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Posts Tagged ‘Autoimmune pernicious anemia’

FAQ: Do Normal (Healthy) People Get Sick from Low Vitamin B12?

Monday, November 4th, 2013



Thousands of people in the US suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency; some questions people often have are, “How did my B12 levels get so low? I eat healthy and I don’t have any chronic illnesses, so how did I become anemic?” That’s a complex question to answer, because there are many ways that people become gradually deficient in this crucial B vitamin.

FAQ: Do Normal (Healthy) People Get Sick from Low Vitamin B12?

First, why is vitamin B12 important?

Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a water-soluble B vitamin that is essential for basic survival.

  • Vitamin B12 helps to keep your nervous system functioning normally, as it sustains myelin, a fatty coating that protects your nerve cells and enhances intercellular communication.
  • Vitamin B12 also supports a healthy metabolism in converting fuels into much-needed energy and synthesizing DNA.
  • Vitamin B12 is required for proper red blood cell formation, as it helps to maintain a healthy level of normal-sized functioning red blood cells for oxygen transportation to your brain, organs, and cell tissues throughout your body.
  • Vitamin B12 helps to control levels of homocysteine, a hormone that has been linked with increased risk for heart attack, stroke, and Alzheimer’s disease.

How do you get vitamin B12?

So we know that vitamin B12 is important; now the question is, “What foods are high in vitamin B12?”

  • The richest sources of vitamin B12 are animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, seafood, milk, and eggs.
  • Still, if you have vitamin B12 malabsorption, a common risk factor for vitamin B12 deficiency, then you must take supplemental forms of vitamin B12 in order to prevent pernicious anemia. (More on vitamin B12 malabsorption later.)

These Foods are Highest in Vitamin B12

Symptoms that mean you need more B12

It’s always good to test for low vitamin B12, but the best way to know if you’re getting enough is by paying close attention to telltale symptoms of severe vitamin B12 deficiency.

Since vitamin B12 depletion happens slowly, you may not realize you’re experiencing a deficiency until you start to notice yourself always feeling tired, depressed, or just generally slower than usual.

Here are some of the most common symptoms of low vitamin B12:

  • Constant overbearing fatigue
  • Long-lasting depression
  • Brain fog
  • You’re talking slower than normal
  • Memory loss
  • Anxiety
  • Agitation
  • Painful numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
  • Burning, sore red tongue
  • Muscle spasms
  • Difficulty walking in a straight line
  • Constantly dropping things

Risk factors

If you keep a vegan diet, or refrain from eating many animal-based foods, then you are a risk factor for vitamin B12 deficiency, simply because there are no vegetable-based foods that supply sufficient amounts of vitamin B12 to prevent anemia.


If you’re not a vegan, and you have no chronic illnesses, then you may still be at risk, as there are a number of medications that interfere with your ability to digest vitamin B12 naturally from foods, resulting in vitamin B12 malabsorption- a major cause of vitamin B12 depletion that often slips off the radar.

Some medications that lead to vitamin B12 malabsorption include:

  • Metformin (for diabetes)
  • Protein pump inhibitors (for acid reflux, heartburn)
  • NSAID’s (ibuprofen, etc.)
  • Certain antibiotics

Here is a longer list of medications that cause vitamin B12 deficiency


If you have had a gastric bypass for weight loss, then you may be at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. Also, gastrointestinal surgeries recommended for treating Crohn’s disease, such as removal of the ileum, necessitate frequent vitamin B12 supplementation in order to prevent pernicious anemia.


Peripheral neuropathy (nerve damage) from vitamin B12 deficiency is one of many ailments that occur with long-term alcohol abuse.

Autoimmune disorders

An underlying autoimmune disorder can also be the basis of low vitamin B12. Autoimmune intrinsic factor dysfunction causes your body to attack intrinsic factor, a digestive enzyme that bonds to vitamin B12 and helps to distribute it into your blood supply. People with autoimmune pernicious anemia cannot get vitamin B12 from foods, regardless of diet, and must use supplemental forms of vitamin B12 for survival.

If you have any other autoimmune disorder, such as celiac disease, fibromyalgia, or lupus, then your risk for autoimmune vitamin B12 deficiency is higher than normal.

