If you suffer from Crohn’s disease, then check your vitamin B12 levels often. One side effect of Crohn’s is pernicious anemia from vitamin B12 deficiency, in addition to Crohn’s symptoms like stomach cramping, diarrhea, and vomiting.
Not surprisingly, there are several reasons why vitamin B12 deficiency occurs with Crohn’s disease. Here are the four top reasons to check your vitamin B12 levels if you suffer from inflammatory bowel disease (IBD).
1- Symptoms of Crohn’s disease
Crohn’s disease, sometimes called ileitis, is an illness of the gastrointestinal (GI) tract that damages the bottommost part of the small intestinal, the terminal ileum. Symptoms of Crohn’s disease include chronic diarrhea caused by swelling of the small intestine, excruciating stomach cramps caused by intestinal strictures, fever, weight loss, and rectal bleeding.
The ileum is an important part of your digestive system for vitamin B12 absorption- without it, your body would be unable to extract vitamin B12 (cobalamin) and dispense it into your blood supply.
If Crohn’s disease has caused irreparable inflammation of your terminal ileum, you are at high risk for symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms include:
- Chronic fatigue
- Short-term memory loss
- Difficulty concentrating
- Unclear thinking, or “brain fog”
- Muscular twitching
- Painful tingling and numbness in hands and feet
- Sore, red tongue
- Burning mouth sensations
- Frequent clumsiness and stumbling
Once vitamin B12 deficiency is diagnosed, you may choose to take vitamin B12 shots, which are only available upon prescription.
2- Crohn’s disease medications
Whenever digestive disorders are present, vitamin B12 levels are low. Certain medicines used to treat Crohn’s disease may cause symptoms that typically interfere with vitamin B12 absorption, such as diarrhea, vomiting, and acid reflux.
These medications often include anti-inflammatory drugs such as mesalamine medicines and immune system suppressors, such as Methotrexate (Rheumatrex).
Only vitamin B12 supplements that bypass the digestive system can provide the benefits of vitamin B12.
Left untreated, pernicious anemia from B12 deficiency can cause neurological damage, osteoporosis, and in extreme cases, death.
3- Gastrointestinal (GI) surgery
Any GI surgery that involves removal or reduction of the ileum results in vitamin B12 deficiency. In Crohn’s disease, resection surgeries such as ileostomy necessitate lifelong supplementation of prescribed vitamin B12 shots.
Similarly, gastric bypass patients can no longer digest vitamin B12 in the stomach, and must get vitamin B12 injections indefinitely.
Sometimes, even routine vitamin B12 shots don’t provide full relief from B12 deficiency symptoms like fatigue, depression, nerve pain, and brain fog.
In such cases, many opt for nonprescription OTC vitamin B12 for extra energy and mental stamina between vitamin B12 jabs.
4- Crohn’s and diet
People suffering from IBD (Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis) are required to follow restrictive diets excluding many foods that may irritate the digestive system. Fruits and vegetables that are uncooked may be red flag items, in addition to food sources of vitamin B12, such as meat, poultry, fish, milk, and eggs.
Additionally, stomachaches, nausea, and diarrhea make it hard for Crohn’s disease sufferers to eat nutritious, filling meals. As a result, people with Crohn’s often suffer from excess weight loss and malnourishment.
One of the leading types of malnourishment today is pernicious anemia from vitamin B12 deficiency.
Besides Crohn’s disease patients, other people at risk for vitamin B12 deficiency are:
- People who lack intrinsic factor (IF)
- Diabetics on metformin
- GERD patients using protein pump inhibitors (PPIs)
- Patients with secondary gastrointestinal symptoms, such as fibromyalgia, celiac disease, autism, or migraine sufferers
- Gastric bypass patients
- Elderly individuals
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