The Hidden Danger Of A Folic Acid Overdose
It would be quite uncommon to experience a folic acid overdose just from the foods we eat. Folic acid is present in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, lettuce, broccoli, and asparagus, four very healthy food items. You also will get your daily requirements for folic acid by eating bananas, melons, lemons, and meat. One would have to eat a great amount of any of these natural foods to cause an overdose. Chances are, one would have to eat so much that other problems would arise long before the amount of folic acid digested would present any kind of a problem. In fact, a one time overdose of folic acid would not cause any problems at all.
Folic acid is also present in many of the processed foods we eat. In fact, federal law dictates that it be added to certain foods, such as cereals and bakery items. It is even prescribed as a treatment for various deficiencies, diseases, and disorders. If folic acid, a water-soluble B vitamin is present in many of the foods we eat, and is seen as a good thing, how does one go about getting an overdose, and what problems might such an overdose create?
An Essential Vitamin - Folic acid, also called vitamin B-9, is an essential vitamin. It aids energy production in our cells, and it is a critical element in the development of the nervous system. Since it is not produced within the body naturally, we need to take in a certain amount of it every day to stay healthy. Yet, folic acid can be harmful if taken in excessive amounts, as could be the case if one were to rely too heavily on folic acid supplements.
Know The Upper Limit - The recommended upper limit for folic acid is 1000 micrograms per day. Folic acid supplements obviously contain high amounts of folic acid, but so do multivitamin tablets. It pays therefore to know how many micrograms are present in either type of tablet, so one can stay safely below the recommended upper limit. Taking a multivitamin tablet every day is probably quite safe, although when our diet is a healthy one we will normally get all of the folic acid our body needs.
The Canary In The Coal Mine - One of the problems with a folic acid overdose has to do with its relationship with vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 is another essential vitamin. A vitamin B-12 deficiency can result in a blood disorder, which if left untreated, eventually will result in tissue damage as well as damage to the nervous system. One of the symptoms of this blood disorder is anemia. This is where folic acid enters the picture, as too high a concentration of it in the body can mask this particular symptom of a vitamin B-12 disorder. In other words, a folic acid overdose treats the symptom, anemia, but does not treat the underlying cause. The anemia, as is the case with many symptoms, serves in the same capacity as a canary in a coal mine. A folic acid overdose keeps the canary singing, even though a dangerous gas is accumulating.
The primary symptom associated with a long-term or frequent overdosing of folic acid is a feeling of numbness in various parts of the body. This numbness is not caused by the folic acid itself, but is actually due to damage that may have been done due to a vitamin B-12 deficiency which was not detected in time. The damage to the nervous system may or may not be treatable. To put it bluntly, taking in excessive amounts of folic acid for an extended period of time could result in permanent damage to the nervous system, unless of course the body is not deficient in vitamin B-12.
Other Symptoms - An overdose of folic acid itself is not harmful to the body. Since an overdose could in certain situations still cause problems, it would be helpful to know if there are symptoms of an overdose that could tell us it might be advisable to cut back. There are indeed a few warning signs that our consumption of vitamin B-9 is more than it really needs to be, or should be. Unfortunately, the symptoms could point to any number of disorders, and don't necessarily pinpoint a folic acid overdose as the root cause. Symptoms can include diarrhea, insomnia, a rash, a bitter taste in the mouth, numbness felt on the tongue, digestive problems such as feelings of nausea, and a few other symptoms that one would regard as being fairly common.
Exceeding the 1000 micrograms limit isn't going to tip any scales, resulting in an immediate threat to one's health. The overdose needs to be happening over a fairly long period of time, and the actual limit may vary somewhat from person to person. If you take folic acid supplements, and note that you may be hovering around the upper limit, you might be advised to back off a bit. If you are taking the prescription supplements, it wouldn't hurt to ask the doctor if your vitamin B-12 levels are normal. If so, you probably have nothing to worry about.