GI damage

Finally, any kind of damage to your stomach, intestines, or esophagus can interfere with your ability to absorb vitamin B12, increasing your chance for pernicious anemia. If you suffer from chronic heartburn, gas, and bloating, then that may be an important clue in determining why you often feel tired, anxious, or agitated.

Illnesses that cause frequent vomiting, such as migraines, fibromyalgia, and Crohn’s, are linked with comorbid vitamin B12 deficiency.

Old age

As we age, our bodies tend to slow down; that includes a reduction in the amount of digestive enzymes we produce- proteins needed to absorb vitamin B12. For many healthy individuals over 60, signs of depression and forgetfulness are often discounted as the first symptoms of senility, without even checking vitamin B12 levels.

For that reason, health experts recommend strict vitamin B12 supplementation for all senior citizens, even if they don’t think they need it, as the symptom don’t manifest themselves until vitamin B12 levels reach a dangerous low.


Don’t ignore symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, even if you are “healthy” and “normal.” Plenty of people have vitamin B12 deficiency, and don’t even know it- not until they start experiencing severe ailments.

Get a blood test, take your vitamin B12, and keep track of your mood and energy levels each day; this will be your best Richter scale for determining how much vitamin B12 you need in order to prevent anemia and maintain good health.

Also read:

Vitamin B12 Deficiency- Can it be Genetic?

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Caused by H. Pylori Infection

Image courtesy of stockimages/freedigitalphotos

Vitamin B12 Deficiency- Can it be Genetic?

Monday, October 28th, 2013



Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur because of diet, medication, or gastrointestinal surgery, but it can also be hereditary. Genetic pernicious anemia is a cause of vitamin B12 deficiency that sometimes slips right off the radar, yet can produce debilitating symptoms of extreme fatigue, disorientation, muscular pain, and depression.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency- Can it be Genetic?

What causes vitamin B12 deficiency?

Listed are just some of the most common causes of vitamin B12 deficiency. For a more complete list, see vitamin B12 deficiency causes.


Vitamin B12 occurs naturally in animal-based food sources such as fish, chicken, beef, and dairy products. The foods that have the most vitamin B12 are shellfish and organ meats. So if you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet, then it’s vitally important to supplement with vitamin B12 in order to prevent becoming anemic.


Certain medications can inhibit your ability to digest vitamin B12 from foods; these include PPIs for acid reflux and heartburn, metformin for diabetes, and certain antidepressants.

25 Medications that Cause Vitamin B12 Deficiency


Also, if you’ve ever had bariatric surgery (gastric bypass) or gastrointestinal surgery for Crohn’s disease, then you are required to take lifelong vitamin B12 supplements.

Autoimmune diseases

The more autoimmune disorders you have, the likelier your chances of developing new ailments caused by a weak immune system. Vitamin B12 deficiency from pernicious anemia is one such autoimmune disease that can occur alone or along with other genetic autoimmune dysfunctions.

Genetic pernicious anemia is caused by a lack of intrinsic factor, a digestive enzyme needed to absorb vitamin B12.

Pernicious anemia can occur as an autoimmune disorder, or it can develop as a comorbid condition to other autoimmune diseases, such as systemic lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, or celiac disease.

If you eat a healthy diet of lean meats and seafood, and you don’t fall into any of the above-mentioned categories, then your cause of vitamin B12 deficiency may be genetic.

Is vitamin B12 deficiency serious?

Vitamin B12 is crucial for many important biochemical responses throughout your body. Vitamin B12 aids in red blood cell formation, and also sustains healthy neurological functioning.

Vitamin B12 boosts cellular energy, supports a good metabolism, and helps to regulate levels of homocysteine, a hormone linked with heart attack and stroke.

Untreated, long-term vitamin B12 deficiency-pernicious anemia can result severe irreversible damage to your nervous system, increased risk for heart attack and stroke, cognitive impairments, and sometimes, death.

Getting tested

Off the bat, your family medical history can tell you if you’re prone to vitamin B12 deficiency from genetic pernicious anemia. If anybody in your family suffers from pernicious anemia or any autoimmune disorder, then your chances of developing severe vitamin B12 deficiency are higher than normal.

