We often hear that a varied diet provides all the nutrients you need to stay healthy.
Unfortunately, this is a very simplistic view and fundamentally wrong. Deficiencies in micronutrients are much more frequent than one might think.
One of the most frequent deficiencies is that of vitamin B12.
Also known as Cobalamine , it is a silent ally but essential for keeping the body healthy.
In fact, it is the substance that promotes the growth of red blood cells, works alongside folic acid for the synthesis of DNA and RNA but is known above all for its contribution to the well-being of the nervous system since it intervenes in the creation of the myelin sheath, the “lining” of the nerves.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
- Weakness and fatigue
- Shortness of breath
- Tingling in the extremities
- Memory loss or cognitive difficulties
- Difficulty walking due to balance problems
- Reduced vision
- Swollen or inflamed tongue
It should be borne in mind that deficiencies are often blurred and only in rare cases give rise to complete symptoms. For this weakness and fatigue are undoubtedly the most frequent manifestations.
What Causes Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The causes of a deficiency can be different. Clinically, there are specific conditions that create a vitamin B12 deficiency. These are:
- atrophic gastritis
- Pernicious anemia
- Diseases of the intestine such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease or bacterial and parasitic infections
- Autoimmune diseases
Some drugs can also reduce the absorption of vitamin B12:
- The antibiotic chloramphenicol
- Pump Inhibitors for gastritis and reflux
- H2 receptor antagonists always for gastritis and reflux
- Metformin for diabetes
However, the most frequent cause of cobalamin deficiency is a reduced intake as occurs for example in those who follow a vegan diet. Vitamin B12 is found in meat, milk, cheese and eggs.
Beyond the symptoms which are, as mentioned before, often late, it is necessary to do blood tests.
Of particular importance is the direct dosage of vitamin B12 whose value must be between 200 and 900pg / ml.
In order to achieve optimal values, better if the result is higher than the median and precisely around 600pg / ml.
Evaluation of complete blood count , homocysteine, methylmalonic acid (MMA) and holotranscobalamin are also useful. These last two values are of particular importance because they represent the values of active B12.
As we have said, cobalamin is found in foods of animal origin, in particular eggs, meats and dairy products.
Since these foods have been falsely accused in the last few years, the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency has undoubtedly increased. In case of skin disorders, recurrent neck pain, tingling, tendinitis, hair loss, muscle pain, the doctor should consider the hypothesis of a deficiency.
How to supplement vitamin B12
The first step to recovering vitamin B12 is obviously to increase the intake of foods that contain it.
If you do not want to give up the vegan choice or if the levels of the deficiency have been ascertained with laboratory tests, it will be necessary to resort to a supplement.
Sometimes it may be enough to take a good multivitamin rich in vitamin B12 but in some cases a more specific approach will be needed.
In general, an intake of 200-300 mcg of vitamin B12 per day is sufficient to fill a mild deficiency. It makes no difference if they are drops, tablets or capsules.
However, sometimes stronger therapy is needed with intramuscular injections at dosages around 500mcg 2-3 times a week.
It will be the doctor who will define the specific needs of the person but it may be useful to combine at least a supplement of 200mcg per day including folic acid.
In conclusion, it must be considered that vitamin deficiencies are not uncommon. Some, such as vitamin B12, are quite common.
They are generally not so severe as to give specific symptoms and are therefore ignored for a long time.
It is essential to do the analyzes to understand what conditions you are in. It should also be remembered that the risk of side effects and overdose is very remote .
Detection of Vitamin B12 deficiency is just one place to start to protect your health. Proper nutrition is essential to live well and for a long time.