Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency is common, yet severe cases will result in vitamin B12 deficiency anemia also referred to as pernicious anemia. There are two causes of B12 deficiency: an inability to absorb B12 and a lack of B12 in the diet. Vitamin B12 is essential for the production of red blood cells and a deficiency can be serious if left untreated. Healthy red blood cells are required to carry oxygen to cells and tissues. When the body suffers from a constant lack of healthy red blood cells pernicious anemia will occur. A water soluble vitamin, B12 affects growth and development, the production of nerves, hair, skin, metabolism and genes.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

B12 deficiency can range from mild to chronic in condition, and as such symptoms can vary in severity. The following are perhaps the most common symptoms of B12 deficiency:

  • Fast fatigue and tiredness
  • Light-headedness when standing up or with exertion
  • Loss of appetite
  • Diarrhea
  • Constipation
  • Pale skin
  • Swollen tongue
  • Bleeding gums
  • Problems concentrating
  • Shortness of breath, mostly during exercise

Long term B12 deficiency causes nerve damage and as such an individual may experience one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Numbness and tingling of the hands and feet
  • Loss of balance
  • Confusion or change in mental status

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Treatment

Treatment depends entirely on the cause and level of deficiency. Those who suffer from pernicious anemia will require lifelong B12 replacement. This is usually by way of injection, but in some cases a high dose oral supplement is sufficient. People who simply lack B12 in their diet will be advised to take a supplement, but treatment may begin with a series of injections. Where poor digestion and malabsorption is the cause injections will be used until the condition improves. It is not uncommon for some people to require a vitamin B12 shot weekly or monthly for life. Those suffering from Crohn’s disease, celiac disease or alcoholism will be able to stop B12 shots once their condition has significantly improved.

Vitamin B12 Rich Foods

Vitamin B12 deficiency can be avoided by simply following a well balanced diet. The following are foods rich in vitamin B12:

  • Mussels
  • clams
  • oysters
  • Animal Livers: lamb, beef, veal, moose, turkey, duck, goose
  • Fish Eggs
  • Octopus
  • Fish: mackerel, tuna, herring, sardines, cod, bluefish and trout
  • Lobster
  • Crab
  • Beef: sirloin, chuck, ribs or rib eye cut
  • Lamb: shoulder
  • Cheese: Swiss, Parmesan, mozzarella, and feta cheese
  • Eggs: chicken, goose and duck
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