Vitamin B12 is the powerhouse of the body. This water soluble vitamin is essential in the formation of DNA, nerve and blood cells. In fact, the whole metabolism in the body is primarily dependent on the availability of this vitamin.
It enables the release of energy to the cells through the intelligent synthesis of folic acid. Mostly found in animal based sources of food, the vitamin B12 contains cobalamin which helps in the production of healthy RBCs that transport oxygen throughout the body.
The human body is believed to store this vitamin for up to 4 years. Any excess amount is excreted in the form of urine. However, there are cases when the human body falls short of this vitamin level. Statistics suggest that around 15 percent of the population experiences an acute vitamin B12 deficiency. This post deals in the intricate details of this condition. Go ahead and read along!
WHAT IS THE RIGHT AMOUNT OF CONSUMPTION FOR VITAMIN B12?
Basically, the amount of consumption for the vitamin B12 depends on various characteristics such as age, eating habits, lifestyle, medical conditions, etc. However, if we were to discuss the recommendations on the average amounts, here is what we have observed:
- Infants up to the age of 6 months are allowed to consume around 0.4mcg while babies around 7-12 months can have up to 0.5 mcg.
- Children, on the other hand, within age groups 1-3 years can have 0.9 mcg and kids between 4-8 years can consume up to 1.2 mcg respectively.
- While Ages 9-13 consume 1.8 mcg, ages 14-18 and adults are required to have around 2.4 mcg at the minimum.
BASIC FOOD SOURCES OF VITAMIN B12
Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal sources of food.
Eggs, dairy products, fish, meat, beef, pork, poultry, etc. are some of the top sources of this vitamin. However, if you are a vegetarian, alternate sources of this vitamin can be found in breakfast cereals and grains.
Also, try to include supplements in your diet, to counter this deficiency to achieve an optimum level.
WHEN DOES VITAMIN B12 DEFICIENCY OCCUR?
Vitamin B12 deficiency is primarily found in vegetarians and older age groups. This is because this particular vitamin is a component of animal-based sources of food, which is generally avoided by vegetarians.
Also, with the increasing age, it becomes harder to absorb this vitamin.
This deficiency is also said to occur in conditions when you undergo any weight loss surgery, or you are a heavy drinker or if you are under heavy medications for quite a long time. Individuals who are undergoing diabetic treatment especially with Metformin are at risk of this deficiency.
You can also develop this deficiency in medical conditions like
- Pernicious anaemia which is caused due to a lack of protein required to absorb this vitamin from the gastro-intestinal tract.
- Atrophic gastritis or thinning of the stomach lining
- Ulcers in the stomach
- Digestive conditions such Crohn’s disease, growth of incessant bacteria, etc.
- Use of medications like proton pump inhibitors for indigestion conditions.
- Consumption of medications like metformin, h2 receptor agonists, etc. for peptic ulcer
- The antibiotic chloramphenicol, or chloromycetin is also said to interfere with red blood cell production, especially in people taking supplements.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF VITAMIN B12 DEFICIENCY THAT YOU SHOULD NOT IGNORE?
The Vitamin B12 deficiency is mainly characterized by an anemic condition. A mild deficiency of the same may go unnoticed. However, when ignored for quite a longer period of time, or a greater amount of deficiency can cause some symptoms to develop. It is advisable to consult the doctor as soon as you suspect the presence of this deficiency in your body. The symptoms include the following as listed below:
- Acute weakness. If you start feeling tired even in a short span of time, or you feel light-headed for no strong reason, there is a possibility that you are lacking in vitamin B12.
- Heart palpitations and shortening of breath is one of the major symptoms that you should totally look out for. This is because your body is taking longer time to respond to your daily activities and lacks enough energy for the same. Since, vitamin B12 is responsible for powering up your body, there are chances that you are not getting enough amounts of it!
- Irregular bowel activities like constipation, diarrhea, and other gastric problems are the red alerts for an acute vitamin B12 deficiency.
- If you face problems while walking or are experiencing a lot of numbness lately, there are chances that your body is falling short of vitamin B12.
- Tingling of muscles and nerves is also an indicator that you are missing out on a major part of this vitamin.
- Loss of vision
- Depression, loss of memory, headache and changes in normal behavior point specifically towards this deficiency.
- Feeling faint
- Suffering from a loss of appetite
- Ringing inside the ears
- Sore and red tongue
- Skin starts turning a bit yellow
- Loss of touch sense is also an additional symptom that you are missing out on vitamin B12 lately.
- Symptoms of dementia
- High temperatures
HOW CAN VITAMIN B12 DEFICIENCY BE TREATED?
Though the presence of the vitamin B12 deficiency can make the body critically low in terms of functionality, the good news is that it can be treated easily.
Those suffering from pernicious anaemia or those who face trouble related to the absorption of this vitamin, might as well start with taking shots of this vitamin initially. Additionally, one might also have to have a continuous intake of supplements at regular periods of time to make up for the deficiency at hand.
Apart from this, you might also want to consider eating food rich in this vitamin, namely meat, fish and eggs. For the vegetarians, it is suggested that you take vitamin B-12 fortified grains or injection supplements to fulfil the deficiency.
There are also multi-vitamin capsules available in the market that you would like to consider. However, make sure you consult your doctor before you start indulging in them.
There are also specific treatments available for this deficiency. However, if you have encountered any nerve damage during this prolonged deficiency, it stays permanent.
PREVENTION BEFORE CURE
Vitamin B12 deficiency is quite a common factor nowadays. In fact, it might sometimes even be difficult to be identified. If somehow, you start noticing the above mentioned symptoms, the best advisable solution would be that you go for a registered doctor consultation.
Accordingly, the doctor shall suggest blood tests and blood cells examination to determine the haemoglobin levels, the size of the RBCs and the levels of vitamin B12 in the body.
Once the results for the same are confirmed, further tests can be conducted to derive the causes of the anaemia. You can also consider sticking to a proper diet, preferably one that replenishes your vitamin B12 to an optimum level.