Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is an important water-soluble vitamin, It plays an essential role in the production of your red blood cells and DNA, as well as the proper functioning of your nervous system. Vitamin B12 is naturally found in animal foods, including meats, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy. However, also in products fortified with B12, such as some varieties of bread and plant-based milk.
Unfortunately, B12 deficiency is common, especially in the elderly. You’re at risk of deficiency if you don’t get enough from your diet or aren’t able to absorb enough from the food you eat.
People at risk of a B12 deficiency include; People on the drug metformin for diabetes, strict vegan diet long-term antacid drugs for heartburn.
- Pale or Jaundiced Skin: People with a B12 deficiency often look pale or have a slight yellow tinge.
- Megaloblastic anaemia: Vitamin B12 plays an essential role in the production of the DNA needed to make red blood cells deficiency causes a type of anaemia called megaloblastic anaemia.
- Weakness and Fatigue: Weakness and fatigue are common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency. They occur because your body doesn’t have enough vitamin B12 to make red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout your body.
- Sensations of Pins and Needles: One of the more serious side effects of a long-term B12 deficiency is nerve damage.This can occur over time, as vitamin B12 is an important contributor to the metabolic pathway that produces the fatty substance myelin. Myelin surrounds your nerves as a form of protection and insulation, Without B12, myelin is produced differently, and your nervous system isn’t able to function properly. One common sign of this happening is paresthesia, or the sensation of pins and needles, which is similar to a prickling sensation in your hands and feet. The neurological symptoms associated with B12 deficiency usually occur alongside anaemia.
- Changes to Mobility: If untreated, the damage to your nervous system caused by a B12 deficiency could cause changes to the way you walk and move. It may even affect your balance and coordination, making you more prone to falling. This symptom is often seen in an undiagnosed B12 deficiency in the elderly, and also symptom may be present in young people who have a severe, untreated deficiency.
- Glossitis and Mouth Ulcers: Glossitis is inflamed tongue, If you have glossitis, your tongue changes colour and shape, making it painful, red and swollen. Additionally, some people with a B12 deficiency may experience other oral symptoms, such as mouth ulcers, feelings of pins and needles in the tongue or a burning and itching sensation in the mouth
- Breathlessness and Dizziness: If you become anaemic due to a B12 deficiency, you may feel short of breath and a bit dizzy, especially when you exert yourself.
- Disturbed Vision: One symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency is blurred or disturbed vision.This can occur when an untreated B12 deficiency results in nervous system damage to the optic nerve that leads to your eyes.
- Mood Changes: People with B12 deficiency often report changes in mood. In fact, low levels of B12 have been linked to mood and brain disorders like depression and dementia.
- High Temperature: A very rare but occasional symptom of B12 deficiency is a high temperature. It’s not clear why this occurs, but some have reported cases of fever that has normalized after treatment with low levels of vitamin B12. However, it’s important to remember that high temperatures are more commonly caused by illness, not a B12 deficiency.
How much B12 do we need?
Only about 2 ½ micrograms of vitamin B12 is required per day.
A cup of milk has about 1 microgram of B12, while a cup of soy or rice milk contains from 1 to 3 micrograms, and a serving of B12-fortified commercial cereal has 1.5 micrograms
What foods are reliable sources of B12?
Milk, yogurt and cheese, along with eggs, are the only vegetarian food items that naturally contain significant levels of vitamin B12. Plant foods may be fortified with B12. These include rice and soy beverages, plant-derived meat analogues, ready-to-eat breakfast cereals, and nutritional yeast.
Are all supplements good sources of the vitamin?
Since the body has a limited capacity for absorption, there is really no reason to intake more than 10 to 50 micrograms of vitamin B12 supplement per day. Larger amounts are very poorly absorbed and wasted. For effective absorption, a B12 tablet must be dissolved under the tongue or chewed. B12 capsules normally dissolve in the gastrointestinal tract and are readily absorbed.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is not uncommon. Vegans must be especially careful to get adequate amounts on a regular basis, preferably daily. A daily B12 supplement is necessary when B12-fortified plant foods are not regularly consumed.