Vitamin B12 is essential for making red blood cells. These are the cells that carry much-needed oxygen to all the parts of your body. A Vitamin B12 deficiency can result in anaemia. In effect, your body will not have a sufficient number of RBC’s to optimally carry oxygen to all the cells in your body which can leave you feeling tired and weak.
What causes it?
People who consume a balanced diet that includes milk, cheese, eggs and meat generally get all the Vitamin B12 they need. This vitamin is absorbed by the stomach & intestines but a Vitamin B12 deficiency-related anaemia occurs if that absorption is hampered due to:
- Atrophic Gastritis– Thinning of the stomach’s lining
- Pernicious Anaemia– Body is unable to effectively absorb Vitamin B12
- Surgery–Weight-loss surgery or any surgery in which a segment of the stomach/small intestine has been removed
- Small Intestine Conditions– Crohn’s disease, bacterial growth, a parasite or celiac disease
- Immune System Disorders– Lupus or Graves’ disease
- Heavy Drinking
- Long-term use of any acid-reducing drugs
B12 Deficiency Symptoms
If you suffer from mild B12 deficiency, there may be no symptoms at all or they might be too subtle for you to actually notice them. Some people also attribute some of the symptoms to advancing age. But as the anaemia worsens, you might:
- Feel tired, weak & lightheaded
- Have bleeding gums or a sore and red tongue
- Have pale skin
- Feel sick and nauseous & lose weight
- Have constipation/diarrhoea
If the Vitamin B12 level continues to remain low for an extended period of time, it can cause nerve cell damage. In this event, you might:
- Feel tingling/numbness in your toes & fingers
- Feel a loss of balance
- Suffer from dementia
- Sink into depression
- Suffer from loss of your mental abilities
Treating Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The treatment for the deficiency of this disease depends entirely on its cause:
- If pernicious anaemia has caused the deficiency or any absorption problem is the culprit, the B12 will have to be replaced and your doctor will generally prescribe an injection
- If the deficiency has been caused as you do not consume any animal products, you can alter your diet/ take supplements
- In most cases, these treatments can solve the problem, but any kind of nerve damage that has been caused by the deficiency might be permanent
Vitamin B12 benefits
It is evident that B12 is a very essential vitamin and performs a number of functions in the body. Here are some distinct B12 benefits:
- It converts carbohydrates into glucose within the body and leads to energy production. In turn, this reduces levels of lethargy and fatigue. Having adequate amounts of this vitamin make you feel more energetic and enthusiastic
- It regulates the nervous system and reduces stress and depression as well as brain shrinkage
- B12 helps in maintaining a very healthy digestive system
- The vitamin improves cholesterol levels, thus providing effective protection against heart disease. It also protects against high blood pressure and stroke.
- Vitamin B12 is highly-essential for healthy hair, skin & nails. It helps in reproduction of cells and constantly renews the skin
- It helps in protecting against colon, lung, breast and prostate cancer
Vitamin B12 Foods
It is generally possible to prevent B12 deficiency by consuming sufficient quantities of dairy products, eggs, poultry, meat as well as seafood. In case you suffer from a specific medical condition that prevents your body from absorbing nutrients from meats and dairy products, your doctor might prescribe a multivitamin that contains B12 and you will also be asked to regularly eat B12 fortified breakfast cereal. This vitamin in not found in foods that are obtained from plants unless you opt for fortified food.
Supplements that contain B12, or B12 in combination with some other B vitamins and folate, are also easily available. At the end of the day, like most deficiencies, Vitamin B12 deficiency also boils down to lack of proper diet and if we are able to set it right, this and similar conditions can be avoided.
Do you take any vitamin B supplements? Has it made any difference? Share your thoughts.