Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that influences certain very important processes within the body. These processes include the formation of red blood cells, which are required to transport oxygen to all parts of the body, and the construction of your DNA. The reason why we are highlighting vitamin B12 in particular is because this deficiency can progress to a critical stage before it is detected and suitably treated.
Read through the following information carefully and don’t hesitate to consult your doctor if you want to determine whether your levels of vitamin B12 are normal or inadequate. A blood test is all you need to ascertain the status of vitamin B12 in your body.
What Are The Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
A careful history and a regular blood test can point towards the deficiency. The following list contains some of the most common causes of vitamin B12 deficiency:
- Surgical procedures that removed a portion of the small intestine or stomach
- Acid-reducing medication.
- Disorders of the immune system such as Lupus or Graves ’ disease.
- Heavy alcoholic intake.
- Atrophic gastritis (thinning of the stomach lining).
- Pernicious anemia (an inability to absorb adequate amounts of vitamin B12).
- Disorders of the small intestine such as Crohn’s Disease, parasites, celiac disease, and bacterial growth.
- Following a vegan diet. Vitamin B12 is only available through food products that are directly or indirectly obtained from animals such as meat, poultry, seafood, eggs, and dairy products. Strict vegans do not consume any of these food products and are thus are more susceptible to vitamin B12 deficiencies.
What Are The Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
This deficiency can present with mild symptoms to very severe symptoms that need to be addressed urgently. The most commonly reported symptoms are as follows:
- Rapid heartbeat
- Rapid breathing
- Skin that appears to be pale
- Consistent weakness, fatigue and a feeling of being light-headed
- Sore tongue
- Diarrhea or constipation
- Unexplained weight loss
- Bruising and bleeding starts to occur easily. (most patients report frequently bleeding gums)
Can Vitamin B12 Deficiency Be Treated?
If detected and diagnosed in time, there is no reason why this health concern cannot be remedied. Depending on the cause of the deficiency your doctor will most likely prescribe supplements or injections duration of treatment will depend upon the cause. If animal products cannot be incorporated into the diet then other forms of vitamin B12 (such as supplements) should be consumed. Keep in mind that if allowed to persist, vitamin B12 deficiencies can also cause nerve damage.
The treatment ultimately depends upon the cause. This is why it is so important to consult your doctor for an expert diagnosis and opinion before any treatment options are considered.
Prevention Is Better Than Cure
Before the symptoms set in and cause discomfort and anxiety, why not take a few precautionary measures to ward off vitamin B12 deficiency?
- As a non-vegan you should scrutinize and redesign your regular diet. Make it a point to consume animal products such as meat, seafood, dairy products, eggs, and poultry on a regular basis.
- As a vegan you should consult your doctor and find out how you can supply your body with adequate vitamin B12. This will most likely be in the form of supplements or multivitamins. You can also include vitamin B12 enriched food (this feature is usually mentioned on the packaging of the product) in your diet.
- If someone suffers from a medical condition that can cause a deficiency, consult your doctor for an alternate mode of vitamin B12 delivery to the body.