Why we should be testing more for B12 deficiency

The symptoms of B12 deficiency can often be mistaken for a wide range of other conditions including irritable bowel syndrome, fibromyalgia, depression, anaemia, Alzheimer’s and even hypochondria. When presented with the non-specific symptoms, practitioners often diagnose these conditions without first testing for B12 deficiency.

The reason for this is understandable – most medical practitioners assume that people in first world countries – where things like meat, shellfish, eggs, and dairy foods are in ample supply – get plenty of B12 from their diet, however there are a number of reasons why a person might be deficient in B12, including:

  • A vegan or vegetarian diet – vegetarian diets, and vegan diets especially, are typically very low in good sources of Vitamin B12
  • Advanced age – the older we get the less our bodies are able to absorb vitamins and minerals efficiently
  • H.pylori infection – this kind of infection blocks the release of intrinsic factor – intrinsic factor is vital for ensuring the body absorbs B12 efficiently. H.pylori is also a common cause of stomach ulcers.
  • Other chronic conditions – such as Crohn’s disease, Type 2 diabetes, pancreatic disease, colitis and short bowl syndrome impede the body’s ability to absorb nutrients including B12.
  • Bariatric weight loss (stomach stapling) – also impairs your ability to absorb B12 and other nutrients.

A French study conducted in 2020 found that up to 20% of people over the age of 60 in the United States and the United Kingdom were deficient in vitamin B12.

In another study published in the British Journal of Nursing, members of the Pernicious Anaemia Society were interviewed, with nearly half reporting that their symptoms had initially been misdiagnosed.

The symptoms of B12 deficiency – easily mistaken for other conditions – include:

  • General and prolonged fatigue
  • Anxiety
  • A feeling of light-headedness
  • Poor sleeping patterns
  • Easy bruising and bleeding
  • Forgetfulness and memory loss
  • Loose stools and upset bowels
  • tingling or strange feelings in the extremities
  • Pale skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Rapid pulse and heart rate
  • Changed vision.

If left untreated B12 deficiency can lead to pernicious anaemia – associated with H.pylori infection, in which the body can’t make enough healthy red blood cells. Untreated pernicious anaemia can cause heart and nerve damage. 

Note from National Custom Compounding – We can make up high doses of B12 as a tablet or troche to assist in the treatment of B12 deficiency. For more information contact us on 1300 731 755 or [email protected].

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