What you need to know about Vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12

Vitamin deficiency anemia occurs where there is a lack of healthy red blood cells which is caused by lower than normal amounts of certain vitamins. Vitamins that are linked to vitamin deficiency anemia include folate, vitamin B-12 and vitamin C. Vitamin deficiency anemia can also occur if your body has trouble absorbing or processing these vitamins. Almost fifteen percent of the U.S. population has vitamin B12 deficiency. 

B vitamins are important because they maintain our nerves and brain cells and are used up in converting food into energy in the body. Salmon, among other fish, is a great source of omega 3 fatty acids and B vitamins. It's important that your diet has a heavy amount of B12. It's especially important if one suffers from anxiety and can have trouble sleeping. Serotonin is vital in the regulation of mood, appetite and sleep. 

Vitamin B12 generates DNA and red blood cells. A vitamin B12 deficiency may start as fatigue, weight loss, constipation, and loss of appetite. If not treated, lack of vitamin B12 can lead to nerve damage, tingling and weakness in hands and feet, problems with balance, confusion, and depression. This type of deficiency causes anemia in the body, which means the body doesn't have enough red blood cells. People over 65 and vegans are more likely to develop vitamin B12 deficiency, since animal products are where most of the vitamin comes from. 

Certain conditions include Crohn's disease, celiac disease, pernicious anemia, alcoholism and make it hard for the body to absorb enough of the vitamin. Lack of this essential vitamin can cause fatigue, and even in some severe cases paralysis and nerve damage.  Treatment with a balanced diet or B12 supplements or shots brings levels back to normal.

What causes a vitamin B12 deficiency? There are a number of things that may cause a vitamin B12 deficiency including: atrophic gastritis, in which your stomach lining has thinned, pernicious anemia, which makes it hard for your body to absorb vitamin B12, surgery that removed part of your stomach or small intestine, including weight loss surgery, conditions affecting the small intestine, such as Crohn's disease, celiac disease, bacterial growth, or a parasite, heavy drinking, immune system disorders, such as Graves' disease or lupus, and long-term use of acid-reducing drugs. Stomach acids help break down animal proteins that have vitamin B12.

Depending on what causes low levels of vitamin B12, treatment may include eating a more balanced diet, vitamin B12 supplements, vitamin B12 injections, and avoiding alcohol.