Folic Acid A Must For WomenFolic Acid A Must For Women

Folic Acid, a much neglected vitamin in most women's diet, is a naturally occurring vitamin B (also called vitamin B9) that helps a baby's neural tube, the part of a developing baby that becomes the brain and spinal cord, develop properly. Neural tube defects are defects of the spinal cord and brain. If normal development does not occur, spina bifida and other anomalies can occur. Several studies suggest that women who do not consume enough of the B vitamin folic acid before and during the early weeks of pregnancy are also at increased risk of having a baby with a heart defect.

Your body also needs this nutrient for the production, repair and functioning of the DNA, our genetic map and a basic building block of cells. So getting enough folate is particularly important for the rapid cell growth that occurs during pregnancy. Folate is also required for a complex metabolic process that involves the conversion of one amino acid in your blood (homocysteine) into another amino acid (methionine). If you don't get enough folate, you can end up with excessive amounts of homocysteine in your blood, which is though to contribute to some birth defects. Finally, folate helps make normal red blood cells, prevents anemia, and produces nervous system chemicals.

The signs of folic acid deficiency are very subtle. You may experience diarrhea, loss of appetite and weight loss as well as weakness, a sore tongue, headaches, heart palpitations and irritability. If you are only mildly deficient, you may not experience these symptoms, but you still won't be getting the requisite amount needed for your baby's development. Thus the importance of folic acid for a childbearing woman can't be stressed enough.

Natural sources of folic acid are broccoli, legumes, asparagus, spinach, peanuts, orange juice, papayas, and romaine lettuce, among others. Folic acid is also found in most multivitamin supplements and as well as a folic acid only supplement. If you, like most people, don't get the amount of folic acid you need from your diet, you definitely should consider taking a supplement. Research shows that the body actually absorbs the synthetic version of this vitamin (found in supplements and enriched foods) much better that the version that occurs naturally in certain foods.

by Jack Smith
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