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Home » Is a lack of vitamin B12 affecting your health? Find it out!

Is a lack of vitamin B12 affecting your health? Find it out!

Do you have memory problems, shortness of breath or feel tired? If so, know that these signs can be a consequence of a lack of vitamin B12 in your body. To have a healthy disposition and body, it is essential that all nutrients are up to date.

Vitamin B12, for example, prevents cell degeneration and helps maintain nervous metabolism. Thus, insufficient amounts of the nutrient in our body can cause health problems, from anemia and neurological damage to other complications.

In this post, we will explain what vitamin B12 is and what are the causes of its lack. Check out!

Can you tell me what vitamin B12 does and what it is used for?

Also known as calamine, vitamin B12 is part of the B complex and plays a number of important roles in the body, such as the formation of red blood cells.

This type of vitamin is very bio-available, that is, it is easily absorbed and metabolized (transformation of one substance into another) by the body. In turn, this absorption takes place in the ileum, a portion that is part of the small intestine.

Metabolism takes place in the liver, while its excretion is done by the kidneys. But what is vitamin B12 for anyway? In addition to helping to maintain and develop the functions of the central nervous system, it assists in the metabolism of carbohydrates and proteins, which helps to maintain a good mental and physical disposition.

Check out other functions of this vitamin in our body:

  • reduces the feeling of fatigue;
  • prevents anemia;
  • prevents the tingling sensation in the extremities;
  • protects neurons;
  • reduces the risk of pregnancy complications.

What foods provide vitamin B12?

Now that you know what vitamin B12 is and what it is for, check out a list of foods you need to consume daily to increase levels in your body:

  • tuna;
  • salmon;
  • eggs;
  • milk and dairy products;
  • red meat;
  • liver;
  • oysters.

It is essential that the diet is well diversified and healthy, to avoid complications and symptoms of nutritional deficiency. Even consuming the above foods, absorption problems can occur.

Some interactions that impair the absorption of vitamin B12 are tobacco and alcohol, for example. In addition, the main sources of this nutrient are of animal origin, so anyone who is vegetarian or vegan will likely need supplementation.

In this case, it is essential to consult a nutritionist so that he can carry out nutritional guidance  and indicate the best way to supplement this vitamin and the ideal amounts. 

What can cause a lack of vitamin B12?

As it is not absorbed by the body naturally, B12 deficiency is influenced by some factors, such as absorption or insufficient food intake.

It is important to point out that its absorption also depends on the body of each one, as naturally there are organisms that are able to absorb this vitamin better than others.

Check out, below, the main causes of lack of vitamin B12!

Use of antacid medications

The action of antacid substances, generally used in the treatment of gastroesophageal reflux, ulcers and gastritis, decreases the production of gastric acid, which directly influences the level of vitamin B12 in our body.

Other medications, such as metformin, can also interfere with the absorption of this nutrient.

Advanced age

In general, the elderly have a reduction in the production of gastric acid, which may interfere with the release of vitamin B12 from food sources and, consequently, its absorption.

Vegan and vegetarian lifestyle

As we have seen, vitamin B12 is a substance found naturally in foods of animal origin. For this reason, it is common for vegans and vegetarians to need supplementation even following a healthy and balanced diet.

Lacto-ovo vegetarians, that is, vegetarians who consume milk, eggs and dairy products, can reach the proper level of vitamin B12 needed by the body. Vegans, on the other hand, do not consume any food of animal origin, may need supplementation.

But remember: those who are not vegetarian, vegan or have lactose intolerance  can also have inadequate levels of this vitamin for health maintenance. Therefore, it is important to undergo an evaluation to check the blood level of the nutrient. 

Bariatric surgery and gastrointestinal diseases

Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the final part of the small intestine, also known as the ileum. This process happens through a protein produced by our stomach.

Thus, those who underwent surgery and needed to remove a part of the intestine, present a compromised absorption picture. With this, it is necessary to supplement vitamin B12.

Bariatric surgery, for example, because it is a procedure that reduces the size of the stomach, can interfere with the adequate production of protein – which contributes to nutrient deficiency.

People with disorders of the small intestine and stomach, such as celiac disease and Crohn’s disease, are also unable to absorb enough vitamin B12 from food to maintain a healthy reserve in the body.

What are the symptoms of someone who is deficient in B12?

Many problems can be caused by a lack of vitamin B12 in the body. Each of them causes a specific symptom, but still, some signs are quite common.

Another point worth mentioning is that, unfortunately, B12 deficiency may not cause noticeable symptoms. Therefore, it is essential to have a medical check-up frequently so that the tests can detect the lack of this nutrient in the body.

In general, it is always good to be aware of the most common signs, which manifest themselves in a subtle way. The main ones are:

  • coordination, balance and motor difficulties;
  • pale skin;
  • purplish nails and mucous membranes;
  • shortness of breath;
  • inflammation in the intestine, stomach and mouth;
  • tingling;
  • mental disorders and hallucinations;
  • frequent dizziness;
  • indisposition and fatigue;
  • anemia.

What is the ideal amount of vitamin B12 per day

To maintain an adequate level of vitamin B12 in the body, the ideal amount of this nutrient is 2.4 mcg per day.

Below, see the amount of the substance in 100 g of different foods:

  • milk: 0.37 mcg;
  • boiled egg: 1 mcg;
  • meat: 2.53 mcg;
  • salmon: 3.13 mcg;
  • sardines: 7.32 mcg;
  • chicken liver: 18.9 mcg;
  • beef liver: 72.2 mcg.

Now that you know the causes of a lack of vitamin B12 in the body, know that it is essential to have routine exams regularly. With this, it becomes possible to verify the amount of the nutrient and, if necessary, to carry out the supplementation.

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