What is Vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia?

Vitamin B12 deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the UK. It’s estimated that around one in five people have a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Vitamin B12 is involved in several vital bodily functions, including energy production, DNA and protein synthesis, and hormone production. It also helps improve brain function and is linked to lower rates of depression.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can occur due to a lack of intake, or a reduced body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12. For most people, this is due to poor diet, which is why an appropriate diet is important.

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency can vary from person to person, depending on the severity of the condition. Some people may not experience any symptoms.

Other common signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include:

  • A lack of appetite
  • Tiredness
  • Irritability
  • Pale skin
  • Constipation
  • Headaches
  • Confusion
  • Problems concentrating
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Swollen hands
  • Swelling of the tongue

In pregnancy, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to the following signs and symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Vomiting
  • Diarrhea

Treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency is usually treated with a supplement. Your doctor or dietitian can advise you on the safest and most suitable vitamin B12 supplement for you.

The recommended daily daily allowance of vitamin B12 for adults is 1.1 Mcg. For some people, this can be an issue with their diet. If you’re concerned about your intake, you can speak to your doctor about increasing your intake.

You should not take any supplements without speaking to your doctor first.

Some people find that eating foods high in vitamin B12, such as lean meat, fish, eggs, fortified cereals and other foods, can help to correct deficiency.

If you’re not getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet, there are some things you can do to help:

  • Avoiding fizzy drinks
  • Not eating too much meat, fish, eggs or other foods high in vitamin B12
  • Eating more foods rich in vitamin B12

If you’re not sure whether you have a deficiency, speak to your doctor.

How to treat vitamin B12 deficiency?

Your doctor or dietitian will be able to advise you on the best way to treat vitamin B12 deficiency.

You can also purchase vitamin B12 supplements over the counter. These are available as tablets, capsules or liquid.

A typical dose of vitamin B12 in these supplements is between 1.5 To 2.5 Mcg daily.

You’ll need to take these supplements for several weeks to see any improvement in your symptoms.

If your symptoms don’t improve, you may need a different supplement or treatment.

In some cases, your doctor may recommend that you take a daily supplement of vitamin B12.

It may be necessary to take vitamin B12 supplements for several months before it starts to have an effect.

It’s important to remember that a deficiency can cause problems with your mood and behaviour.

If you’re feeling anxious or depressed, speak to your doctor or a dietitian.

Vitamin B12 and pregnancy

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy pregnancy. Pregnant women need to ensure they’re getting enough vitamin B12 in their diet.

Some women may find it difficult to eat enough foods that are rich in vitamin B12, such as lean meat, fish and eggs.

If you’re concerned about your vitamin B12 intake, speak to your doctor or dietitian. They may recommend you take a vitamin B12 supplement or increase your intake of foods high in vitamin B12.

Vitamin B12 and breastfeeding

Pregnant women are advised to take vitamin B12 supplements, as well as eating foods that are high in vitamin B12.

Breastfeeding mothers should also ensure they’re getting enough vitamin B12 in their diet. If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need to have a vitamin B12 supplement as well as a healthy diet.

You’ll need to take this supplement for at least three months after giving birth.

You may also need to take a supplement if you’re breastfeeding or pregnant for six months or more.

Vitamin B12 and children

Children and teenagers can have a vitamin B12 deficiency. This is because their diet can’t always provide the necessary amounts.

If you have a child, it’s important to ensure they’re getting enough vitamin B12 in their diet.

Vitamin B12 can be found in a range of foods, including meat, fish, eggs, fortified cereals and other foods.

Your child should take a supplement if they’re not getting enough in their diet.

Vitamin B12 and men

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy men. This is because men are at higher risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Men should ensure they’re getting enough of this vitamin in their diet.

If you have a male family member, it’s important to ensure they’re getting enough of this vitamin.

Vitamin B12 and the elderly

Vitamin B12 is essential for healthy elderly people. This is because vitamin B12 plays a vital role in the body’s metabolism.

Vitamin B12 can be found in a variety of foods, including meat, fish, eggs, fortified cereals and other foods.

Your elderly family member should take a supplement if they’re not getting enough of the vitamin in their diet.

Vitamin B12 and pregnant women

Pregnant women should ensure they’re taking a vitamin B12 supplement. This is because vitamin B12 is essential for a healthy pregnancy.

Bottom line

There are several factors that can contribute to a vitamin B12 deficiency.

These include a diet that’s not rich in vitamin B12, or a diet that contains fizzy drinks, meat, fish, eggs and other foods high in vitamin B12.

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