Vitamin B12 deficiency warning: How much B12 is in your diet? When to see a doctor

Vitamin B12 deficiency warning: How much B12 is in your diet? When to see a doctor

Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency

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Vitamin B12 is a naturally occurring nutrient that can be found in foods many people eat day to day. However, it is not uncommon to be low in B12, with around 25 percent of the nation suffering from anaemia as a result of not getting enough vital nutrients.

How can you tell if you are not getting enough B12?

There are a number of symptoms that can be a sign of not getting enough B12 into your body.

While this can often be due to not eating enough B12 rich foods, it can also be due to getting older.

With age, it can be harder to absorb this vitamin.

Folate deficiency anaemia can occur as a result of not having enough of the vitamin in your body.

Early symptoms can include:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale or yellow-tinged skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Dizziness

When should you see a doctor if you think you are low in B12?

If you suffer any symptoms of folate deficiency anaemia, no matter how minor, it is recommended that you make an appointment with your doctor.

However, if symptoms persist or get worse it is even more important to schedule an appointment.

One of the most serious signs of anaemia is if it begins to severely impact heartbeat or breathing.

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Should you begin to have difficulty breathing or severe chest pains you should contact a health practitioner immediately.

Upon contacting a doctor, they will be able to schedule in a blood test which should detect the levels of B12 in your body and whether or not you have developed anaemia.

According to the NHS: “It’s important for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.

“This is because although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible.”

What happens if folate deficiency anaemia is left untreated?

A B12 deficiency most commonly leads to folate deficiency anaemia which, if left untreated, can have a severe impact on health in the long term.

This could lead to irregular heartbeat and chest pain long term, negatively impacting the heart and body’s functions.

Early symptoms including fatigue, cold hands and feet and weakness could also remain.

How can you boost your B12 levels?

Vitamin B12 can be found in a number of food items. However, many of these are animal products which makes it more difficult for those leading a vegetarian or vegan diet to obtain it this way.

Food items that are high in B12 include meat, cheese, milk, eggs, some fortified breakfast cereals, yeast extracts such as marmite, some energy bars and some meat substitutes.

B12 can also be obtained via supplements widely available at pharmacies, supermarkets and health food stores.

Your doctor may also prescribe B12 supplement injections depending on how severe your deficiency is.

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