There is a lot of misconception about the actual causes of vitamin B12 deficiency, and most of this confusion is the result of the vitamin itself.
Although not receiving enough of this nutrient in your daily diet is one of the leading causes, it is only one of several, as the actual length of this list may shock most people the first time they see it.
However, in discussing the potential causes, it is also quite helpful to understand what this critical nutrient does for your body, as well as some of the conditions that can result if you do have a deficiency.
In fully understanding the causes of vitamin B12 deficiency, it is extremely helpful to understand what this critical nutrient actually does to help your overall health.
B12 is a water soluble vitamin and it is found in several food sources such as dairy products, shellfish, fish, and meats.
It helps with several nerve functions in your body as well as with your red blood cells, but it also helps to make your DNA.
Once it is obtained from these food sources or from a supplement, it combines with a substance called intrinsic factor or IF, and from there it is absorbed into your bloodstream.
Perhaps it most important function in your body is what it does in protecting your nerves.
B12, which is also referred to as cobalamin, is critical in the production of myelin.
This is a fatty sheath that actually insulates your nerve fibers and if they are fully protected by the sheath, it moves your electrical impulses throughout your body.
If your body becomes deficient of this nutrient, it causes this sheath to begin to fall apart or degenerate.
Once this occurs, it can cause memory loss, confusion, as well as a loss of balance and muscle loss.
It can also very quickly lead to several hearing problems such as tinnitus. However, it also preforms another very critical role in your body; it protects against homocysteine.
Homocysteine is toxic to your brain cells as well as very dangerous to your heart, as it makes your blood cells more adhesive.
As a result of this, they become much stickier and can very easily lead to blood clots.
But the benefits of B12 do not end there, as it is also very important in the production of your red blood cells.
If your red blood cells do not have this nutrient, these cells are not manufactured quick enough which can lead to pernicious anemia.
In further understanding the causes of vitamin B12 deficiency, it is also very helpful to understand what problems can be caused if the supply is inadequate.
Pernicious anemia is a form of anemia that occurs as the result of IT, or the intrinsic factor, which is a chemical that is found in your stomach.
B12 binds with this chemical before it is actually absorbed by your body, and if is deficient, it causes a blood abnormality to develop which in turn causes this form of anemia.
However, it can also cause another form; megaloblastic anemia. With this form of anemia, your red blood cells become larger than normal.
But this is just the beginning of potential problems, as a deficiency can also cause severe memory loss.
Because of this, B12 is now being linked to Alzheimer’s disease as several patients with this condition have demonstrated to have very low levels of B12 in their blood.
Low levels can also very easily lead to disorientation, confusion, as well as severe mood swings, all of which are symptoms related to this disease.
A deficiency of this nutrient has also been linked to Angioplasty, breast cancer, fatigue, as well as shaky leg syndrome.
It has also been linked to sickle cell disease, Immersed-Grosbeak disease, as well as strokes.
The causes of vitamin B12 deficiency will start with a lack of this nutrient in your diet and can be very common with Vegans and the diets that they eat.
A vegan diet is often confused with a vegetarian diet, but this is inaccurate, as there are several different forms of a vegetarian diet.
A true vegan diet will exclude all forms of meat, fish, eggs, as well as poultry, but it also excludes any form of dairy product even in very small amounts.
Since these are the basic sources of B12, it is generally one of the leading causes of a deficiency of this nutrient.
Most vegetarian diets will allow for dairy products, making them much safer overall than a vegan diet.
However, this is only the beginning of the causes of vitamin B12 deficiency, as the next is referred to as selective impaired absorption that is the result of a deficiency of the intrinsic factor.
This can be caused by the loss of gastric cells in your stomach and is the cause of megaloblastic anemia.
However, it can also be the result of an operation that has involved your stomach as well as a hereditary factor. Also this is quite rare; it does occur and can also affect this intrinsic factor.
The next potential causes of vitamin B12 deficiency include malabsorption as well as maldigestion syndrome.
Malabsorption syndrome in most all cases will involve either surgical damage that has been inflicted in your stomach, or some type of a structural damage.
Since your stomach is the primary place where B12 begins the absorption process in your body, if this site is affected, it cannot be absorbed simply because it is never made.
There are also certain drugs that can interfere with the malabsorption of this nutrient from food.
Proton pump inhibitors are often used by the elderly, and they are one of the largest causes of malabsorption.
However, it is extremely important to note that this process does not interfere with vitamin supplements and here is the reason why.
Acid that is produced in your stomach is needed to help split B12 from the food that you eat, and anything that interferes with this process and makes these gas levels low, basically stops this process.
However, supplements are not bound to proteins like the natural forms of B12, and because of this, they are not affected by this process.
But the list of causes of vitamin B12 deficiency does not end there as Crohns disease as well as Celiac disease can also be the underlying cause.
Crohns disease as well as short bowel syndrome inhibits your body’s ability to produce B12, and celiac disease is believed to interfere with the absorption process of this nutrient.
Tapeworm, especially the kind that is found in fish, can also be the underlying cause as it competes with your body for the B12 that is being produced.
Bacterial overgrowth is also believed to be another of the potential causes of vitamin B12 deficiency, as several bacteria will do the exact same thing that tapeworm does.
They compete with this nutrient as soon as it is produced by your body.
If you have diabetes and take the drug metformin, you may also have a deficiency of this nutrient and may not be fully aware of it, but this is also believed to be one of the leading causes.
However, there is one other common cause; chronic alcohol abuse.
Alcohol abuse depletes several nutrients from your body, but none of them to the extent it does with this one.
It is for this reason that doctors give B12 injections as the first form of treatment for chronic alcohol abuse.
There are several potential causes of vitamin B12 deficiency, but it almost every case, there is a very simple solution; use a supplement.
If you take a multivitamin liquid supplement or a liquid B supplement, they will absorb into your system at a 90 percent or higher ratio as compared to about 25 percent with a pill or caplet form.
This is exactly what you need to prevent this very dangerous deficiency.