Our body uses red blood cells for the oxidation process, which implies the cycle of transporting oxygen to all our body tissues. Freshly inhaled oxygen is used by our body for burning fats and sugars in order to obtain energy. A waste of this process is carbon dioxide, which is transported by the same red blood cells back to our lungs, where it’s inhaled to complete a respiratory cycle. If we don’t develop enough red blood cells, our body will suffer from lack of oxygenation and symptoms of anemia will start to surface. These vital cells are refreshed every 4 months. They’re produced in the bone marrow with the help of iron, vitamin B12 and acid folic. If one of the ingredients is lacking the health problem that develops is called anemia. In case of vitamin B12 deficiency we talk about pernicious anemia.
Lack of vitamin B12 can additionally lead to mental deterioration, also called dementia and to nerve inflammation or neuritis. This important vitamin is missing if your diet isn’t properly calibrated or if your body isn’t absorbing it properly. Vegans often encounter problems because vitamin B12 is only found in nourishment originating from animals. Foods rich in this vitamin are: eggs, fish, red meat and milk. Those that suffer from deficiency because they aren’t able to assimilate this vitamin because of a problem in the small intestine. If a so called intrinsic factor is missing, the intestine can’t absorb vitamin B12. Cells that are responsible for the presence of intrinsic factor can be attacked by antibodies, in case of an autoimmune disease, can be suffocated by cancerous cells or affected by various diseases of the small intestine.
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms
If you’re healthy you won’t be hit hard at first by pernicious anemia. Most sufferers blame the early symptoms on aging and only start worrying when more serious symptoms kick in. These are:
– increased fatigue accompanied by palpitations (irregular heart beat)
– feeling lightheaded, experiencing dizziness end even fainting episodes
– stomach pain, diarrhea, constipation which all lead to weight loss
– sore tongue and mouth, bleeding gums (not because of lack of oral hygiene)
– in severe cases chest and leg pain can occur.
If vitamin B12 deficiency isn’t taken care of and your body is deprived of it for too long, the nervous system can be affected triggering symptoms like: finger and toe numbness; problems with balance which cause coordination difficulties; color blindness; loss of memory and onset of depression. In most sever cases pernicious anemia can lead to dementia and even stomach cancer.
Pernicious Anemia Treatment
Vitamin B12 deficiency is diagnosed with the help of a blood sample. As with anemia caused by iron deficiency, pernicious anemia is treated with the help of supplements. Vitamin B12 shots are prescribed and they usually have to be injected every 3 months for the rest of the patients life. If the patients reacts good will be able to switch to pill supplements later on. In fact tablets could be prescribed from the start if the pernicious anemia is detected early and the deficiency can be resolved without injections.
Pernicious Anemia Prevention
If you’re a vegetarian you should consider ingesting vitamin B12 supplements in order to avoid deficiency caused by your diet restrictions. Newborns born from mothers which follow vegan diet, have to be extra checked for this deficiency and receive additional vitamin B12 if needed. Additional care should be also given to those that had stomach or small intestine surgery.
Else, normal eating people should focus on a balance diet that includes milk, eggs, cheese, fish and liver.