Everyone needs vitamin B12 and for most people this vitamin is absorbed from natural sources in their diet. However, if you have pernicious anemia, you will have trouble absorbing vitamin B12—and you may not realize it until you have a deficiency, which can be serious. Here’s what you need to know about vitamin B12 and anemia:
1. The reason people with pernicious anemia cannot absorb vitamin B12 is because pernicious anemia prevents the body from producing the substance necessary to process it. Anemic people may simply absorb less B12 than other people or even none at all.
2. Women who are pregnant need more B12 intake than other teens or adults, and women who are breastfeeding need even more than that. A simple B12 vitamin or multivitamin will contain enough B12 for women regardless of whether they are pregnant/breastfeeding or not.
3. B12 supplements work the same whether they are pills or liquids. There is no evidence that either form is absorbed by the body better than the other. Neither form can be readily absorbed by individuals with pernicious anemia.
4. Many foods are fortified with vitamin B12, especially breakfast cereals. B12 can also be found naturally in animal-based foods, especially clams. However, these dietary sources also cannot be absorbed readily by the body if you have anemia.
5. Vitamin B12 deficiency (not enough B12) has sweeping effects on the body. If you are not getting enough B12 you are likely to feel tired and weak and you may have trouble with balance. You may experience constipation, weight loss and loss of appetite. It can also affect your mental state and lead to depression, confusion, forgetfulness, and even dementia. Some people with vitamin B12 deficiency also experience soreness in the tongue or mouth, or numbness or tingling in the hands and feet.
6. If left untreated a vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to very serious damage to the nervous system. This is true whether you have anemia or not, but those with pernicious anemia are at highest risk because they’re most likely to have a deficiency. This nerve damage can be life-altering for people of all ages and is especially damaging for children.
7. Adults over the age of 50 are also at a high risk of vitamin B12 deficiency because their bodies have a harder time absorbing B12 from food even if they don’t have anemia. Vitamin B12 supplements will usually prevent this.
If you have pernicious anemia, there are ways to make sure you get enough B12. Depending on the specifics of your case, your doctor may recommend taking large amount of B12 supplements (so that a small amount of it will be absorbed) or may simply give you B12 shots, which bypass the problem. Consult your physician for details.The information provided is for general interest only and should not be misconstrued as a diagnosis, prognosis or treatment recommendation. This information does not in any way constitute the practice of medicine, or any other health care profession. Readers are directed to consult their health care provider regarding their specific health situation. Marque Medical is not liable for any action taken by a reader based upon this information.