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Folic acid or vitamin B9 is a necessary supplement in the diet of pregnant women, however not only for pregnant women, this vitamin is indispensable to every individual, for normal health and life.
Folic acid is essential for the human body, having a role in many metabolic processes. The organism can not produce it itself, and it can not be stored in the organism for a long time, so it is necessary to take the required amount through the diet, and in case of an increased need of folic acid, it should be taken through supplements. Folate is the form of the B9 vitamin contained in food, and folic acid is a form of B9 vitamin in vitamin supplements.
Folic acid is significant for many important processes in our organism, especially in the division, differentiation and growth of the embryo and the fetus. It is important for the synthesis of DNA and the functioning of the cells in the body. It participates in the metabolism of nerve cells, and together with vitamin B12 it is necessary for the creation of red blood cells or the creation of DNA. It also has a significant role in the conversion of amino acids that our body needs, thereby reducing the level of homocysteine in blood. An elevated level of homocysteine leads to occlusion of blood vessels acting thrombogenically. The consumption of folic acid gives energy to the organism.
Folic acid is one of the essential vitamins that is recommended if a woman is pregnant or planning to get pregnant
Folic acid has the highest value in pregnant women, for normal growth and development of the fetus: in the period before pregnancy, during pregnancy and during breastfeeding. Folic acid acts on the development of the fetal system of the fetus, preventing 50 to 70% of the occurrence of neural tube defects in the fetus. Neural tube defects are serious congenital anomalies of the spinal cord (such as spina bifida) or anomalies of the head and the central nervous system, such as anencephaly in the fetus.
However, although these reasons are significant, they are not the only ones for folic acid intake before and during pregnancy. There are studies that show that it can reduce the risk of other congenital defects in newborns. In addition, a particular group of pregnant women who have an inborn deficiency of MTHFR (methylenetetrahydrofolate) reductase, an enzyme whose deficiency significantly impairs the conversion of folates to folic acid, in consultation with a gynecologist, should make sure that they receive a sufficient dose and an appropriate form of this vitamin through supplements.
Previous pregnancy with a neural tube defect, or a known history of such a defect in one of the partners, is of particular importance, where the supplementation should be initiated with appropriate doses of folic acid several months before the planned pregnancy.
In the human diet, folic acid is mostly contained in fruits and vegetables
It is present in all dark green leafy vegetables (spinach, beta, cabbage leaves …), asparagus, beans, beets, broccoli, kale, cauliflower, corn, peas, green beans … Fruits rich in folic acid include: avocado, orange, lemon, banana, melon, grapefruit … In addition to fruits and vegetables, folic acid is also found in brewer’s yeast, eggs and liver.
When is it necessary to add a folic acid supplement in your diet?
Folic acid supplements are usually recommended to women who intend to conceive (several months before pregnancy), to women during pregnancy and nursing. Of course, a doctor should be consulted before use.
A large number of associations of gynecologists and perinatologists recommend that women in the reproductive age receive 400 mcg of folic acid daily, because the neural tube closes by the 28th day of pregnancy, when maybe the pregnant woman does not know she is pregnant yet. It is therefore important that women who are planning to get pregnant start to take folic acid three months before and at least during the first 12 weeks of gestation.
However, folic acid intake is not necessary only for pregnant women. Its intake through supplements is beneficial for the body in case of other health problems as well such as: anemia, heart and blood vessel diseases, increased pressure, depression, prevention of colon cancer, infertility, neuroses, insomnia, immunodeficiency, metabolism problems, infections, poor memory, stress, and chronic fatigue.
Folic acid deficiency is usually experienced by people who have problems with the digestive system, kidneys, liver or who consume alcohol. Symptoms that may suggest folic acid deficiency include: anemia, depression, insomnia, irritability, loss of concentration, loss of appetite, muscular weakness.
In fact, the use of folic acid supplements is beneficial to many processes in the organism, keeping us healthy, protecting our offspring during pregnancy and helping us create healthy generations.
Dr. Irena Andonova
Specialist in Gynecology – Obstetrician
Zan Mitrev Clinic