Signs of Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) Deficiency
A deficiency of vitamin B9 (folic acid) is one of the most commonly seen nutrient deficiencies. It is regularly seen in people who chronically abuse alcohol, women who are pregnant, and individuals who suffer from issues with nutrient absorption (as often occurs with inflammatory bowel diseases like ulcerative colitis and Crohn’s disease). A folic acid deficiency can also occur in people who take certain prescription medications (including methotrexate and cholesterol-lowering medications). A vitamin B9 deficiency may be due to insufficient consumption of the nutrient or because of an inability to absorbing it through the intestines.
The symptoms of a folic acid deficiency can be subtle and are often missed. In some cases a deficiency of vitamin B9 can happen without an individual noticing any symptoms at all. Some of the primary signs and symptoms of a vitamin B9 (folic acid) deficiency include:
- Anemia and mood-related problems. Insufficient levels of folic acid in the body may result in feelings of depression. This may be due to reduced levels of neurotransmitters in the brain.
- Inadequate dietary intake of vitamin B9 can result in disruption of growth, macrocytic anemia, and glossitis.
- A deficiency can result in problems with the digestive system. Especially, disorders of the intestines.
- When a folic acid deficiency is more severe, symptoms may include macrocytic anaemia, lethargy, fatigue, mood problems and fluctuations, breathing difficulties, diarrhea, weight loss, anorexia, headaches, and palpitations.
- A deficiency of vitamin B9 may be related to cervical dysplasia, a precancerous condition where abnormal cell growth occurs on the lining of the cervix.
- Folic acid deficiency has also been connected with coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease.
The daily requirement for vitamin B9 is much higher during pregnancy. A folic acid deficiency during pregnancy results in a higher risk for premature deliver, low birth weight, and neural tube defects. Neural tube defects (NTDs) include disorders like cleft palate, spina bifida, and brain damage. Neural tube defects affect nearly 4,000 pregnancies in the United States each year. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the United States Public Health Service have estimated that taking 400 micrograms of folic acid every day, while pregnant, could eliminate nearly 70% of birth defects.
Because a vitamin B9 deficiency is more common than other nutrient deficiencies, it is important to get enough folic acid each day to ensure you are getting all of the health benefits of vitamin B9. Fortunately, there are many excellent dietary sources of vitamin B9 (folic acid) that are available.
Signs of Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid) Overdose and Toxicity
Because vitamin B9 (folic acid) is a water-soluble B vitamin, overdose or toxicity resulting from excessive intake is rare. Extra amounts of water-soluble vitamins are efficiently removed by the body. However, adults should not intake more than 1,000 micrograms of vitamin B9 per day. Excessively large amounts of folic acid have not been found to have any added therapeutic benefits. Extremely large dosages of folic acid (exceeding 15,000 micrograms) have been known to cause digestive problems, insomnia, skin reactions, and seizures.
The absorption rate of zinc, tetracycline, estrogen, anticonvulsant drugs, and sulfasalazine could be inhibited by the presence of folic acid. Avoid taking a folic acid supplement immediately before or after taking any of these.
Mega-doses of folic acid have been linked to an increase in the occurrence of seizures in people who suffer from epilepsy. A daily intake of over 1000 micrograms of vitamin B9 has been known to mask the signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency.