WHAT IS VITAMIN B12? : Causes, Symptoms

Usually, people don’t understand the importance of vitamin B complex and what role these vitamins play in our body. I bet that most of you will not be knowing the other name of Vitamin B12 that is cobalamine.
This article not only tells you about what is Vitamin B12 but it also talks about the causes of deficiency and its symptoms.

WHAT IS VITAMIN B12?

The other name of vitamin B12 or the chemical name of vitamin B12 is cobalamin, it is a most complex form of all B- vitamins. It is a water-soluble vitamin.
This means that it can dissolve in water and transport through the bloodstream.
It is present only in the animal source and can be produced through bacterial fermentation in industries
If taken in enough amount your body can store it in the liver for years.

WHAT DOES VITAMIN B12 DO?

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in your body. It helps in the production of red blood cells(RBC) and the synthesis of DNA. Also, It keeps the nervous system healthy.
it is essential for the functioning of all cells especially those of gastrointestinal tract, nervous system and bone marrow. It is critical during pregnancy for the baby’s developing brain and nervous system.

CAUSES OF DEFICIENCY OF VITAMIN B12

Deficiency of vitamin B12 causes a wide range of health issues. Mostly causes of the deficiency are seen in people who are on a vegetarian diet. If persisted for too long, its deficiency can cause severe neurological damage. It is also harder to absorb it for the ageing body

1. Pernicious anaemia

It is the failure of absorption of this Vitamin by the stomach due to some intrinsic factors (protein in the stomach). Basically the immune system, body’s natural defence mechanism, attacks your own body cells. This is due to the lack of vitamin in the diet. Thus, the bone marrow is not able to produce mature RBCs but releases a fewer number of large cells called macrocytes into blood circulation, which results in the decreased capacity of RBCs to carry haemoglobin. This causes pernicious anaemia.

2. Conditions affecting the intestines  

Conditions like celiac disease, Crohn’s disease, bacterial growth, parasite affects the small intestines which make it harder for the absorption of Vitamin.

3. During Infancy, Failure to Thrive

During infancy, failure to thrive(when the child does not gain weight at the expected rate) delayed development, movement disorder and megaloblastic anaemia ( when red blood cells are not produced properly)are the causes for the deficiency.

4. Conditions affecting the stomach

Conditions like gastrointestinal surgery like gastrectomy can prevent the absorption of vitamin B12. This situation can become one of the causes for the deficiency.

5. Medicines

Sometimes medicines also disrupt the absorption process of vitamin B12 and reduce the amount in the body. As medicine disturbs the intrinsic factor of the stomach.

6. Psychological issues

Long term vitaminB12 deficiency might cause you to feel confused or depressed. It can later cause dementia and poor memory.

Now after knowing the causes of vitamin b12 deficiency, let’s understand about which groups are at risk of its deficiency and its deficiency symptoms.

GROUPS AT RISK OF VITAMIN B12 DEFICIENCY

The main causes of its deficiency are malabsorption, dietary deficiency, pernicious anaemia, gastrointestinal disorders. The groups which are at risk of having its deficiency are:-

1. Pregnant and lactating women who follow a strict vegetarian diet-

Women who consume only vegetarians diet and consume no animal products will likely to have the deficiency of the vitamin b12 within the months of pregnancy due to lack of its presence in the body. This can lead to permanent or severe damage to neurological tissue of the infant if left untreated.

2. Individuals with gastrointestinal (GI) disorders and who had gastrointestinal surgery-

Individuals suffering from gastrointestinal disorders like celiac disorder and Crohn’s disease are most likely to have a deficiency of vitaminB12, because of the GI tract disorder the small intestine is unable to absorb the vitamin to maintain a healthy body.

Also due to the GI tract surgery, the cells in the intestine which helps in the secretion of hydrochloric acid and intrinsic factors gets lost and becomes one of the causes of vitamin deficiency in the body.

