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Vitamin B12 is a vital water-soluble vitamin and is also called as cobalamin. It is responsible for the development of DNA and RBCs (Red Blood Cells). Vitamin B12 also helps the nervous system to work properly. B12 deficiency has become common these days.
There are various Vitamin B12 rich foods. Naturally, you can find Vitamin B12 in animal diets such as meats, poultry, eggs, fish, and dairy. However, you can also find it in some products boosted with Vitamin B12, like plant-based milk and some sort of bread.
Unfortunately, the deficiency of B12 is common in elderly people. With age, the absorption capacity of the human body decreases and the B12 deficiency becomes a common thing amongst elderly people. If you don’t get a proper amount of B12 from your diet, then you are also at risk for B12 deficiency.
Functions and Benefits of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 carries different functions in the body and provides many benefits. Some of the functions along with benefits are mentioned below:
- This vitamin converts composite carbohydrates into chains of glucose which are utilized by the cells to attain energy. This development benefits the metabolic process inside the human body and provides overall moreenergy to the body.
- Vitamin B12 helps the nervous system to precisely align with cognitive processes. This decreases the risk of developing serious neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s disease.
- Since Vitamin B12 is the major constituent of the diet which regulates the nervous system, it decreases the chances of developing any mood disorders like anxiety and depression.
- It decreases the harmful homocysteine levels in the body. The increased homocysteine levels harm the blood vessels. Thus, Vitamin B12 helps in maintaining a healthy cardiovascular system which means proper levels of Vitamin B12 in your body keeps your heart healthy.
- Vitamin B12 beautifies the skin and hair, it reduces the unhealthy signs like excessive dryness/oil, redness, and inflammation of the skin. When the proper amount of Vitamin B12 is consumed, strong follicles and reduced hair breakage is the result.
- The complex compounds are broken down into simpler and soluble ones. This makes them easily absorbable by the body and thus, improves the digestive processes.
- Vitamin B12 is beneficial for pregnant women. Because of its important role in DNA synthesis, Vitamin B12 makes sure that the baby’s development is healthy. Moreover, during the last months of pregnancy when the weight of expecting mothers increases drastically, it gives them strength to carry on with activities without getting too exhausted.
15 Signs and Symptoms of B12 Deficiency
Here are the true 15 signs and symptoms of B12 deficiency:
1. Fatigue and weakness
Fatigue and weakness are the commonest symptoms of B12 deficiency. They occur when your body lacks the proper amount of Vitamin B12 which makes RBCs (Red Blood Cells) responsible for transporting oxygen all through the body. Thus, insufficient levels of Vitamin B12 prevents efficient transportation of oxygen to the body’s cells, you feel weak and tired.
2. Pale Skin
The people with a vitamin B12 deficiency usually look pale. Moreover, the skin and eye’s white part of B12 deficient people bears a slightly yellow tinge. This condition is also known as jaundice and it happens when the deficiency of Vitamin B12 in a body creates problems in the production of red blood cells.
3. Changed Mobility
Another symptom of Vitamin B12 deficiency is alterations in the way someone moves and walks. Its deficiency damages the nervous system and when the problem remains untreated, changed mobility is the result. It might affect the person’s coordination and balance, making the person more prone to fall.
4. Memory Loss
Most people have a good memory but often forget small things like where they kept house keys, car keys, or even their spectacles. When this “forgetfulness” occurs daily, Vitamin B12 levels can be blamed. The deficiency of B12 might root a mild form of dementia resembling Alzheimer’s first stage.
5. Dizziness and Breathlessness
When people become anemic because of deficiency of Vitamin B12, they might feel shortness of breath and a little dizzy, especially when they exert themselves. The reason behind this is that deficiency of B12 decrease RBCs in the body and therefore, a proper amount of oxygen is not transported to the body’s cells.
6. Sensations of needles and pins
A long-term deficiency of B12 can cause nerve damage. Vitamin B12 helps in the production of myelin, a substance that surrounds the nerves as a protector and insulator. When B12 decreases in the body, myelin’s production is also affected and the nervous system does not function properly. A common sign to identify this is paresthesia or the sensations of needles and pins.