You can test for vitamin B12 deficiency easily with one blood test, but the results are not always accurate. In diagnosing vitamin B12 deficiency, your doctor should pay attention to the symptoms you’re experiencing and how well you’re responding to vitamin B12 supplementation.

Please tell us…

Do you or your parents have vitamin B12 deficiency? Have you found a genetic link to that or other autoimmune disorders?

Do you have any questions or suggestions?  Please leave your comments below.
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Do People Die of Autoimmune Pernicious Anemia?

Friday, January 25th, 2013



Autoimmune pernicious anemia is a disabling condition which causes severe damage to the nervous system. Historically, vitamin B12 deficiency from pernicious anemia was fatal. Today, according to health reports, the mortality rates linked with autoimmune diseases such as pernicious anemia are not as low as you may think.

Do People Die of Autoimmune Pernicious Anemia? B12 Patch

Scientists study mortality rates

In an English study which focused on mortality rates linked with autoimmune diseases, including pernicious anemia, scientists found that females are more likely to suffer from autoimmune disorders, and that a small percentage of middle-aged women may die as a result of their dysfunctional immune response.

The study was conducted as a means of finding out how many deaths are either caused by an underlying immune system breakdown, or autoimmune disease as a contributing factor.

Because autoimmune illnesses such as pernicious anemia are not treated as pathogenic mechanisms by the International Classification of Diseases (ICD), their impact on mortality rates are concealed from the public.

“However, autoimmune disorders are neglected in the ICD classification, because they are listed for the most part individually under separate organ systems. The combined burden of mortality from autoimmune disorders is therefore hidden.” (American Journal of Public Health)

For example, death from a ruptured stomach lining would be classified under organ system, with no indication of whether underlying conditions such as celiac disease, IBD, or pernicious anemia contributed heavily to the cause of death.

Autoimmune pernicious anemia

Researchers included 24 autoimmune diseases in their investigation, including:

  • Pernicious anemia
  • Addison’s disease
  • Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)
  • Multiple sclerosis
  • Sjögren’s syndrome
  • Celiac disease
  • Graves’ disease

Is Vitamin B12 Deficiency an Autoimmune Disorder? Yup.

Results and conclusions

“Autoimmune diseases constitute a leading cause of death among young and middle-aged women. This fact is obscured by current methods used to identify leading causes.” (American Journal of Public Health)

Compared with the oft-cited leading causes of death for women in the US, scientists were able to conclude that immune system dysfunction far surpassed the 10th leading cause of death for women under 65, and may also have contributed to higher mortality rates in women ages 15 and over than the “official” eight leading cause of death for such an age group.

  • The scientists found that 10 women between the ages of 55 and 74 died with autoimmune pernicious anemia as a contributing factor.
  • Two young girls under the age of 34 also died partially as a result of pernicious anemia.
  • All in all, 121 female deaths were linked with the autoimmune form of pernicious anemia.
  • Total deaths associated with autoimmune disorders numbered 9271.


If you’re diagnosed with pernicious anemia, then it’s crucial that you get enough vitamin B12 to prevent neurological damage, maintain healthy homocysteine levels in relation to your risk for stroke, and find a reversal of symptoms.

Unfortunately, as stated  in the article Pernicious anaemia patients “suffering needlessly”, many patients of severe vitamin B12 deficiency don’t receive enough vitamin B12, usually because their healthcare providers refuse to authorize vitamin B12 injections past a certain monthly allocation, regardless of the severity of symptoms.

For that reason, an overwhelming number of pernicious anemia patients choose to supplement with extra over-the-counter vitamin B12, for more energy, relief from chronic pain, and overall increased well-being.

Your turn!

Do you have any questions or suggestions?  Please leave your comments below.

Share with your friends!

If you found this article helpful, then please share with your friends, family, and coworkers by email, Facebook, or Google+.

Like this? Read more:

Pernicious anaemia patients “suffering needlessly”

Autoimmune diseases: a leading cause of death among young and middle-aged women in the United States

Image(s) courtesy of coward_lion/FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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