Folic acid is a water-soluble B vitamin. It serves a couple of functions in the body; it works with other B vitamins to create healthy red blood cells, and it helps reduce central nerve defects in unborn babies. You need folic acid in your diet to stay healthy, and pregnant women and those planning to get pregnant need folic acid to grow healthy babies in the womb.
Reasons to Take Folic Acid
Folic acid is not only essential for overall health, it is used to help prevent birth defects, such as cleft palate, cleft lip, and neural tube defects. Folic acid may also help prevent miscarriage.
Folic acid might also help reverse precancerous cell changes in the cervix, lungs, and colon. You can also take it to treat canker sores, depression, gout, and gingivitis.
Working with other B vitamins in the body (B6 and B12) folic acid can lower your risk of heart attack and prevent high blood pressure, phlebitis, angina, and Alzheimer's disease.
Recommended Daily Allowance
The recommended daily allowance for adult males and females is 400 micrograms. This includes pregnant women and those wanted to reduce their risk of colon cancer.
For folic acid deficiency, you can take between 250 to 1000 micrograms per day.
What Happens If I Take Too Much?
It is not safe to take more than 1,000 micrograms of folic acid a day, unless you are being supervised by a doctor. Large daily doses can cause side effects such as:
• Abdominal cramps
• Stomach upset
• Sleep disorders
• Behavior changes
There is also an increased risk of heart attack for those who have heart problems and take large doses of folic acid daily (800-1,200 mcg)
Who's At Risk for Deficiency?
Some people at risk for folic acid deficiency include:
• People who use cholesterol-lowering drugs
• Those with cancer
• The elderly
• Pregnant women
• Burn victims
• Those with gastrointestinal damage
If you're deficient in folic acid, you can get folic acid anemia. Symptoms of this include feeling weak and tired, feeling grouchy, loss of appetite, loss of weight, trouble concentrating and being forgetful.
Natural Food Sources of Folic Acid
Unless you have an intestinal issues that prevent you from absorbing vitamins and minerals you need, you should be able to get all the folic acid you need from food you eat. Spinach is a good source of folic acid, but don't worry if you don't like spinach, there are other choices:
• Navy beans
• Pinto beans
• Sunflower seeds
• Fortified cereals and grains
• Orange juice
Most cereals are fortified with folic acid because it is such an important vitamin for the body.
Folic acid is a safe and necessary vitamin, so while it's important to get your daily recommended dose each day, don't forget that more is not always better, so make sure if you take supplements you are not overdoing it.