Vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms: Loss of reflexes is a major warning sign

This Morning: Guest reveals symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency

Vitamin B12 performs a number of pivotal roles in the body and chief among them is helping to keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and aiding DNA formation. In fact, B12’s contribution is emphasised by the catalogue of systems associated with B12 deficiency. Many of the most acute symptoms come from the nerve damage that B12 deficiency can inflict.

According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NIH), this can cause a loss of reflexes.

A reflex is an involuntary and nearly instantaneous movement in response to a stimulus.

Other signs of nerve damage include tingling and numbness in your hands and feet, muscle weakness.

“You also may feel unsteady, lose your balance, and have trouble walking,” warns the NIH.

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Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause weakened bones and may lead to hip fractures, it adds.

What causes B12 deficiency

There are two primary causes of B12 deficiency – poor dietary intake and pernicious anaemia.

Pernicious anaemia is the leading cause of B12 deficiency in the UK.

It is an autoimmune disease that prevents the body from making intrinsic factor – a protein made by the stomach and needed to absorb vitamin B12 in the intestine.

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Vegans and vegetarians are more prone to B12 deficiency because vitamin B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods.

As the NIH explains, plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified.

How to treat B12 deficiency

The treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency depends on what’s causing the condition.

Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.

There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:

  • Hydroxocobalamin
  • Cyanocobalamin.

According to the NHS, if your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals.

“People who find it difficult to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, such as those following a vegan diet, may need vitamin B12 tablets for life,” explains the health body.

It adds: “Although it’s less common, people with vitamin B12 deficiency caused by a prolonged poor diet may be advised to stop taking the tablets once their vitamin B12 levels have returned to normal and their diet has improved.”

What foods contain B12?

  • Good sources of vitamin B12 include:
  • Meat
  • Salmon and cod
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Eggs.

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or are looking for alternatives to meat and dairy products, there are a number of fortified products to choose from.

Some breakfast cereals and nutritional yeasts are fortified with B12, adds the NIH.

To find out if vitamin B12 has been added to a food product, check the product labels, it says.

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