Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
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It is hard to overstate the importance of getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet. The vitamin aids the production of red blood cells, DNA, and the normal functioning of your nervous system. If that doesn’t convince you, perhaps the acute effects of low B12 levels will.
An onslaught of symptoms can follow B12 deficiency, some of which can impede your ability to function.
If you’re waking up tired, despite having a good night’s sleep, your B12 levels may be depleted, warns Holland and Barrett.
That’s because B12 deficiency can cause persistent weakness and fatigue.
How? B12 powers red blood cell formation and red blood cells transport oxygen around your body, from your lungs.
“Oxygen is important for your muscles and for recovering after exertion or exercise,” explains Holland and Barrett.
What’s more, vitamin B12 also helps metabolise protein, which is important for muscle building.
“This means that no matter how much or how good a sleep you get at night and how much you work out during the day, you will still feel tired and weak if you are not getting enough B12,” explains Holland and Barrett.
Other telltale signs of B12 deficiency include:
- Feeling faint
- Pale skin
- Noticeable heartbeats (palpitations)
- Hearing sounds coming from inside the body, rather than from an outside source (tinnitus)
- Loss of appetite and weight loss.
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How to respond
According to the NHS, you should see a GP if you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency.
“These conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test,” explains the health body.
It’s doubly important for vitamin B12 deficiency to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
“Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated,” warns the NHS.
Am I at risk?
There are two main risk factors for B12 deficiency – pernicious anaemia and diet.
Pernicious anaemia – the leading cause of B12 deficiency in the UK – is an autoimmune condition whereby your immune system attacks the cells in your stomach that produce intrinsic factor – a protein that your body uses to absorb vitamin B12.
Some people can develop a vitamin B12 deficiency as a result of not getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet.
Strict vegetarians and vegans are at a greater risk of B12 deficiency because B12 is mainly found in meat, fish and dairy products.
How B12 deficiency is treated
The treatment for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia depends on what’s causing the condition.
Most people can be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace the missing vitamins.
Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia (low red blood cell count) is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.
There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:
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