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How to Treat a Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 plays an integral role in the functioning of many of the body’s systems, including the creation of DNA, blood and nerve cells, and in maintaining a healthy brain and immune system.

In a previous blog, we looked at the importance of vitamin B12 – otherwise known as the “energy vitamin” – and how a deficiency can adversely affect a person’s overall health. Today, we’re focusing on viable treatment options for a B12 deficiency, as well as some prevention tips to help keep this condition in check.

The treatment of a B12 deficiency depends on the cause. However, the overall goal of any form of treatment is to increase a person’s vitamin B12 levels.

Common treatment options include:

  • Consumption of a vitamin B12 supplement taken orally between meals.
  • For people who can’t absorb vitamin B12 on their own, diet changes will be necessary. A well-balanced diet will include the addition of foods rich in folic acid, iron and vitamin C. These foods include meat, salmon and cod, eggs, milk and other various dairy products.
  • If a person’s B12 deficiency is caused by an overgrowth of intestinal bacteria, an oral antibiotic, such as tetracycline, will be prescribed. This antibiotic stops the bacterial overgrowth and promotes the absorption of vitamin B12.
  • In some cases, monthly vitamin B12 injections will be necessary. This option is used for people who have severely low levels of this vitamin.
  • In the most severe cases, if the red blood cell count is extremely low, a blood transfusion will be needed for the first few days before injections start working.

Aside from actively treating this condition, a person can also be proactive to help prevent a B12 deficiency.

Preventing a vitamin deficiency might call for a shift in a person’s diet to incorporate more vitamin-rich food sources.

If you want to boost your B12 consumption, consider adding folate-dense foods such as:

  • Dark leafy greens
  • Fortified grain products like bread, cereal, pasta and rice
  • Fruits and fruit juices
  • Nuts

Furthermore, to help prevent a deficiency, a person should refrain from the following:

  • Smoking – In addition to being detrimental to a person’s overall health, smoking also greatly affects the absorption of nutrients, which inhibits your body from getting the adequate amounts of vitamins needed to function properly.
  • Excessive drinking – Alcohol can contribute to a vitamin deficiency because when the body metabolizes alcohol, it requires nutrients. During this process, the liver’s supply of these nutrients decreases and the blood stream is then employed to replenish the supply. The result of this can mean that the body’s cells are deprived of the nutrients needed for normal body functions. So if you do drink alcohol, consider doing so in moderation.

Schedule an appointment with your primary care physician if you would like to learn more about the possible treatment options as well as how to prevent a vitamin B12 deficiency.

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