Vitamin B-12 is a wate-soluble vitamin the body needs to make red blood cells and DNA. Without it, the body would be unable to adequately convert the nutrients from foods into energy. Vitamin B-12 can be found in animal foods, such as meats, eggs and dairy products. In some cases, such as chronic gastritis, regardless of your dietary B-12 intake, the body is unable to absorb vitamin B-12 from foods. You will need medical treatment to help resolve both the vitamin deficiency and the cause of the deficiency.
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Gastritis is a condition in which the lining of the stomach becomes swollen, irritated and inflamed. In cases of chronic gastritis, inflammation and symptoms develop gradually and persist for long periods. Chronic gastritis can be caused by alcohol abuse, infections, overuse of non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, smoking, excess stomach acid secretion, bile reflux disease and erosion of the stomach lining due to age. Once detected, chronic gastritis is often a treatable condition that improves quickly.
For the body to use vitamin B-12, it must be broken down from foods and properly absorbed by cells in the stomach. Intrinsic factor is a protein that is made by cells in the lining of the stomach. Without it, the body would be unable to absorb B-12 into cells. In conditions, such as chronic gastritis, the lining of the stomach is damaged, resulting in less intrinsic factor production. This leads to impaired B-12 absorption and deficiency.
Symptoms of B-12 deficiency include anemia, weakness, irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, pale complexion, tingling of the hands and feet, vision problems, personality changes, impaired growth and memory problems. These symptoms can be combined with symptoms of chronic gastritis, which include indigestion, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, weight loss and feelings of discomfort and fullness after small meals. Chronic gastritis symptoms can occur either suddenly or gradually worsen over time. In severe cases, intestinal bleeding can occur and result in black, tar-like stools. Seek medical attention immediately should you experience these symptoms.
The treatment of both chronic gastritis and vitamin B-12 deficiency requires a medical professional. Chronic gastritis is treated primarily by neutralizing the high amounts of acid in the stomach. This works to prevent further erosion of the lining of the stomach. Treatment options include antacids, acid blockers and proton pump inhibitors, which prevent the cells in the stomach from secreting excess stomach acid. It is also important to learn to manage your stress levels, as stress can cause the stomach to produce and excrete more acid. Vitamin B-12 deficiency can be treated by B-12 injections by a doctor or oral supplementation. This allows the body to obtain B-12 without relying on the stomach to break down and absorb the vitamin B-12 from foods. It is also important to consume a diet rich in lean meats, beans, shellfish, eggs and dairy.