Folic acid, also called vitamin M, folate or B 9, is usually prescribed for pregnant women to prevent birth defects in the baby, along with iron tablets. But, folic acid has other important health benefits too. Recent research has shown that folic acid supplements can lower the risk of stroke in people suffering from high blood pressure.
Why do Women need Folic Acid?
Having adequate folic acid is crucial for all irrespective of gender but it is especially required for women during pregnancy or who are planning to get pregnant. Folic acid helps prevent different types of birth defects and reduces the risk of miscarriages, premature birth, poor growth of the foetus in the womb among women. It is essential for faster growth of the placenta and the foetus in the womb. Folic acid is also required to produce important proteins in the body, functioning and repair including that of DNA (that is responsible for transferring genes to the next generation).
What are the Benefits of Folic Acids in the Body?
Apart from preventing the foetus from neural tube defects and other birth related problems in pregnant women, folic acids also help curing depression, ease digestion process, excrete toxins from the body and bring a healthy glow to the skin, promote hair growth, control hair fall and premature hair graying, signs of aging, prevent eye disease, type 2 diabetes, promote proper menstruation cycle, reduce the risk of colorectal cancer, osteoporosis, age-related macular degeneration (AMD), nerve related issues, muscle pain, vitiligo (a type of skin disease), and AIDS. It also reduces the level of a dangerous substance called homocysteine that can lead to heart disease and stroke.
What are the causes of Folic Acid Deficiency in the Body?
Pregnant women are especially at risk for folic acid deficiency since there is an increased demand in the body especially for the foetus. Not having enough of this can also raise the risk of premature delivery and spontaneous abortion. Besides, the chances of giving birth to a low birth weight infant, with subsequent growth retardation is increased with folate deficiency. The causes behind folic acid deficiency in the body can be as below:
Diet Imbalance: An imbalanced diet can be the main reason for folic acid deficiency in the body. If your diet doesnt contain fruits, fresh vegetables, and cereals, your body might suffer from folic acid deficiency. Moreover, over cooking of foods might also take away the goodness of essential nutrients and folic acids.
Certain Medications: If you are under certain kind of medications such as trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, phenytoin, or sulfasalazine, your body might have folic acid deficiency.
Alcohol Consumption: Excessive alcohol consumption is related to folic acid deficiency in the body. So, if you are a regular drinker, its time you give it a second thought before going overboard with your drink.
Contraceptive Pills: Another thing that hinders folic acid absorption in the body is contraceptive pills.
Certain Diseases: Many diseases such as Celiac disease and Crohns disease could also affect the absorption of folic acid, causing folic acid deficiency in the body.
What are the sources of Folic Acids?
The best food source of folic acid is the animal livers, dried yeast, legumes, pasta, fruits, and green leafy vegetables. The outer germ and husk of cereals such as wheat and rice have some amount of folic acid. Highly polished, processed rice and wheat will not have any folic acid left. Storing for long time, cooking and exposure to sunlight lead to considerable losses of this nutrient. While buying food from store, please read the nutrition label to know about the folic acid contents in the food item. Other than whole grain cereals, whole pulses, nuts and fresh oranges are good sources of folic acids. The body can only absorb about half of the folate present in these natural foods.
It would be advisable to consult with your physician or dietitian before taking any dose of folic acids or add a supplement as they are the ones who can guide you a dose suitable for your condition. Also, remember, overdose of folic acid might have adverse effect on the body. So, to be healthy, follow healthy lifestyle and eating habits. And, dont forget to share your thoughts in the comments section below. Till then, stay fit, stay strong!