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As a crucial nutrient for the body, vitamin B12 plays a vital role in maintaining the overall health of an individual. It is responsible for creating red blood cells and keeping the nervous system healthy. Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs when the body does not get enough of this nutrient. This can lead to various health problems, including anemia, nerve damage, and cardiovascular diseases. In this guide, we will discuss everything you need to know about vitamin B12 deficiency, including its causes, symptoms, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention.
Introduction to Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is one of 8 B Vitamins that your body needs in order to carry out important functions including red cell production, bone health and energy production/levels. Therefore, it is extremely important that we supply our body with enough Vitamin B12 to keep up with the demand our bodies need.
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in the proper functioning of the body. It is essential for the creation of red blood cells, DNA synthesis, and the maintenance of the nervous system. The human body cannot produce vitamin B12; it can only get it from food or supplements. Foods like meat, eggs, dairy products, and fish are excellent sources of vitamin B12.
What is Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs when the body does not get enough of this essential nutrient. This can lead to various health problems, including anemia, nerve damage, and cardiovascular diseases. Individuals with vitamin B12 deficiency may experience symptoms like fatigue, lack of energy, headaches, low moods, mouth ulcers, brain fog, reduced memory, palpitations, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, and tingling or numbness in the hands and feet. Severe vitamin B12 deficiency can cause irreversible damage to the nervous system.
Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
There are several causes of vitamin B12 deficiency, including dietary factors, medical conditions, and genetic factors. The most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is a lack of dietary intake of the nutrient. Vegetarians and vegans are at a higher risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency as they do not consume animal-based products, which are the primary sources of vitamin B12. Other factors that can cause vitamin B12 deficiency include gastrointestinal disorders, ageing, and certain medications like metformin and proton-pump inhibitors.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can vary from person to person, and some individuals may not experience any symptoms at all. However, common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include fatigue, weakness, pale skin, shortness of breath, and tingling or numbness in the hands and feet. Other symptoms may include difficulty walking, vision problems, and mood changes. If left untreated, severe vitamin B12 deficiency can cause irreversible damage to the nervous system.
Diagnosis of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
A simple blood test can diagnose vitamin B12 deficiency. The test determines the level of vitamin B12 in the blood. However, it is essential to note that a low level of vitamin B12 in the blood does not necessarily mean that an individual has vitamin B12 deficiency. A qualified Health Care Practitioner may also perform additional tests like a complete blood count (CBC) and a peripheral blood smear to rule out other conditions that may cause similar symptoms.
Treatment of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency depends on the severity of the condition. Mild vitamin B12 deficiency can be treated with dietary changes or by taking vitamin B12 supplements. For severe vitamin B12 deficiency, A qualified Health Care Practitioner may recommend injections of vitamin B12. Oral supplements are also available, but injections are more effective as they bypass the digestive system and directly enter the bloodstream.
Prevention of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Preventing vitamin B12 deficiency is easier than treating it. One of the best ways to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency is by consuming foods that are rich in the nutrient. Animal-based products like meat, eggs, dairy products, and fish are excellent sources of vitamin B12. Vegetarians and vegans may need to take vitamin B12 supplements to ensure they are getting enough of the nutrient. It is also essential to avoid smoking and limit alcohol consumption as these habits can interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12.
Foods Rich in Vitamin B12
As mentioned earlier, animal-based products like meat, eggs, dairy products, and fish are excellent sources of vitamin B12. Some of the best food sources of vitamin B12 include beef liver, clams, salmon, tuna, eggs, and milk. Vegetarians and vegans can get vitamin B12 from fortified cereals, plant-based milk, and nutritional yeast.
Supplements for Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 supplements are available in various forms, including tablets, capsules, and injections. Oral supplements are generally less expensive and easier to take, but injections are more effective, especially for those with severe vitamin B12 deficiency. It is essential to consult a A qualified Health Care Practitioner before taking vitamin B12 supplements as an excess of the nutrient can cause adverse effects.
Risks of Untreated Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Untreated vitamin B12 deficiency can cause severe health problems, including anemia, nerve damage, and cardiovascular diseases. Prolonged vitamin B12 deficiency can also lead to irreversible damage to the nervous system. In pregnant women, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause birth defects and developmental delays. It is essential to seek medical attention if you suspect you have vitamin B12 deficiency to prevent these health problems.
Conclusion and Final Thoughts
In conclusion, vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that plays a crucial role in maintaining the overall health of an individual. Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to various health problems, including anemia, nerve damage, and cardiovascular diseases. Fortunately, vitamin B12 deficiency is preventable and treatable. Consuming foods that are rich in vitamin B12 and taking supplements can help prevent and treat vitamin B12 deficiency. It is crucial to seek medical attention if you suspect you have vitamin B12 deficiency to prevent severe health problems.
If you are concerned or would like to know if you are at risk, you can book in for a consultation with the Medical Mindset Coach, Star Freudenberg, who can run blood tests, Kinesiology & Bioenergetics and offer B12 injections, IV drips or advise on the correct nutritional supplementation to best support your needs.
The Medical Mindset Coach Clinic is based in Central London, monument, at the Light Centre - Monument.
Visit us at medicalmindsetcoach.com to book your appointment now!