This may come as a surprise, but vitamin B12 is far more important than many people realize. This essential nutrient is crucial to the healthy functioning of your central nervous system, including the brain and spinal cord. Unfortunately, vitamin B12 deficiency is more common than you might think.
Without sufficient quantities of B12, you could experience a range of health problems including fatigue, rapid heartbeat, increased bleeding, and diarrhea. If the deficiency is allowed to continue, the symptoms can escalate to include numbness and tingling in the extremities, depression, and even dementia.
What Causes B12 Deficiency?
The most obvious answer to the question of what causes a deficiency of vitamin B12 is an inadequate diet. The most efficient source of the vitamin is animal products, including fish, red meat, eggs, and dairy products. Therefore, the group most at risk for a dietary B12 deficiency is vegans, since they do not consume any animal products at all. Many health care professionals recommend that people following a strict vegan diet take B12 supplements. Vegetarians are also at risk, but because they eat eggs and dairy it is somewhat mitigated. Babies born to vegan or vegetarian mothers are also at risk for B12 deficiency.
However, in many cases, a vitamin B12 deficiency is not caused by insufficient diet but by inadequate absorption of the vitamin in your digestive tract. One syndrome that can inhibit proper absorption of nutrients is pernicious anemia, an autoimmune disorder.
B12 Deficiency And Hashimoto’s Hypothyroidism
Because Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism is also an autoimmune disease, people with Hashimoto’s are at increased risk for developing other autoimmune disorders, including pernicious anemia. In addition, people with Hashimoto’s often suffer from gut inflammation, which could also inhibit proper absorption of B12. To continue the circle, insufficient quantities of B12 can worsen autoimmune disorders such as Hashimoto’s.
To compound the problem, many of the symptoms of B12 deficiency are very similar to the symptoms of Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism. Therefore, it is very important for people with Hashimoto’s to make sure they get enough B12 via diet and/or supplementation, and to keep an eye on their B12 levels, since the symptoms could be masked by those of the existing autoimmune condition.
Treating B12 Deficiency
There are several options when it comes to boosting your vitamin B12 levels. The easiest method is to increase your dietary intake by eating more poultry, fish, eggs, dairy, or other food sources of the vitamin. There are also several options for supplementation, including capsules, sublingual tablets, and even injections for more severe cases. As always, be sure to consult your healthcare practitioner to determine the appropriate dosage for you, since there is a slight risk of B12 overdose.
While vitamin B12 is important for everyone, those of us who are living with Hashimoto’s hypothyroidism need to be extra vigilant about making sure we get enough of it in our diets. B12 deficiency is never good news, but it can be even more problematic for Hashimoto’s patients. Working closely with your healthcare practitioner to make sure you have sufficient B12 in your system can help you maintain your good health.
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