For some Americans, folic acid isn’t just necessary for reducing the risk of neural tube defects (NTDs), it’s vital for dealing with a folate deficiency.

Folate, which is the organic form of folic acid, is also known as vitamin B-9 and used in the creation and repair of DNA and in the production of red blood cells. Those who suffer a folate deficiency are at risk of anemia, low levels of white blood cells and platelets, and of course, are at risk of having children with NTDs like spina bifida and anencephaly.

So what are the signs for someone who is suffering a folate deficiency?

For one, pale and painful gums. This paleness also affects the tongue and the mucus membranes inside the mouth and the tongue also becomes swollen and smooth. The more red blood cells you have in your body, the richer the color of your gums will be and your tongue will be less inflamed.

Other symptoms can include:

  • Extreme tiredness
  • Lack of energy
  • Feeling faint
  • Headaches
  • Pale skin
  • Heart palpitations
  • Breathlessness
  • Gray hair

If you believe you are suffering from a folate deficiency, first, call your primary physician to find out for sure and to develop a treatment plan.

Ways to increase folate and folic acid is through diet by eating enriched foods like cereals, pastas and grains, as well as citrus juices and dark green vegetables.

Folic acid is also available over the counter and incredibly inexpensive.