Dysautonomia refers to a breakdown of the autonomic nervous system. Pernicious anemia, a common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency, also impairs your nervous system functioning. So, what’s the correlation?
What is Dysautonomia?
Your autonomic nervous system (ANS) is a part of your peripheral nervous system that controls all of your subconscious biological functions, reactions automatically controlled by the various organs in your body, such as your heart, kidneys, or digestive system. Breathing, heart rate, digestion, and perspiration- these things are all managed by your autonomic nervous system.
With dysautonomia, you experience symptoms that indicate a malfunctioning of your bodily organs. Increased heart rate, profuse sweating, poor libido, and gastrointestinal disorders may result from dysautonomia.
Because the autonomic nervous system controls such a vast network of biological reactions, symptoms of dysautonomia may appear to be unrelated, and possibly misdiagnosed.
Many of the symptoms of dysautonomia correlate with typical symptoms of pernicious anemia.
Pernicious anemia is a major cause of vitamin B12 deficiency. How is this related to dysautonomia?
Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient that controls many vital biochemical reactions throughout your body. Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is responsible for protecting your nervous system, maintaining healthy red blood cells, and synthesizing DNA.
When vitamin B12 levels are low, the earliest symptoms usually indicate damage to the peripheral nervous system, including functions controlled by the autonomic nervous system.
Peripheral neuropathy, damage to the peripheral nervous system, is one of the most dangerous symptoms of pernicious anemia, which was once a fatal disease!
Symptoms of pernicious anemia include:
- Memory problems
- Poor concentration
- “Brain fog”
- Irregular heart rate
- Shortness of breath
- Painful tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
- Muscle spasms
- Stomach cramps
- Difficulty swallowing
- Gait (walking) impairments
- Reduced ability to control arms and legs
Pernicious anemia or dysautonomia?
There are various types of dysautonomia, including:
- Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS)
- Neurocardiogenic Syncope (NCS)
- Neurally Mediated Hypotension (NMH)
- Vasovagal Syncope
- Post-Viral Dysautonomia
- Non-Familial Dysautonomia
- Generalized Dysautonomia
There are only two ways of developing pernicious anemia:
- Autoimmune intrinsic factor- an autoimmune condition which inhibits your ability to produce intrinsic factor, an enzyme which is necessary for digesting vitamin B12 naturally from the foods you eat.
- Gastrointestinal damage- any type of gastrointestinal disorder, such as Crohn’s disease, may impair your ability to produce intrinsic factor. Patients of gastric bypass or other types of bariatric surgery are also at risk.
Ask your doctor!
It’s important to be aware of the high correlation between pernicious anemia and dysautonomia. If you suffer from conditions related to your peripheral nervous system, then ask your doctor to include a vitamin B12 blood screening during your examination.
Only immediate and long-term supplementation of vitamin B12 can reverse the symptoms of pernicious anemia.
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