Causes and Prevention of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The body needs vitamin B-12 for a range of bodily functions, which include making red blood cells. Being deficient in vitamin B-12 causes physical and psychological symptoms, including nerve problems, fatigue, and difficulty thinking.
Most vitamin B-12 deficiency symptoms occur due to a lack of red blood cells, which means that the body does not get enough oxygen. The body’s oxygen supply is crucial for many aspects of health.
As with other nutrients, the best way for most people to get vitamin B-12 is in the diet. If a person cannot get enough from their usual diet, fortified foods and other dietary supplements may help.
In most cases, doctors can treat vitamin B-12 deficiency. However, people with long-term deficiency may have long-lasting effects, such as nerve damage.
Spotting the signs of vitamin B-12 deficiency early on and getting the right treatment can improve a person’s outlook.
Even if a person gets enough vitamin B-12 in their diet, some underlying health conditions can affect the absorption of vitamin B-12 in the gut.
These conditions include:
The following factors make a person more likely to have a vitamin B-12 deficiency:
- being older, because a person becomes less able to absorb B-12 as they age
- eating a vegetarian or vegan diet
- taking anti-acid medication for an extended period
- weight loss surgery or other stomach surgery, which can affect how the digestive system absorbs vitamin B-12
Treatment and prevention
Most people can get enough vitamin B-12 from dietary sources. For those who cannot, a doctor may prescribe or recommend B-12 supplements. People can also get B-12 supplements from drug stores or choose between brands online.
Most multivitamins contain vitamin B-12. People can take B-12 supplements in the form of oral tablets, sublingual tablets that dissolve under the tongue, or injections. A doctor can provide advice on the correct dosage of this vitamin.
People who have trouble absorbing vitamin B-12 may need shots of the vitamin to treat their deficiency.
A doctor can advise people on the best way to prevent vitamin B-12 deficiency, depending on their dietary choices and health.