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Posts Tagged ‘What is B12 deficiency’

If Vitamin B12 Deficiency Mimics Multiple Sclerosis, How do you tell the Difference?

Thursday, January 12th, 2012



Many studies show similarities between the symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency and multiple sclerosis (MS).  There is also a very high rate of B12 deficiency among people diagnosed with MS.  How, then, does one differentiate between pernicious anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency) and multiple sclerosis?


What is MS?

Multiple sclerosis is a disease that affects your central nervous system- your brain and spinal cord.  It typically strikes young adults between the ages of 20-40, most of them women.  

The exact cause of MS is unknown, but most scientists believe it is an autoimmune disorder.  With multiple sclerosis, an autoimmune reaction attacks myelin, a fatty substance that insulates your nerve fibers responsible for transmitting messages to the rest of your body.  

Signs of demyelination are random lesions, or plaques (sclerosis) in the brain and spinal cord, in multiple areas, thus the term “multiple sclerosis.”

What is B12 deficiency?

Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs when your body is unable to maintain sufficient stores of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) in the blood.  There are several reasons this may happen, such as not eating food sources of vitamin B12 (meat, fish, and milk), or having a gastrointestinal disorder that interferes with vitamin B12 absorption. 

With pernicious anemia (PA), your body cannot make intrinsic factor (IF), a protein necessary for digesting vitamin B12, due to an autoimmune disorder.  

Among its many other benefits, vitamin B12 is essential for building up the fatty myelin sheath.  One of the symptoms of PA is demyelination, the same type of brain damage that occurs with MS.

*Multiple sclerosis and vitamin B12 deficiency- pernicious anemia are both autoimmune disorders.

*Multiple sclerosis and vitamin B12 deficiency-pernicious anemia both involve damage to the nervous system’s myelin sheath.

What are the symptoms of multiple sclerosis?

The earliest symptoms of MS may include:

  • Muscular weakness in one or more limbs
  • Tingling or numbness
  • Loss of balance
  • Vision problems or eye pain
  • Slurred speech

As the disease advances, symptoms worsen, including:

  • Chronic fatigue, despite getting plenty of rest and not overexerting yourself
  • Hypersensitivity to heat, such as hot showers or baths
  • Muscular spasms in the legs and arms
  • Bladder or bowel control problems
  • Lightheadedness, or vertigo caused by nerve damage
  • Cognitive impairment- “brain fog,” slowed thinking, lack of concentration, or memory loss
  • Vision problems- blurring or graying of vision, or temporary blindness in one eye
  • Painful “pins and needles” sensations, numbness, itching, or burning
  • Speech and swallowing problems caused by damaged nerves
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty walking without stumbling, caused by muscle weakness, spasticity, or loss of balance from vertigo
  • Paralysis

What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?

The most common symptoms of B12 deficiency and pernicious anemia are:

  • Chronic fatigue
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Paranoia
  • Aggressive behavior
  • Painful “pins and needles” or numbness in hands and feet
  • Sore, swollen red tongue
  • Burning mouth sensation
  • Difficulty walking without stumbling
  • Short-term memory loss
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • “Brain fog”
  • Shortness of breath

*Multiple sclerosis and vitamin B12 deficiency-pernicious anemia both cause nerve damage, including painful tingling or numbness in the hands and feet and impaired gait.

*Multiple sclerosis and vitamin B12 deficiency-pernicious anemia both cause cognitive impairment, like brain fog, memory loss, and low concentration.

Which tests diagnose multiple sclerosis?

There is more than one test used to confirm MS, and your doctor will need to use the process of elimination to exclude other illnesses.  Some common tests and indicators are:

  • MRI scan indicating at least two incidences myelin damage- scar tissue (lesions)
  • Neurological exams
  • Blood tests
  • Spinal tap
  • Evoked potentials, an electrical test of your nervous impulses

Which tests diagnose vitamin B12 deficiency?

Only one test is required to diagnose vitamin B12 deficiency- a blood test indicating low blood serum levels of vitamin B12.  Patients of pernicious anemia require routine blood tests in order to monitor their B12 levels.

What’s the best treatment for multiple sclerosis?

There is no cure for MS, but various medications are helpful for dealing with the symptoms.

  • Some prescribed medicines work by controlling your body’s autoimmune response, thus reducing the frequency and severity of MS symptoms.
  • Deep brain stimulation (DBS) is a controversial surgery used to treat debilitating tremors in people with MS. Complications may include paralysis, loss of vision, or loss of speech.
  • Alternative medicine options that benefits MS patients include physical therapy, exercise like yoga or tai chi, acupuncture, aromatherapy, meditation, massage, and vitamin supplementation.

What’s the best treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency?

There are many kinds of B12 supplements on the market, but it’s important to be certain if you are able to digest vitamin B12 in the stomach. If you lack intrinsic factor, or if you’ve had gastrointestinal surgery like gastric bypass, then you will not benefit from dietary forms of vitamin B12.

