B12 deficiency – possible causes

There are quite a few causes of b12 deficiency anemia.  The most common causes of Vitamin B12 deficiency have to do with stomach & digestive related problems.  Some of the more common and well known causes of Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia:

  • Stomach surgery – if you have had any surgery to remove all or part of your stomach, or surgery to remove your ileum (the end part of your small intestine) you are much more likely to develop B12 deficiency.  This also includes gastric bypass and other weight loss surgeries.  Having any of these procedures doesn’t guarantee you’ll get the deficiency, but you run a much higher risk and should check your B12 levels often.  Sometimes doctors will automatically put their patients who have had these surgeries on B12 to avoid any potential problems.
  • If you have digestive problems or disorders.  This includes but is not limited to celiac disease, also known as celiac sprue or sprue, Crohn’s disease, parasites, or a bacteria infection in the small intestine.
  • If you have heartburn or ulcers and have taken medication for a long period of time.

B12 deficiency anemia can also occur if you don’t eat enough of foods  that contain B12 or are a vegetarian.  This is rare, but if you don’t eat a variety of foods containing B12 you should take daily vitamins that contain enough B12 so you don’t become deficient.

If you are diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency anemia you may know right away what caused it.  You may require some testing to figure out what caused it, it may be a bit annoying but if it’s a problem that can be fixed you’ll want to know what it is.  Also be prepared that you may never know exactly the cause, and can only guess.  Whatever the cause the sooner you get treatment the better.

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10 Responses to “B12 deficiency – possible causes”

  1. cocobean

    I have just stumbled across your blog and its content really interests me. 5 years ago I gave birth to a lovely little boy. For the duration of the pregnancy I experienced unreal heartburn and took various over the counter antacids to try to ease the discomfort. Toward the end of the pregnancy I was prescribed losec which solved the problem immediately. Heartburn gone, acid tap turned off. In June2008 I found out I was pregnant again, and gave birth this time to 2 beautiful baby boys. Yes, twins!!! Throughout the pregnancy I experienced similar beartburn and reflux issues and was treated in a similar way for it. Some time after that I noticed heartburn returned and I have always treated it with over the counter antacids when needed. The last two years since the boys were born I have found myself on a rollercoaster. Life is very busy, my dear father died quite suddenly after a short illness and there has been little or no time for me. Recently I have begun to notice myself and my health going down hill. Since Easter I have had a sinus infection which I never feel fully cleared up. I have what feels like a post nasal drip ( although it is clear) and at times blocked ears. This has led me to feel dizzy, particularly in shops where I often feel like the floor is meeting my head. I have a fuzzy feeling most times of the day, my right arm and lower leg going into my foot tingles quite a bit and I experience what I can only describe as an electrical buzz going around my body. My general mood is very low but, I’m not sure if that is being exasperated by my anxiety about how I am feeling. Two weeks ago I visited my gp, explained how I am feeling and he sent me packing with SERC16 for the dizziness and put the rest of my symptoms down to the fatigue of the past 2 years. Ten days on from taking the serc 16 and I dont feel like they have worked. I had cholestrol checked in Feb and it came back a bit high. As far as I know my thyroid was checked at the time and i wasnt told if there was anything wrong with that. Would B vitamins be automatically be checked during routine blood tests? I am wondering if I should go back to have my B12 checked. I have myself driven around the bend worrying and have myself diagnosed with horrible neurological conditions. Many Thanks in advance for any feedback that I can get and I apologize if this comment does not go into the correct part of your blog!!

  2. B12 Anemia

    Definitely get your B12 levels checked! Be sure you have had your thyroid checked too, as that has many of the same symptoms as B12 deficiency. Any B12 count less then 400 can cause symptoms. It is not a routine check for most physicians. One thing that I have learned is that you need to be your own advocate, so go to another doctor if you aren’t happy with the one you have. Good luck, I hope you feel better soon.

