Vitamin B deficiency: The warning signs in the mouth, skin and mental state

Monty Don gives advice on planting broccoli

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Folic acid is a synthetic essential B vitamin required for healthy red blood cell production. Without adequate supplies of the nutrient, folate deficiency anaemia develops, which can lead to starting symptoms. As tissues and organs begin to struggle to receive oxygen, due to faulty red blood cells, the body starts to alert you that something is wrong. One telling sign of a vitamin B deficiency you may not be aware of is a “smooth and tender tongue”, pointed out by John Hopkins Medicine.

The folate deficiency may also manifest on the appearance of your skin, giving people a “pale” colouring.

Another possible indication you are lacking this B vitamin is feeling irritable and being grouchy.

Folate deficiency anaemia may also lead to a decreased appetite, lack of energy, and diarrhoea.

One of the main reasons why folate deficiency anaemia can develop is due to an unbalanced diet.

The Association of UK Dieticians (BDA) emphasised the importance of the vitamin B nutrient folic acid.

“Folic acid is also essential in the formation of DNA (genetic material) within every body cell, allowing each cell to replicate perfectly,” said the BDA.

The water-soluble vitamin dissolves easily in water, meaning the nutrient can be lost during the cooking process.

Thus, to help vegetables retain their folic acid content, it is advised to steam or microwave vegetables (not to boil them).

Good sources of folic acid

  • Spinach, kale, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, broccoli
  • Beans and legumes (e.g. peas, blackeye beans)
  • Yeast and beef extracts
  • Oranges and orange juice
  • Wheat bran and other whole grain foods
  • Poultry, pork, shellfish and liver.

The NHS stated that folate deficiency anaemia can only be diagnosed following a blood test.

Blood tests will check whether or not red blood cells are larger than normal, the level of folate in the blood, and if you have lower levels of haemoglobin.

Should folate deficiency anaemia be diagnosed, treatment might involve folic acid supplementation.

Most people prescribed folic acid supplements will be asked to continue supplementation for up to four months.

To monitor that the treatment is working, you may need to have further blood tests.

Dietary advice may also be given, which may include to eat more:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Asparagus
  • Peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Brown rice.

The BDA pointed out that there may be additional benefits to taking folic acid supplements.

“Research has demonstrated that folic acid supplements can reduce high levels of homocysteine,” the dietary organisation began.

“[Homocysteine is] an amino acid in the blood that irritates blood vessels, which has been associated with increased risk of heart attack or stroke.

“However, reducing homocysteine levels does not reduce rates of heart attacks or deaths from any cause.”

Homocysteine is thought to be an indicator for heart disease, and not a risk factor.

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