Vitamin B12 does a lot behind the scenes, such as helping to keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and making DNA, the genetic material in all cells. In fact, the essential role it plays becomes all too apparent when you become deficient in the vitamin. Struggling to get enough B12 in your system can disrupt many processes in the body.
There are several reasons why you may develop B12 deficiency but the primary cause is pernicious anaemia.
Pernicious Anaemia is an autoimmune disease that prevents the body from making intrinsic factor (a protein made by the stomach and needed to absorb vitamin B12 in the intestine).
According to the NHS, the exact cause of pernicious anaemia is unknown, but it’s more common in women around 60 years of age, people with a family history of the condition and those with another autoimmune condition, such as Addison’s disease or vitiligo.
It is important to understand the underlying causes of B12 deficiency because they often produce quite distinct symptoms and require specific forms of treatment.
Research shows that circadian rhythm disruptions are a significant underlying factor for depression.
Circadian rhythms are physical, mental, and behavioural changes that follow a daily cycle, such as sleeping at night and being awake in the day.
“It may be that Vitamin B12 is specifically useful for people with sleep-wake disruptions, including in people who also have symptoms of depression,” notes The Sleep Doctor.
How to treat B12 deficiency anaemia
If your B12 deficiency is caused by pernicious anaemia, A course of vitamin B12 injections is usually recommended.
There are two types of vitamin B12 injections:
“At first, you’ll have these injections every other day for two weeks or until your symptoms have started improving,” explains the NHS.
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, says the health body.
Why do some people struggle to get enough B12 in their diet?
B12 is naturally found in meat, fish and dairy products so people following a vegan diet do not consume the primary sources.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, or are looking for alternatives to meat and dairy products, there are other foods that contain vitamin B12, however.
As the NHS points out, B12 can be found in yeast extract (including Marmite), as well as some fortified breakfast cereals and soy products.
“Check the nutrition labels while food shopping to see how much vitamin B12 different foods contain,” the health site advises.