If you're over age 50 and constantly feel tired and sleepy, even after getting the recommended hours of sleep at night, talk to a primary care doctor about vitamin B12, or cobalamin, deficiency. Your body depends on various nutrients to stay healthy as it ages. Although your body makes many of the vitamins, minerals, and chemicals you need, it doesn't make some nutrients, including vitamin B12. Cobalamin comes from animal protein and regulates your metabolism, red blood cells and central nervous system. Without sufficient vitamin intake, you may experience a variety of health problems, including anemia and weakness. Here are things to know about the nutrient B12, how it affects your body and how a primary care doctor may assist you.
What's Vitamin B12 Used For?
Vitamin B12 is one of eight water-soluble B vitamins your body needs on a regular basis. Water-soluble vitamins generally don't stay in your body after you use them, but B12 can store away in your liver for future use. You secrete what's leftover through your urine.
Vitamin B12 plays a critical role in how your body metabolizes, or converts, carbohydrates into energy. The vitamin also helps your blood make new red blood cells and central nervous system regulate the functions of your brain, nerves, skin and other sensory organs. B12 is also helps folate, another B vitamin, produce and protect your DNA.
If you can't absorb cobalamin properly or obtain enough of the nutrient in your diet, you will develop numerous issues that compromise your health.
How Can a Vitamin B12 Deficiency Affect You?
Although it's not readily understood why some people develop a vitamin B12 deficiency, several factors may contribute to the problem. Berkeley Wellness reports that some individuals over the age of 50 can't absorb the B12 they receive from food. These individuals may not have the ability to produce sufficient digestive acids to break down the vitamin once it enters their stomachs. The problems caused by age-related cobalamin deficiency include memory loss and tingling in the arms and legs.
According to Berkeley Wellness, other individuals may have problems absorbing and utilizing cobalamin if they previously experienced certain kinds of intestinal surgery because it may change the way the digestive system makes acids or breaks down food. Other issues that may lead to a B12 deficiency include practicing a vegan diet and taking medications that interfere with the absorption of nutrients in the body.
If you fall into any of the criteria mentioned above, it's a good idea to speak with a primary care doctor about the situation.
How Can a Primary Care Doctor Diagnose Your Vitamin Deficiency?
A primary care physician may offer a number of tests to see if you have a vitamin B12 deficiency. Many of the tests look for signs of anemia, or low red blood cells. People with a cobalamin deficiency often have fewer red blood cells, or RBCs, than people who aren't deficient in the vitamin. The RBC's may also appear large and malformed.
Other testing methods may include examining how well your body absorbs small amounts of B12. The sample will contain a radioactive chemical that is visible in your blood when examined under a microscope. Your blood will be examined to determine whether your body can absorb B12 properly.
If a primary care doctor diagnoses you with a vitamin deficiency, they may suggest you change your diet or prescribe treatments that increase your intake of B12. The treatments you receive may depend on the underlying factors that led to your vitamin deficiency in the first place. A doctor will most likely discuss all possible treatments with you during a private visit.
For more information about B12 deficiency, contact a primary care doctor today from an establishment like Rural Health Services Consortium Inc.