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Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency

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Vitamin B12 performs a number of important roles in the body, such as making healthy red blood cells and keeping the nervous system working properly. Most people do not appreciate the contribution B12 makes to the body until they become deficient in it. This can cause the body to malfunction in extensive ways.

Some of the most perceptible warning signs of low B12 levels involve the digestive tract.

The digestive tract is made up of organs that food and liquids travel through when they are swallowed, digested, absorbed, and flushed out as waste.

According to the National Heart, Lung, lipitor news and Blood Institute (NHLBI), this disruption to the digestive tract can result in diarrhoea.

Diarrhoea is passing looser or more frequent stools than is normal for you.

According to the NHLBI, other signs include nausea (feeling sick to your stomach) and vomiting, heartburn and abdominal bloating and gas.

“A smooth, thick, red tongue also is a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency and pernicious anaemia,” adds the health body.

What is pernicious anaemia?

Pernicious anaemia is the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK.

It is an autoimmune condition, meaning your immune system attacks cells in your stomach that produce intrinsic factor – a protein responsible for helping the body to absorb B12.

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Pernicious anaemia may be the most common, but diet is also a primary cause of B12 deficiency.

People adhering to a predominantly plant-based diet are more prone to B12 deficiency than meat eaters.

That’s because B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods and is added to some fortified foods.

“Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified,” explains the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

You can get recommended amounts of vitamin B12 by eating a variety of foods including the following:

Beef liver and clams, which are the best sources of vitamin B12.Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products, which also contain vitamin B12.Some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts and other food products that are fortified with vitamin B12.

According to the NIH, vitamin B12 is also found in almost all multivitamins.

“Dietary supplements that contain only vitamin B12, or vitamin B12 with nutrients such as folic acid and other B vitamins, are also available,” explains the NIH.

It adds: “Vitamin B12 is also available in sublingual forms (which are dissolved under the tongue).”

How it is treated

The treatment for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia depends on what’s causing the condition.

Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia – a condition whereby your body does not have enough healthy red blood cells – is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.

There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:

  • Hydroxocobalamin
  • Cyanocobalamin.

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