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Folate 101: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment for Folate Deficiency

Updated: Feb 2

Folate, also known as vitamin B9, is an essential nutrient for overall health. This water-soluble vitamin aids in DNA synthesis and repair, red blood cell formation, and cell division. Adequate folate intake helps prevent certain birth defects and may lower risk of heart disease, stroke, and some cancers. However, folate deficiency is common, often due to inadequate dietary intake or medication interactions. The most notable consequence of folate deficiency is megaloblastic anemia, but it can also lead to neurological issues and birth defects if deficiency occurs during pregnancy. Ensuring adequate folate status through diet and supplementation when necessary can have profound benefits on health.


FOLATE writing on a small chalkboard, surrounded by various fruits, nuts, and vegetables

CAUSES

Folate-deficiency anemia can develop for several reasons, according to Johns Hopkins Medical Center. Eating too few folate-rich foods like leafy greens, fresh fruit, fortified cereal, yeast, and organ meats can lead to deficiency. Excessive alcohol consumption can also deplete folate levels. Certain digestive diseases like celiac disease prevent proper folate absorption, and some cancers have the same effect. Finally, certain seizure medications are known to contribute to deficiency. Those at highest risk include people with poor diets, heavy drinkers, pregnant women, those with absorption issues, and those on seizure meds. The key is getting enough folate from foods or supplements if you fall into a high-risk group. Maintaining healthy digestion and avoiding medicines that impair absorption can also keep your folate levels where they need to be.


SYMPTOMS

Vitamin B12 and folate deficiencies can cause nearly identical symptoms. Though the root causes differ, the end results are quite similar. Both deficiencies can leave you feeling drained of energy and struggling to concentrate. Headaches, appetite loss, diarrhea, and vision changes frequently occur. Some also report heart palpitations, indigestion, and mouth sores.


In some cases, these vitamin shortfalls progress to anemia. As red blood cell counts drop, shortness of breath and rapid breathing may develop. Still, deficiency symptoms often arise before anemia sets in.


The impacts extend beyond physical discomfort. Memory lapses, poor judgment, and reduced understanding can result from either deficiency. These cognitive changes imply neurological effects, even without a diagnosis of anemia.


Monitoring your symptom profile provides clues to an underlying lack of folate or B12. Seeking prompt treatment can alleviate symptoms and prevent long-term complications. Identifying and addressing the root deficiency is key to restoring health and vitality.

Source: NHS


TREATMENT

Getting your folate levels back on track starts with working with a trusted healthcare provider by reviewing your unique health history and lifestyle factors.


Together, we can map out a treatment plan that fits your needs and goals. This may include vitamin supplements, dietary changes, medication, or addressing underlying conditions. The good news is that small steps can make a big difference. Committing to a folate supplement and alcohol-free diet for a few months may be all it takes to get your levels up.


If you need guidance getting started, our knowledgeable nutritional advisors are here to help. Fill out a quick health intake form online or call (813)563-2019 to schedule a consultation. We'll provide the support you need to overcome deficiency - and thrive. Your health is worth it. Let's get you back on track.


FOODS

Which foods are packed with folate? Your best bet are legumes, take a look at this list of foods with the highest amounts of folate in a one-cup serving: 

  1. Mung beans: 1294 mcg

  2. Adzuki beans: 1225 mcg

  3. Garbanzo beans (chickpeas): 1194 mcg

  4. Black-eye peas: 1057 mcg

  5. Pinto beans: 1013 mcg

  6. Pink beans: 972 mcg

  7. Pigeon peas: 935 mcg

  8. Lentils: 920 mcg

  9. Great northern beans: 882 mcg

  10. Black beans: 861 mcg


Consult with our expert nutritionist to get on the path to better health. Fill out a brief health questionnaire and we'll schedule a personalized consultation to address your wellness goals.

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