  3. cocobean

    Got my blood tests back today and my vit b12 reading came in at 218. I was told that it isnt treated unless levels reach 130 and lower. I am disappointed with this as I think I could benefit from some treatment.

  4. B12 Anemia

    GET A SECOND OPINION! There is a great debate by doctors who know a lot about B12 deficiency, many think the number to define deficient should be 400, but unfortunately those who don’t know much about it go by the textbook definition which is 200. However at 218 you are so close anyway that with all your symptoms I think any doctor should have put you on some kind of B12. Did he test your MMA levels? If you really like your doctor tell him you insist on being treated for B12 deficiency. If it were me I would take all my information and find a doctor who realizes the severity of B12 deficiency. Don’t delay because the longer this goes untreated the worse it can be. Good Luck, I hope you feel better soon!

  5. fumble

    I am also going through this. The question I have, is how long before permanent damage results from low levels? I am pretty sure I have some permanent problems from this. Any help is appreciated. I am sure every person here has gone through the ‘it’s all in your head’ thing.

  6. B12 Anemia

    Unfortunately there is no one correct answer to your question. Every person is different, so your body will react and respond as best it can. The only thing I can tell you is that the longer you are deficient, the more likely the damage will be permanent. It can take a year or more for your body to recover as much as it will.
    Hope you feel better soon.

  7. Penny Sowle

    I have tried, injections, patches, and sublingual(sp) supplements and my levels have not gotten any higher then 218. My dr said to be at a good level it should be 600-900, I have Celiac Disease, I have been on a “Gluten Free” diet for almost 4 years, and still my levels are in “the toilet”. I suffer horribly with stomach pain, bloat, inflammation etc. I can barely eat, I force myself to eat what little I do, just to survive, but no matter what I eat, everything causes me discomfort. I have nerve issues, that effect my left hand, right leg, and my organs. I am told I do not have Pernicious Anemia because I have the intrinsic factor, however, I can not maintain b12 levels. I have considered a parasite however, my dr doesn’t think so and doesn’t want to test for it. I can’t make many more dietary changes. I pretty much eat paleo as is it, however, I do still eat sharp cheese. What am I to do at this point?

  8. Terri

    This message is for Penny Sowle…my symptoms/history are the same as yours. Insist on parasite, yeast and bacteria blood tests, if denied go to a different Doc.Good Luck to us both!

  9. Layne

    I’m going through the same thing. Doctor is treating me for thyroid and for two months I kept showing him my mouth that was inflamed with ulcers. Glossitis, we believe. Blood tests show B12 is at 130. Got my first shot and have 4 more scheduled over the next month. My list of symptoms is so lengthy. I probably lucky the mouth is the “visible” symptom that the doc can really see. I feel strongly that it is intestinal and not really dietary intake. Bacteria? Yeast? Could it be my well-water? This is the second time in 6 years I’ve had a bout with these symptoms. Last time we treated for iron anemia. What type of doctor should I see? Hematologistic, endocrinologist, gastric doctor, nutritionist? I want to get to the real cause.

  10. Hazel

    Help needed!
    Hello , firstly I apologize if I’m posting on the wrong area .
    About 8 years ago my father was diagnosed with Parkinsons Diease , he began to move slowly had off balance and sever musle pains and aches , anxiety, lightheadedness etc his continued this way ever since . About two years I become very sick , loss of balance , muscle pains, visual problems, light headedness, anxiety, etc It took two years to diagnose a vitamin b12 defiency of levels around 100 . This got me thinking could my fathers problems have been a b12 defiency? Now even if they had of tested me two years ago my levels probably would of been in the Australian normal range of between 200 -700 and I’m aware many believe anything under 400 could cause symptoms . I asked my father to get tested his b12 came back at 280 with his folate levels through the roof at 900 the highest level supposed to be 400 , I’ve read somewhere that high folate levels can mask b12 results , my question is is this true? Does anyone have any links I can look at and show the doctor
    I’m well aware my father may have Parkinson’s but if there’s anything that could improve his quality of life I have to look into it