Vitamin B12 deficiency

As I am not a medical doctor, I urge you to visit your GP if you have any questions about lack of Vitamin B12 following reading this article.  I hold a diploma in nutrition and am an avid researcher of wellbeing in mind and body, constantly looking at how to improve the quality of our lives.

Signs and symptoms of a Vitamin B12 Deficiency

  • fatigue
  • mood disorders
  • weakness
  • weight loss
  • loss of appetite
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid heart beat
  • dizziness
  • diarrhoea
  • nerve damage
  • numbness
  • tingling sensation in the hands and feet
  • poor balance
  • psychological issues
  • depression
  • confusion or memory loss, and
  • megaloblastic anaemia (pernicious anaemia), which can cause severe damage to the nervous system.

A deficiency of Vitamin B12 can lead to a host of symptoms that appear unrelated, but actually are.  Vitamin B12 is essential for the functioning and maintenance of the nervous system.  As a water soluble vitamin, B12 is also responsible for red blood cell formations and aids protein metabolism as well as DNA synthesis.  A deficiency occurs when our bodies don’t take enough or cannot absorb enough vitamin B12 from food.

As mentioned above Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, meaning it is not stored in the body.  Found in animal foods (meat, poultry, fish, eggs, milk and milk products) and dietary supplements – it is a vitamin that must be replaced daily.  In some cases, improving your diet can help treat the condition and prevent it recurring. Vitamin B12 is found in meat, fish, eggs, dairy products, yeast extract (such as Marmite) and specially fortified foods. The best sources of folate include green vegetables such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts and peas.

Adults suffering from atrophic gastritis may find their stomach isn’t producing enough hydrochloric acid to absorb the Vitamin B12 found naturally in food. Similarly, those who have celiac disease, Crohns disease or other pancreatic diseases or weight loss surgery may cause problems absorbing nutrients – including the essential Vitamin B12.

A lack of intrinsic factor production in the body may inhibit absorption, which could lead to pernicious anaemia – that vitamin B12 can calm.

Vitamin B12 can be absorbed better whet ken along with other B vitamins such as niacin, riboflavin or Vitamin B6.

Testing Your B12 Levels

See your GP if you think you may have a vitamin B12 or folate deficiency. These conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test.

It’s important for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible because, although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible.

Along with those who may be suffering from symptoms of deficiency, or those who just want to be cautious, it is highly recommended that those who maintain a vegan or vegetarian diet get their blood levels checked every year to ensure optimal health. This is especially important for those who are not strict about taking supplements.

Treating vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia

Most cases of vitamin B12 and folate deficiency can be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace the missing vitamins.

Vitamin B12 supplements are usually given by injection at first. Then, depending on whether your B12 deficiency is related to your diet, you’ll either require B12 tablets between meals or regular injections. These treatments may be needed for the rest of your life.

Folic acid tablets are used to restore folate levels. These usually need to be taken for four months.

Not diet related

If your vitamin B12 deficiency isn’t caused by a lack of vitamin B12 in your diet, you’ll usually need to have an injection of hydroxocobalamin every three months for the rest of your life.

If you’ve had neurological symptoms (symptoms that affect your nervous system, such as numbness or tingling in your hands and feet) caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency, you’ll be referred to a haematologist, and you may need to have injections every two months. Your haematologist will advise on how long you need to keep taking the injections.

For injections of vitamin B12 given in the UK, hydroxocobalamin is preferred to an alternative called cyanocobalamin. This is because hydroxocobalamin stays in the body for longer.

If you need regular injections of vitamin B12, cyanocobalamin would need to be given once a month, whereas hydroxocobalamin can be given every three months.

Cyanocobalamin injections aren’t routinely available on the NHS. However, if you need replacement tablets of vitamin B12, these will be cyanocobalamin.

If you are showing symptoms of any aspect of a B12 deficiency, please do not hesitate to research further and arrange to see your GP to discuss further.

 

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