We all know that vitamins and minerals are of great importance for our body to function properly, and sometimes there is an increased need for them, for example in growing children or pregnant women. It is precisely in these two groups that one vitamin is so essential that a new life cannot be created and maintained without it: folic acid.
WHAT IS FOLIC ACID?
The human body needs folic acid, known also as vitamin B9, for red blood cell formation, absorption of iron, development of blood cells, synthesis of purine bases, choline and amino acids, as well as for the normal functioning of the nervous system. Without it, there is no normal DNA metabolism and no protection against cancerous cells.
FOLIC ACID IN FOOD
Which foods are rich in this vitamin? It is naturally found in fruits and vegetables, especially green leafy vegetables such as spinach, chard, lettuce, kale, legumes (peas, broad beans, beans), citrus fruits – oranges and lemons, walnuts and nuts, wheat germ, whole grains, bananas, tomatoes, peppers and broccoli; fatty fish such as tuna and salmon, liver, milk, eggs and baker’s yeast are also good sources. If folic acid deficiency is diagnosed, it is necessary to take vitamin B9 supplements or to take it in multivitamin preparations, but also to determine the underlying reason for its deficiency.
Folic acid is absorbed in the body using other B complex vitamins, biotin, vitamin C and zinc. Its usability is reduced by coffee, tobacco and stress, as well as low levels of zinc and digestive enzymes. Therefore, in order to provide the body with sufficient amounts of this vitamin, it is necessary to ensure that our digestive system is functioning properly alongside ensuring proper intake of this vitamin. The good thing is that we cannot take too much of it – the excess is simply excreted in the urine. Our body uses folic acid by making its reserves for about a month, and its highest concentrations are found in the cerebrospinal fluid.
If we do not have enough folic acid in the body, we will have symptoms of anaemia, look pale, feel weak, lack energy, feel a burning sensation and cramps in the legs, have restless legs syndrome, experience breathing difficulties and palpitations, suffer from enlarged liver and spleen, inflammation of the gums and have an unnaturally smooth tongue, which is a very frequent symptom. Also, we will be prone to headaches, be distracted, mentally weak and confused. A lack of folic acid leads to forgetfulness, insomnia, irritability and depression.
People who excessively consume alcohol are at particular risk of suffering from a lack of this vitamin in the body, because it affects the absorption of folate and accelerates its breakdown and expulsion from the body. Also, people suffering from celiac disease or inflammatory bowel disease have difficulty absorbing folic acid. Pregnant women and newborns are at the greatest risk, because the role of folic acid is very important in the development of cells in the foetus. Folic acid during pregnancy is an investment in the health of the child.
FOLIC ACID FOR PREGNANT WOMEN
There is a period in life when we need an additional amount of folic acid: during pregnancy. In fact, it is best if women planning to become pregnant increase their intake.
Why is folic acid so important for pregnant women? During foetal development in pregnancy, proper growth and development of the neural tube is very important. If it closes, a developmental defect occurs and the brain and spinal cord are unable to form properly. Improper development of the neural tube leads to disorders such as anencephaly (absence of part or all of the brain), spina bifida (open lower part of the spinal column that forms outside the body in the form of a cyst), encephalocele (disorder of the upper part of the spinal column in which part of the brain is exposed). In newborns whose mothers suffer from folic acid deficiency, a four times higher percentage of deformities, developmental disorders and, in the mildest cases, immune disorders has been recorded. Women who give many births with short breaks in between are most likely not to have enough folic acid and are generally at high risk of megaloblastic anaemia in pregnancy. Also, they are more at risk of placental abruption (premature separation of the placenta).
There is another reason why this vitamin is an absolutely necessary vitamin for women: it has been proven that increased doses of this vitamin can be used to prevent and treat dysplasia and the development of cervical cancer. Based on as many as 26 clinical studies, it has been confirmed that the intake of a sufficient amount of folic acid significantly reduces the risk of CIN changes on the cervix – cervical intraepithelial neoplasia – which can become malignant.
In addition to pregnant women, another group of women is at risk of folic acid deficiency. Oral contraceptives reduce the concentration of folate in the serum, so women who use contraceptive pills must increase intake of this vitamin.
A daily dose of 0.4 mg is recommended for all women, while pregnant women are advised to take twice as much. Data available to scientists say that over 45 percent of women in the reproductive period become pregnant within a three month period after they stop taking contraceptive pills. Bearing in mind the fact that folic acid is a necessary element for normal pregnancy and foetal development, and since contraception reduces its level, it is necessary to increase folic acid doses for at least three months prior to conception.
Another study looked at breastfeeding women and their folic acid needs. Analysing the serum and red blood cells of mothers and babies, scientists have found that women who took additional amounts of folic acid through supplements had much better results than those who did not. When it comes to newborns, they all had similar concentrations of this vitamin regardless of whether the mothers took supplements or not. Analyses of mother’s milk have revealed that the level of folic acid in it increased as breastfeeding progressed, and that it was higher in the evening than in the morning. All these results point to the very important fact that the level of folate in human milk is maintained at the expense of the reserves of this vitamin in the mother’s body, so if they are not controlled and compensated, women can suffer from a serious deficiency.
FEMISAN FOLAT PRO contains an ideal combination of elements necessary for pregnant and lactating women: the purest form of folic acid, Magnafolate® PRO, Omega 3-6-7-9 fatty acids, vitamins C, B6, B7 and B12.
Femisan A is another friend of women that looks after their reproductive health, hormonal balance, and is also an excellent preparation for a healthy pregnancy. Recently, Femisan A became available also as capsules in addition to a herbal tincture. The capsules are completely natural and contain the same combination of medicinal herbs as the drops, and additionally contain zinc, which helps the absorption of folic acid in addition to many essential functions; they also contain golden maca, a famous adaptogen. Femisan A, a health preparation for women, protects the uterus, strengthens its endometrium and stimulates ovulation, thereby creating ideal conditions for the formation of a new life together with FEMISAN FOLAT PRO.