Vitamin B12 is arguably the body’s most important B vitamin because it wards off fatigue, keeps nerves and blood cells healthy and helps to make DNA. Indeed, its contribution becomes stark if you fall short of the required amount. Signs of low B12 can produce nerve problems, neurological effects and gastrointestinal symptoms.
According to the article published in the AMA Journal of Ethics, one gastrointestinal symptom associated with low B12 levels is cheilosis.
Cheilosis is a condition whereby the corners of the mouth become inflamed, which can lead to cracking and pain at the corners of the mouth.
This can lead to scaling, bleeding, and ulceration at the corners of the mouth.
Other gastrointestinal symptoms include diarrhoea, constipation and weight loss.
According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, experiencing neurological problems suggests your B12 deficiency has become severe.
Typical warning signs include confusion, dementia, depression, and memory loss.
What should I do if I recognise these symptoms?
According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia.
“These conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test,” explains the health body.
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It’s also important to get B12 deficiency symptoms checked out as soon as possible.
As the NHS warns, some symptoms, such as neurological problems, can be irreversible if left untreated.
“The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage,” it adds.
Am I at risk of B12 deficiency?
There are two main risk factors for low B12 levels – dietary decisions and pernicious anaemia.
Pernicious anaemia is an autoimmune disease that prevents the body from making intrinsic factor – a protein made by the stomach and needed to absorb vitamin B12 in the intestine.
Those strictly following a vegan or vegetarian diet are at higher risk of B12 deficiency because B12 is naturally found in meat, fish and dairy products.
You can find B12 in fortified products, such as yeast extract, however, notes the NHS.
How to treat B12 deficiency
The treatment for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia depends on what’s causing the condition.
Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia (lower red blood cell count) is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.
There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:
“If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals,” says the NHS.
According to the health body, people who find it difficult to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, such as those following a vegan diet, may need vitamin B12 tablets for life.
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