Vitamins are very important for us. They are the building blocks of good health, like an insurance for maintaining and bettering your health. One of the most important vitamins is B12, which performs a lot of small wonders. Vitamin B12 helps generate DNA and red blood cells, as well as other important tasks. Therefore, it’s important to include this essential vitamin in our diet. If you are lacking B12 intake, it’s important to know why, what the signs and symptoms are, how to treat the deficiency and other information. To learn more, feel free to read this article.
Vitamin B12: What is It?
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Vitamin B12 belongs to the vitamin B complex group. It is the only vitamin which contains the element cobalt, which is why it is also known as cobalamin. The essential vitamin actually comes in many forms, and in many names including cobamide and cobinamide. Furthermore, unlike some other vitamins derived from various animal and plant sources, vitamin B12 may only come from the guts of animals. While this makes it hard to obtain from either plants of sunlight, minute microorganisms such as algae, yeast and bacteria may also produce it.
Vitamin B12 is actually water soluble, which allows it to play a vital role in ensuring a properly functioning nervous system and brain. It also works with the folate in DNA and red blood cell synthesis and plays a part in the creation of myelin sheath around the nerves and in the conduction of nerve impulses.
We know that our body uses up most water soluble vitamins and eliminateswhat’s left of them through the urine. However, vitamin B12 is storable in the liver for up to 5 years.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The lack of vitamin B12, or vitamin B12 deficiency, is more common than you’d think. It is actually often characterized by a low blood level of vitamin B12, a fairly regular discovery in vegans and vegetarians. This is mainly because they don’t eat meat, a prime source of the vitamin.
Diagnosing the condition is quite easy, because it can easily be discovered through a physical examination. The main signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency are an accelerated pulse and the sudden discoloration of the skin. A blood test can be done to see if the red blood cells are low, as the presence of the red blood cells is used to perceive if the person is in good shape or not.
4 Stages of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Here are the four (4) stages of deficiency in vitamin B12:
- Deteriorating levels of vitamin B12 in the body
- Low vitamin B12 cellular concentrations
- Increase in the homocysteine level in the blood and a decrease in the rate of DNA synthesis
- Onset of macrocytic anemia.
Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
There are several factors which may contribute to the onset of the condition. Some of these include:
- Nitrous oxide exposure
- Bacterial infection
- Lingering alcoholism
- Insufficient acid in our stomach
- Bowel difficulty
- Vegan or vegetarian diet
- Lack of glycoprotein
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Here are some of the most common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency:
- Menstrual problems
- Heart palpitations
- Difficulty swallowing
- Chronic fatigue
- Decrease in blood clotting
- Disorientation or memory loss
- Constipation or diarrhea
- Light headedness, tiredness and weakness
- Inflamed and swollen tongue
- Pale skin
- Upset stomach
- Weight loss
- Rapid breathing and heartbeat
- Difficulty walking
- Numbness in the toes and fingers
- Confusion and forgetfulness
Treatments for Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Here are some of the most effective treatments for vitamin B12 deficiency:
Blood transfusion. This is given to the patient in the first couple of days, until they can take injections.
Oral supplements. This is one of the most recommended treatments for vitamin B12 deficiency. Patients who don’t want injections as treatments may take oral supplements. However, this must be under the supervision of a physician.
Injections. Those patients who suffer from a severe deficiency get 5-7 injections in their first week. This is to restore their body’s reserves of vitamin B12.
Oral antibiotics. Oral antibiotics, like tetracycline, can be beneficial in treating a vitamin B12 deficiency caused by an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria. This will not just help stop the overgrowth of the bacteria, but it may also help with normal absorption of the vitamin.
Dietary changes. Changing your diet plan may help get rid of the deficiency. Usually, dairy products, meat and milk are a good addition to the diet, as they are all rich in vitamin B12.