Do you feel weak, tired, and short of breath? It can be signs of vitamin B12 deficiency. Learn about the symptoms, causes, and management.
Vitamin B12 is an essential vitamin for humans because it plays a vital role in cell divisions and growth of the cell. Synonym of vitamin B12 is cobalamine derived from the content of cobalt.
Vitamin B12 deficiency causes numbness and tingling sensation of both upper and lower limb of the body, uneasiness, fatigue, general weakness, weight loss, leg cramps, anemia, an altered taste of mouth, recurrent oral ulcers and many more of undescribed complaints.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is treated with some medicines, which are available in oral and injectable form. It is also increased by supplementation of vitamin B12 containing foods.
Vegetarians can increase their vitamin B12 level by regular intake of milk and milk products like butter, cheese, paneer, curd, buttermilk, etc. Non-vegetarian foods are a rich source of vitamin B12.
We can prevent vitamin B12 deficiency by taking vitamin B12 rich foods, mixing RO water with plain water and avoiding regular use of hyperacidity medicines.
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When your body is deficient in vitamin B12, it leads to anemia, nerve damage, problems with memory and thinking, tiredness, and weakness.
Conditions causing malabsorption of dietary vitamin B12 like pernicious anemia, aging, absence of a part of the stomach or small intestine (surgically removed), bacterial or parasitic infestation in the small intestine, Crohn’s disease, and celiac disease result in vitamin B12 deficiency. Veganism, alcoholism, and taking certain medicines (Metformin and antacids) also cause B12 deficiency.
Neurological symptoms caused due to vitamin B12 deficiency include,
- Decreased mental abilities.
- Tingling sensation in fingers and toes.
- A sensation of imbalance.
- Altered moods or low moods.
- Blurred vision.
Vitamin B12 deficiency causes glossitis, which is the inflammation of the tongue. Tongue in B12 deficiency is swollen, red, painful, and smooth. The tiny taste buds disappear.
Though vitamin B12 deficiency does not directly cause weight gain, the weakness, fatigue feeling, and tiredness due to B12 deficiency-induced anemia can make one physically less active contributing to weight gain.
Including the following food items and supplements consistently can help increase B12 levels.
- Fortified cereals.
- Fish and shellfish.
- Vitamin B12 supplements.
Alcohol needs to be avoided to prevent the vitamin B12 deficiency. It was found that alcohols tend to reduce B12 levels and provided false test results indicating increased vitamin B12 levels due to alcohol-induced liver disease.
Vitamin B12 levels do not surge to normal levels immediately after supplementation or dietary intake. It takes at least six to twelve months for your symptoms to improve.
Vitamin B12 supplements in the form of injections show immediate results within two to three days of administration. However, supplements are suggested for an extended period to maintain the achieved normal levels and prevent the recurrence of deficiency.
Fruits do not contain vitamin B12. Plant-based foods are not sources of vitamin B12. Instead, fruits, especially citrus ones, contain another B vitamin, folate.
The following drugs decrease the absorption of B12.
- Antacids - Proton pump inhibitors, H2 receptor blockers.
- Antibiotics - Gentamicin, Neomycin, Tobramycin.
- Antidiabetic Drugs - Metformin.
- Anti-Seizure Drugs - Phenytoin, Phenobarbital.
The root cause for vitamin B12 deficiency decides whether one needs to take B12 injections temporarily or lifelong. Chronic conditions like a surgically removed stomach or small intestine’s part, aging, veganism, being under lifelong medications for diabetes, acidity, etc., need lifelong injections.
Vitamin B12 supplements can prevent further progress of nerve damage but are not found to reverse the nerve damage.
It is advisable to take vitamin B12 supplements (tablets) early in the morning with a glass of water on an empty stomach. If you plan to take it at night, it is better to have your dinner early and consume it before your bedtime, to maintain optimal hours’ gap between food and medicine as they are better absorbed in the acidic environment of an empty stomach.
Last reviewed at:
28 Apr 2022 - 1 min read
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