What should I know before taking folic acid?

You should know if you are getting enough in your diet and/or other dietary supplements. Folic acid is the synthetic form of folate used in supplements and fortified foods. It is more bioavailable than naturally occurring folate. Intakes of 400-1000mcg/day through food and supplements are considered safe and may offer health benefits such as lower risk of age related diseases and heart disease.
Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
First and foremost, it’s important to know whether you are allergic to folate or folic acid. You do not want to be taking something that’s going to cause more problems! You also should make sure you know the basics: how much you’re taking, how often you should take it, whether you need to take it with particular foods or drinks, and what to do if you miss a dose. Finally, make sure you know the side effects that may occur from this supplement (typically they include: itching, a rash, or difficulty breathing, which could suggest you are having an allergic reaction). But it’s especially important for pregnant women because getting the right amount of folic acid is necessary to prevent a serious birth defect called spina bifida as well as decrease Junior’s risk of cancer in his early years. There is a risk in too much…more than 1,200 micrograms a day seems to foster the growth of some cancers -- such as some breast cancers, just as too little fosters cancer’s initiation.
Folic acid may offer many health benefits. Before taking it, talk with your doctor. You may be told to eat certain foods. These include fruit, fresh leafy green vegetables, liver and foods prepared from dried yeast. Discuss the following with your doctor:
  • Allergies to folic acid or any other medications
  • Any prescription and over-the-counter medications. This also includes any natural supplements.
  • If you have kidney disease or are on dialysis. This treatment cleans failing kidneys.
  • Any infections
  • If you’re an alcoholic
  • Any type of anemia
  • If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.