Vitamin B-12 is a large, complex molecule involved in a variety of functions within your body, including some related to digestion. B-12 deficiency is relatively common in the United States and is the cause of many false diagnoses because it can mimic some diseases and be an underlying cause for others. Your gallbladder is important for fat digestion and its function is connected to B-12 levels. If you have abdominal pain, consult with your doctor and ask him about getting your B-12 blood levels measured.
Your gallbladder is a small organ that sits below your liver and injects bile into your small intestine when you eat fatty foods. Bile is made in your liver, but processed and concentrated in your gallbladder, and effective at emulsifying fat. Your gallbladder needs a good blood supply and B-vitamins to do its job efficiently. Under certain conditions, stones can form in your gallbladder and cause inflammation, diffuse abdominal pain, nausea, vomiting and bloating.
Vitamin B-12 Recommendations
According to “Human Biochemistry and Disease,” vitamin B-12 blood levels below 200 picograms per mL indicate a deficiency, although symptoms can take up to a few years to manifest. B-12 deficiencies are more common than previously thought because the vitamin is quickly depleted by a variety of substances, such as alcohol and many pharmaceutical products, and it is difficult to absorb due to its large size. You need between 2 and 3 micrograms per day of B-12. If you have problems absorbing the vitamin, you may need at least 500 micorgrams, according to “Vitamins: Fundamental Aspects in Nutrition and Health” The absorption of B-12 in your stomach and intestines requires intrinsic factor, which is absent in those with pernicious anemia.
Pernicious Anemia Symptoms
According to “Nutrition and Public Health,” up to 15 percent of American adults older than 65 may have a vitamin B-12 deficiency called pernicious anemia. Pernicious anemia is an autoimmune disease in which your body is unable to absorb enough B-12 from the digestive tract. It occurs after long bouts of stomach inflammation or infection that destroy the stomach mucosal cells that make intrinsic factor. Without intrinsic factor, you are unable to absorb B-12. Common symptoms of pernicious anemia include weakness, a sore tongue and numbness and tingling sensations. Other symptoms can mimic a gallbladder attack, such as abdominal pain, nausea, heartburn, vomiting, constipation and a sense of constant fullness. As such, pernicious anemia may be misdiagnosed as gallbladder inflammation or dysfunction.
Pernicious Anemia and Gallstones
With B-12 deficiency, not enough red blood cells are made in your bone marrow or the ones that are made are too large and immature to function properly. These large deformed red blood cells can clog the spleen and gallbladder. According to “Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition,” anemia caused by lack of B-12 increases the risk factor for the formation of gallstones.
- Harrison's Principles of Internal Medicine; A. Fauci et al.
- “Human Biochemistry and Disease; Gerald Litwack
- Vitamins: Fundamental Aspects in Nutrition and Health; G. Combs
- Nutrition and Public Health; Sari Edelstein
- Biochemical, Physiological and Molecular Aspects of Human Nutrition; Martha Stipanuk