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About half the population has a gene mutation making them prone to genetic vitamin B12 deficiency, according to researchers, which would explain the growing epidemicof pernicious anemia from untreated vitamin B12 deficiency. About 40 percent of people between the ages of 26 and 83 have dangerously low levels of vitamin B12, and many don’t even realize it until the debilitating symptoms begin to set in. Here are the facts on genetic vitamin B12 deficiency.
The MTHFR gene and B12 Deficiency
Everybody has two MTHFR genes, one from each parent. These genes are necessary for efficiently converting vitamin B12 to a usable form, and in effect also maintaining healthy homocysteine levels.
If you have defective MTHFR genes, then you’re not able to convert cobalamin to usable vitamin B12 as effectively as somebody without the gene defect.
However, nearly 50% of all people have a defected MTHFR gene from one parent, and 10% have mutated MTHFR genes from both parents, making them more likely to suffer genetic vitamin B12 deficiency, and also elevated levels of homocysteine, which has been linked to hardening of the arteries and increased risk for heart attack.
Causes for Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 absorption is a complicated process, and there are many things that can go wrong. Certain health conditions, medications, invasive surgeries, dietary restrictions, and yes- genetics- can impede your ability to digest vitamin B12 properly from food sources and vitamin supplements.
Common causes of vitamin B12 deficiency include:
Vegan and vegetarian dieting
Family history for autoimmune disorders, such as lupus and fibromyalgia
Family history for pernicious anemia
MTHFR gene mutations
Gastrointestinal infections or illnesses, such as leaky gut, Crohn’s, celiac, and Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO)
Bariatric surgeries or ilium removal for Crohn’s treatment
Medications such as metformin for diabetes and PPIs for GERD
Find out if you have genetic B12 Deficiency
There are several ways of finding out if you have vitamin B12 deficiency, including plasma vitamin B12 level screening, complete blood count (CBC) and homocysteine blood screening for Hyperhomocysteinemia.
As for testing for the MTHFR gene mutation, there are no official guidelines as to who should be tested. So unless you request a test for genetic vitamin B12 deficiency from a doctor who is able to comply, then your best bet is to stay on top of vitamin B12 and homocysteine levels, and supplement daily with vitamin B12, folate and vitamin B6.
Treating vitamin B12 Deficiency
If you’re tested with genetic vitamin B12 deficiency caused by a gene mutation, or any form of vitamin B12 deficiency that doesn’t stem from diet, then it’s absolutely essential to supplement with vitamin B12 in order to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency and other severe malnutrition. Diet alone will not provide you the amount of vitamin B12 needed in order to prevent pernicious anemia.
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Would you consider getting tested for genetic vitamin B12 deficiency? Do one or both parents also have vitamin B12 deficiency or pernicious anemia?
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Many studies show similarities between the symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency and multiple sclerosis (MS). There is also a very high rate of B12 deficiency among people diagnosed with MS. How, then, does one differentiate between pernicious anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency)and multiple sclerosis?
What is MS?
Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects your central nervous system- your brain and spinal cord. It typically strikes young adults between the ages of 20-40, most of them women.
The exact cause of MS is unknown, but most scientists believe it is an autoimmune disorder. With multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune reaction attacks myelin, a fatty substance that insulates your nerve fibers responsible for transmitting messages to the rest of your body.
Signs of demyelination are random lesions,or plaques (sclerosis) in the brain and spinal cord, in multiple areas, thus the term “multiple sclerosis.”
What is B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs when your body is unable to maintain sufficient stores of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) in the blood. There are several reasons this may happen, such as not eating food sources of vitamin B12 (meat, fish, and milk), or having a gastrointestinal disorder that interferes with vitamin B12 absorption.
With pernicious anemia (PA), your body cannot make intrinsic factor (IF), a protein necessary for digesting vitamin B12, due to an autoimmune disorder.
Among its many other benefits, vitamin B12 is essential for building up the fatty myelin sheath. One of the symptoms of PA is demyelination, the same type of brain damage that occurs with MS.
*Multiple sclerosis and vitamin B12 deficiency- pernicious anemia are both autoimmune disorders.
