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Folic Acid for Rheumatoid Arthritis

By Brindusa Vanta

Rheumatoid arthritis, or RA, is an inflammatory condition affecting joints of the body, more commonly the small joints of the hands and feet. This condition affects 1 percent of the population worldwide, according to Merck Manual. Folic acid, also known as folate or vitamin B9, is a nutrient that has been evaluated for potential benefits in people suffering from rheumatoid arthritis. If you have been diagnosed with this condition and are considering taking folic acid supplements, talk to your doctor first.

Research

Many people with rheumatoid arthritis are deficient in folic acid, according to a study published in the January 1964 issue of “British Medical Journal.“ Furthermore, the deficiency of folate is severe enough to determine anemia. The authors found evidence of megaloblastic anemia in patients with RA. Megaloblastic anemia is a form of anemia that may be caused by other shortage of vitamins as well. However, the researchers suggested that folic acid deficiency played a key role in developing this megaloblastic anemia in the participants of the study. Researchers hypothesized that there may be a link between folic acid and the severity of RA symptoms, however, larger studies are needed to confirm these findings.

Folic Acid & Methotrexate

In some cases of rheumatoid arthritis, physicians may prescribe a drug called methotrexate. Although used in low doses, methotrexate can have significant side effects and may also deplete your body of folic acid, according to National Institute of Health. Diets high in folic acid or folic acid supplements may help decrease the toxic effects of this drug without reducing its efficacy. Important sources of dietary folate include beef liver, spinach and asparagus.

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Dosage & Side Effects

Folic acid is an over-the-counter supplement available alone or in combination with other B vitamins. To improve overall health, the recommended daily dosage is 400mcg in adults. Your physician may prescribe higher doses of folic acid depending on your particular condition. Folic acid has an excellent safety profile, though in rare situations it causes mild stomach upset, sleep disturbance or skin problems. Daily doses of 1000mcg or higher of folic acid should be avoided because they may mask an underlying vitamin B12 deficiency.

Considerations

Consult a qualified health care provider to find out optimal dosage of folic acid for your condition. Supplementation with folic acid for people with rheumatoid arthritis is not considered a standard treatment and vitamin B9 is not approved by U.S. Food and drug Administration to treat rheumatoid arthritis. Folic acid does not replace any medication you are currently taking.

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