Vitamin B12 is an important vitamin that is required to perform crucial functions in the body, such as maintaining a healthy nervous system.
When vitamin B12 levels are low, the body will create large red blood cells that can’t function properly.
Tissues and organs in the body are therefore at risk of being deprived of oxygen, leading to symptoms of anaemia.
As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to a wide range of complications including tiredness, vision problems and muscle weakness.
However, less well known, parts of the digestive system including the stomach, intestines, colon and rectum all rely on B vitamins, meaning that there are a few key signs that can be spotted when visiting the toilet.
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Due to this, the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute notes that gas, constipation and diarrhoea may indicate that you are suffering from low vitamin B12 levels.
In turn, a disrupted digestive tract can also lead to related symptoms, such as bloating and a feeling of sickness.
As Harvard Education explains: “Vitamin B12 binds to the protein in the foods we eat.
“In the stomach, hydrochloric acid and enzymes unbind vitamins B12 into its free form.
“From there, vitamin B12 combines with a protein called intrinsic factor so that it can be absorbed further down in the small intestine.”
It’s important to note that these symptoms alone won’t necessarily indicate a lack of B12, but combined with other symptoms including a swollen tongue, fatigue and mobility problems warrant further investigation.
Vitamin B12 naturally occurs in a variety of food, enabling many people to prevent deficiency by eating enough meat, fish, dairy and eggs.
To replace what nutrients are lost through a plant-based diet, vegans are encouraged to eat fortified foods, like cereals, or take supplements.
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To remain healthy, adults need to eat around 1.5 micrograms of the vitamin a day.
However, the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is pernicious anaemia – an autoimmune condition that affects the stomach and prevents the body from absorbing B12.
The cause of pernicious anaemia is unknown although it is most common in women around the age of 60, those with a family history of the condition and in people with an additional autoimmune condition.
Other conditions affecting the stomach and intestines can also stop the absorption of B12.
Certain types of medication can also increase the risk of vitamin B12 deficiency.