Vitamin B12, or cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin crucial in various bodily functions. It is necessary for the formation of red blood cells, proper neurological function, and DNA synthesis. However, because your body doesn’t produce it naturally, you must consume it regularly, either through your diet or supplements, to maintain a healthy balance of vitamin B12.
Unfortunately, many people may not know they are deficient in this essential nutrient as symptoms appear slowly and can be confused with other medical issues such as fatigue, memory problems, and joint pain. However, it is essential to understand that B12 deficiency can cause long-term damage if left untreated. So, in this article, we will discuss some of the most common signs of B12 deficiency, including numbness or tingling in your hands and feet, difficulty walking or balancing, memory loss, mental confusion, and even dementia.
Most people can get the amount of vitamin B12 they need through a balanced diet, mainly if they include meat and dairy products. However, those who do not consume animal products or adhere to a vegan diet will have to be more careful about their intake of this vitamin as it can be difficult for the body to absorb. In addition, those who suffer from chronic gastrointestinal conditions such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD) may have trouble absorbing this vital nutrient.
Similarly, those who have undergone surgery such as gastric bypass or a stomach removal procedure such as gastrectomy are more at risk of developing this condition as they will have reduced absorption. Stomach infections such as atrophic gastritis, infection with Helicobacter pylori bacteria, or genetic conditions that affect the production of intrinsic factors can also cause vitamin B12 deficiency.
Additionally, some medications can impact your body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12. This includes proton pump inhibitors such as Prilosec (omeprazole) and Prevacid (lansoprazole), as well as histamine H2 receptor agonists like Zantac (citalopram) and Pepcid (phenylethylamine).
The good news is that most cases of B12 deficiency are treatable. This is because your doctor can prescribe a dose of this vital nutrient through tablets, injections, or liquids to correct the problem. In some instances, it is also recommended that you have regular GI screening to monitor your B12 levels and identify any issues early on. This can help you avoid more severe and life-threatening complications in the future, such as erectile dysfunction or permanent nerve damage.