Just like all other vitamins, vitamin B12 is essential for the normal functioning of our body. It is important for the functioning of the brain, the nervous system, the cardiovascular system, and the formation of red blood cells. It aids our metabolism, immunity system and helps in forming DNA. Vitamin B12 is known to foster good bacteria in the gut to aid digestion.
It is interesting to note that vitamin B12 is found only in animal products like dairy, eggs and meat.
So, a lot can go wrong if we have low levels of Vitamin B12. If such deficiency is left undiagnosed or untreated, some symptoms may become apparent. Here are a few of them:
- Pale skin
- Poor memory and inability to concentrate
- Mood fluctuations like anxiety or depression
- Light-headedness or feeling dizzy
- Loss of appetite and digestive problems like constipation, gas etc.
- A coated and smooth surfaced tongue (without ridges)
- Shortness of breath and irregular heart beat
- Muscle weakness and joint aches
- Nerve problems
- Vision loss
If you think you have any of the above symptoms, it is advisable to visit your doctor and have your blood tested for B12 deficiency. If deficiency remains untreated, it can cause irreversible damage to the nerves, may cause memory loss and disorientation. If diagnosed and treated early, many of the symptoms can be reversed.
Who are at a risk of developing B12 deficiency?
- Elderly people are at a greater risk as they tend to produce lesser amounts of stomach acids which is needed for vitamin B12 absorption.
- Vegans and vegetarians are more likely to develop the deficiency as they lack vitamin B12 in their diet.
- Babies born to vegan mothers are also prone to B12 deficiency.
- Alcoholics and smokers
Pernicious anemia is one of the causes for developing B12 deficiency. It is an auto-immune condition where the body does not produce a protein called intrinsic factor. This protein is essential to absorb B12 from food through the gastrointestinal tract.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can be rectified and its symptoms reversed if treated early. Doctors may choose treatment depending on the cause of the deficiency.
The deficiency can be treated with vitamin B12 supplements in the form of tablets, injections or simply by consuming B12 rich food like eggs and meat.
Vitamin B12 is water-soluble and it needs to be replenished regularly. Here is a list of B12 rich food that you may include in your regular diet:
- Chicken eggs
- Dairy products like cheese, yogurt
- Beef and chicken liver
- Fish like mackerel, herring, tuna and sardines
- Fortified soya products
- Fortified cereals
- Shellfish and crabs
Diet is a huge part of staying healthy and eating a poorly planned diet can lead to deficiencies. At One Life, we have a team of qualified dieticians to help and support you in your journey towards a healthier and happier life.