Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency
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Vitamin B12 deficiency is usually treated with injections of the vitamin if the deficiency is caused by pernicious anaemia and not related to your diet. If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by the lack of the vitamin in your diet (common with vegetarian and vegan diets), vitamin B12 tablets could work or you can fill your diet with good sources of vitamin B12 instead. Express.co.uk chatted to Dr Deborah Lee from Dr Fox Online Pharmacy to find out the ONE condiment to add to your diet if you’re lacking vitamin B12.
People following a vegan or vegetarian diet may find it difficult to get enough vitamin B12 in their diets.
General symptoms of anaemia range from extreme fatigue and lethargy to headaches, pale skin and loss of appetite.
In the UK, up to 20 percent of the over 65’s are deficient in vitamin B12, and vegans, vegetarians and females are most at risk of this problem.
If you think you have vitamin B12 deficiency, it’s important to see a doctor and get to the root cause of the problem.
You could have vitamin B12 or folate deficiency as a result of pernicious anaemia, your diet, conditions affecting the stomach or intestines or medicines, and the treatment for each is different.
Sometimes changing your diet is enough, but you should check with your doctor first to see if you need injections or medication.
B12 deficiency diet
If your B12 deficiency is caused by your diet, you can fix the problem by incorporating good sources of vitamin B12 into your diet and taking supplements.
A diet that includes meat, fish and dairy products usually provides enough vitamin B12, but people who do not regularly eat these foods can become deficient.
The NHS site says: “People who eat a vegan diet and do not take vitamin B12 supplements or eat foods fortified with vitamin B12, are also at risk.
“Stores of vitamin B12 in the body can last around two to four years without being replenished, so it can take a long time for any problems to develop after a dietary change.”
You could also have a folate deficiency as a result of your diet.
The NHS site says: “Good sources of folate include broccoli, Brussels sprouts, asparagus, peas, chickpeas and brown rice.
“If you do not regularly eat these types of foods, you may develop a folate deficiency.
“Folate deficiency caused by a lack of dietary folate is more common in people who have a generally unbalanced and unhealthy diet, people who regularly misuse alcohol, and people following a fad diet that does not involve eating good sources of folate.”
The divisive condiment that is FULL of vitamin B12
If you’re looking for something simple to add to your diet to reverse your vitamin B12 deficiency, Dr Lee has suggested trying Marmite.
In the UK people fall into one of two camps – we either love marmite or we hate it.
Recent research from the 2017 Marmite Gene Project identified 15 genes that may be responsible for this love/hate relationship with marmite.
If you like the taste of the controversial product, you’re in luck!
Marmite is packed with B vitamins and suitable for vegans and vegetables, which is useful if you’re deficient in vitamin B12.
Marmite is a great source of five essential B vitamins, Dr Lee pointed out.
She said: “B vitamins are vital for cell metabolism, producing red blood cells, eyesight, brain function, digestion and heart function.
“Marmite is a good source of B12 for vegans and vegetarians”
All you need to do is have one serving of marmite a day, which is around one teaspoonful or 5g.
Dr Lee recommends spreading Marmite on a slice of toast in the morning – this contains eight calories, is cholesterol-free, fat-free, and sugar-free!
The condiment also contains benfotiamine, a powerful antioxidant that derives from vitamin B1.
This has been shown to stimulate cognitive function and may reduce some of the markers of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Dr Lee said: “In diabetic mice, benfotiamine was shown to accelerate the heart recovery after a heart attack.”
Marmite is not only high in B vitamins, but it is also high in glutamic acid which could benefit your mental health or ease certain conditions.
Dr Lee explained: “Glutamic acid is converted to glutamate, which is an important brain neurotransmitter.
“Hence, marmite may have specific benefits in stimulating the GABA (gamma-aminobutyric acid) brain pathway – this is an inhibitory pathway.
“Hence eating marmite may calm anxiety and reduce symptoms of medical conditions such as Tourette’s syndrome and ADHD.”
The brown spread also contains magnesium, which regulates neurotransmitters and can help you to sleep.
One teaspoon of marmite provides 10 percent of your daily magnesium intake.
Don’t overdo it though, as eating too much marmite could result in hyponatremia – high blood sodium levels – which are very dangerous and can be life-threatening.
However, most people would be unable to eat enough marmite for this to be a problem.
Dr Lee said: “It may occasionally be an issue if someone is elderly or confused.”
Marmite allergy can occur although it is very rare.
She warned: “If you or your child develop any signs of acute allergy such as swelling of the face, lips and tongue, trouble breathing, wheezing, restlessness, and confusion – you must get them straight to A and E without delay. Phone 999.”
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