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Folic acid (Vitamin B9)

Description

Folic acid has a series of essential functions in the body: it is highly important for the correct functioning of the brain, it aids the body produce red blood cells. Moreover, it also contributes to the overall emotional and mental well-being. Just like all the B vitamins, Vitamin B9 plays an important role in the digestion process, as it aids the body transform carbs into glucose. Later on, glucose is used in order to generate the energy your body requires for the daily activities. The B9 vitamin is also very good for maintaining healthy eyes, skin and liver, and it ensures the proper functioning of the nervous system.

Folic acid (Vitamin B9) is present naturally in certain foods, and it can also be taken in the form of supplements. Just like all the other B vitamins, Vitamin B9 is not stored by your body because it is water soluble, this is why you need a constant source of folic acid.

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Recommendations

Due to the fact that folic acid (Vitamin B9) increases the appetite along with the production of stomach acid, it is highly recommended for people who suffer from loss of appetite - a Vitamin B9 defficiency can eventually lead to anemia. Moreover, it ensures a healthy liver and it can benefit those who are at high risk of heart disease and/or stroke, because an increased level of amino acid homocysteine has been linked to both these conditions - folic acid breaks down homocystein, therefore preventing the diseases associated with elevated levels of this amino acid.

Folic acid is also highly recommended for pregnant women, as it ensures the proper development and growth of the baby. Vitamin B9 is essential to prevent a series of birth defects that have long-term consequences, like anencephaly or spina bifida. The risk for these birth defects and many others is reduced by up to two thirds if the pregnant woman takes folic acid before and during the first several of pregnancy.

Folic acid comes in the form of tablet that are usually taken once every 24 hours. You must take this vitamin exactly as instructed by your doctor, without exceeding the recommended dose as this may lead to complications and various side effects. If you take folic acid to treat a particular defficiency, the results are usually visible within the first 24 hours - Vitamin B9 usually takes 30 minutes up to an hour to kick in. Even if you feel better, it is important to continue taking this drug as prescribed by your doctor.

Side Effects

Generally speaking, folic acid is safe to use at levels of 5000 mcg or less and side effects are very rare, due to the fact that folic acid is quickly excreted by the body. Nonetheless, if the patient exceeds the recommended dose, then he or she may experience symptoms such as nausea, bloating, insomnia or the loss of appetite.

Moreover, some patients even experience skin reactions when they exceed the dose. Other less common symptoms are difficulty breathing and severe redness of the skin - if you notice any of these symptoms, you must get in touch with your health care provider right away. Fortunately, these symptoms are usually mild and they are temporary.

Restrictions

Patients with undiagnosed megaloblastic anaemia must not use folic acid in this situation, unless Vitamin B9 is administered concurrently with Vitamin B12. If not, neuropathy may be precipitated. Moreover, this vitamin is not stable and it can be usually destroyed by various environmental factors, like water, air or exposure to direct sunlight. This is why it should be kept away from moisture - it is best to be kept in the refrigerator.

On the other hand, patients who take certain medications like anti-convulsants, birth control pills, estrogen or sleeping pills should avoid using folic acid at the same time, as the previously mentioned drugs may interfere with the body's capacity to absorb it. Last, but not least, large amounts of folic acid can increase the risk of irreversible nerve damage.

Before you start the treatment with Vitamin B6, it is very important to let your health care provider and/or pharmacist know if you are allergic to it or any other drugs, to prevent dangerous situations. Moreover, inform them about any other medications you are taking at the moment, both prescription and non-prescription drugs (including vitamins and natural supplements).

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