If you have a family history for pernicious anemia or other autoimmune disorders, then your chances of developing vitamin B12 deficiency are higher than normal, even if you eat a diet rich in foods containing this vital nutrient. Below are common risk factors for vitamin B12 malabsorption.
Vitamin B12 malabsorption
Several factors can interfere with your ability to digest vitamin B12, regardless of your diet. Vitamin B12 malabsorption can result from autoimmune disorders, old age, gastritis, or certain medications.
- Pernicious anemia is an autoimmune disorder which prevents you from manufacturing or accessing intrinsic factor correctly, resulting in severe vitamin B12 deficiency. Sometimes, pernicious anemia is caused by gastrointestinal damage (atrophic gastritis) from Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis.
- Old age is another risk factor for vitamin B12 malabsorption, as elderly individuals often do not make enough digestive enzymes to break down vitamin B12.
- Surgeries involving removal of the ileum, such as gastric bypass surgery, also impair your ability to digest vitamin B12 naturally, necessitating vitamin B12 supplementation.
- If you take protein pump inhibitors (PPIs) for GERD, or metformin for diabetes, then you may be at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency, as certain medications interfere with vitamin B12 absorption.
- Scientists have found a high correlation between various autoimmune disorders and increased risk for vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Vitamin B12 malabsorption is one of many damaging effects of alcoholism, as recognized by many scientists.
Treating vitamin B12 malabsorption
If vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by an underlying condition, such as inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) or acid reflux, then it is necessary to treat the primary illness in order to improve your ability to digest vitamin B12.
However, in the case of autoimmune disorders such as pernicious anemia, where intrinsic factor antibodies are diagnosed as the cause of vitamin B12 malabsorption, there is no “cure.”
In any case, only immediate and complete vitamin B12 supplementation can effective raise your vitamin B12 levels back to where they should be.
To maintain healthy levels of vitamin B12 in the blood, and avoid debilitating symptoms of fatigue and chronic pain, it may be necessary to continue with a regimen of non-dietary vitamin B12 for life.
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