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Cause, Symptoms and Treatment of Vitamin B-12 Deficiency

A deficiency in vitamin B12 is relatively common in the United States, but the treatment for it should really be handled by a medical professional. Over 200,000 reported cases of vitamin B12 deficiency are seen every year in the US. While the symptoms of it can last weeks or months, is it possible to avoid it altogether? We here at HPFY can give you all the information you may need to deal with or even possibly avoid a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Source of Vitamin B12

Causes and Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

A deficiency in vitamin B12 is characterized as low levels of vitamin B12 in the body that can lead to anemia, a low level of red blood cells. In order to maintain healthy levels of B12 in the body, we should include meat and dairy in our everyday diets or yeasts (such as brewer’s yeast). As you can imagine, healthy red blood cells in our bone marrow is vital to our overall health. A deficiency in vitamin B12 can be caused by:

  • Intrinsic factor deficiency: Found in the stomach lining, intrinsic factor is a protein that allows vitamin B12 to be absorbed in the intestines. This deficiency is known as pernicious anemia.
  • Bacteria: Due to conditions such as diabetes or diverticula, an overgrowth of bacteria in the upper part of the small intestine “hijacks” vitamin B12 for its own use instead of allowing it to be absorbed into the body.
  • Dietary deficiency: Often vegans lack vitamin B12 due to the absence of animal foods in their diets. Also, those who suffer from bulimia/anorexia nervosa also can show a B12 deficiency.
  • Stomach troubles: Surgery or even partial removal of the stomach can lead to vitamin B12 not being properly absorbed into the body.

Many of the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can develop slowly over time and since they develop slowly, they may not be recognized immediately. It is critical to recognize the symptoms and treat them as soon as possible since, if ignored, permanent damage can result. These symptoms include:

  • Weakness/Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Yellow tint to eyes/skin

If left undiagnosed for ignored, a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to permanent damage. Numbness in the hands and feet, muscle weakness, and irritability/depression are some possible permanent issues related to vitamin B12 deficiency. Also, cognitive function can be negatively affected with memory loss/dementia and psychosis possible side effects of this deficiency.

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How to treat B12 Deficiency? 

So, if you have been diagnosed with a vitamin B12 deficiency, how do you treat it? One obvious treatment is to start taking a B12 supplement. As always, you should consult your physician before starting any supplement regimen. Treatments for vitamin B12 deficiency are typically done in two stages. Initial therapy (phase 1) can include high doses of vitamin B12 to offset low levels in the body followed by a maintenance level (phase 2) of B12 to include the daily amount necessary to maintain proper levels. Also, treatment for B12 deficiency can be directly related to the cause of your deficiency. Common treatments include:

  • Vitamin B12 injections
  • Grains fortified with vitamin B12
  • Oral vitamin B12 supplements
  • Increase animal-based foods

The best treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency is prevention. As the saying goes “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Most folks can prevent any deficiency by eating plenty of meat, poultry, seafood, and eggs. For those who may have to supplement their diet due to malabsorption or a vegan diet, you should consult your physician to determine how much you may need and if there is any possible interaction with the medication you may be taking.

Vitamin B12 does a lot of things for your body, including making your DNA and red blood cells. Making sure you get proper amounts daily can ensure that you stay healthy. Since your body does not create vitamin B12, ensuring you eat the proper foods or intake supplements is vitally important. Be smart and stay healthy!!

 

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