Last week, I explained how many people with Crohn’s disease are deficient in vitamin D. In this column, I’ll look at another deficiency common in those with Crohn’s: vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 is responsible for red blood cell formation, cell metabolism, nerve function, and DNA production. When someone is deficient in B12, they do not have enough healthy red blood cells. B12 deficiencies have multiple causes, such as diet, medications, medical conditions, and surgeries.
Causes of B12 deficiency
Those who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet are at risk of being B12 deficient because animal-based foods such as poultry, beef, fish, dairy, and eggs are the best sources of this vitamin. If you’re not consuming these foods regularly, you may need to take supplements.
Certain medications known as antacids also can be linked to vitamin B12 deficiency. Long-term use of antacids such as Nexium (esomeprazole) or Protonix (pantoprazole) can increase the risk of B12 deficiency. Antacids lower the amount of acid in the stomach that can interfere with the absorption of nutrients.
Crohn’s is an autoimmune disease, and having this condition can cause a B12 deficiency. This nutrient is absorbed through the process of digestion. Crohn’s, however, interferes with the body’s ability to absorb nutrients and vitamins. This is why most people with Crohn’s are classified as malnourished. Another way Crohn’s can be linked to B12 deficiency is if a section of the small intestine called the ileum has been surgically removed.
How do you know if you’re B12 deficient?
Warning signs that you may be B12 deficient include:
– Excessive fatigue, despite getting adequate sleep.
– Muscle weakness.
– Changes in your nervous system, such as the sensation of pins and needles or numbness in your limbs; it can even affect how you walk.
– Pale complexion.
– Brain fog or forgetfulness; it can be hard to process a thought or retain information.
– Vision changes, light sensitivity, blurred or doubled vision, shadows.
– Mood changes.
– Digestive issues, such as nausea and diarrhea.
– Heart palpitations.
– Shortness of breath.
What are the long-term effects of B12 deficiency?
B12 deficiency can have some nasty effects on the body, causing anemia, neuropathy, memory problems, and vision changes. Once a deficiency has been diagnosed, it is important to start treatment and get those levels back up as soon as you can, because some of the effects can become permanent without treatment.
How can you reverse B12 deficiency?
There are ways to combat B12 deficiency. Your physician can confirm the diagnosis with a simple blood test. After a diagnosis, you can both come up with an action plan, depending on the cause of the deficiency. If a medication is the cause, your doctor may recommend switching to another one. If diet is suspected, adding foods rich in vitamin B12 is a good solution. This article lists foods rich in vitamin B12 for a vegetarian diet. And if it’s a medical condition that is causing the deficiency, then supplemental B12 is needed. Supplements come either in daily pills or monthly injections.
Note: IBD News Today is strictly a news and information website about the disease. It does not provide medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. This content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health providers with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. The opinions expressed in this column are not those of IBD News Today, or its parent company, BioNews Services, and are intended to spark discussion about issues pertaining to IBD.