extremely beneficial for the brain. When levels are low, stroke, osteoporosis, blood vessel disease, cervical cancer and macular degeneration become more likely because of a chemical released from the brain in high doses. Sufficient amounts of folic acid can help with psychological problems like depression and schizophrenia. There is research being done on folic acid’s role in autism as well.
Folic acid plays a great role in reducing one’s risk for developing certain cancers. Eat enough folic acid to prevent colon, cervical, stomach and other digestive cancers.
There are many factors that can affect your body’s level of folic acid. For example, if you’re heavy smoker or drinker, your levels will decrease. Therefore, a woman who was a smoker prior to becoming pregnant will need to take a higher dose of the vitamin. Birth control can decrease levels, so women who take it are recommended to take folic acid. Certain medications can also decrease levels, so talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
There are plenty of foods to obtain folic acid from, including dark, leafy green vegetables, legumes and citrus fruits and juices. Lean more on fresh fruit instead of juice. Some breads and cereals are fortified with the vitamin, so check food labels! Folic acid deficiencies can be treated with a supplement. If you’re deficient in folic acid, there are a variety of symptoms you could experience including diarrhea, ulcers and a swollen tongue. It can also go hand in hand with certain types of anemia.
You should always make sure that along with folic acid, you are getting the right amount of vitamin C and vitamin B12. These vitamins work together to keep the body healthy. If you’re low in one vitamin, you could be low in another, so keep your diet in check.
If you want to have healthy babies, healthy cells, a healthy brain…and, well, a healthy everything, then make sure you’re consuming enough folic acid. Remember that women of child bearing age need more and should take a supplement to be sure they’re getting adequate amounts. Eat a balanced diet that contains a variety of healthy foods. Avoid smoking and excessive alcohol consumption if you are of child bearing age. If you have concerns, see a doctor and never self-diagnose yourself with folic acid deficiency.
Brianna Elliott is a third year dietetics student. She is also a regular blog writer for ProbioticSmart.com – an e-commerce website offering the best prices on Cosamin ASU for sore muscles and painful joints as well as Accuflora probiotic supplement. Brianna has grown a passion for nutrition through her years of studying. She thinks it’s important for people, especially women, to learn about the importance of folic acid.