Sunday, May 1, 2016
Folic acid is typically associated with pre-pregnancy care and is routinely prescribed as a supplement before conception and during the early stages of pregnancy. However, there has been additional research that shows folic acid can have other health benefits that can assist with the symptoms of allergies and asthma.
The research, which was carried out by Johns Hopkins Children’s Centre in New Orleans, discovered that folic acid, also known as Vitamin B9, can potentially help to regulate the immune system’s response to allergens, particularly in relation to allergy-triggered asthma.
Before we get into the links between folic acid and allergies, it’s vital to understand exactly what folic acid is and where it can be found. Folic acid or folate are water-soluble forms of vitamin B, known as Vitamin B9. This folate is an essential component for the development of the human body. Folate serum in the blood helps with the generation of new blood cells, in particular, red blood cells, which are vital to your immune system; folate also plays a key role in the formation of DNA, which is why women should take supplements of folic acid pre-pregnancy.
High levels of folate can be found in numerous food sources that include leafy vegetables, such as spinach, lettuce and broccoli, okra, asparagus and fruit groups that include banana, lemon and melon. It can also be found in dried beans, peas, mushrooms, certain meats like beef liver and kidneys, along with orange and tomato juice. While you can find folate naturally in foods, there is also a synthetic form of the vitamin B9 that is folic acid, which is added to certain cereals, bread, pasta and flours, as well as in prescription form as a diet supplement.
The extensive research carried out by Johns Hopkins Children’s Centre studied the blood folate levels of over 8,000 people aged between 2 and 85, with and without allergies and asthma. With this study, they looked to examine the relationship between blood folate levels and the likeliness of developing allergies or asthma. During the research programme, they discovered that those with lower blood folate levels were 31% more likely to have a test-verified allergy and 40% more likely to have a wheeze that could potentially develop into asthma. Whereas, those with the highest levels of blood folate were shown to have lower incidents of both of these conditions.
The initial research suggests that with sufficient levels of folate in the blood, which can be through natural food sources or prescribed dietary supplements, the human body’s immune system will produce more red blood cells. These can help regulate the inflammation caused by allergens, thus potentially reducing the effects of allergies on respiratory problems such as asthma.
Naturally, this research by Johns Hopkins Children’s Centre is in its early stages, having only recently been published, so there are much more extensive studies to be carried out to further investigate the links between allergies and folate blood levels.
Furthermore, without additional in-depth research, it is still unknown what the recommended dosage should be and any side effects of using folic acid to help with the regulation of allergies and asthma.
As a result, folic acid isn’t currently being prescribed by medical practitioners for managing allergies and allergy-triggered asthma. However, if you are suffering from low blood folate and allergies, it may be worth discussing the connection between folic acid and allergies with your GP.
Whilst it isn’t readily prescribed as treatment, they may be able to recommend ways to boost your immune system and red blood cell generation with folic acid. But as with all medication and supplements, this shouldn’t be done without sound medical advice from a qualified pharmacist or doctor.
Although it’s early days in terms of the research, there is strong evidence already to suggest that folic acid could have a significant impact on regulating the immune system against allergies and asthma. To what extent is yet unknown, but we will just have to wait and see what the new research shows.