What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is one of the eight B vitamins, that is water-soluble, the largest, and structurally most complex vitamin. It is naturally found in animal foods and several dairy products. Also, some varieties of bread and plant-based milk are fortified with B12.
What are the primary functions of B12 in the body?
· RBC production
The water-soluble vitamin helps in the development of red blood cells (RBC) in the bone marrow.
B12 plays a vital role in the production of the DNA that helps in making red blood cells. In the absence of B12, the instructions for building the cells are incomplete.
· Proper functioning of the nervous system
B12 also plays a crucial role in the production of myelin, an insulating layer which is responsible for the smooth operation of the nervous system by allowing electrical impulses to transmit quickly.
What are the best sources of B12?
While vegans obtain B12 from supplements and foods like fortified cereals and nutritional yeast, non-vegans get it from animal foods such as fish, eggs, milk, and other dairy products – which are considered to be the best source of B12.
What if you don’t consume enough B12?
This leads to B12 deficiency, which may cause a lot of health problems. People who are at risk of B12 deficiency include the elder ones, people who are on drugs, strictly vegans, or those who have undergone stomach surgeries. However, there are some well-known causes of deficiency, such as:
· Pernicious anaemia
A disease in which insufficient red blood cells are produced which makes it difficult for the body to absorb the vitamin. Moreover, the intrinsic factor caused by the loss of gastric parietal cells could be another reason for the condition.
· Stomach surgery
Surgeries that involve removal of part of the stomach is one of the major causes of deficiency.
· Dietary deficiency
Your body cannot produce B12, so it must be obtained from the diet. So, insufficient B12 intake is another cause of its inadequacy.
· Overgrowth of bacteria
When the bacteria grow excessively inside the small intestine, it may result in rapid consumption of the vitamin leaving little to no micronutrients for the rest of the body.
Symptoms and diagnosis
Unfortunately, determining the symptoms beforehand is difficult, which makes diagnosing the deficiency quite complex. However, there are certain signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency:
· Pale or jaundiced skin
The foremost sign of a B12 deficiency is a pale look and development of a slight yellowish tinge on the skin, which occurs in jaundice. This happens because your body is unable to produce red blood cells (RBC) in the absence of B12.
· Weakness and fatigue
B12 is responsible for transporting oxygen throughout the body. In the absence of which, you are likely to experience weakness and fatigue which can also be caused by insufficient RBC production.
· Breathlessness and dizziness
Weakness can further lead you to feel short of breath and dizzy. However, these symptoms can have many other issues, so speaking to your doctor is advisable.
· Disturbed vision
One of the severe symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency is blurred or disturbed vision. Usually, this arises due to an untreated deficiency that damages the optic nerve which is connected to your eyes. It is for this reason that the nervous signal couldn’t travel from your eye to the brain leaving the vision impaired.
· Mood swings
If you are experiencing mood changes quite often, then there are chances of B12 deficiency in your body. In fact, low levels of B12 are also linked to depression and dementia.
· High temperature
One of the rare signs of B12 deficiency is rising temperature. Though it is unclear why this occurs, physicians have reported cases that prove it. This symptom is probably the least to be worried about.
What are the treatments available for the deficiency?
· B12 supplements injections
Though oral supplements are widely available, they are not very effective, which is why vitamin B12 may be injected in regular doses.
· B12 rich foods
Recommended amounts of vitamin B12 can be obtained from items like poultry, fish, eggs, milk, and other dairy products. Make sure to check the product labels for the presence of B12.
You now know the basics of vitamin B12 deficiency. But don’t forget to consult your doctor regarding your symptoms, and don’t diagnose yourself based on what you find on the web!