  • Physicians normally prescribe a series of B12 shots for patients with pernicious anemia.  These vitamin B12 injections require a prescription, and not all health care providers cover extensive supplementation of vitamin B12 shots.
  • Sublingual vitamin B12 pills that dissolve under the tongue are another option, although they are not very effective, and they often require dosages of three times per day.

Read more about vitamin B12 symptoms:

Vitamin B12 Deficiency- 4 Causes, 1 Solution

Absorbing Vitamin B12, a Metabolic Gastrointestinal Journey

Sore Burning Tongue, Dry Mouth, and Weird Tastes- What’s the Cause?


Multiple sclerosis

Vitamin B12, demyelination, remyelination and repair in multiple sclerosis

WebMD Multiple Sclerosis Guide – Better Information for Better Health

Vitamin B12 and your Bones- Osteoporosis from B12 Deficiency

Monday, November 7th, 2011



Did you know that Vitamin B12 is one of the most important vitamins for bones? Osteoporosis is one of many illnesses triggered by vitamin B12 deficiency. Studies prove that elderly individuals who maintain high levels of vitamin B12 are less likely to suffer from fractured or broken bones than those who neglect to supplement with vitamin B12 shots.

What is the cause of osteoporosis?


Osteoporosis happens with age for millions of Americans- there exist many factors that cause loss of bone mass, brittle bones, and other symptoms of osteoporosis.  Low calcium absorption is one cause of broken bones and fractured hips in old age, but other causes include:

  • Estrogen deficiency in women
  • Testosterone deficiency in men
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Smoking and alcohol use
  • Vitamin deficiency, including calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12

What is B12 deficiency?


Vitamin B12 deficiency occurs from neglecting to eat a diet rich in sources of vitamin B12, such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs, and milk, but it can occur if your body is unable to extract vitamin B12 from foods that you eat.  Such is the case for millions of individuals, either because

  • (a) they lack “intrinsic factor,” a protein required for digesting vitamin B12 naturally from foods
  • (b) because of drug interactions, such as metformin for diabetes, or
  • (c) because of post-gastrectomy complications that resulted in pernicious anemia.

(Read Vitamin B12 deficiency after Bariatric Surgery Weight Loss)

    What are the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency?

    Unless treated, B12 deficiency causes red blood cell depletion, neurological damage, dementia, osteoporosis, malnourishment, and increased risk for heart attack, stroke.

    Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are:

    • Depression
    • Memory loss
    • Anxiety
    • Psychosis
    • Numbness and tingling sensations in hands and feet
    • Muscular feebleness
    • Frequent stumbling
    • Altered taste perception
    • Red, swollen tongue
    • Unusually pale complexion

    What do studies say about the benefits of vitamin B12?

    In a study conducted by Tufts University that focused on low-plasma vitamin B12 and bone mineral density (BMD), researchers found that men who had the lowest levels of B12 in their blood also had the lowest bone mineral density, particularly in their hipbones.  Similarly, women who suffered vitamin B12 deficiency exhibited severely low BMD in their spine.

    They concluded that vitamin B12 deficiency is a significant risk factor for osteoporosis, which explains why the loss of bone mass occurs so frequently among the elderly:

    As you age, your body produces fewer stomach acids needed for digesting vitamins and minerals.

    As a result, many senior citizens develop vitamin deficiencies, including B12 deficiency.  Since they are unable to absorb B12 through the digestive system, they must therefore deposit it directly into the bloodstream.

    Another study by the University of Michigan recognized severe osteoporosis as correlating strongly with pernicious anemia-vitamin B12 deficiency.


    What are the best vitamins for osteoporosis?

    It is crucial to eat a diet rich in all essential vitamins and minerals, in addition to taking regular vitamin supplements.  The best vitamins for bones are vitamin D and vitamin B12.

    If you suspect you have vitamin B12 deficiency, then ask your doctor for a blood test.  If diagnosed, then you will require routine vitamin B12 supplements until your B12 levels are back to normal.

    Read more about preventing vitamin B12 deficiency:

    Absorbing Vitamin B12, a Metabolic Gastrointestinal Journey

    Nine Healthiest Canned Foods: Many Contain Vitamin B12

    Pregnancy and B12 Deficiency


    Fight Osteoporosis: Bone Up On B12

    Low plasma vitamin B12 is associated with lower BMD: the Framingham Osteoporosis Study- PubMed NCBI

    Reversal of severe osteoporosis with vitamin B12 and etidronate therapy in a patient with pernicious anemia- PubMed NCBI

    Post-Gastrectomy Syndrome Overview- Cleveland Clinic

    What Causes Osteoporosis? And Why?

    Image credits, from top:

    starpause kid, Idea go, Paul, Carlos Porto

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