The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can impair a wide range of bodily functions, including your neurological, metabolic, and emotional health. Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms may vary for each individual, but the most common symptoms are consistent with the level of vitamin B12 (cobalamin) depletion. Here are some warning signs that may indicate the earliest or most advanced stages of vitamin B12 deficiency, including pernicious anemia.
What is vitamin B12 deficiency?
A vitamin deficiency is what occurs anytime your body doesn’t have enough of a nutrient that it needs in order to fulfill your basic needs. Vitamin B12 deficiency is one such type of malnourishment that is sometimes caused by diet, but can also result from other factors, such as autoimmune disorder, medications, illness, or surgical procedures. Of all forms of malnourishment, vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms are the most common in the US.
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What causes vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 occurs naturally in all animal-based foods. If you regularly include plenty of meat, poultry, fish, eggs, and milk in your diet, then you probably won’t develop symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, as your body is able to store several years’ worth of vitamin B12 in the liver at one time. If you are a vegan, then you must supplement with vitamin B12 regularly, in order to prevent vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms.
Even if you are a meat-eater, you may still be at risk for suffering a slow depletion of vitamin B12. People with a family history for pernicious anemia, a condition sometimes caused by autoimmune disorders, should check their vitamin B12 levels regularly, in addition to looking out for symptoms indicating vitamin B12 deficiency.
Also, if you regularly suffer gastrointestinal problems, such as diarrhea, vomiting, acid reflux, or stomach ulcers, then you may need to replenish your vitamin B12 levels. Illnesses such as Crohn’s disease, migraines, celiac disease, fibromyalgia, and chronic fatigue syndrome are all high risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms.
Patients of gastric bypass surgery or ileostomy should also be on the alert for warning symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, as removal of the ileum interferes with vitamin B12 absorption.
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Why you need vitamin B12
The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency manifest themselves in many areas of the body, as vitamin B12 is crucial for a wide range of biochemical functions.
- Vitamin B12 protects your nervous system by maintaining healthy myelin, a coating that encases each nerve cell, enhancing intercellular communication and preserving nerve cell integrity.
- Vitamin B12 also regulates DNA synthesis, in supporting formation of healthy red blood cells.
- Vitamin B12 increases stamina, as it aids in converting carbohydrates into usable energy.
- Vitamin B12 also promotes cognitive health, as it helps to delay the onset of dementia caused by old age.
Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms
Here is a short list of the most common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, ranging in order from the mild deficiency to severe depletion.
- Short-term memory loss
- Chronic fatigue
- Painful tingling in the hands and feet
- Numbness in the extremities
- Facial twitching
- Confusion (“brain fog”)
- Sore red tongue
- Burning mouth syndrome
- Sleep problems
- Vision problems
- Restless leg syndrome
- Muscular weakness
- Poor hand-eye coordination
- Difficulty walking without stumbling
- Difficulty balancing on one foot
- Impaired control of arm and leg muscles
- Difficulty swallowing
- Difficulty controlling bladder or bowel movements
- Severe physical handicaps involving mobility
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