Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to reduced red blood cell production in the body. A lack of the vitamin results in the body struggling to make enough red blood cells, and those that are made can be abnormally large with a shorter lifespan. If the body doesn’t make enough red blood cells then tissues and organs can become deprived of oxygen, which can trigger the symptoms associated with vitamin B12 deficiency.
Three symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency that could be overlooked are constipation, bad breath and blurry vision
Feeling extremely tired is one of the most well-known symptoms linked to the condition, but there are three others to note, which could easily be overlooked.
According to the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, constipation can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency.
This is because the digestive tract can be impacted if a person is deficient in vitamin B12.
Your digestive health relies on the healthy function of your stomach, small and large intestines, the colon and the rectum, and these tissues rely on B vitamins.
Low intake of vitamin B12 affects the digestive tract, and a severe deficiency paralyses the muscle tissue in the lining of the digestive tract, hindering intestinal function.
Constipation is defined by the NHS as not having had a poo at least three times in a week.
The poo is often difficult to push out and larger than usual, and the poo is often dry, hard or lumpy.
Another warning sign of the condition is bad breath, according to Dr Craig Maxwell from the Integrative Medical Center in the US.
A deficiency in vitamin B12 causes the number of enzymes that help with digestion to decrease in the bloodstream.
This then increases the amount of waste in the blood, which has the potential to cause bad breath.
“Poor diet can contribute to the development of the gastrointestinal and oral health problems that cause bad breath,” said Maxwell.
“A diet based primarily on junk food may also contribute to nutritional deficiencies. Vitamin B12 deficiency, for example, can cause bad breath.
“The best natural cure, in this case, is a wholesome, nutrient-rich diet of organic vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, meat, poultry, wild-caught fish, eggs, and healthy fats like coconut oil, avocado, and olive oil.”
Blurry vision can occur when untreated B12 deficiency causes nervous system damage to the optic nerve that leads to your eyes.
This was the finding of a study titled ‘B12 deficiency with neurological manifestations in the absence of anaemia’.
The damage can play havoc on the nervous signal that travels from the eye to the brain, therefore impairing vision.
Optic neuropathy is the medical term for this condition.
How to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency
Adults aged 19 to 64 require around 1.5 micrograms (mg) a day of vitamin B12, and you should be able to get this through your diet.
Certain foods are better sources of vitamin B12 than others.
Here are five:
- Clams – three ounces contains 84mcg of B12
- Liver – three ounces contains 70.7mcg of B12
- Fortified cereal – one cup contains 6mcg of B12
- Beef – three ounces contains 1.5mcg of B12
- Egg – one large egg contains 0.6mcg of B12
- Nonfat plain greek yoghurt – six ounces contains 1.3mcg of B12
Who is most at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency?
The NHS Trusts explains who’s most at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
It says: “Vegans and vegetarians consuming limited dairy produce have a higher risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency due to limited dietary intakes.
“The elderly population and people taking metformin for a long time can also be at increased risk of vitamin B12 deficiency due to vitamin B12 not being absorbed properly in the body.”
If you consume very little vitamin B12 foods you may be advised to take a vitamin B12 supplement or to have vitamin B12 injections.
This may be the case for pregnant or breast feeding women and vegan or vegetarians.
If you take vitamin B12 supplements, the Department of Health advises you don’t take too much as this could be harmful.
Taking 2mg or less a day of vitamin B12 in supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.
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