Symptoms associated with folate deficiency include gray hair, growth problems, fatigue and mouth ulcers, states MedlinePlus. Tongue swelling may also signal folic acid deficiency. Folic acid is a B vitamin that combines with other vitamins to help the body use and create proteins as well as produce red blood cells and DNA.
Excessive consumption of alcohol; certain diseases, including Crohns disease; genetic disorders, such as methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase deficiency; medications, such as sulfasalazine; and hemolytic anemia can cause folate deficiency, states Mayo Clinic. Other causes include eating a diet low in fruits and vegetables and eating overcooked food.
Blood tests may help provide diagnosis, notes Healthline. Pregnant women should visit their doctors frequently for prenatal checkups to avoid certain birth defects.
Eating a balanced diet may help prevent folic acid deficiency, MedlinePlus states. Good sources of folic acid include legumes, such as beans; citrus fruits and related products; liver; and poultry. Fortified cereals, wheat bran, mushrooms and eggs contain high amounts of folic acid, states Healthline. Cutting down on the intake of alcohol may prevent folate deficiency.
Complications include low levels of white blood cells and platelets, and megaloblastic anemia, a condition in which red blood cells are abnormally large, explains Healthline. Folate deficiency may also cause neural birth defects: severe birth defects in the brain and spinal cord.