It seems like it should be easy to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency. Feeling tired, tingly, and numb? No problem. Just take a few vitamin B12 pills until you get your energy back. Unfortunately, for many, preventing vitamin B12 deficiency, i.e. pernicious anemia, is a lifelong dilemma that produces many serious health concerns.
Vitamin B12- cobalamin
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is a crucial nutrient that is involved with many biochemical reactions in your body. Part of the B-complex set of vitamins, vitamin B12 helps to maintain normal energy levels while also supporting a healthy nervous system.
Vitamin B12 is also essential for producing red blood cells and controlling homocysteine, a hormone linked with increased risk for heart disease and stroke.
Vitamin B12 occurs naturally in animal-based foods such as meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and milk. Healthy individuals may prevent vitamin B12 deficiency by including lean beef, chicken, turkey, organ meats, seafood, and cheeses in their daily diet.
Since plant-based sources of vitamin B12 are scarce, doctors advise individuals following a strict vegan diet to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency by supplementing with daily vitamin B12 pills.
Vitamin B12 deficiency causes
Even if you are a meat-eater, you may be at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency. There are many factors- lifestyle choices or illnesses- that impair your body’s ability to digest vitamin B12 naturally from the foods that you eat.
Vitamin B12 malabsorption (inability to digest vitamin B12) is a common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in people who consume sufficient amounts of dietary vitamin B12, either from food sources or nutritional supplements.
You may be unable to absorb vitamin B12 if you meet any of the following risk factors:
- You have had a gastric bypass
- You have had an ileostomy
- You take metformin for diabetes
- You take protein pump inhibitors (PPIs) for GERD
- You suffer at least one autoimmune disorder
- You vomit frequently
- You have Crohn’s disease
- You suffer from alcoholism
- You are a senior citizen
- You suffer from fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, celiac disease, or lupus
- You have a family history for pernicious anemia
Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia
Pernicious anemia is one of the most common causes of vitamin B12 deficiency.
A type of megaloblastic anemia, pernicious anemia occurs when your body is unable to produce intrinsic factor, a necessary digestive enzyme for absorbing vitamin B12.
There are two causes of vitamin B12 deficiency from pernicious anemia: gastritis and intrinsic factor autoimmune disorder.
Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms
Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency include severe fatigue, brain fog, depression, anxiety, and pain or numbness in the extremities, including your hands, feet, fingers, toes, and tongue.
Unless prevented, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause severe neurological damage and (rarely) death.
Can I prevent vitamin B12 deficiency?
If you have vitamin B12 deficiency caused by an autoimmune disorder, then there is no prevention. It is important to confirm the presence of the intrinsic factor antibody by taking a blood test. Routine vitamin B12 screenings are necessary in order to manage cobalamin levels and prevent debilitating symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
For treating pernicious anemia and preventing vitamin B12 deficiency, you will need to take lifelong vitamin B12 supplements in a non-dietary form. These include vitamin B12 shots, sublingual tablets, or other over-the-counter (OTC) types of nonedible vitamin B12.
To prevent other types of vitamin B12, it is crucial to treat the underlying condition that is inhibiting vitamin B12 absorption.
Often, dieting, exercise, and vitamin supplementation are effective measures against obesity, diabetes, and gastrointestinal problems. By incorporating natural, alternative medicine into your daily routine, you may avoid the need for harmful pharmaceuticals or invasive surgeries that often lead to nutritional deficiencies and other health ailments.
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