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

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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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