Have you ever wondered why every fitness expert asks you to focus on eating a balanced diet? Well, the simple reason is that the building blocks for good and balanced health come from a variety of foods, even if they are from the same nutrient family. If you don’t eat enough vitamin b12 foods then you can become vitamin b12 deficient.
Vitamin B12, also known as Cobalamin, is an essential nutrient required by the body that helps in the production of healthy red blood cells to carry oxygen around the body. Maintaining adequate levels of Vitamin B12 in the body is essential for so many other reasons including-
- Proper functioning of DNA and RNA which are the building blocks of every cell in human body
- For proper functioning of the nervous system
- To provide energy and strengthening the immune system & physical stamina of body
What is Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
The condition when the body does not receive sufficient amounts of Vitamin B12 is called as Vitamin B12 Deficiency. Vitamin B12 is important for the way the human body works, and not having enough of it can cause several ailments including constant tiredness and the feeling of lack of energy.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency can also lead to several neurologic disorders in the body such as multiple sclerosis, dementia, Parkinson’s disease, neuralgia, and in extreme cases even the psychosis condition.
However, once diagnosed, vitamin B12 deficiency can be treated successfully using several methods such as with B12 injections under the guidance of a qualified GP and sometimes with Vitamin B12 tablets.
Food items that help in treating Vitamin B12 deficiency
Vitamin B-12 is found primarily in meat and dairy products, so the people on a strict vegan diet are at greater risk for Vitamin B12 deficiency. For the vegans, the only other dietary sources of B-12 are fortified foods. Some of the other best sources of vitamin B-12 food include:
- Eggs and Milk
- Feta Cheese
- Various types of fish
- Red meat including liver and kidney
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The general symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency are-
- Feeling of lethargy and lack of energy
- Constant feeling of extreme tiredness or fatigue
- Common occurrences of headaches, faintness, out of breath
- Complete lack of appetite
Analyzing the condition more deeply reveals the more specific symptoms linked to Vitamin B12 Deficiency including-
- Skin becomes pale or yellow in color
- Feeling of changes or loss of some sense of touch
- Different kind of vision problems
- Posture, coordination, and walking problems
- Sudden mood swings, feeling of depression, irritability
- Specific dementia symptoms
Causes of vitamin B12 deficiency
There are several causes of the Vitamin B12 deficiency ranging from lack of Vitamin B12 rich diet, over-stress, specific medical condition etc. The condition of Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common in older people. In this section, we are going to discuss the various causes of Vitamin B12 deficiency.
- One of the most common causes of vitamin B12 deficiency is pernicious anemia. It is an auto-immune condition that affects a significant chunk of people. Pernicious anemia is generally caused by a lack of a protein called intrinsic factor that’s needed to absorb vitamin B12 from food into the body from the gastrointestinal tract.
Pernicious Anemia is more common in women, people aged 60 or above, or in people with a family history of pernicious anemia. In some cases, autoimmune conditions including Addison’s disease and vitiligo can also cause the Vitamin B12 deficiency in the body.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common in people who follow a strict vegan diet as the major sources of Vitamin B12 food includes meat, eggs, and related products.
Among the other causes of vitamin B12 deficiency includes:
- Severe stomach ulcers
- Any surgery to remove part of the stomach or small intestine
- Conditions such as Atrophic gastritis or thinning of the stomach lining
- Other digestive conditions such as coeliac disease, bacterial growth or Crohn’s disease
- In some cases, medication such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs) etc. can also cause Vitamin B12 Deficiency in the body
How to diagnose Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
The most common way to diagnose the Vitamin B12 deficiency in the body is through blood tests and examination of blood cells under the microscope. This process assesses the level of hemoglobin in the blood cells, the size of red blood cells, and the level of vitamin B12 in the blood.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is also assessed by checking the folate levels and the related condition such as folate deficiency anemia.
After the confirmed diagnosis of the condition, further tests should be carried out to try to find out the exact cause of the anemia and accordingly a referral may be made to a specialist such as a gastroenterologist for digestive disorders, a hematologist for blood conditions or a dietitian for advice on eating vitamin B12 rich food.
Treatment of Vitamin B12 deficiency
The treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency largely depends on the cause of the condition. Most people with Vitamin B12 deficiency can be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace the dose of missing vitamins in the body.
Here are the effective ways of treating Vitamin B12 deficiency-
- Vitamin B12 deficiency or anemia can be treated with injections of vitamin B12, in a form called hydroxocobalamin.
- In case the vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in the diet, taking vitamin B12 tablets every day between meals or as prescribed by the GP is the best way forward. Alternatively, an injection of hydroxocobalamin twice a year also helps to treat the condition.
- If the vitamin B12 deficiency caused by a prolonged poor diet, it is advised to improve the vitamin B12 levels to normal with the change of diet to B12 rich food. Good sources of vitamin B12 are mentioned in the section above.
- For vegetarians looking for alternatives to meat and dairy products to improve B12 levels, there are other foods that contain vitamin B12 such as yeast extract, fortified breakfast cereals, and soy products.