Anemia is a common health issue affecting people of all ages including children. This condition occurs when you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin to carry adequate oxygen supply to the tissues in your body.
One of the most common causes of anemia is deficiency in folic acid or B9 vitamin. Folic acid or folate, belongs to the group of B vitamins, which are water-soluble. This vitamin takes part as a coenzyme in many biochemical reactions in the body. Deficiency of folic acid can lead to a number of health issues including megaloblastic anemia, neural tube defects in fetuses, increased levels of homocysteine which in turn triggers other health complications such as atherosclerosis and heart attack.
Folic acid is also important for the production of red blood cells. In addition, it improves the body absorption of B12, especially when you are under stress or fighting depression, heart disease, cancer and Alzheimer’s.
Megaloblastic anemia caused by B9 deficiency occurs when the process of red blood cell production in the body is compromised. As red blood cells are in charge of transporting oxygen throughout the body, a reduced number of these cells leads to anemia.
There are several contributors that lead to folate-deficiency anemia. The most common include:
- Poor nutrition – folate deficiency is often the result of poor nutrition or a diet low in folic acid. Excessive alcohol consumption can also be a cause.
- Malabsorption – certain condition such as Crohn’s and celiac disease can also lead to folate deficiency.
- Increased body requirements for folic acid – some health issues increase the body’s need of folic acid. These can be physiological, such as pregnancy, growth and development during puberty, or pathological, such as hemolytic anemia, tumors, chronic dialysis etc.
- Certain medications – medications such as methotrexate, trimethoprim, barbiturates as well as oral contraceptives can often result in folate deficiency.
COMMON SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
The most common signs and symptoms of folate-deficiency anemia include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Difficulty breathing
- Heart palpitations or irregular heartbeat
- A sore, burning tongue
- Inability to focus
- Decreased appetite
- Weight loss
Folate-deficiency anemia gives very similar symptoms to anemia caused by lack of vitamin B12, except for neuropathy or damage to peripheral nerves, which leads to weakness, numbness and pain, usually in your hands and feet.
Not many people know that folic acid reserves in the body are much lower than the daily requirements for this vitamin. Therefore, a diet low in B9 vitamin can trigger megaloblastic anemia in a very short time.
THERAPY AND PREVENTION
Folic acid deficiency can be treated with medications in doses prescribed by a doctor. The therapy duration depends on the root cause of folate-deficiency. Pregnant women are advised to take folic acid preventatively. It’s also given to prematurely born babies.
Aside from taking medications, you can easily increase your folic acid intake through your diet. Foods rich in vitamin B9 include spinach, broccoli, citrus fruits, legumes etc.