Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
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Vitamin B12 is an essential dietary nutrient that has many purposes in the body, including the maintenance of the nervous system. Without it, nerve function is bound to become compromised, giving rise to a host of multi-sensorial symptoms. According to health bodies, these may be particularly pronounced at night when the body temperature drops.
Low vitamin B12 can cause many complications, but a major risk is a damage to the myelin sheath that surrounds and protects nerves.
The nerves need this protection to function properly and transmit signals, but even a B12 deficiency that is “relatively mild” can compromise this function, warns the Center for Peripheral Neuropathy.
Failure to treat peripheral neuropathy promptly could result in debilitating nerve damage further down the line.
According to Lome Linda University Health, the condition typically causes feet to become more sensitive to cooler air.
The Amputation Prevention Centres of America, explains: “As temperatures drop at night, your peripheral nerves can begin to tingle more, and you’ll feel more burning or sharp pains.
“Your heart rate also slows when you’re colder, slowing your blood and increasing painful sensations.”
It adds: “If you can handle the touch on your feet, wrap up in blankets to warm up.”
Another key issue with low vitamin B12 is not having enough healthy red blood cells to move oxygen around the body.
This could leave the body feeling cold, particularly in the hands and feet, according to WebMD.
What causes vitamin B12 deficiency?
A B12 deficiency can be caused by diet, but some stem from low production of stomach acids.
This often occurs when the body ages, and can be treated with supplements or injections under the supervision of a doctor.
Alongside peripheral neuropathy, treatment will also offset other complications like moodiness and anaemia.
“So watch out for any symptoms and get a blood test if your doctor recommends it,” advises WebMD.
Dietary intake of B12 can be increased by eating more:
- Red meat
- Poultry and eggs
- Dairy products
Deficiencies caused by low dietary intake of B12 are rare because the body stores several years’ supply of the nutrient in the liver.
WebMD recommends: “Vegans and vegetarians who don’t eat any animal products should add some processed grains like fortified bread, crackers and cereals [to their diet]”.
Other plant-based sources of vitamin B12 include:
According to the NHS, adults aged, between 19 to 64 need only 1.5 micrograms of vitamin B12 per day.
“If you eat meat, fish, or dairy foods, you should be able to get enough vitamin B12 from your diet,” says the health body.
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