Vitamin B-12 And What You Need To Know
What is vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin that you usually get from your food. It is mainly found in fish, crustaceans, meat and dairy products. Vitamin B12 helps to make red blood cells and DNA, while keeping your nervous system functioning properly.
Most people with low vitamin B12 levels often don't eat meat and dairy products or have difficulty absorbing vitamin B12 from the stomach or small intestine. Vegetarians and the elderly are at higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.
What are the possible causes for vitamin B12 absorption?
Here are some things that can make it difficult to absorb vitamin B12:
Having pernicious anemia, this disease destroys the cells in the stomach that help you absorb vitamin B12.
A bowel disease affects the way the body absorbs food, such as Crohn's disease or autoimmune disease of the intestine.
There are bacteria growing abnormally in your stomach
Take certain medications used to treat heartburn and ulcers for a long time.
Have had bowel or stomach surgery, such as gastric bypass surgery for the treatment of obesity.
Your doctor will find out why you have low vitamin B12 levels by asking questions about your health, giving you a physical exam and checking your blood. Your doctor may also need other tests to check for low vitamin B12 levels.
What happens if my vitamin B12 level is low?
You may not show any symptoms if the amount of vitamin B12 in your body is only slightly lower. However, very low levels of vitamin B12 can cause symptoms of anemia, such as pallor, weakness and fatigue (severe fatigue). It can also cause depression, dementia and other serious problems with your nervous system. Damages to the nervous system caused by low vitamin B12 levels can become permanent if not treated promptly
Some people with low levels of vitamin B12 also have high levels of homocysteine (an amino acid that makes up protein) in the blood.
If you have low levels of vitamin B12 and high homocysteine, you may be at higher risk for heart disease and stroke.
Can I just take one multivitamin pill daily to raise my vitamin B12 level?
Can not. Over-the-counter multivitamins do not contain enough vitamin B12 to raise the low vitamin B12 level. To get enough vitamin B12, you need to take vitamin B12 tablets.
You can also get vitamin B12 supplements. Usually, these doses will be given every other day or every other day for about 2 weeks, then will be reduced once a month. Vitamin B12 is also available in the form of a prescription nasal spray that is used daily or weekly. This may be an option for patients who have been injected with vitamin B12 supplements.
Your doctor can help decide which form of vitamin B12 is right for you.
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