Vitamin B complex consists of 8 different types of vitamins that are soluble in water. Vitamin B12 belongs to this group of vitamins. Its unique characteristics are its complex structure and presence of a rare element, cobalt, in it. Like other B vitamins, it has a major role in cell metabolism. It is important for healthy functioning of the brain and nervous system. Besides, it is involved with various other life processes including formation of red blood cells, repair of body cells, formation of DNA, detoxification of the body, and other vital functions. Therefore, it is essential for the normal growth and functioning of the body.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur in both women as well as men; however, there are some people who are at a higher risk of developing this condition. This vitamin is rarely found in vegetables; however, it is most abundantly found in animal proteins such as meat, eggs, shellfish, dairy products, etc. Vegans often develop this condition as they do not get sufficient amount of vitamin B12 from their diet. Pregnant women get commonly affected by this condition as a large amount of the vitamin from their body is utilized for the development of the fetus. Elderly people are more prone to this condition as their body is unable to absorb the required amount of the vitamin.
The symptoms of B12 deficiency have a lot of similarity with iron-deficiency anemia. Some of the most commonly observed symptoms are as follows:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Breathing difficulty
- Persistent headache
- Digestive problem
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
The treatment of this deficiency largely depends on the causes and symptoms of the problem. The doctors first ascertain the underlying cause and then start the treatment. For deficiency due to insufficient dietary intake, they prescribe oral supplements for the vitamin. Initially, a high dosage supplement is given for one month to ensure faster recovery from the deficiency. Later on, a lower dosage is recommended which may have to be continued for almost one year. Along with the supplement, it is equally important that you increase the consumption of foods that are rich in this vitamin. Vegans should consume more dairy products on a daily basis while the others should consume chicken, meat, oyster, eggs, saltwater fish, etc.
In cases where this vitamin cannot be absorbed, vitamin B12 injections known as hydroxocobalmin are administered. The advantage of these intramuscular injections is that the vitamin enters directly into the bloodstream. Alternatively, vitamin B12 patches are available which can also give similar kind of results.
Most cases of this condition during pregnancy are resolved with the help of prenatal vitamins. However, in severe cases, B12 shots are administered for some time. Thus, it might reduce the deficiency to a great extent within 6 weeks.
In extreme cases, when the red-blood cell count is too low, blood transfusions may be performed for a few days followed by vitamin B12 shots.
During the course of the treatment, you should avoid antacids as it can lower the production of hydrochloric acid in the stomach which facilitate better absorption of vitamin B12 in the body. Moreover, you must avoid the consumption of alcohol as it tends to interfere with the absorption of B12 in the body, leading to deficiency.
You should not delay the treatment process since it may lead to unnecessary health complications. Also, you should not start the treatment on your own with over-the-counter supplements. A heavy dosage of the vitamin supplements may cause toxicity of vitamin B12 which is harmful to your health.
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only and does not in any way attempt to replace the advice offered by an expert on the subject.