Vitamin B-12, or cobalamin, has the most extensive and complicated chemical structure of all the essential vitamins. A deficiency in this compound may actually indicate the presence of Helicobacter pylori, or H. pylori -- a detrimental bacterium responsible for infecting your gastrointestinal tract and causing peptic ulcers. If you are experiencing any abdominal pain, bloating, nausea and vomiting alongside a vitamin B-12 deficiency, you may have a H. pylori infection, which requires immediate medical attention.
Vitamin B-12 plays an important role in the formation of red blood cells, brain function and development, and the conversion of food into energy -- particularly fats and proteins. Ideally, adults should consume approximately 2.4 micrograms each day. You'll find B-12 in in animal products such as fish, meats,, milk and eggs, as well as in some plant-based foods, such as fortified cereal. Vitamin B-12 deficiency causes anemia, fatigue, constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss and general weakness.
If the symptoms of a vitamin B-12 deficiency occur in tandem with peptic ulcer symptoms, your physician will immediately test you for the presence of H. pylori. Although it is unknown how the bacteria transmits, it is likely to spread through contaminated food and water, according to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House. The bacteria damage the mucousal coating that protects the stomach lining and duodenum -- the beginning of the small intestine -- and ultimately cause an ulcer. H. pylori is not the only cause of peptic ulcers, but it is a primary agent.
The damaging effects of H. pylori interfere with the absorption of essential compounds like vitamin B-12. According to a May 2000 study published in the “Archives of Internal Medicine,” H. pylori caused severe gastric atrophy in anemic patients, which significantly hindered the absorption of vitamin B-12, causing a deficiency. Moreover, a 2004 study published in “Nephron Clinical Practice” found that H. pylori caused low vitamin B-12 levels in patients with initial low and normal vitamin B-12 levels. A January 2004 study published in the “Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology” showed that alcoholics were particularly susceptible to H. pylori-induced peptic ulcers and the corresponding vitamin B-12 deficiency.
If you experience a dull or burning pain, particularly when your stomach is empty, and it lasts for minutes to hours for several days or weeks, you may be suffering from an H. pylori-induced peptic ulcer. The combination of vitamin B-12 deficiency symptoms will be an important indicator. Alert your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms. Typically, the doctor will prescribe a course of antibiotics to eliminate the bacteria and provide acid-reducing medication to alleviate the pain. Generally, the vitamin B-12 deficiency will resolve itself since it is a secondary issue.
- Linus Pauling Institute: Vitamin B12
- National Digestive Diseases Information Clearing House: H. Pylori and Peptic Ulcers
- Helicobacter: Impact of Helicobacter Pylori on the Development of Vitamin B12 Deficiency in the Absence of Gastric Atrophy
- Nephron Clinical Practice: Low Initial Vitamin B12 Levels in Helicobacter Pylori-positive Patients on Chronic Hemodialysis
- Journal of Nutritional Science and Vitaminology: Vitamin B12 Status and Its Association with Helicobacter Pylori Infection in Alcohol Dependent Patients
- Archives of Internal Medicine: Helicobacter pylori -- Is It a Novel Causative Agent in Vitamin B12 Deficiency?