Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin or red vitamin, plays a very important role in our body. How can people on a vegetarian or vegan diet supplement its deficiency?
Vitamin B12 is a stable, organic, water-soluble compound. Bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract are responsible for its production. In humans, the production of vitamin B12 takes place in the large intestine, where it is absorbed. The best sources include liver, kidney, heart, fish, and shellfish. Vitamin B12 participates in the formation of red blood cells and the myelin sheath of nerves and neurotransmitters. It also participates in the synthesis of nucleic acids and methylation reactions, which are involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, and fats. What role does vitamin B12 play in our body? It improves memory and the ability to concentrate and learn, prevents anemia, ensures normal muscle contraction and good mood, facilitates iron metabolism, stimulates appetite, is responsible for proper growth and bone structure, and reduces blood lipid levels.
Vitamin B12 is harmful to the body through the effects of alcohol, estrogen, water, acids, and sunlight, among other things. Vitamin B12 deficiency may be associated with, among other things, inflammation of the gastric mucosa, increased urinary excretion, disorders of intestinal bacterial flora, and various other intestinal disorders. Vitamin B12 deficiency is very often found in parasitic diseases. How to recognize that we are dealing with it? One of the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are hematological symptoms caused by a disruption in the formation of red blood cells. As a consequence, we are dealing with the development of anemia. People who suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency also have neurological symptoms, such as balance, memory and concentration disorders, and seizures. Symptoms of the digestive system may also appear – burning sensation in the mouth, taste disorders, or inflammation of the mucous membranes of the mouth and tongue. Psychiatric symptoms such as delusional syndromes or anxiety disorders are also worth mentioning here.
In the initial stage, the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are not characteristic. Among others, sleep disorders, apathy, mood changes, sluggishness, or fatigue are observed. Acute vitamin B12 deficiency can lead, among others, to incontinence of urine and feces, paraplegia or spasticity. Problems with oxygen transport in the body may also occur. The most common symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency anemia include: dizziness, pale skin, shortness of breath, increased heart rate, and arrhythmia. If this condition persists over time, it can lead to regular diarrhea, growth retardation, neurological disorders, depressive states, and memory loss.
Contrary to appearances, meat is not the only source of vitamin B12. It can also be found in milk, cheese, yogurt, and eggs. People on a vegan diet can make up for vitamin B12 deficiencies by eating mushrooms, such as shtake, sea urchin, sea bream, and chanterelle mushrooms. Algae made from dried nori hydrocarbons fall into this category. Another vegan source of vitamin B12 is nutritional yeast. Various types of products with vitamin B12 can be found on store shelves – for example, cereals. Vegetarians and vegans can make up for vitamin B12 deficiencies by taking dedicated supplements available on the market.