Vitamin B12 plays an essential role in the body’s makeup – it helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, among other things. Naturally, having low levels of B12 can be a recipe for ruin, causing serious harm to both your physical and mental health. The extensive impact of B12 deficiency means it often slips under the radar.
The goal of research in this area is therefore to catalogue the various symptoms in a bid to improve diagnostic and treatment methods.
One review shed light on the psychiatric symptoms associated with low levels of B12.
According to the review entitled “The Many Faces of Cobalamin (Vitamin B12) Deficiency”, psychiatric symptoms may vary from depression to mania, psychosis, and occasionally suicidal thoughts.
Several studies have found a link between low levels of B12 and mood disorders like depression.
Research has suggested “homocysteine hypothesis of depression” may explain the association.
This theory suggests that high levels of homocysteine caused by low levels of B12 could cause damage to the brain tissue and interfere with signals to and from your brain, leading to mood changes.
Physical symptoms of B12 deficiency
In addition to mental symptoms, low B12 levelS can cause the following physical changes:
- Pale yellow tinge to your skin
- A sore and red tongue (glossitis)
- Mouth ulcers
- Pins and needles (paraesthesia)
- Changes in the way that you walk and move around
- Disturbed vision
According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
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“These conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test,” explains the health body.
It’s important for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
As the NHS warns, although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated.
How to treat B12 deficiency
The treatment for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia depends on what’s causing the condition.
Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia, for example, is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.
Pernicious anaemia is an autoimmune condition that affects your stomach – it is the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK.
There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:
If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 supplements to take every day between meals, according to the NHS.
Why are some people more likely to have B12 deficiency as a result of their diet?
B12 is naturally found in animal products, such as meat and dairy so are not suitable for vegans or vegetarians.
In fact, those following a vegan diet may need vitamin B12 supplements for life, notes the NHS.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or are looking for alternatives to meat and dairy products, there are other foods that contain vitamin B12, however.
These include yeast extract, as well as some fortified breakfast cereals and soy products, says the NHS.
If you’re experiencing suicidal thoughts it’s important to tell someone. There are free helplines available, 24 hours a day, every day. Call Samaritans on 116 123.
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