Low Vitamin B12, Causes, Symptoms, Treatment


Low Vitamin B12 can cause a lot of weakness in the body and make you prone to various types of illnesses. Vitamin B12 is a vital water-soluble vitamin which is commonly found in various foods such as dairy products, meat, shellfish, eggs and fish. The deficiency of this vitamin usually results when the body is having difficulty absorbing the vitamins although this case is extremely rare. The ones who are extremely at risk with Vitamin B12 deficiency are the elderly.

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Vitamin B12 is recurrently combined and used with the other B Vitamins in the complex formulation of vitamin B. This helps in the maintenance of healthy red blood cells and nerve cells and is needed too in making DNA which is the genetic component of all the cells. Vitamin b12 is conjoined to protein found in the food. Hydrochloric acid, which is found within the stomach, releases the B12 from the protein during the process of digestion. By the time it is released, vitamin B12 is then combined with another substance called IF or intrinsic factor right before the vitamin is to be absorbed within the bloodstream.

Vitamin B12 stored within the human body is worth several years, which is why lack of Vitamin B12 is not such a common condition. Like mentioned earlier, the probable cause of low vitamin B12 is the inability to successfully absorb the B12 vitamin into the body from the intestinal tract. This is caused by a certain disease known pernicious anemia. Strict vegetarians who are not taking enough vitamin B12 into their body may also suffer from low vitamin B12. This is caused by the unbalanced diet they are applying in their daily nutritional routine.

The norm of taking in proper amounts of vitamin b12 can be ensured by eating one chicken breast, together with one hard-boiled egg and one cup of low fat yogurt.

RDA (Recommended dietary allowances)

For adults and the adolescents ages 14 and older, they are recommended 2.4 mcg per day of vitamin B12, while pregnant females of the same age are required to consume 2.6 mcg per day; 2.8 mcg per day for lactating females.

Since about ten to thirty percent of the elderly are having difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 into their body successfully, they are either required to take supplementary vitamin B12 or meet the RDA by eating foods fortified with vitamin B12.  The usual intake of supplementary B12 in elderly people is 25 – 100 mcg per day. A pharmacist and a doctor are recommended for consultation when indications are required. Healthcare professionals either give vitamin B12 by IM (intramuscular) injection or taken by mouth.

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RDA for children has not been established for the entire pediatric age that is why AI or Adequate Intake levels are used instead. The Adequate Intake (AI) and the recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin B12 for children are as follows:

  • Infants from 0 to 6 months old – Adequate Intake: 0.4 mcg
  • Infants from 7 to 12 months old – Adequate Intake: 0.5 mcg
  • Children from 1 to 3 years of age – 0.9 mcg
  • Children from 4 to 8 years of age – 1.2 mcg
  • Children from 9 to 13 years of age – 1.8 mcg

Note that vitamin b12 should be avoided by some people who have allergies with cobalt, cobalamin or any other related components.

Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms

Low vitamin B12 symptoms can be in the form of muscle weakness,  skin tingling, numbness, sleeping problems (inability to sleep) anxiety, poor balance, tiredness and more colds in a year.

Treatment for low Vitamin B12

Low vitamin B12 and its symptoms can be resolved with timely diagnosis and appropriate treatment. There are tests involved to determine low vitamin B12 in the body such as blood tests or biopsy of the bone marrow. When it comes to mild cases, patients are advised to eat foods rich in vitamin B12 in adequate amounts to deal with the condition. Like mentioned before, the best sources for vitamin B12 are chicken, fish, eggs and dairy products. Others are non-fatty foods or dairy products, whey powder, crab, organ meat such as liver, fish eggs, mussels, oysters, fortified cereals, beef and tofu. Some have personal preferences over their diet so it is best to have a balanced diet and make sure to adjust the diet with more vitamin B12 intake.

If the low vitamin B12 in the body is prolonged, eating foods fortified with vitamin B12 may not be enough. Vitamin supplements are necessary to increased the vitamin in the body and combat the medical issues that have ensued.  Vitamin B12 pills and patches can be bought over the counter from drug stores since they are considered safe for use.

For cases of very severe vitamin B12 deficiency and normal bodily functions are affected, prompt medical attention is required.  Depending on the diagnostic results and severity of symptoms, the doctor would prescribe high doses of vitamin B12 supplements for longer periods of time.  As soon as the required level is reached and has stabilized, the dosage is reduced but still maintained for quite some time.  For extreme cases where vitamin B12 is not absorbed properly, hydroxocobalamin or vitamin B12 injections are administered to treat the deficiency right away.

Low vitamin B12 can be successfully treated with on time diagnosis, appropriate treatment regime and sustained well-balanced diet.

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1 Comment

  1. I have severe B12 deficiency, give myself shots twice monthly as well as take 2000 units daily. Still it is remaining dangerously low. My Doctor has been unable to find the reason behind my deficiency. Any ideas?

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