Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms and Treatment

Vitamin B12 and its role in the body

Vitamin B12 is also known as cobalamin. It is essential to the body as it helps in regulating the nervous system and play an important role in growth and formation of red blood cells. Therefore, when your body has a shortage of vitamin B12, then its function in the body is also affected. Generally, vitamin B12 deficiency is involved with lack of enough healthy red blood cells in the body. As we all know, red blood cells are important since they help in transporting oxygen to various parts of the body, and collecting carbon dioxide from the cell tissues for excretion. This enhances the distribution of oxygen in the body and ensuring that the poisonous carbon dioxide doesn’t impact the body’s health negatively. It is also associated with the formation of DNA and a healthy brain.

What are the causes of vitamin B12 deficiency?

Vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by lack of enough amounts of the vitamin in the body. People who are used to eating specific diets e.g. vegan diet, that doesn’t involve proteins that are rich in vitamin B12, are faced with higher chances of developing vitamin B12 deficiency.  Other causes of vitamin B12 deficiency include;

  • Unbalanced diet
  • Crohn’s disease; it is a chronic inflammatory disease that affects the digestive tract. It commonly affects the end of the small intestines and beginning of the colon and the inflammation can occur anywhere in the digestion tract.
  • Celiac disease; this is an autoimmune disorder that destroys the lining of the small intestines. People suffering from celiac disease are unable to absorb nutrients (vitamin B12), due to swelling and irritation of the small intestines.
  • Heartburn medication, which suppresses the production of stomach acid, which is required for absorption of B12.
  • Alcoholism and heavy drinking causes gastritis and irritation of the stomach lining that can lead to
  • Fish tapeworm infection
  • Digestive disorder
  • Pernicious anemia
  • Surgeries where there was removal of certain parts of your stomach or small intestine

Signs and symptoms

It is also characterized by a shortage of red blood cells in the body which generally causes the signs and symptoms one experiences.

The immediate signs and symptoms include;

  • Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia. This is a condition whereby the body produces larger red blood cells than normal. Also known as megaloblastic.
  • Diarrhea
  • Loss of appetite
  • Light-headedness
  • Lack of focus
  • Shortness of breath and increased heartbeat rate
  • Paranoia
  • Swollen and red tongue
  • Constipation
  • Brain fog
  • Pale skin
  • Bleeding gums
  • Weakness and extreme fatigue
  • Irritability

For long-term vitamin B12 deficiency, one may suffer from;

  • Depression
  • Dementia
  • Tingling feeling and numbness in the feet and hands that are caused by nerve damage
  • Confusion in older adults
  • Loss of balance


The treatment of vitamin B12 is crucial so as to avoid severe cases of cobalamin deficiency i.e. confusion and depression. To rectify vitamin 12 deficiency, the following actions need to be taken. They include;

  • A change in diet. Ensure that you eat plenty of foods rich in vitamin B12 to boost its levels in the body and enhance formation of red blood cells. Incorporate as many proteins in your diet as possible.
  • Prescribed medicine and supplements as well.
  • Treatment of underlying illnesses (Crohn’s and Celiac diseases) that can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • For alcoholic people, they need to cut down on how much they consume on a daily basis.

What to eat to boost vitamin B12 levels

There is a wide variety of healthy foods that contain high levels of B12. Since one of the main causes of cobalamin deficiency is an uneven diet, then one needs to eat a balanced diet to ensure that they stay on the healthy side of life. However, it is important to note that B12 is only found in animal products. Here are the main foods you can eat to boost you cobalamin levels; eggs, dairy products e.g. cheese, butter, meat and seafood e.g. fish.

What are the required amounts of B12 in the body?

The main problem that causes cobalamin deficiency is the lack of enough vitamin B12 in the body. This maybe because most people don’t know the much they should consume to maintain the levels at the norm. The main variable in how much Vitamin B12 should be consumed is age.

  • 0-6 months: 0.4mcg
  • 7-12 months: 0.5mcg
  • 1-3 years: 0.9mcg
  • 4-8 years: 1.2mcg
  • 9-13 years: 1.8mcg
  • 14-18 years: 2.4mcg
  • 19+ years: 2.4mcg
  • Pregnant women: 2.6mcg
  • Breastfeeding mothers: 2.8mcg

Important facts about Vitamin B12 to keep in mind

  • It is linked to pernicious anemia, which is a red blood cell deficiency that occurs when the stomach does not make enough of the intrinsic factor protein. This protein is important since it aids in vitamin B12 absorption in the intestines.
  • Vitamin B12 plays an important role in white blood cells formation, which is responsible for enhancing the body’s immune system. In the case of cobalamin deficiency, it can affect the proper functioning of the immune system which can promote immune deficiency disorders such as Grave’s disease.
  • Cobalamin deficiency can be confused for dementia since its symptoms mimic those of dementia such as memory loss, confusion, and brain fog. However, vitamin B12 deficiency can result in dementia.
  • In women, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to falsification of the Pap test for cervical cancer. This is because it changes the profile combination of the cervical cell. It can indicate the presence of cervical cancer while in the real sense, you are perfectly fine.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

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