Did you know that Folate Deficiency Can Cause Anemia, particularly Megaloblastic anemia in pregnant women?
We, the modern generation is constantly trying to keep up with everything; eating a balanced diet for sound health, working out like a pro, Instagramming and tweeting, and maintaining a social profile. But have you ever thought that a minor remiss in our diet like not eating enough greens or working out in the wrong way could possibly cause a great impact on our overall health? Folate Deficiency is one such disorder caused as a result of lack of proper diet and exercise. Everyone, particularly, the pregnant women are more at the risk of suffering from folate deficiency.
But Why Does Our Body Need Folate?
Folate or Folic acid is a type of water-soluble vitamin B-9. Vitamin B-9 and its forms carry out some of the vital functions such as creating RBCs, preserving brain health of newly born babies, preventing hearing loss and so on. The British Dietetic Association (BDA) states that folic acid is very important for our body because of the following reasons:
- It boosts the synthesis and repair of DNA and RNA
- It aids rapid cell division and growth
- It enhances and preserves the brain health of infants
The natural sources of folate include dark leafy greens such as broccoli, spinach, asparagus, Brussel sprouts, peas, beans, fruits like citrus fruits, avocado and so on.
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What is Folate Deficiency?
Folate deficiency is a common condition caused due to lack of enough folate in your blood. If you are not getting enough folate through your daily diet and supplements,you’re likely to suffer from folate deficiency anemia. This eventually leads your body to have fewer RBCs resulting in an oxygen-deprived condition in your tissues.
Folate Deficiency During Pregnancy
We’ve all heard about how pregnant women should watch out their folate intake every now and then. Well, there’s a reason behind it! Folate is particularly important for pregnant women because the lack of sufficient folate during pregnancy can cause serious birth defects in the newborn. Folate helps to prevent neural tube, brain or spinal cord defects and disorders in babies. Dara Godfrey, RD, a dietitian based in New York states:
“Folate is vital for healthy cell growth, cell function, and red blood cell formation. If we don’t get in enough folate, our cells cannot make new DNA, divide, and multiply.”
Hence, folate is a vital supplement for pregnant women, particularly during the first trimester because that’s when cells divide and multiply and several organs are in the process of formation. Our body, unlike other vitamins, does not make folate on its own, hence, it should be consumed either through diet or through supplementation. Folate deficiency during pregnancy results in megaloblastic anemia, a condition with a significantly low number of red blood cells.
Worried about what to do and what not to do during pregnancy? Read our article 7 Pregnancy Dos And Don’ts For Healthy Pregnancy
Causes of Folate Deficiency
Some of the common causes of folate deficiency include:
- Lack of a balanced diet that includes fruits, vegetables, beans and peas
- Some of the chronic diseases such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, cancers and kidney problems
- Genetic mutation that disables the body to convert the dietary or supplemental folate to its usual form i.e. methyl folate
- Alcoholism as alcohol interferes with folate absorption
- Side effects of certain medications such as methotrexate, sulfasalazine, phenytoin and so on.
Folate deficiency results in severe complications such as low levels of white blood cells and platelets, megaloblastic anemia in pregnant mothers, birth defects in the spinal cord, brain and neural tube in the newborns and so on.
7 Signs of Folate Deficiency
When your body is not getting enough folate, it ultimately shows some warning signs on your body. The one peculiar sign of folate deficiency is megaloblastic anemia. Other signs of folate deficiency include:
1.Weakness and fatigue
2. Random headaches
3. Shortness of breath
4. Lack of concentration
5. Discoloration of nails or paleness on skin
6. Shallow sores in the mouth or your tongue
7. Premature gray hair
Dietitian and experts state that folate deficiency should not be a problem if you’re eating variety of foods that are rich: in nutrients. The risk of folate deficiency anemia increases only if you’ve other underlying conditions such as the use of certain medications, alcoholism, celiac diseases, inflammatory bowel disease, low immunity, genetic factors and so on.
Prevention and Treatment
According to the National Institue of Health, an average adult needs 400 micrograms of folate every day for normal functioning. And the best way to prevent folate deficiency is by incorporating more green vegetables and citrus foods in your diet. Some of the foods that are high in folate include:
- Spinach- 1/2 boiled cup contains 131mcg of folate
- Asparagus: 4 boiled spears contains 89mcg
- Peanuts: 1 ounce dry roasted contains 41mcg
- Broccoli: 1/2 chopped and cooked contains 52 mcg
- Avocado: 1/2 cup sliced contains 59mcg
- Oranges: 1 small orange contains 29mcg
- Kidney beans: 1/2 cup canned contains 46mcg
- Brussels sprouts: 1/2 cup boiled contains 78mcg
- Fruits such as bananas and melons
- Eggs, liver meat, pork, shellfish
- Mushrooms and tomato juice
Also Read: Avocado | Health Benefits Of Avocado
Other packed foods such as breakfast cereals and bread, pasta and rice also contain folic acid in the synthetic form but you need to check the label before buying such products. However, for pregnant women, since the demand of folate is pretty high during that stage, you could take pills and vitamin supplement rich in folic acid just to make sure you’re getting enough folate. This, however, should be done only after consulting with your gynecologist.
Treatment of the folate deficiency involves increasing the dietary intake of folate or take a folate supplement. Those who have a problem with alcoholism should be referred to a rehabilitation center to control the excessive drinking. Those with genetic disorders can take methylated folate supplements to avoid deficiency.