Folic acid or vitamin B9 was first isolated in 1943. This vitamin is also known as folate, lactobaccilus factor, or folacin. Folic acid deficiency is generally caused due to reduced dietary intake, alcoholism, malabsorption, chronic diarrhea or during pregnancy and lactation when there is increased requirement of folic acid. Since folic acid is absorbed in intestine, certain drugs are known to affect its absorption such as anti convulsants, barbiturates, and methotrexate and cause deficiency symptoms.
The richest sources of folic acid are liver, brewer’s yeast and dark green leafy vegetables such as spinach, kale, asparagus, lettuce, and broccoli. Another good source includes dried beans, whole wheat products, fresh oranges etc.
Vitamin B9 Or Folic Acid Deficiency Symptoms
The symptoms of folic acid deficiency are similar to that of vitamin B12.
- Megaloblastic anemia which will cause tiredness. Patient will feel less energetic. Patient will appear pale as a result of anemia.
- Low white cell count also called leucopenia is seen when there is considerable deficiency of folic acid in the body.
- Loss of hair and thinning of hair.
- Loss of appetite.
- Inflammation of tongue which can cause a burning sensation on the tongue.
- Discoloration of skin.
- A rare feature is a psychosis (mental depression) without bone marrow depression.
- Low level of folic acid in blood is associated with increased risk of cancer and heart disease.
- Deficiency of folic acid in pregnant woman can lead to neurological defects in the new born.
- Loss of libido in males.
- Loss of memory especially observed in old people who have folic acid deficiency.
Healing Properties Of Vitamin B9
Large doses of folic acid have been found beneficial in the treatment of a few diseases which are rare and often involve mental retardation. Some of these diseases were detected initially by the presence of megaloblastic anemia, a state suggestive of defective folic acid metabolism.
Folic acid supplementation may not have any adverse effects. However, in some cases when it is given to counteract megaloblastic anemia caused as a result of anticonvulsant therapy, it may actually aggravate the epilepsy attack.
- Megaloblastic Anemia: Folic acid is required for the treatment of nutritional megaloblastic anemia during pregnancy and infancy. A daily dose of 5,000 to 10, 000 mcg taken orally is usually sufficient. It is also advisable to take a small daily dose (around 400 mcg) of this vitamin during pregnancy. The Food and Drug Association of America (FDA) has also approved the claim that folic acid supplements can prevent certain birth defects.
- Folic acid for Abortion: Folic acid has proved beneficial in the treatment of recurrent abortions. It is, therefore, advisable to take 10,000 mcg of folic acid daily, with iron and Vitamin B12, from the beginning of pregnancy till its completion.
- Mental Retardation: Folic acid supplements have been used to improve the mental function and the quality of life among mentally retarded children. In the case of epileptic children and mentally deranged persons, regular treatment with 5,000 mcg of folic acid, three times daily, gets a quick healing response, and in many individuals, there has been a complete resolution of mental symptoms.
- Vitamin B9 for Gout: Though most cases of gout are treated with dietary therapy, if additional support is necessary, folic acid is recommended in the range of 10-40 mg per day.
Vitamin B9 Benefits For Skin
Deficiency of folic acid, associated with vitamin B12 deficiency, causes darkish brown spotty pigmentation that usually appears on the face, inner mouth, under the arm pits, over the thighs, and on the palms. This happens particularly in the case of pregnant women and women on the pill. In such cases, administration of 10 mg or 10,000 mcg of-folic acid, along with 100 mcg of vitamin B12 taken thrice daily, shows a remarkable amelioration of the brownish pigmentation.
Folic Acid For Sprue Treatment
Folic acid has been found valuable in curing Sprue. Sprue is an intestinal disease. In this disease the tongue, intestine and metabolism of fat is affected. The tongue becomes sore; patient appears pale and tired due to anemia. He complains of severe diarrhea with passage of excess amount of fat in stool.
The disease is a consequence of vitamin B9. Since absorption of folic acid in the intestine from the food may not be complete as a result of diarrhea and loss of appetite, patient may be recommended by the doctor for injections of this vitamin. With the injection, however, improvement can be noticed in a single day or within few days. Once the required amount of folic acid is achieved in the body, patient can then rely on dietary source.