*Multiple sclerosis and vitamin B12 deficiency-pernicious anemia both involve damage to the nervous system’s myelin sheath.
What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?
The earliest symptoms of MS may include:
Muscular weakness in one or more limbs
Tingling or numbness
Loss of balance
Vision problems or eye pain
As the disease advances, symptoms worsen, including:
Chronic fatigue, despite getting plenty of rest and not overexerting yourself
Hypersensitivity to heat, such as hot showers or baths
Muscular spasms in the legs and arms
Bladder or bowel control problems
Lightheadedness, or vertigo caused by nerve damage
Cognitive impairment- “brain fog,” slowed thinking, lack of concentration, or memory loss
Vision problems- blurring or graying of vision, or temporary blindness in one eye
Painful “pins and needles” sensations, numbness, itching, or burning
Speech and swallowing problems caused by damaged nerves
Difficulty walking without stumbling, caused by muscle weakness, spasticity, or loss of balance from vertigo
What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?
The most common symptoms of B12 deficiency and pernicious anemia are:
Painful “pins and needles” or numbness in hands and feet
Sore, swollen red tongue
Burning mouth sensation
Difficulty walking without stumbling
Short-term memory loss
Shortness of breath
*Multiple sclerosis and vitamin B12 deficiency-pernicious anemia both cause nerve damage, including painful tingling or numbness in the hands and feet and impaired gait.
*Multiple sclerosis and vitamin B12 deficiency-pernicious anemia both cause cognitive impairment, like brain fog, memory loss, and low concentration.
Which tests diagnose multiple sclerosis?
There is more than one test used to confirm MS, and your doctor will need to use the process of elimination to exclude other illnesses. Some common tests and indicators are:
MRI scan indicating at least two incidences myelin damage- scar tissue (lesions)
Evoked potentials, an electrical test of your nervous impulses
Which tests diagnose vitamin B12 deficiency?
Only one test is required to diagnose vitamin B12 deficiency- a blood test indicating low blood serum levels of vitamin B12. Patients of pernicious anemia require routine blood tests in order to monitor their B12 levels.
What’s the best treatment for multiple sclerosis?
There is no cure for MS, but various medications are helpful for dealing with the symptoms.
Some prescribed medicines work by controlling your body’s autoimmune response, thus reducing the frequency and severity of MS symptoms.
Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a controversial surgery used to treat debilitating tremors in people with MS. Complications may include paralysis, loss of vision, or loss of speech.
Alternative medicine options that benefits MS patients include physical therapy, exercise like yoga or tai chi, acupuncture, aromatherapy, meditation, massage, and vitamin supplementation.
What’s the best treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency?
There are many kinds of B12 supplements on the market, but it’s important to be certain if you are able to digest vitamin B12 in the stomach. If you lack intrinsic factor, or if you’ve had gastrointestinal surgery like gastric bypass, then you will not benefit from dietary forms of vitamin B12.
Physicians normally prescribe a series of B12 shots for patients with pernicious anemia. These vitamin B12 injections require a prescription, and not all health care providers cover extensive supplementation of vitamin B12 shots.
Sublingual vitamin B12 pills that dissolve under the tongue are another option, although they are not very effective, and they often require dosages of three times per day.
Celiac disease and vitamin B12 deficiency are interrelated, but many celiacs are unaware of the high risk for developing vitamin B-12 deficiency. Like celiac disease, vitamin B12 deficiency is sometimes an autoimmune disorder brought on by pernicious anemia.
What is vitamin B-12?
Vitamin B12, “cyanocobalamin,” is an essential nutrient that occurs in protein foods, such as beef and chicken liver, oysters, shrimp, cheese, yogurt, and eggs. Vitamin B12 is water-soluble, and is stored in the liver.
B12 is crucial for healthy red blood cell production, for protecting your nervous system, for supporting cardiovascular health, and for sustaining normal cognitive functioning, such as memory, thinking skills, and logic.
What are the symptoms of vitamin B-12 deficiency?
If you are unable to sustain sufficient amounts of B12 in your liver, then you may start to feel tired, depressed, and disoriented. You might notice a numbing or tingling sensation in your hands and feet, described as “pins and needles.”
