Helping Your Baby Before It’s Born: The Power of Folic Acid
Folic acid (a/k/a vitamin BP or folate) is an important nutrient, so much so that food manufacturers are required by the Food and Drug Administration to add it to enriched grain products, such as breakfast cereals and pasta.
It helps make normal red blood cells (which are lost during menses and are important for energy), prevents anemia, and produces the nervous system chemicals serotonin, a neurotransmitter that helps calm us down; and norepinephrine, which functions as a neurotransmitter and a hormone, as well as keeping us alert.
Where folic acid’s true value lies is with mothers-to-be
The body needs folic acid for the production, repair, and functioning of DNA, which is our genetic map and a basic building block of cells.
Folic acid is particularly important during pregnancy, a period of rapid cell growth.
Folate is required for the conversion of one amino acid in the blood (homocysteine) into another (methionine).
Without enough folate, the blood could contain too much homocysteine, which is thought to contribute to some birth defects.
Elevated levels of homocysteine have also been linked to blood clots, placental abruption, recurrent miscarriages, and stillbirth.
In fact, pregnant women are advised to take at least 400 mcg micrograms) of folate each day as soon as they find out they’re pregnant in order to reduce the baby’s risk of neural tube defects. The neural tubes start developing about three weeks after conception.
If more is consumed, don’t worry. Folic acid is water soluble, so the body will flush out any excess.
Infants to 13-year-olds should get between 65 and 300 mcg per day, according to the Institute of Medicine, National Academy of Sciences. Between the ages of 14 to 18, the Recommended Dietary Allowance for folic acid jumps to 400 mcg.
Folate can be taken in the synthetic form, but there are plenty of foods rich in folic acid. These include dark leafy greens, legumes, strawberries, and oranges.
With many options available, folic acid deficiency shouldn’t be an issue. Even if someone gets it, the signs may be subtle or non-existent.
Signs include diarrhea, loss of appetite, weight loss, sore tongue, headaches, heart palpitations, and irritability.
Men can also contribute toward the baby’s health, wrote Dr. James Balch and the late Phyllis Balch, CNC, in their reference book, [easyazon_link asin=”1583334009″ locale=”US” new_window=”default” nofollow=”default” tag=”realfoodsmake-20″ add_to_cart=”default” cloaking=”default” localization=”default” popups=”yes”]Prescription for Nutritional Healing[/easyazon_link].
“Both partners should give up alcohol, cigarettes, and drugs- legal or otherwise- at least three to six months before they decide to conceive. Marijuana, heroin, morphine, and tobacco all reduce levels of male sex hormones and increase the risks of birth defects.”
Additionally, men should have an adequate intake of selenium, zinc, vitamins C and E, and the carotenoids.
Florida Folic Acid Coalition, www.folicacidnow.com
Prescription for Nutritional Healing (3rd edition). By Dr. James Balch and Phyllis Balch. Avery/Penguin. New York. 2000.
VITAMIN RETAILER Sept 2005
Used with permission
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