Folate deficiency

What is Folate Deficiency?

Folate deficiency is an insufficiency of folic acid or vitamin B9 in the body. Folic acid is an essential B-complex vitamin needed for many important functions in the body. It is required for the production of red blood cells, DNA synthesis and repair, cell growth and development, and normal fetal development during pregnancy. A folate deficiency can lead to anemia, which is a decrease in red blood cells, symptoms of which include fatigue and dizziness. Untreated folate deficiency can cause serious neurological complications.

What Causes Folate Deficiency?

Folate deficiency most commonly occurs as a result of an inadequate intake of folic acid due to a poor diet. Individuals who consume more processed and refined foods are at higher risk for folate deficiency. In addition, individuals who consume alcohol heavily or have a condition that causes malabsorption of nutrients in the body, such as Crohn’s disease, are also at an increased risk. Certain medications, such as anticonvulsants, can also lead to folate deficiency.

Common Symptoms of Folate Deficiency

The most common symptom of folate deficiency is anemia. Anemia can cause fatigue, shortness of breath, pale skin, and dizziness. Other symptoms may also occur such as:

  • Loss of appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
  • Behavioral changes
  • Sores in the mouth
  • Depression
  • Irritability

Diagnosing Folate Deficiency

Folate deficiency is diagnosed through a blood test that measures the amount of folate in the body. Your doctor may also order other tests to determine the cause of your folate deficiency.

Treatment of Folate Deficiency

The treatment for folate deficiency depends on the underlying cause. Folate deficiency is typically treated with oral supplements of folic acid. The amount of supplements and duration of treatment will depend on the extent of your deficiency. Injectable forms of folate may be recommended in more severe cases. Eating foods that are naturally rich in folate such as dark leafy greens, legumes, and nuts can also help increase your folate intake. Additionally, avoiding alcohol and following a healthy diet is important for preventing a folate deficiency.