Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
Our bodies need certain vitamins and minerals to ensure they can function to the best of their ability.
Vitamin B12 is one such vital nutrient, required to help the body create healthy blood cells.
Without these blood cells the body struggles to transport oxygen around to different organs.
This means a deficiency in B12 can cause serious complications.
Therefore, any signs of the issue should be looked into as soon as possible.
READ MORE Doctor warns ‘unusual’ sign on the tongue can signal vitamin B12 deficiency
However, this can prove difficult as various symptoms of a B12 deficiency can be mistaken for other health problems.
According to nutritionist Mays Al-Ali, from Healthy Mays, three signs of the deficiency to look for include:
- Weakness and tiredness
- Loss of taste or smell
These are also listed as symptoms of COVID-19, meaning the deficiency could be misdiagnosed.
However, other signs of Covid that are not associated with a B12 deficiency include a cough, fever, runny nose and a sore throat among others.
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Speaking to Express.co.uk , Mays said: “B12 deficiency symptoms can include a broad spectrum such as: weakness, tiredness, light-headedness, rapid heartbeat and breathing, pale skin, soreness, easy bruising and bleeding, red swollen or sore tongue (glossitis), gastric upset, weight loss, diarrhoea or constipation, lack of motivation and energy, muscle weakness and tingling in the extremities.
“Other neurological symptoms include altered sensation, paraesthesia in the extremities (pins and needles), gait ataxia (failure of muscle coordination), poor vision, dizziness, loss of taste or smell, urinary or faecal incontinence, loss of cutaneous sensation, impaired sense of proprioception, psychiatric manifestation, memory impairment, personality changes, convulsions, hypotonia (decreased muscle tone), developmental delay in children , orthostatic hypotension, postural orthostatic tachycardia (faster heartbeat than normal, more than 100 beats per minute).”
How to prevent a deficiency
Vitamin B12 is found in animal product foods such as meat, fish, cheese and eggs.
“Humans are unable to synthesise B12 and are therefore fully dependent on dietary intake, supplements, or fortified foods,” Mays said.
“The only natural food sources are animal source foods, including meat, fish, dairy, eggs, and liver.”
However, she advised on ways to up your intake of B12 if you do not eat animal products.
She said: “Some dried green and purple seaweeds may contain substantial amounts of B12, as a result of a symbiotic relation with bacteria.
“But spirulina does not contain B12; the corrinoid in blue-green algae is biologically inactive.”
If you are vegan or vegetarian it is possible to get B12 from yeast extract such as Marmite. It is also found in certain fortified foods like cereals.
What to do if you are deficient
If you experience symptoms of a B12 deficiency you should speak to your GP.
They can run tests to confirm whether you are deficient.
It might be possible to treat your deficiency by changing your diet or taking daily supplements.
In more extreme cases your GP might decide you need B12 injections.
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