Vitamin B12 Deficiency is Type of Anemia: True or False?
About 25% of people in the US have vitamin B12 deficiency anemia without even knowing it. Pernicious anemia, a debilitating condition that occurs when vitamin B12 levels dip to a dangerous low, can result from underlying health problems that many doctors don’t pick up.
Pernicious anemia- What is it?
Anemia is a condition that happens when your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. Vitamin B12 is necessary for producing plenty of normal-sized red blood cells, so when vitamin B12 levels dip low, you experience symptoms of pernicious anemia, which is a type of megaloblastic anemia.
Early signs of pernicious anemia such as dizziness, tiredness, and difficulty remembering things occur because your brain is not getting enough oxygen, due to fewer red blood cells.
Symptoms of pernicious anemia include:
- Extreme fatigue
- Memory loss
- Brain fog
- Painful numbness and tingling sensations
- Muscle spasms
- Heart palpitations
- Shallow breathing
B12- why you’re not getting it
People often ask, “What’s the big deal about vitamin B12 deficiency anemia? If you’re not feeling well, then can’t you just eat more foods with vitamin B12?”
Most people do eat enough foods containing vitamin B12. Unless you follow a vegan diet, then you probably ingest enough vitamin B12 from beef, chicken, and seafood to last a lifetime.
The problem lies with vitamin B12 malabsorption; there are so many risk factors that interfere with your ability to digest vitamin B12 from the foods you eat.
Medications, autoimmune disorders, weight-loss surgeries, and gastrointestinal disorders- these all affect vitamin B12 absorption.
Vitamin B12: It takes two
Vitamin B12 cannot be digested by itself- it requires a co-factor, a “partner” in digestion. To absorb vitamin B12, you need specific digestive enzymes, such as intrinsic factor, which is manufactured in your gut, or stomach acids that help to break down vitamin B12 molecules.
You risks for developing vitamin B12 deficiency- pernicious anemia are high if:
- You don’t have intrinsic factor in your gut
- Your autoimmune system destroys the intrinsic factor you make
- You are a senior citizen who doesn’t produce enough stomach acids to digest vitamin B12
- You have had gastrointestinal surgery, such as bariatric surgery
If you fall into any of those categories, then it’s essential to get your vitamin B12 from supplementation, preferably in a non-dietary form, so that you may bypass the need for digestion in the stomach.
How much vitamin B12 should I take?
To test for vitamin B12 deficiency, ask your doctor for a simple blood test. You may need to continue checking your vitamin B12 levels regularly.
To prevent vitamin B12 deficiency anemia and restore healthy vitamin B12 levels, doctors recommend at least 1,000mcg of vitamin B12 supplements weekly, or more often, as needed.
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