The Symptoms and Causes of B12 Deficiency 

By on June 20, 2017
The Symptoms and Causes of B12 Deficiency

By Marcus Clarke—

Vitamin B12 is the big brother of the B Vitamins; often overlooked, impossible to live without and all important to human functioning. One of eight crucial B vitamins, B12 is the vitamin that ensures proper functioning of the nervous system, assists in the formation of red blood cells, and ladies this is a big one, aids in metabolism by turning those fatty acids into pure usable energy. 

B12 is the wonder vitamin that is critical to feeling healthy, well and clear-headed, yet women, especially those over 50, are vulnerable to B12 deficiency simply due to having difficulties absorbing the vitamin into their systems naturally. In this article we will explore the B12 vitamin and take a look at the causes and symptoms of B12 deficiency, and discuss an all-important tip to ensure you take in the optimum amount of B12.     

B12 intake and who is at risk of deficiency?

B12 differs from the other important vitamins and minerals the body requires, in that it is most commonly absorbed from only one food type; animal products. Meat, eggs, dairy and seafood are rich in B12 which is great news for the omnivores amongst us, but not so great for vegetarians and vegans. In fact, vegetarians and vegans make up a significant proportion of people at risk of B12 deficiency, along with pregnant and lactating women and people aged 50 or above. This is because these people have a much harder time absorbing the B12 vitamin. 

Additional factors that may impact upon a person’s ability to absorb B12 include gastro-intestinal issues, such as Crohn’s disease or intestinal surgery, and other forms of gastritis where the stomach lining is considerably thinned. People with autoimmune diseases, such as Grave’s disease or Lupus, may be at greater risk of becoming B12 deficient, and also people suffering with pernicious anaemia. Again, these people have difficulty absorbing B12 naturally and so may be at risk of deficiency. 

Symptoms of B12 deficiency

We have established that B12 is critical in the functioning of the nervous system and key in the production of red blood cells. It’s little wonder then that the key symptom of B12 deficiency should be anaemia. B12 deficiency with or without a diagnosis of anaemia may leave the sufferer feeling weak, fatigued or lightheaded. Sufferers often experience heart palpitations or shortness of breath. Another key symptom is loss of appetite resulting in weight loss, and often a sore mouth or tongue

Less common symptoms may be tingling in the feet and hands, irritability and depression, and some sufferers experience diarrhoea whilst others report constipation. B12 is also correlated with psychological and behavioural problems and if left untreated for too long, neurological damage.  

Ensuring optimum B12 intake

To ensure you are taking in adequate levels of vitamin B12, seek out meat, eggs, dairy and fish. Other B vitamin superfoods should also round out your diet for optimum health, such as chickpeas, whole cereals, soy products, watermelon and spinach.

However, the very best way to ensure you are taking in the required amount of B12, is to make an appointment with your doctor and have a chat about it. Especially if you’re experiencing any of the side effects described above. If your doctor suspects a B12 deficiency, there are supplements or injections you can take to boost your B12 levels, and regain some health, vitality and energy. 

For the full low down of symptoms, causes, diagnosis and B12 sources check out this infographic put together by psysci.co and to learn even more check out their in-depth B12 guide here:

Marcus has a degree in psychology, a masters degree in health psychology and has worked within the NHS as well as private organisations. Marcus started psysci a psychology and science blog in order to disseminate research into bitesize, meaningful and helpful resources that are interesting and insightful and often help people on the right track to improving their lives.

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The Symptoms and Causes of B12 Deficiency