Folic acid – Benefits, Side effects and more

FOLIC ACID

What are Folic acid and folate?

“Folic acid” and “folate” are often used synonymously. However, they are very different.

Folate is the natural and pure form of Vitamin B9, found in abundance in green leafy vegetables.

 Folic acid, a synthetic form of Vitamin B9 is added to processed foods such as breakfast cereals and is created as health supplements.

Why do women need Folic acid? 

Before and during pregnancy

Before planning pregnancy, women need to maintain good health by following a healthy diet, regular exercise, etc. Hence, Folic acid is an important supplement that women need to consume before, during and after pregnancy. Folic acid helps in the constant reproduction of cells in our organs.  

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Consumption of Folic acid before planning for pregnancy helps prevent congenital disabilities of the foetus and prevent miscarriages. It prevents the young child from developing serious and critical illnesses like neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

Pregnant women need to consume at least 600 mcg of Folic acid every day to ensure the baby’s proper growth and development.  

To keep the blood healthy – Promotes red blood cells formation and growth

Pregnant women are more prone to folate-deficiency Anemia. Therefore, to prevent such disorders, Folic acid intake is necessary.

Benefits of Folic acid

Healthy pregnancy

Folic acid aids tissue and cell growth in the foetus and protects the baby from congenital disorders and birth defects like neural tube defects and other deficiencies. It also safeguards the mother-to-be from pregnancy-related complications, such as miscarriages.  

Energy

As Folic acid is a source of Vitamin B9 that breaks down the carbohydrates in the food and gives us instant energy, it allows us to pull through long days of stress and tiredness.  

Better athletic performance

Folic acid consumption prevents athletes from suffering from cardiovascular ailments due to excessive exertion during their events.

Uses of Folic acid

Vitamin B9 has numerous health benefits and keeps people healthy and sound in numerous ways:

Treating folate deficiency 

Folate deficiency leads to Anaemia, where the human body lacks red blood cells to transport oxygen to the tissues. Additional intake of Folic acid supplements balances out the folate deficiency, thereby curing Anaemia.

Preventing congenital disabilities and pregnancy complications

 Folic acid helps ease the pregnancy journey by providing the required nutrition to pregnant women while also preventing early pregnancy loss. It also protects the unborn child from birth defects by strengthening its immunity and facilitating growth and development.

Maintaining brain health

Dementia is closely related to low folate levels. Sufficient intake of Folic acid may prevent senior citizens from Alzheimer’s disease and restore better memory power.

Treating mental health conditions

Mental illnesses like Schizophrenia, depression, etc., have been noted to be more common in people with lower folate levels in their blood. Folic acid supplements have improved conditions like postpartum depression, bipolar disorder, etc. Its folate content helps produce neurotransmitters that will enhance one’s mental health.

Who should take Folic acid?

Women at the reproductive age can consume about 400 mcg of Folic acid a day to maintain good health and a sound reproductive system. Even children can consume Folic acid orally, according to their respective ages.

Side effects of Folic acid

Though Folic acid has numerous health benefits, it also has certain side effects:

Stomach upset

Overdosage of Folic acid often leads to upset stomach, causes bloating and makes people feel uneasy and gassy.

Nausea

At the time of pregnancy, Folic acid could cause morning sickness and cause women to feel nauseous frequently.

Diarrhoea

An upset stomach caused by Folic acid can lead to problems with bowel movements, thereby causing diarrhoea.

Irritability

People who consume Folic acid regularly and in excess often experience mood swings, sleep disturbances, emotional outbursts and feelings of agitation and irritability.  

Confusion

 Folic acid causes a constant irregular change in mood from overexcitement to irritability leading to exhaustion and confusion of the person.

Behaviour changes

As the Folic acid causes constant irritability and mood swings, people may often witness the person who has consumed Folic acid exhibiting constant changes in behaviour continuously.

Skin reaction

Excessive intake of Folic acid causes a person’s skin to develop red, itchy rashes and other irritating skin reactions.

Seizures

Studies have shown increased epileptic seizures in people who consumed Folic acid regularly.

Conclusion

Despite the myriad uses and benefits of Folic acid, it still has some adverse side effects on people depending on the dosage of consumption and their body’s ability to absorb the supplement. Therefore, before including the supplement as a part of one’s everyday routine, one must consult experts first before starting with the vitamin intake.

FAQs

1.Is it good to take Folic acid every day?

Yes, it can be consumed daily; however, one should keep in mind not to exceed the daily limit of 400 mcg.

2. Why are higher doses of Folic acid not good?

Doses of Folic acid higher than 400 mcg could cause side effects like seizures, behavioural changes, changes in skin colour, etc.

3. Does Folic acid cause weight gain?

 Folic acid does not lead to weight gain. However, a deficiency of Folic acid may lead to weight loss.

4. Can I take Folic acid without consulting a doctor?

Though Folic acid is necessary during pregnancy and otherwise, it is not advised to be consumed without consulting a doctor.

5.When should I take Folic acid, morning or night?

It is advised to consume Folic acid during the day, as it digests better. Metabolism and digestion slow down at night, making it difficult for the supplement to digest.

6. What is the best time of day to take Folic acid?

The best time to consume Folic acid during the day is when taken along with a glass of water during breakfast or lunch.

7.How much Folic acid should I take?

The recommended dose of consumption for an adult is 400 mcg per day.

8. What does Folic acid do for your body?

 Folic acid helps produce and form healthier red blood cells to facilitate oxygen transportation to various parts of the body.

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