Vitamin B12 deficiency: The hidden warning of low levels found in the bowel movements

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Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Vitamin B12 also helps prevent a type of anaemia which is known to make a person feel tired and weak. Lacking in the vitamin could also cause dire effects with one’s bowel movements.

According to the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, constipation can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency.

This is because the digestive tract can be impaired if a person is deficient in vitamin B12.

A person’s digestive health relies on the healthy function of the stomach, small and large intestines, the colon and the rectum, and these tissues rely on B vitamins.

Low intake of vitamin B12 affects the digestive tract, and a severe deficiency paralyses the muscle tissue in the lining of the digestive tract, hindering intestinal function.

During constipation a person’s stools often become difficult to push out and are larger than usual. 

The stools are often dry, hard or lumpy.

As well as constipation, vitamin B12 deficiency may lead to a person being overly gassy or suffering with diarrhoea.

However, the problems with the digestive tract are not the only body part to suffer due to a deficiency.

A long-term deficiency can cause incontinence, low blood pressure, vision problems, difficulty walking, psychoses and other abnormal psychiatric and neurological symptoms, according to

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Why does this occur

A lack of vitamin B12 interferes with your body’s ability to make red blood cells.

Insufficient red blood cells causes anaemia, or weak blood.

As we age, so the symptoms may get worse which could lead to anaemia worsening.

This in turn could cause constipation, diarrhoea or having an upset stomach.

Why does a B12 deficiency occur in some people?

Pernicious anaemia occurs when an autoimmune response causes a lack of intrinsic factor.

The Hematology-Oncology Associates of CNY explained: “Intrinsic factor is a protein made in the stomach. It helps your body absorb vitamin B12.”

When the immune system attacks the parietal cells that line the stomach, intrinsic factor can no longer be made.

Without intrinsic factor, the body can’t move vitamin B12 through the small intestine where it would otherwise be absorbed.

B12 foods are found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods and is added to some fortified foods.

Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified, said the National Institutes of Health.

The health site advised: “You can get recommended amounts of vitamin B12 by eating a variety of foods including the following:

Beef liver and clams, which are the best sources of vitamin B12.

Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products, which also contain vitamin B12.

Some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts and other food products that are fortified with vitamin B12. To find out if vitamin B12 has been added to a food product, check the product labels.
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