Folic acid deficiency: symptoms, causes & treatment

Folic acid or vitamin B11 is a substance that occurs in the food we consume. If there is a lack of vitamin B11, certain symptoms may occur, after which it may be advisable to take extra folic acid in the form of tablets or capsules. Supplements with extra folic acid can help you increase your resistance in the event of illness. Women who want to become pregnant are also recommended to take extra folic acid tablets, especially because this vitamin is crucial for the development of the baby’s nervous system. The causes of a folic acid deficiency are usually an unbalanced diet, excessive alcohol consumption or intestinal disease. What are the symptoms of a folic acid deficiency and are there any side effects associated with the nutritional supplements?

What is folic acid or vitamin B11?

Folic acid is a substance that is also known under the classic name of vitamin B11 . Folic acid is not produced by the body but we absorb it through the food we eat. Folic acid is mainly found in spinach, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, citrus fruits and whole grain products. However, cooking food can lose much of the value of folic acid. For people who suffer from a folate deficiency, nutritional supplements are available in the form of tablets or capsules in pharmacies and on the internet.

Folic acid function

Folic acid is a vitamin that has a crucial function in our body. It ensures the production of red blood cells that are essential for the transport of oxygen throughout the body. Folic acid also promotes the absorption of iron in the body. Moreover, this vitamin also has an important function in the nervous system .

Folic acid deficiency and pregnancy

Because folic acid is so important for the nervous system, pregnant women and women who want to become pregnant take extra folic acid. This is mainly to ensure healthy development of the unborn baby’s nervous system. Folic acid can also prevent congenital abnormalities in the baby, such as cleft lip or spina bifida. Taking extra folic acid during pregnancy is recommended because even with an extremely healthy diet you do not consume enough folic acid for the proper development of the baby. An example of such a folic acid supplement for pregnant women is Pregnazon Complete Pregnancy .

Symptoms of folic acid deficiency


The complaints that occur as a result of a folic acid deficiency mainly concern the digestive system. Symptoms such as stomach pain and heartburn may be accompanied by nausea. Because the stomach causes problems, your appetite can also decrease. And by eating less you can also lose weight, which means you have less energy and get tired more quickly. In this way, a folic acid deficiency can trigger a chain reaction of symptoms.

Other complaints

In addition, other complaints may occur with a folic acid deficiency, which mainly have to do with the function of folic acid for the nervous system and with poorer absorption of iron. You may suffer from headaches, dizziness and reduced resistance. Sleep problems can also occur with a deficiency of this important vitamin.

Causes of folic acid deficiency

Intestinal disease

A lack of folic acid can have several causes . People who suffer from intestinal disease often have to take extra folic tablets because the intestine cannot absorb enough folic acid (for example chronic intestinal diseases such as Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis). In such diseases, a lot of folic acid and other important nutrients are lost through diarrhea and the internal consequences of inflammation.

Unbalanced diet

Furthermore, a diet that is too one-sided can also lead to a folic acid deficiency. If you eat too many of certain food products (e.g. fats, sugars) and a shortage of others (vegetables, fruit), there is a problem with the balance in your diet. Consider, for example, people who are on a diet or people with little appetite.


People who often drink excessive amounts of alcohol can also suffer from a folic acid deficiency. In the long term, alcohol abuse can lead to a difficult absorption of vitamin B, including B11 (folic acid) and B1. It is therefore no coincidence that alcoholics who want to quit alcohol are recommended to take supplements with vitamin B. In this way, the body is stimulated to absorb vitamin B and the withdrawal process can proceed more smoothly.


can be associated with a lack of folic acid when used long-term (such as medications for rheumatism, psoriasis, epilepsy). It is best to ask your doctor for additional advice whether in your case the folic acid deficiency can be due to the medications you are taking.

Treatment of folic acid deficiency


You can treat a folic acid deficiency by taking supplements with extra folic acid. Over time, the desired level of folic acid should be replenished. This will cause the mentioned symptoms of folic acid deficiency to gradually disappear and you will generally feel better. Some examples of folic acid supplements are:

  • Vitortho Folic Acid
  • Biotics Folic Acid
  • Optimized Folic Acid

Side effects

It is very rare for folic acid tablets to cause side effects. Side effects only occur with hypersensitivity to folic acid or with extremely high use. Hypersensitivity to this substance is noticeable by itching, rash and fever. If you use very large amounts of folic acid, the following side effects may occur:

  • vomit
  • nausea
  • confusion
  • intestinal complaints
  • stomach problems
  • feeling of irritation
  • lack of appetite
  • sleep disorders


If there is no hypersensitivity to folic acid, or if you do not take extremely high doses of supplements, you will generally not suffer from side effects. Over time, the level of folic acid will be replenished. If you want to know whether this is the case, have the folic acid levels in your body measured based on a blood analysis by your doctor.

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