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Vitamin B12 deficiency: The smelly symptom that signals your nervous system is compromised

This Morning: Guest reveals symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency

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Barring specific food preferences or an underlying condition, you should get all the vitamin B12 you need from eating a well-balanced diet – and it’s important you do. B12 deficiency can disrupt vital functions.

Vitamin B12 plays a pivotal role in making red blood cells, aiding psychological function and maintaining a healthy nervous system.

In regards to the latter, a reduced sense of smell can signal your nervous system is being compromised, warns the B12 Institute.

Other signs your nervous system is being compromised:

  • Tingling hands and feet
  • Numbness of hands and feet (feeling as if they are “asleep”)
  • Muscle tremors on the skin (e.g. eyelid)
  • Reduced capability to perceive the body position in a room
  • Blurred vision (focus decreases)
  • Infection and degeneration optic nerve
  • Hearing problems, distortion, tinnitus
  • Reduced sense of taste or touch.

There are also a number of general symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency to spot.

These include:

  • Exhaustion (strange ‘drained’feeling), general unwellness
  • Dizziness (alsof in upright position), fainting
  • Headache, migraine
  • Loss of hair, prematurely turning gray
  • Brittle nails
  • Increased susceptibility to infection (urinary system, sinuses)
  • Shortness of breath or COPD-like phenomena (especially upon exertion), fast high intake of breath
  • Hoarseness, signs of paralysis in vocal cords (seldom)
  • Muscle weakness and pains
  • Increased pulse (tachycardia)
  • Pallor
  • Tinnitus
  • Sensitivity to cold (especially of hands and feet)
  • Feverish symptoms, feelings of coming down with the flu
  • Misunderstood fever.

What causes B12 deficiency?

Pernicious anaemia is the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK.

Pernicious anaemia is an autoimmune condition that affects your stomach.

An autoimmune condition means your immune system, the body’s natural defence system that protects against illness and infection, attacks your body’s healthy cells.

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Pernicious anaemia causes your immune system to attack the cells in your stomach that produce the intrinsic factor, which means your body is unable to absorb vitamin B12.

Some people can develop a vitamin B12 deficiency as a result of not getting enough vitamin B12 from their diet.

According to Holland and Barrett, the richest sources of B12 are animal-based, including meat and liver, fish, milk and dairy products.

As a result, vegans and vegetarians are more prone to B12 deficiency.

There are plant-based sources of vitamin B12, however. These include:

  • Yeast extract
  • Fortified plant milks
  • Fortified breakfast cereals
  • Soya foods fortified with B12.

How is B12 deficiency treated?

The treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency depends on what’s causing the condition.

Most people can be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace the missing vitamins.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.

There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:

  • Hydroxocobalamin
  • Cyanocobalamin.

“If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of the vitamin in your diet, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals,” explains the NHS.

The health body adds: “People who find it difficult to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets, such as those following a vegan diet, may need vitamin B12 tablets for life.”

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