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The Many Faces of a Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Diagnosed with reflux disease and other common digestive ailments from the time she was 16, Caroline Keene spent years taking both prescription and over-the-counter acid-reducing drugs.

“They helped me enjoy the same foods everyone else ate and live pretty well,” Keene said, recalling the yogurt and cheese her family used to buy from a nearby farm. And because she had a relatively balanced diet, even leaning more toward a vegan lifestyle as an adult, she never considered she might have a vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12—also known as Cobalamin— is an essential nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and, working with folate, aids in making DNA. It also prevents certain forms of anemia, which make people tired and weak.*

Vitamin B12 is also involved in the production of the myelin sheath around the nerves and the conduction of nerve impulses. If the brain and the nervous system are conceived as a big tangle of wires, myelin is the insulation that protects those wires and helps them to conduct messages.**

Now in her early 30s, Keene began to experience increasing bouts of weakness, a seemingly inexplicable sore tongue, depression, memory loss, and a rapid heartbeat and breathing, prompting her to visit numerous specialists. Each performed a battery of tests to no avail. In time, and only because she’d painstakingly researched the symptoms herself, she was properly diagnosed with a vitamin B12 deficiency.

“I learned that while it’s easy to diagnose, most physicians do not make the idea of a B12 deficiency a primary consideration,” Keene, now a licensed nutritionist, said, adding she was glad she spoke up. As it turns out, long term use of acid-reducing drugs can result in the deficiency, as it can cause malabsorption of the vitamin, as can a vegan diet devoid of animal products which are rich in vitamin B12.

With the profusion of diseases in the United States such as Alzheimer’s and other forms of dementia, as well as neuropathy (death of nerve cells) including symptoms of MS and palsy, low levels of vitamin B12 can sometimes be found in these sufferers. In the United States, where acceptable levels fall between 200 pg/mL and 300 pg/mL, some experts consider that these levels indicate a deficiency. In fact Japan boasts lower rates of Alzheimer’s and dementia in general, where a practice exists to treat anything below 500 or 550 pg/mL.***

So what about treatment? Vitamin B12 can be found in eggs, shellfish, dairy products and fortified cereals. It is found prodigiously in liver, which, beginning in 1926 after nearly a decade of doctors unsuccessfully battling a fatal form of previously incurable anemia called pernicious anemia, was found to be a panacea.

Often undiagnosed for years, a deficiency can take time to correct. Studies on young children raised as vegans (there are no plant sources of vitamin B12), who had animal products introduced into their diets at around age 6, have shown that years later there is still some deficiency, though less than at initial testing. But it’s never too late to start. While most people can’t (or won’t!) sit down to a mound of liver every day, vitamin B12 supplements or concentrated injections are a viable source to replenish the body.

In a box
Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency can happen if you have certain conditions, such as:
• Atrophic gastritis, in which your stomach lining has thinned
• Pernicious anemia, which makes it hard for your body to absorb vitamin B12
• Surgery that removed part of your stomach or small intestine, including weight loss surgery
• Conditions affecting the small intestine, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, bacterial growth, or a parasite
• Heavy drinking
• Immune system disorders, such as Graves’ disease or lupus
• Long-term use of acid-reducing drugs

You can also get vitamin B12 deficiency if you’re a vegan (meaning you don’t eat any animal products, including meat, milk, cheese, and eggs) or a vegetarian who doesn’t eat enough eggs or dairy products to meet your vitamin B12 needs.

Babies born to mothers who are vegetarians may also not get enough vitamin B12.
-from WebMD



**None of the information in this article constitutes medical advice and is solely the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the opinion of US HCG SHOTS.

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