A Guide to Vitamin B12 Deficiency

vitamin B12 deficiencyGetting enough Vitamin B12 is very vital as its deficiency can lead to serious problems. It does a lot of things in your body. Vitamin B12 helps in the making of your DNA and your RBCs in addition to other things. Your body doesn’t synthesize vitamin B12, hence it must be supplied in the diet and should be consumed regularly. If you have the vitamin B12 deficiency, it is best to consult a doctor immediately.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Causes

With ageing, the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency increases. A vegan is more likely to get this deficiency as only animal based foods contain Vitamin B12. Also babies born to mothers who are vegan and do not get enough vitamin B12 are also likely to develop this deficiency.

Health Conditions

Certain health conditions can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency which are as follows:

  • Thinning of stomach lining known as atrophic gastritis.
  • Inability of the body to absorb vitamin B12 from the blood known as pernicious anemia.
  • Surgeries like the weight loss surgery in which a part of your stomach or small intestine is removed.
  • Conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease or bacterial growth affecting the small intestine.
  • Disorders of the immune system.
  • Heavy drinking
  • Using drugs that reduce the acid in the stomach for long time. Stomach acids only break down  animal proteins that contain vitamin B12.

Symptoms

Mild deficiency can be asymptomatic. But if left untreated can cause anemia and many other symptoms such as the following:

  • Pale skin and smooth tongue
  • Weakness or tiredness
  • Loss of vision
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Depression, loss of memory or behavioral changes
  • Loss of apetite
  • Constipation or diarrhea
  • Muscle weakness
  • Numbness or tingling sensation

If you have any of the above symptoms, then your doctor will recommend a blood test. Risks of anemia, developmental delays and weakness are high in infants born to vegan mothers and also are breastfed exclusively.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Treatment

Treatment solves most of the problems associated with this condition. An elderly person should take a vitamin B12 supplement daily. If you do not eat animal based products, then it is best to include grains fortified with vitamin B12. If you are vitamin B12 deficient, then it is best to take a supplement, injections or high oral dose of vitamin B12.

People with pernicious anemia will have to take injections regularly or high oral doses of the vitamin or even nasal therapy for life.

Preventing Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Having enough meat, eggs, sea food and dairy products helps to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency. Experts may recommend taking B12 containing multivitamin and fortified cereal with vitamin B12 for breakfast if you have a health condition that leads to this deficiency or do not consume enough animal based products.

It is best to consult a doctor before taking any supplements of B12 as he/she will make sure you won’t get affected by the medicines that you take.

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