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Posts Tagged ‘vegan diet’

Pain and Numbness from Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Monday, October 7th, 2013



If you suffer from pins and needles and painful burning or tingling in your hands and feet, then you may have vitamin B12 deficiency. There are many causes of chronic pain and numbness, most of them strongly linked to extremely low vitamin B12 levels or resulting  pernicious anemia.

Pain and Numbness from Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Getting enough vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is an essential nutrient for your nervous system, but sometimes we don’t get enough, either because of diet or underlying health issues.

Eating a vegan diet devoid of B12-rich meats, fish, and cheese is one way of developing vitamin B12 deficiency, but it is also common in the elderly and people who have had gastrointestinal surgery such as gastric bypass.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can also occur with migraine, fibromyalgia, and other forms of chronic pain, as autoimmune history and gastrointestinal problems combine to further raise your chances for developing vitamin B12 deficiency and resulting nerve pain.

If you’re experiencing constant nerve pain and numbness, then you should consider vitamin B12 deficiency as a possible cause.

Vitamin B12 deficiency neuropathy

Neuropathy is any kind of nerve damage that causes intense pain and numbness. Diabetic neuropathy is one of the most common forms of nerve pain, but it can also occur as a result of vitamin B12 deficiency or, if prolonged, pernicious anemia.

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency neuropathy include:

  • Painful numbness and tingling in the extremities
  • Burning or itchy skin rashes
  • Sore burning tongue
  • Difficulty controlling arm and leg movements
  • Muscle spasms

Vitamin B12 and your nerves

Vitamin B12 protects your nervous system by sustaining myelin, a fatty substance that insulates your nerve fibers and enhances intercellular communication, so that sensory messages travel along the spinal cord to the brain quickly and efficiently.

When vitamin B12 levels become depleted, you suffer symptoms resulting from demyelination, destruction of the nerve cell’s outer coating. This is the same process that occurs in patients of multiple sclerosis (MS).

Nervous impulses become slower, and symptoms of tingling, burning, pain and numbness from vitamin B12 deficiency become more frequent.

Untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency can impair your nervous system and cause severe handicaps.

Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS)


Vitamin B12 deficiency is often comorbid with diabetes. Diabetics taking metformin are at a high risk for developing vitamin B12 deficiency, as metformin is one of several drugs that prevent absorption of vitamin B12 from foods.

If you are a diabetic using metformin, then it’s crucial sustain vitamin B12 levels through supplementation.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Fibromyalgia Pain Types

Vitamin B12 deficiency is harder to diagnose in people with diabetes, as the symptoms of pain and numbness are already masked by preexisting diabetic neuropathy. Routine vitamin B12 blood tests are recommended for all diabetics using metformin.

Treating nerve pain and numbness

If nerve pain results from vitamin B12 deficiency, then it’s important to boost your intake of vitamin B12 immediately.

The best, most digestible sources of vitamin B12 are non-dietary supplements that are absorbed into your bloodstream, as opposed to vitamin B12 pills that you swallow.

For best results, start out with 1,000mcg of vitamin B12 weekly or more often, as needed or recommended by your doctor.

Your doctor may prescribe antidepressants for neuropathic pain, or he may advise anti-convulsant drugs. All of these, over extended periods of time, may result in uncomfortable side effects, so use with caution.

Topical treatments used to relive arthritis may help to relieve nerve pain, without any harmful side effects.

Your turn!

If you suffer nerve pain and numbness, have you been tested for vitamin B12 deficiency?

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

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Image courtesy of marin/freedigitalphotos

On Becoming Vegan: Avoiding Vitamin B12 Deficiency and Others

Thursday, March 31st, 2011

The vegan diet has gained much popularity since Oprah Winfrey took her 7-day Vegan Challenge.  But there’s more to following a vegan diet than just not eating animal products like meat, fish, eggs and dairy foods and observing Meatless Mondays.

A vegetarian diet requires a strict adherence to a nutritious vitamin fortified diet in order to avoid vitamin deficiency.  And since vegans deliberately avoid eating proteins which are rich in vitamin B12, they must make a special effort to supplement everyday in order to avoid the many symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, such as anemia.

Here is a short list of vitamins to include in your diet if you are a strict vegan:

  • Vitamin B12

If you’re a strict vegan, than you’re not getting enough vitamin B12, which occurs naturally in lean meats ( think beef chuck), cheeses (Swiss), shellfish (clams and mussels, in particular), fish and eggs.

There are great soy products (smoked tofu) which have B12; also nutritional yeast, which many vegans use as a cheesy substitute.

Don’t forget to supplement with extra vitamin B12, though.

Because vitamin B12 deficiency is serious business; your body needs this essential vitamin for proper brain functioning and production of red blood cells. A vitamin B12 deficiency could cause anemia or severe neurological damage.

Read Are Vegans in France Responsible for Breast-fed Baby’s Death?

  • Vitamin D

If you’re a vegan who remembers to wear sunscreen everyday (and we hope you are), or if you live in a particularly cold climate where the sun don’t shine, there is a vegan vitamin D option available to you- ergocalciferol, also known as vitamin D2, which is a form of algae.

  • Calcium

Everybody needs 1000mg of calcium per day, which is the vegan equivalent of 3 cups of calcium fortified soy milk, a few cups of sauteed dark greens, or a large chunk of tofu with added calcium.  Many seeds and nuts also have a decent amount of calcium in them. Still, in order to preserve you bones and avoid bone brittleness in old age, a vegan calcium supplement is highly regarded.

  • Iron

The best, most highly digestible forms of iron are found in non-vegan sources, so as with vitamin B12, the word is supplement, supplement, supplement- but be on the lookout for a low dose that doesn’t irritate the tummy. Women need 32mg or iron per day; men need about 14mg.  Including a source of vitamin C along with your iron supplement will boost iron absorption.

  • Zinc

Zinc occurs in few vegan sources, but most people- vegan and meat-eaters alike- are able to eat sufficient amounts of zinc their diets. Zinc is used by many as an alternative medicine for preventing colds.  Wheat germ and pumpkin seeds are very high in zinc- try tossing them into your salad for a tasty vitamin boost.

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FYI Living

Vegan Dieters at Risk for Cardiovascular Disease, After All

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

New research indicates that the vegan diet, while low in animal based fats, is nevertheless not as heart healthy as previously thought.

According to experts, eating an exclusively vegan diet may elevate your chances of developing blood clots and atherosclerosis- both of which may lead to heart attack and stroke.

The vegan diet excludes protein sources such as fish, meat, eggs and dairy, which are rich in essential vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids.

The report, published by the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, scientists have collected data over the past 30 years relating to cardiovascular health of vegans versus omnivores.  They concluded that vegetarians have a statistically high risk of accumulating blood clots and suffering from atherosclerosis as a result of not including vitamin B12 and omega-3 fatty acids in their diet.

Good sources of vitamin B12 include beef liver, lamb, oysters, clams, cheese and eggs. Foods which are rich in omega-3 oils include oily fish such as salmon and canned tuna.

Vegans and vegetarians are advised to supplement their diet with adequate amounts of vitamin B12 and omega-3 in order to prevent heart disease, stroke and vitamin B12 deficiency.


Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry



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