Things You Need to Know About Vitamin B12 Deficiency
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One’s tiredness, digestion problems, dizziness, brain fog, and rapid heartbeat –just to name a few- might be signs of vitamin B12 deficiency. Of course, they can be signs of other health conditions but if you know that you don’t have any other health issue yet you experience these symptoms, it is very likely that you don’t get enough vitamin B12. This particular vitamin, nicknamed the energy vitamin, helps make DNA and red blood cells and is of utmost importance when it comes to brain health and immunity. Plus, our metabolism would simply not run without vitamin B12. Therefore, vitamin B12 plays a key role in our overall health and functioning.
The human body doesn’t make this vitamin, which means you need to get it from external sources like animal-based foods and supplements. Although vitamin B12 should be taken on a regular basis, the dosage and where you should get it from are elements that vary from one person to another. That’s why you need to see your doctor or nutritionist in order to find out more about when and where to take your vitamin B12 from.
Causes of vitamin B12 deficiency
One common and obvious cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is a poor diet. Vegans who don’t eat animal products like meat, dairy products, eggs and vegetarians who don’t have enough dairy foods and eggs have a higher risk of experiencing vitamin B12 deficiency. If you’re among them, you should include vitamin B12-fortified grains or take a vitamin B12 supplement. Vitamin B12 deficiency also increases with age.
Besides a poor diet and age, there are several other causes that lead to vitamin B12 deficiency. They include the following:
- Atrophic gastritis, a health condition in which your stomach lining has thinned.
- Small intestine conditions like the celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, parasites, and bacterial growth.
- Prolonged use of anti-acid drugs can also lead to vitamin B12 deficiency since the stomach acid breaks down animal proteins that contain vitamin B12.
- Immunity conditions like lupus and Graves’ disease.
- Pernicious anemia, a condition that affects your body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12.
- Weight loss surgery.
- People who’ve undergone surgery that removed a part of the small intestine or of the stomach.
- Heavy drinking will affect your vitamin B12 levels since it causes gastritis and low stomach acid which both affect the absorption of vitamin B12. Alcohol consumption can also affect the liver, the organ where B12 is stored, and thus deplete the B12 stores.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
Since vitamin B12 helps our body produce red blood cells, inadequate B12 intake will lead to a decrease in the production of these cells. That’s why the earliest symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include confusion and weakness. These symptoms are vague, though, because people may experience the lack of this vitamin differently. Plus, there are many other conditions that could trigger these symptoms. That’s why if you feel dizzy and confused for more than a few days, you should see your doctor and get tested.
Mild vitamin B12 deficiency may not even cause any symptom. When untreated, though, it will lead to the following symptoms:
- Confusion, weakness, and tiredness;
- Pale skin, mouth sores, swollen and red tongue;
- Diarrhea, gas, constipation and even loss of appetite;
- Memory loss, depression, and behavioral changes;
- Vision loss;
- Heart palpitations;
- Shortness of breath;
- Nerve damage that will lead to muscle weakness, tingling or numbness, and even walking problems.
If you notice any of the above-mentioned symptoms, make sure to see your doctor for some blood tests. If a vitamin B12 deficiency is what caused them, you can get the appropriate treatment to remove the cause and the symptoms.
How to treat vitamin B12 deficiency
If your deficiency is caused by a poor diet, including vitamin B12 rich foods into your diet should help you treat it. If you have absorption problems, including vitamin B12 rich foods may not help solve the problem. This is where supplements come into sight. The synthetic form of vitamin B12 is easier to absorb.
Doctors go for vitamin B12 injections, high doses of an oral supplement or nasal therapy in the case of people with pernicious anemia.
Vitamin B12 supplements are very much used in order to treat your deficiency. Your doctor will decide the type of supplement and dosage you need to take in order to resolve your problem. In most cases, the vitamin B12 rich foods, injections or supplements will make vitamin B12 deficiency history. In some cases, though, the nerve damage that was caused by this deficiency could be permanent. If the deficiency persists for years, it can cause severe and irreversible neurological damages like the inability to concentrate, memory loss and disorientation as well as nerve damage that include insomnia, erectile dysfunction, and bowel and bladder control issues.
How to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency
The first step you can take in order to stay away from vitamin B12 deficiency is to include meat, poultry, dairy products, eggs, and seafood into your diet. Most people will get enough vitamin B12 if eating such foods.
In case you’re vegan or you have absorption problems, you should consider taking a B12 supplement or multivitamins that contain vitamin B12. You can also start your day with vitamin B12-fortified cereals.
In case you’re on medication for some other health conditions, make sure you tell your doctor about it. He will let you know if the vitamin B12 vitamin won’t affect the other medicines.
Doctors say that it is difficult to overdo vitamin B12 since, unlike fat-soluble vitamins that can lead to various side effects when taking in high dosage, this particular vitamin is a water-soluble one. This means that only a small amount of it is absorbed, the rest of it being excreted through urine. Still, if you take large amounts of vitamin B12 at one time, you may get itchiness and diarrhea. Make sure you always read the label on your supplement and take it as your doctor recommended you to.