7. Mouth Ulcers and Glossitis
Some oral symptoms like mouth ulcers, feeling of needles and pins in the tongue or an itching and burning sensation inside the mouth signifies the deficiency of Vitamin B12. An inflamed tongue is known by the term Glossitis and in this condition, the shape and color of tongue changes, it becomes swollen, red and painful. This condition is also caused by B12 deficiency and it may alter the way someone speaks and eat.
8. Changes in mood
Another sign of B12 deficiency is mood changes. The lower levels of Vitamin B12 are related to the brain disorders such as dementia and depression. The B12 deficiency causes higher homocysteine levels which further damages the brain tissues and obstruct the brain signals, leading to changes in mood.
9. Improper vision
People with a disturbed or blurred vision are often deficient in Vitamin B12. This happens when the untreated deficiency of B12 damages the optic nerve leading to the eyes. This damage usually disrupts the nervous signals traveling from eyes to the brain, thereby impairing the vision. In medical terms, optic neuropathy is the term given to this severe condition.
10. Muscle weakness
If in the past,carrying heavy weights was an easy task but now failing to lift even a little weight simply, this suggests that the person has weak muscles and the reason for this might be the B12 deficiency. The insufficient levels of Vitamin B12 hinder the transportation of sufficient oxygen to muscles (because of bad RBC count), thereby making it hard to perform simple everyday tasks.
11. Stomach Problems
Even after maintaining a healthy diet if someone experiences bloating or diarrhea, the chances are that absorption of Vitamin B12 in the body is improper. The gastrointestinal tract’s cells do not receive sufficient oxygen and thus, a lot of digestive problems such as constipation, gas, loss of appetite, weight loss, and diarrhea are caused.
12. Spinal cord problems
Vitamin B12 is essential for proper functioning of the nervous system. The deficiency of B12 causes problems in the spinal cord such as a disease known as sub-acute combined degeneration of the spinal cord i.e., protective substance myelin starts missing from some areas of the spine which controls balance, moment, and sensation.
13. Swollen gums
Swollen gums or bleeding gums can also be a sign of B12 deficiency. Some obvious signs are sore, painful gums which bleed every time floss or brush is done. In some people, gingivitis (a disease of the gums) is also caused by B12 deficiency. A persistent redness and soreness of gums also signify a deficiency of B12.
14. Heart Palpitations
Various processes in the human body happen because of Vitamin B12. For example, it brings out energy from nutrients in the food, helps in the production of some amino acids and further in generating hemoglobin. Hemoglobin transports the oxygen into the bloodstream and of course, to the heart. During the deficiency of B12, the flow of oxygen to the tissues is diminished and it causes heart palpitations.
15. High Temperature
One of the rarest symptoms of B12 deficiency is increased temperature. The reason behind increased temperature is still not known but there are some doctors who say that the cases of high temperature (fever) get normalized when treated for Vitamin B12 deficiency. However, it is important to note that a high temperature is often caused by some illness, not by the deficiency of Vitamin B12.
Treatment of B12 deficiency
If people regularly eat a balanced diet, they won’t become deficient in B12. The vegetarians, older people, and people with conditions affecting their Vitamin B12 absorption capability from foods are given B12 supplements to normalize the level of Vitamin B12 in their body.
In severe cases when the deficiency causes anemia, people are given Vitamin B12 injections and in rare cases, doctors suggest to go for blood transfusions.
Home remedies to cure a B12 deficiency
The best home remedy to treat Vitamin B12 deficiency is to take a diet rich in Vitamin B12. To get rid of B12 deficiency, one should consume good sources of B12 such as meat, salmon, cod, eggs, milk and other dairy products. The vegetarians can take yeast extract, soy products, and some enhanced breakfast cereals to improve the levels of Vitamin B12 in their body.
The deficiency of Vitamin B12 is a common thing and can be present in different ways in a body, making it hard to identify. If you have any of these symptoms, you should talk to your doctor so that any risk of diseases caused by Vitamin B12 can be avoided.