3. Older adults

Decreased secretion of hydrochloric acid in older adults, results in the decreased absorption of it. Also because of the decreased amount of hydrochloric acid leads to the increased growth of normal intestinal bacteria which consumes the vitamin b12 available in the body. This leads to its deficiency in the body.

4. Strict Vegetarians

As it is only available in the animal source, the person consuming only vegetarian and vegan diet is at greater risk of its deficiency. Fortified foods like breakfast cereals and nutritional yeasts are the only source of having vitamin B12 in the vegan diet. It is important to read the nutrition facts label to determine the type and amount of nutrient is available in the food.
Now moving further, let’s take a look at symptoms of its deficiency.

VITAMIN B12 DEFICIENCY SYMPTOMS

Vitamin B12 is a crucial one and it’s deficiency can leads to irreversible neurological disorders. The symptom of its deficiency takes years to shows up. It is also sometimes mistaken with folate deficiency.

Here are the list of signs and symptoms of it’s deficiency:-

  • Weakness and tiredness.
  • Abdomen pain/ discomforts.
  • You have lost your appetite and loosing weight without trying.
  • Soreness and inflammation of your tongue( glossitis).
  • Mouth ulcer
  • Your skin looks pale yellow.
  • You feel dizzy and short of breath.
  • Mood changes.
  • High temperature
  • Difficulty in walking and strange sensation of numbness or tingling in hands, legs or feets.
  • Depression

If you are having any of these symptoms you should consult your doctor and have a  vitaminB12 deficiency test done.
Vitamin deficiency can sometimes be treated easily by modification in diet. But it is advised to consult a doctor before taking any measures.

TREATMENT

Deficiency of Vitamin B12 can be treated by modification in diet and by adding supplements. It is advised to consult a doctor before taking any supplements.
In case of pernicious anaemic, you will be given some injections at first. You may also be given high vitamin B12 supplements after the Vitamin B12 injections.
Older adults must have a daily intake of its supplements and multivitamin tablet that contains the Vitamin B12.
For the vegetarians and vegan people, you can have its fortified cereals or grains, and can also have it in supplement form.
Just make sure not to have its overdose. You should have injections and supplements only when the doctor suggests.

PREVENTION

If you are not having animal products in your diet, so you can have the option to have the daily intake of Vitamin B12 in the form of supplements or fortified grain.
Most of the people can prevent the deficiency of vitamin B12 by having food rich in animal products like seafood, poultry, meats, eggs and dairy products.
If you choose to take the vitamin B12 supplement then let your doctor know so that he/she can prescribe you in how much amount you have to take the supplement.

Take Away

Vitamin B12 is a crucial vitamin which plays an important role in our body. Its deficiency can lead to serious disorders which are irreversible, proper dietary intake and prevention can help the individual to overcome its deficiency. It is advised to the older adults, vegetarians, the person having gastrointestinal disorders and surgeries, pregnant and lactating women to take extra precautions as these groups are risk of having the deficiency.
Changes in diet pattern can help in overcoming the deficiency of the Vitamin.

Now you know after reading the article what is Vitamin B12 and the other name of vitamin B12 or the chemical name, what are the causes of deficiency of vitamin B12, what are the vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms. So after knowing about the importance of it in your life, you should have it in your diet in enough amount so that your body won’t show any of its deficiency symptoms and also you should avoid the causes of vitamin B12 deficiency. If you get deficiency symptoms then you should have the deficiency test. Also, it is advisable to have the injection only if your doctor suggests.

Summary

Vitamin B12 is the key nutrient that your body needs for the proper functioning. It is one of the crucial Vitamins because of its complex structure and due to its availability in the diet.

It is in large amounts in animal products and fortify cereals and grains. There are no plant sources that can provide it . It is available in the bacteria or in the bodies of some animals, especially in seafood.

This is a vitamin which is very much important to the body and may be lacking in a vegetarian diet. Make sure you have it in good amounts. You should always monitor its level in your diet to maintain optimal health.

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