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Folic Acid for Anemia

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Did you know that anemia is caused by more than simple iron deficiency? Studies have found that low levels of folic acid can also cause anemia. Learn more about the connection between anemia and folic acid below.

Did you know that anemia is more than just iron deficiency? Aside from the more serious causes of anemia, such as sickle cell anemia, reversible forms of anemia are usually caused by vitamin deficiencies. These deficiencies are often attributed to simple iron deficiencies, but other nutrients can also cause anemia. It turns out, what makes red blood cells is as complex as the rest of us.

One of the hidden causes of anemia is folic acid deficiency, which while can lead to serious complications for everyone, is most dangerous for women who are currently pregnancy. Deficiencies in folic acid can cause severe birth defects and cause spina bifida. Learn more about folic acid anemia below.

How Folic Acid Helps Red Blood Cells

Blood isn't made up of one material. In fact, it contains several parts. Plasma is the "blood" part of blood, which is made up of red blood cells, white blood cells, platelets, hemoglobin, and proteins. These materials work together to carry nutrients throughout the body. Red blood cells are made in the bone marrow and are released into the bloodstream. Most red blood cells last about 120 days, so you must keep making them to stay healthy. Hemoglobin is the material in the body that brings oxygen throughout the body.

You need a healthy dose of nutrients to support each part of blood cell production, including folic acid. Folic acid is used to create all new cells, and without it, your red blood cell count will suffer. Folic acid deficiency can result in two types of anemia, that in which you have fewer red blood cells than normal and that in which you have less hemoglobin than normal within each cell.

Both kinds of anemia simply mean that less oxygen is traveling throughout your body, leading to the symptoms of anemia.

If you are lacking in folic acid, you will see some of the following symptoms in your body: 

Symptoms of Folic Acid Deficiency 
Tiredness Numbness in the hands and feet Low energy Feeling faint Breathlessness Pale skin Headaches Sudden heart palpitations Ringing in the ears Altered taste

A lot of these symptoms overlap with anemia caused by other factors, including low iron and low vitamin B12, so it is important to have a blood test to identify the exact cause of anemia. Taking the wrong supplement or trying the wrong treatment to solve anemia will not fix the issue and might even lead to overdosing on certain nutrients, which can have their own side effects.

Causes of Folic Acid Deficiency

If you are deficient in folic acid, it is likely one of these factors is behind your deficiency. Not eating enough folic acid. If you don't eat a diet rich in leafy greens, then you might be low in folic acid. The elderly and individuals who are alcohol-dependant are at-risk for folic acid deficiency for this reason. Also, if you are on a restricted diet you may also suffer from folic acid deficiency.

Pregnancy

If you are pregnant, your body will give all of the folic acid you have to your baby. Your body prioritizes your baby above you, so you will end up lacking in folic acid if you don't have a steady intake. Most pregnant women supplement with folic acid in addition to eating folic acid-rich foods to prevent this problem.

Digestive disorders

If you have trouble absorbing nutrients of any kind, you will have trouble absorbing folic acid. Crohn's disease and celiac disease commonly lead to folic acid deficiencies.

Medicines

A few medicines interfere with folic acid absorption. Common medicines that lead to deficiencies include birth control pills, medications for epilepsy, antacids, and a few others.

Over-cooking food

If you only eat food that is overcooked (like most canned vegetables), you are at higher risk for folic acid deficiencies. Foods cooked for extended periods are lacking in folic acid, which diminishes when food is cooked.

Where to Find Folic Acid

Folic acid is found in foods, mainly in spinach, broccoli, green beans, chickpeas, brown rice, kidney, liver, potatoes, peas, and sprouts. Your body cannot hold onto folic acid for long, so it is always important to continue to eat foods rich in folic acid even if you are taking a folic acid supplement.

Reversing Folic Acid Anemia

If you are low in folic acid, the treatment for anemia is simple. Usually, a combination of folic acid supplements and folic acid-rich foods are consumed for a few weeks to reverse the problem. After anemia symptoms fade you can stop taking supplements and switch to simply eating a healthy diet. Leafy greens are the best source of folic acid.

According to Harvard Medical School, doses of folic acid supplements up to 400 mcg of folic acid per day will help prevent folic acid-related anemia. Pregnant women can continue to take a folic acid supplement throughout their pregnancy.

Support for Anemia

If you are anemic, your body makes it harder for you to remain healthy. Anemia can cause a host of problems, including heart problems and even increase your risk for stroke and heart disease.

Anemia is a serious condition that should be addressed and reversed as soon as you find out you have the condition. If your anemia is caused by a deficiency in folic acid, it is likely that you are also deficient in other nutrients that are necessary to create healthy blood cells.

Adding these foods to your diet will improve your chances of reversing anemia faster and producing healthy, stable red blood cells.

Iron

Low-iron levels are more common in women and the elderly. If you are low in iron, you are at higher risk for anemia. Iron can be found in red meat, organ meats, and in some leafy vegetables. You can also supplement with iron under the supervision of a doctor or other health professional to boost your iron levels while you recover from anemia. However, taking iron supplements long-term can be dangerous.

Copper

Copper is an important trace mineral that helps your body store and use iron. Copper should always be taken along with zinc as it they use the same pathways in the body and overdosing in one will cause severe deficiencies in the other. Never take copper without zinc and vice versa.

Zinc

Zinc is important to build healthy red blood cells. Zinc works with copper to balance nutrient levels throughout the body and prevent copper poisoning.

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is just as important for the blood as it is for the brain. Without B12, your body will have red blood cells that are too large, which causes a unique form of anemia. Vitamin B12 is essential for reversing and preventing anemia.

Vitamin C

Vitamin C is an antioxidant that ensures the healthy production of red blood cells. Vitamin C also boosts the absorption of other nutrients in the body. Selenium Selenium prevents cells from producing damaged copies. It is a strong antioxidant that can help form healthy, functioning red blood cells. Low selenium levels are often tied with anemia from mild to severe anemia.

Don't Neglect Folic Acid if You Are Anemic

If you are anemic, you are likely deficient in several nutrients, including folic acid. Folic acid is an important nutrient, but if you do not eat enough leafy greens you are likely deficient in the nutrient. Folic acid deficiencies will lead to anemia and slow you down while also causing long-term damage and problems to your heart and other areas of the body. If you are anemic, boost your nutrient levels through diet and supplements today to prevent long-term damage to your body.

Next Article: Home Remedies to Treat Anemia