Tag Archives: vitamins

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Sometimes in patients who have undergone removal of the stomach (most probably from severe peptic ulceration) a similar situation can occur. However, as the liver can store vitamin B12 with amounts that may last up to five years, it may be several years after surgery that the symptoms will commence. In other patients who have bowel disorders, there may be interference in folic acid absorption. A condition called Crohn’s disease may be present, or there may have been surgical removal of part of the bowel, coeliac disease, sprue and certain other disorders.

During pregnancy there is a large increase in the body’s need for folic acid. For this reason, folic acid is now given routinely together with iron to all women during pregnancy.

Some patients on drug medication for other conditions have their folic-acid supplies adversely affected. This ma y include drugs taken for epilepsy, and certain sulfa drugs, to name some of the more common ones implicated.

Apart from affecting the red cells. these deficiencies may also adversely affect the production of the white cells and platelets, both of which may be reduced in numbers. This in turn may produce serious symptoms and conditions attributed to this.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms

The symptoms will be a combination of the usual symptoms of anaemia, plus symptoms of the underlying cause. A glossitis (sore, red tongue) usually occurs as well. The blood picture shows abnormal cells, and there is a reduced number of white cells and platelets.

Inadequate vitamin B12 may also react adversely on the nervous system, producing a serious condition called subacute combined degeneration of the spinal cord. This also produces symptoms that are described under the nervous system. It is essential that this condition be treated early, for damage to the cord may be rectified with prompt early treatment.

But if left, these changes may be permanent, much to the discomfort of the patient. Tests are available that directly measure the blood levels of folic acid and vitamin B12. (Refer to the section on vitamins for a list of foods rich in these substances.)

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Treatment

Therapy is very satisfactory, and the results relatively prompt. Once the diagnosis has been established, the doctor will most likely order folic acid in tablet form, commonly giving 5 mg three times a day.

Vitamin B12 is usually given in the form of an injection. Over the years the exact chemical formulation has changed. It used to be cyanocobalamin. often injected weekly by the doctor or district nurse. However. this has now changed to a related product called hydroxocobalamin 1000 (equals 1 000 micrograms/ ml) that is claimed to offer adequate protection if given once each three months by injection. This is now the routine in Australia and New Zealand for pernicious anaemia patients. Nevertheless, many older patients claimed they felt better on their monthly or bimonthly shots of B12 in the older form.

The injections may he necessary for the rest of the patient’s life. They are painless and adverse side effects are extremely uncommon. It is a small price to pay for a supplement that yields such dramatic and beneficial results.

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Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms

Vitamin Needs

Vitamins are certainly an important factor in life. Fortunately, the average  diet, both for baby and adult, is adequate in most cases to meet daily vitamin needs.

However, some babies do have vitamin deficiencies. The most likely to be encountered are those due to a lack of vitamin C (ascorbic acid) or vitamin D.

Vitamin C is present in breast milk. If baby is breastfed, and is taking a reasonable daily intake, vitamin C needs will be adequately catered for.

Cow’s milk is devoid of this vitamin. A supplement is essential.

Correct. This is most simply given in the form of orange juice, which is very rich in vitamin C. One orange contains about 60 mg. It is essential that the juice, when squeezed, be not boiled, for this could destroy the entire vitamin C component. Give it to baby freshly squeezed. This can be done between feeds. It can serve a twofold purpose – adding to the fluid intake, and providing the essential vitamin.

Scurvy is the disease produced by a lack of vitamin C.

Rickets, due to a lack of vitamin D, is uncommon these days. Sunshine assists the vitamin to be produced in the body. However, occasionally cases of premature babies with rickets have been reported. Giving babies a vitamin supplement is practically standard practice in many developed countries. Doses are usually marked on the label.


Vitamins are chemicals that are important in maintaining good health therefore, deficiencies can lead to serious diseases or illnesses. Despite an increase in “megavitamin therapy” or “orthomolecular medicine” (practice of using large amounts of vitamins and mineral including supplements and IVs to treat varying conditions), many of the vitamins we need are found in nature with fruits and vegetables being the main source. For this reason, having a diet that is well-balanced guarantees an adequate daily intake of the chemicals needed because; as essential as they are, they are needed in minute doses. In fact, the measuring units used are micrograms and milligrams.

Referred to as “organic catalysts”; vitamins help to initiate numerous chemical reactions in the body and are unique in that they remain in the body even after being used. They also help with the body’s development with each having its own (sometimes multiple) function(s) and established daily allowances. The absence of even those needed in trace amounts can easily or quickly be felt by the body since they are important for bone formation, hair and nail growth, good sight, healthy teeth and gums as well as the overall growth and maintenance of the body. Energy and even emotional stability have both been linked to adequate intakes of these essential chemicals.

Vitamins were initially named using the alphabet, reflecting the order in which they were found. Overtime names were added or substituted as the numbers increased and more discoveries about the variations were made (the B complex for example).

The list of commonly know vitamins and their deficiency diseases include:

  1. Vitamin A (related to the chemical Carotene): Night-blindness and Keratomalacia
  2. Vitamin B Complex:
    • Vitamin B1 (Thiamine): Beriberi and Wernicke-Korsakoff syndrome
    • Vitamin B2 (Riboflavin): Ariboflavinosis
    • Vitamin B3 (niacin): Pellagra
    • Vitamin B5 (Pantothenic acid): Paresthesia
    • Vitamin B6 (Pyridoxine): Anemia and Peripheral Neuropathy.
    • Vitamin B7 (Biotin or Vitamin H): Dermatitis and Enteritis
    • Vitamin B9 (Folic Acid): Asneural Tube and other defects if deficiency occurs during pregnancy
    • Vitamin B12 (Cyanocobalamin): Megaloblastic Anemia
  3. Vitamin C (Ascorbic Acid): Scurvy
  4. Vitamin D (Calciferol): Rickets and Osteomalacia
  5. Vitamin E: Mild Hemolytic Anemia in newborns (very rare)
  6. Vitamin K: Bleeding diathesis

Ninety-seven years after the first discovery, vitamins fall into two groups:

A, D and K can dissolve in fat hence are called fat-soluble vitamins while the B complex and C dissolve in water and are called water-soluble vitamins.

Vitamin deficiency is far more rampant in developing countries than it is within the developed world because the diets in each region often defer drastically with the former more likely to be lacking in daily essentials. Also, there is a higher tendency to use vitamin supplements or multivitamins within developed countries. In fact, Australia and New Zealand have established acceptable dosages of vitamin supplements for babies. Both countries have very low incidences of Rickets (Vitamin D deficiency) with most occasional cases being found in premature babies. However, some Caribbean countries have a very high rate of the disease although Vitamin D can be produced in the body with the aid of sunlight.