How Vitamin B12 Deficiency Affects the Body

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In order to stay healthy it is necessary that your body gets sufficient amount of Vitamin B12. Vitamin B12 helps make your red blood cells and DNA. Vitamin B12 is not made by your body and it has to be derived from animal based foods like red meats and supplements. The quantity of Vitamin B12 should be checked regularly as your body doesn’t store Vitamin B12 for a longtime.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is quite common among people and it is one of the most common vitamin deficiencies worldwide. The B12 deficiency is mostly found in the elderly and you are at risk if you don’t consume foods that provide this vitamin or if your body is not able to absorb the benefits of this vitamin from the foods you eat. The symptoms of the B12 deficiency are wide because it plays a significant role in the functioning of the body. The Vitamin B12 deficiency causes a wide range of symptoms like tiredness, forgetfulness, tingling of the hands and feet and paleness of the skin.

What does Vitamin B12 do?

Vitamin B12 has an important role in our bodies. This vitamin plays a role in the production of the DNA, which is the genetic code of the body. DNA gives direction for the proper formation of every part of the body. Vitamin B12 plays a role in reduction of homocysteine a naturally occurring chemical in the body. If the homocysteine is not controlled properly, it may cause inflammation and toxic damage to the body.

Symptoms and Effects of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Anemia: Anemia means diminished functioning of the red blood cells (RBC). People who suffer from B12 deficiency have a pale skin that is slightly yellowish in color. Lack of production of the RBCs is one of the main reasons for anemia. The Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the production of the DNA that makes the RBCs and without it the cells are incomplete and unable to divide. This type of anemia is called megaloblastic anemia, which means the RBCs produced in the bone marrow are large and fragile. It often causes fatigue and rapid heart rate and even dizziness. For the normal production and functioning of the RBCs you need Vitamin B12 nutrient or else the RBCs may fail to deliver oxygen throughout the body causing fatigue and low energy.
Peripheral Neuropathy: This is a type of nerve impairment. This means the nerves may be damaged or there is deficiency of myelin, which is a protective layer of the peripheral nerves. Vitamin B12 is one factor that helps in formation of Myelin, so deficiency of B12 prevents the formation of myelin in the required quantities. This may prevent the normal functioning of the nerves, which control the movement and sensation of the body. Any symptoms of peripheral neuropathy affects the feet and hands and can even extend up to the arms as well as the legs causing a tingling sensation, weakness and even numbness in these areas.
Dementia: Dementia is a disease that causes memory loss and behavioral changes. Dementia can be caused due to various other factors and B12 deficiency is one of the causes. According to a research dementia associated with B12 deficiency may be caused due to the increased homocysteine levels. The symptoms of dementia include forgetfulness, hallucinations, absent mindedness, inability to take care of oneself and loss of concentration.
Depression: Depression is also a manifestation of Vitamin B12 deficiency leading to anemia or dementia.
Stroke: Any interruption of blood flow to the brain causes stroke leading to physical and mental handicap. Deficiency of B12 can increase the risk of stroke even in youngsters, who initially were considered a safe age group. Excessive homocysteine levels may be one of the reasons for this health condition.
Myelopathy: This is a disease of the spinal cord and the B12 deficiency causes the degeneration of the spinal cord. Myelin gives a protective cover to the spinal cord and any loss of this chemical that control the movement, sensation and balance is not advised. Any degeneration of the spinal cord causes weakness, numbness and balance problems.
Tongue Swelling: Tongue swelling is also caused due to Vitamin B12 deficiency. Painful and unusually smooth tongue can be a result of this vitamin deficiency.

Conditions Associated with Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Thyroid and Multiple Sclerosis: Both these health issues are considered autoimmune. Autoimmune disease is a condition that is caused by the body attacking itself. Intrinsic factor deficiency is a rare condition that results from acute anemia and neurological abnormalities caused due to low absorption of Vitamin B12. Often people suffering from thyroid and multiple sclerosis also suffer from intrinsic factor deficiency, which is associated with B12 deficiency.

Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Low Dietary intake: Lack of vitamin b12 in the diet is one of the main reasons for its deficiency. Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that is only found in animal products like red meat, chicken liver, fish, eggs and dairy. That’s why vegans as well as non vegan individuals are at risk of developing low nutritional vitamin b12 as they do not eat these foods. There are foods that are available in the market that are fortified with vitamin b12 so that vegan individuals can consume them to get the right amount of nutrients.
Low Absorption: Vitamin B12 is absorbed by the small intestine, but before that preliminary processing is required in the stomach first. Any condition that affects the small intestine or stomach will interfere with the proper absorption of the vitamin b12. Intrinsic factor is a protein that is produced in the stomach that combines well with the vitamin b12 before it can get absorbed in the small intestine. Autoimmune disease, gastric bypass surgery and inflammation of the stomach are some conditions that can interfere with the proper functioning of the intrinsic factor, leading to less absorption into the body. Instead it gets eliminated through the stools. Individuals who consume alcohol are at great risk as alcohol changes the lining of the stomach and interfere with the production of intrinsic factor causing the B12 deficiency. Diseases of the intestine like Crohn’s disease and Celiac disease prevents the proper absorption of the vitamin B12 in the small intestine causing the deficiency even if there is sufficient b12 in the body.
Pernicious anemia: This type of anemia eliminates the intrinsic factor, a protein that combines the dietary vitamin b12 for better absorption. This may lead to b12 deficiency through malabsorption. This type of b12 deficiency cannot be treated with oral B12 replacement and will need treatment with Vitamin B12 injections. The symptoms of pernicious anemia are depression, fatigue, headaches, rapid heartbeat, lack of energy and ringing in the ears.
Certain medications like antibiotics, medicines for treating diabetes, heartburn and gout can also interfere in the absorption of the Vitamin B12 in the body.

Conclusion

If you are detected with vitamin b12 deficiency you can get that treated at early stage itself. If this deficiency is due to dietary factors, then you can get it reversed by taking the vitamin B12 supplements or by consuming foods that are fortified with b12.
If the deficiency is due to impaired absorption, then it is considered best to take Vitamin B12 injections instead of the supplement tablets as this method allows better absorption of the nutrients into the body tissues directly.

Vitamin B12 deficiency / vitamin b12 / b12 deficiency