Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms: This sign when you eat could mean you’re lacking B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms: This sign when you eat could mean you’re lacking B12

Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms can develop if a person isn’t getting enough of the vitamin from the foods they’re eating. Vegans and vegetarians stand risk of not getting enough because the main source of the vitamin is from foods of an animal origin. Certain medical conditions may also affect a person’s absorption of B12 from foods, such as pernicious anaemia. Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the production of red blood cells and keeping nerves healthy.

One symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency outlined by the NHS is glossitis

If a person lacks B12 their red blood cell count will be lower and their nerves risk becoming damaged,

Vitamin B12 deficiency left untreated can increase a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease developing.

But these complications can be avoided by spotting symptoms of the condition.

One symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency outlined by the NHS is glossitis.

The National Institutes of Health explains glossitis is inflammation of the tongue.

As with inflammation in any part of the body, people with glossitis can experience swelling, redness and changes int he tongue’s surface texture.

Colgate explains: “Glossitis can appear out of nowhere, even if a person has not experienced it before.

“It may be distinguished by certain symptoms, including tongue swelling, redness, tenderness and changes in colour.”

When it comes to eating, the condition may affect how a person consumed food.

The oral expert continues: “This condition may cause problems if the tongue becomes enlarged or makes chewing, speaking or swallowing difficult.”

A swollen tongue could also block a person’s airway.

If breathing becomes difficult, a medical professional should be contracted immediately.

Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency

Other symptoms of the condition are listed by Bupa as:

  • Feeling very tired
  • Breathlessness even after a little exercise
  • Heart palpitations
  • Headaches
  • A reduced appetite
  • A sore mouth

The health organisation adds: “If you have vitamin B12-deficiency anaemia, you may also look pale or jaundiced (have a yellowy tinge to your skin and the whites of your eyes).

“As well as the symptoms of anaemia, vitamin B12-deficiency may cause symptoms related to your nerves. This is called vitamin B12 neuropathy. It may affect your movement and sensation, especially in your legs, cause numbness or pins and needles and decrease your sensitivity to touch, vibration or pain. It can also cause confusion, depression, poor concentration and forgetfulness.

“These symptoms aren’t always due to vitamin B12-deficiency anaemia, but if you have them see your GP.”

Avoiding vitamin B12 deficiency

Experts say adults aged 19 to 64 require around 1.5 micrograms 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, offers the “A list of B12 foods” on its website. 

Five foods rich in B12 include:

  • Beef – 3 ounces contains 1.5mcg of B12
  • Eggs – 1 large egg contains 0.6mcg of B12
  • Fortified cereal – one cup contains 6mcg of B12
  • Salmon – 3 ounces contains 4.9mcg of B12
  • Low-fat milk – 1 cup contains 1.2mcg of B12

Vitamin B12 is primarily found in almost all foods of animal origin. This means, those with plant based diets, such as vegans, are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency if they don’t eat the right foods.

For vegans, they should look to the following food sources:

  • Yeast extract (for example Marmite)
  • Soya milk, yoghurts and desserts
  • Breakfast cereals
  • Certain brands of rice drinks and oat drinks

Vitamin B12 deficiency treatment

If you consume very little vitamin B12 foods you may be advised by your GP 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.

You may also want to consider taking vitamin B12 supplements. The Department of Health advises you don’t take too much as this could be harmful.

Taking 2 milligrams or less a day of vitamin B12 in supplements is unlikely to cause any harm.

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