Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms may occur if a person lacks the vitamin. The vitamin plays an important role when it comes to function of the body, helping with the production of red blood cells. If a person lacks vitamin B12, their body will struggle to make enough red blood cells and the cells that are made can be abnormally large, with a short lifespan. If the body lacks red blood cells, the body’s tissues and organs will be deprived of oxygen and the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are triggered.
According to the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, constipation can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency
One symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency can be spotted when you go to the toilet, but it can often 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.
As well as constipation, vitamin B12 deficiency may also lead to a person being very gassy or having diarrhoea.
But problems with the digestive tract isn’t the only part of the body to be affected by vitamin B12 deficiency.
Another symptom noted by Bupa is heart palpitations.
Heart palpitations are heartbeats that suddenly become more noticeable
Your heart may feel like it’s pounding, fluttering or beating irregularly, often for just a few seconds or minutes. You may also feel these sensations in your throat or neck.
It’s important to note constipation and heart palpitations can be signs of other, less serious health conditions.
The best way to find out the cause is to see your GP.
Other signs of vitamin B12 deficiency to watch out for are:
- Feeling very tired
- Breathlessness even after a little exercise
- A reduced appetite
- A sore mouth and tongue
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 contain vitamin B12, and Harvard Health Publishing, part of Harvard Medical School, lists the best dietary sources of the vitamin.
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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