You might also notice that you have a hard time remembering important dates or meetings, or finding the right word while talking to somebody or sending an e-mail.
Gluten is a protein found in wheat, rye, and barley. Celiac patients and others with gluten intolerance must avoid all products containing gluten- baked goods, packaged snacks, and a long list of food additives- in order to avoid symptoms.
Celiac disease is one of many autoimmune diseases that occur with vitamin B12 deficiency. With celiac, patients who eat any foods containing gluten experience painful symptoms such as stomach cramps, diarrhea, nausea, and achiness. That is because their immune system identifies gluten as a threat, and begins to attack traces of gluten in the digestive system, causing severe damage to the intestinal tract.
Why are celiac disease patients at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency?
Scientists don’t claim that celiac disease is an outright cause of low vitamin B12, but they have noted a strong correlation- enough to warrant extensive research and recommendations.
In order to digest nutrients such as vitamin B12 properly, you need to have a healthy digestive system. People with autoimmune diseases that cause gastrointestinal damage, such as Hashimoto’sdisease, Crohn’sdisease, and celiac diseases, are unable to absorb nutrients from dietary sources because of damage to their stomach linings, small intestines or colon.
For them, malabsorption often leads to anemia, osteoporosis, chronic fatigue, and peripheral neuropathy in the hands and feet (thus the tingling and numbness).
Celiac disease patients, and others who can’t absorb vitamin B12
Besides celiac disease, other factors can make it difficult for your body to absorb enough vitamin B12:
Inability to produce intrinsic factor, a necessary protein for B12 vitamin absorption
Gastrointestinal surgeries (gastric bypass, IBD surgery) that involve removing your ileum, a part of your small intestine that helps you digest vitamin B12 from food
Long-time usage of heartburn medications
Following a vegan diet
Does following a gluten-free diet cure vitamin B12 deficiency?
Not entirely; according to research by the University of Edinburgh, people who suffer celiac disease, but do not receive treatment, have a 41% chance of developing vitamin B12 deficiency.
In celiac patients who started following a gluten-free diet, most of their symptoms disappeared. However, a significant amount of celiacs continued to suffer neuropathic symptoms such as tingling and numbness, and those side effects did not disappear until they brought their vitamin B12 levels back to normal with routine vitamin B12 supplements.
Read more about preventing vitamin B12 deficiency:
At least 1.5 million Americans have lupus, an autoimmune disorder which affects all parts of the body, including the joints, skin and organs. Not to be confused with HIV, lupus is a noncontagious condition in which the immune system attacks the body’s healthy cells.
1) Lady Gaga, though not currently exhibiting any of the symptoms, told Larry King that she has tested “borderline positive” for lupus. According to the Lupus Foundation of America andThe American College of Rheumatology, a positive diagnosis of lupus may takes years and a battery of tests to determine. Lady Gaga’s aunt Joanne died of lupus at the age of 19.
2) Toni Braxton. upon being diagnosed with lupus, tweeted to her fans, “Lupus medication actually causes most women to gain weight. But we’re still fabulous! I’m going to work it on out.” The drugs she referred to, Corticosteroids, are a form of steroid medication.
3) Musician Seal bears the mark of a skin-related form of lupus on his face; his scars are a result of discoid lupus, which causes extreme sensitivity to ultraviolet light and hair loss.
4) Cori Broadus, daughter of rapper celebrity Snoop Dogg, first started showing the signs of lupus at the age of 6. She is able to do all the same things other kids her age do, like sports and secular activities, thanks to lupus medication.
5) Ball player Tim Raines first experienced the symptoms of lupus in 1999 when he began to feel fatigue and swelling in the knees during a game. It turned out that lupus was attacking his kidneys; radiation therapy was prescribed and he was able to continue his career in sports until retiring in 2002.
6) Charles Kuralt died of heart disease only weeks after being diagnosed with lupus. More common in females, lupus in male patients is often undiagnosed.
7) Novelist Flannery O’ Connor passed away at the age of 39 when the removal of a tumor triggered a pre-existing condition of lupus. Her father also suffered from lupus. Close relatives of lupus carriers have a 5% chance of developing the condition themselves.