Find out all you need to know about Vitamin B12 deficiency and how to prevent it.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is a common issue that so little of us are aware of, however untreated it can lead to severe health problems both physical and mental. Fortunately altering your diet so that you consume enough healthy foods that are rich in B12 vitamins can help to reduce the chances of suffering from vitamin b12 deficiency.
What are B12 Vitamins?
B12 Vitamin is one of eight different B vitamins that help to promote normal brain and nervous system functioning. It also helps the formation of the red blood cells as well as playing a key role in the construction of the DNA synthesis.
B12 is not naturally produced in the human body and so we have to obtain the vitamin from eating certain foods or taking supplements.
Where Can B12 Vitamins Be Found?
Vitamin B12 can be found in many animal-based foods such as eggs, milk, cheese, meat, poultry and fish (particularly shellfish such as clams, crab and oysters).
After animal-based products, there are not many sources of vitamin B12 however it can be found in certain fortified foods such as breakfast cereals, energy bars and some soy products such as Silken Tofu. These products can all be purchased in health food stores.
You don’t have to opt for fortified foods to get your B12, it can also be naturally found in healthy foods such as chia seeds, alfalfa and aloe vera. Most health food stores would stock these products.
How Likely Is It That You Might Have Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B12 Deficiency has been regarded as a ‘silent epidemic’ because of its severe symptoms if goes untreated. Moreover, it is believed that one in ten people in the UK suffers from B12 deficiency, however, this number is only an estimate as the deficiency commonly goes undiagnosed.
The symptoms of b12 deficiency go further than physical problems and move into mental issues such as:
What Can Cause Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
There are a number of reasons that might lead to B12 deficiency including:
Lack of vitamin B12 in your diet: This occurs if you follow a vegan diet because vitamin B12 more commonly occurs in animal-based foods. However, this can also be the cause of B12 deficiency if you generally have a bad diet. Vegans are advised to take supplements or eat alternative foods that contain B12 to ensure they get a suffice amount of the vitamin in their diet.
Pernicious Anaemia: A type of B12 anaemia, pernicious anaemia occurs when healthy cells in the stomach are attacked by the immune system. When this happens your body is unable to absorb vitamin B12 into your system. The absorption of vitamin B12 is quite complex and so this is one of the most common reasons as to why vitamin B12 deficiency occurs in patients in the UK.
Medication: There are certain medications that can affect or prevent the absorption of certain vitamins and nutrients, one of which is an anticonvulsant medication or PPIs (proton pump inhibitors).
The groups that are most commonly at risk of B12 Deficiency are as follows:
How is Vitamin B12 Treated?
If you think that you might have vitamin B12 deficiency, it is best that you speak to your GP where they can give you a blood test. If you do have B12 deficiency, your GP will give you a series of injections to boost your vitamin B12 levels. Afterwards, you may be required to take a daily dose of B12 tablets to keep the level up, if not you will have to continuously take regular injections. Depending on the severity of the deficiency you may have to take the tablets or injections for the rest of your life.
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