Folic acid deficiency

Folic acid deficiency is caused either by malnutrition or a nutritional deficiency, or by insufficient absorption or increased requirements, such as during pregnancy.

Overview

Folic acid deficiency is caused either by malnutrition or a nutritional deficiency, or by insufficient absorption or increased requirements, such as during pregnancy. Causes include, for example, chronic inflammation. Symptoms include paleness, fatigue, headaches and a burning tongue. Such symptoms should be discussed with a doctor. Preventive measures include a diet high in folic acid and tablets.

Symptoms

General

  • Most common vitamin deficiency in the Western world
  • Folic acid is a water-soluble vitamin (B9)
  • Function of folic acid: involved in blood formation and cell renewal (cell division)

Symptoms

Possible consequences of a deficiency

  • Anaemia
  • Pregnancy: neural tube defects of unborn babies (e.g. spina bifida)
    • Can lead to severe and lifelong disability

Causes and treatment

Causes

  • Malnutrition or nutritional deficiency
  • Insufficient absorption
    • Diseases of the small intestine, such as coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease, etc.
    • Long-term use of medication (oral contraceptives, anti-epileptic drugs, etc.)
    • Medication to treat cancer and autoimmune diseases (e.g. rheumatoid arthritis)
  • Increased requirement

Further treatment by your doctor / in hospital

Possible tests
  • Blood test (levels of folic acid and vitamin B12 in the blood)
  • Various diagnostic options (search for or exclusion of causes)
Possible therapies
  • Treatment of the cause
  • Administration of folic acid in tablet form
  • Nutritional counselling

What can I do myself?

  • Varied and healthy diet
  • Good providers of folic acid
    • Wheat germs, oats, whole grains, nuts
    • Chinese cabbage, spinach, broccoli
    • Fennel, carrot, beans, asparagus
    • Legumes
    • Egg and dairy products
    • Meat (beef, calf’s liver)
  • When hoping for a child
    • Discontinue all contraception
    • Recommended intake of folic acid tablets 0.4 mg / day as a preventive measure
  • Stop smoking, use alcohol in moderation

When to see a doctor?

Further information

Stiftung Folsäure Schweiz (Folic Acid Foundation Switzerland)
www.stiftung-folsäure.ch
Foods containing folic acid

Zurich Center for Fetal Diagnosis and Therapy (Zentrum für Fetale Diagnostik und Therapie)
https://swissfetus.ch/home-en/

Synonyms

folic acid deficiency, vitamin B9 deficiency, pteroylglutamic acid deficiency, spina bifida, neural tube defect, folate deficiency

Exclusion of liability

CSS offers no guarantee for the accuracy and completeness of the information. The information published is no substitute for professional advice from a doctor or pharmacist.

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