Vitamin B12 is very important in our bodies because of its role in the production of our red blood cells. Red blood cells oxygenate our system so that we can effectively fight off all sorts of diseases.
They carry oxygen through our blood and then to our body tissues. Additionally, vitamin B12 works with B vitamin folate to build our genetic material. In this respect, vitamin B12 deficiency will adversely affect all of these processes resulting in a number of unhealthy conditions. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) may lead to a wide range of neuropsychiatric and hematologic disorders. Although these are serious illnesses, early detection and intervention will always result in the reversal of the health condition.
When your body’s supply of vitamin B12 is lacking, you will not be able to produce the right amount of red blood cells. A healthy amount of red blood cells are essential in supplying oxygen and nutrients (from the food you eat) to your body’s cells and tissues. You must take a sufficient amount of it everyday. It is water-soluble and absorbed readily by our digestive tract to be supplied wherever they are needed. Eating the right variety of food such as poultry, fish, lean red meat, plus milk, cheese and yogurt would give you a fair dose of this substance. You can also get some amounts from some fortified foods such as breakfast cereals and breads.
Who Most Susceptible To Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
There are basically two classes of people who are most susceptible to vitamin B12 deficiency. The first are those who have illnesses or health conditions where their bodies cannot absorb vitamin B12 from the food they eat. Those advanced in years are also prone to this deficiency. Statistics obtained from CDC shows that out of 31 adults aged 51 years and above, one of them will suffer from lack of vitamin B12. Those who are on strict vegetarian diets and are not eating foods that are rich in vitamin B12 as well as babies born to vegetarian mothers are well at risk. Alcohol and drug abusers also are very much at risk.
What Are The Symptoms?
There are many symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency but they are not the same across the board. In fact, these symptoms can be vague, not easily noticeable and may take years to develop. A lot depends on the underlying cause, the seriousness of vitamin B12 deficiency, plus some other factors. Some of the more noticeable symptoms are the following:
• Memory loss and lack of mental focus
• Easily fatigued and general weakness
• Poor appetite
• Shortness of breath
• Loss of weight
What Are The Complications?
If your vitamin B12 deficiency is not corrected, you are liable to suffer the following serious complications:
• Nerve damage which can be serious and permanent
• Possible development of gastric cancer
• For those who are young – growth delay and abnormalities
What Are The Usual Causes?
The general causes of vitamin B12 deficiency can be categorized into three: nutritional deficiency, gastrointestinal issues and inability to absorb vitamin B12.
• Nutritional deficiency – if your diet is lacking in foods that are rich in vitamin B12, such as those on a strict vegan diet.
• Gastrointestinal Issues – this may include atrophic gastritis, intestinal bacterial infestation, removal of certain portion of the intestine, Crohn’s disease, Celiac disease.
• Malabsorption of vitamin B12 – athropic gastritis resulting in pernicious anemia, being of advanced age, from 50 years old and up.
Other causes include excessive consumption of alcohol, taking acid-reducing drugs for a long time and auto-immune disorders.
Ways To Reduce Your Risk
If you are an average person without serious health condition, you can cut your risk of being deficient in vitamin B12 by:
• Eating foods that are rich in vitamin B12 – these are dairy food products like eggs, milk and cheese. Lean meats, fish and poultry are also good sources of vitamin B12. You can also eat more foods fortified with vitamin B12 such as breakfast cereals.
• Taking your daily vitamin B12 supplements – especially if you belong to the high risk category such as vegetarian dieters, those with celiac disease or crohn disease, etc.
How You Can Treat Your Vitamin B12 Deficiency
You need not worry because vitamin B12 deficiency is easily corrected. However, you need to be correctly diagnosed so that proper and immediate treatment can be done. The treatment will usually include the following:
• Treating the underlying cause of deficiency.
• Eating the right amount of foods rich in vitamin B12.
• Administration of vitamin B12 supplements – this will include vitamin B12 oral replacement therapy, or sublingual B12.
• Vitamin B12 injections – if your body cannot absorb vitamin B12 and this may possibly be a life long regimen.