I Have Iron Deficiency Anemia, B12 Deficiency & Acid Reflux

Iron deficiency anemia, B12 deficiency and acid reflux are medical conditions that can cause significant health issues. But there may be some overlap in the causes of these conditions. Specifically, certain medications you may take to treat acid reflux can increase your chances of developing iron deficiency anemia and vitamin B12 deficiency.

Woman with a headache holding her head (Image: kieferpix/iStock/Getty Images)

Acid Reflux

Acid reflux is the backflow of acidic stomach contents into the esophagus. According to the National Digestive Diseases Information Clearinghouse, reflux occurs due to weakness of the lower esophageal sphincter. This round muscular band opens to allow food into the stomach and closes to prevent it from flowing back. Weakness of the sphincter allows acid to get into the esophagus, causing the symptoms of gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD.

Treatment of GERD

Eating certain foods, like spicy foods, caffeine-containing products and alcoholics beverages, can increase your chances of developing GERD. So, avoidance of these foods is part of the strategy to treat GERD. Medications can also help deal with the symptoms of GERD. These include over-the-counter antacids that neutralize the stomach acid; H-2 blockers that provide a short-term decrease in acid production; and proton-pump inhibitors, which are more effective at decreasing the acid content of the stomach.

B12 and Iron Deficiency

Medical studies suggest that some of the medicines used in the treatment of GERD can result in vitamin B12 and iron deficiency. According to the NIH's Office of Dietary Supplements, proton-pump inhibitors, like omeprazole and lansoprazole, can inhibit B12 absorption, since stomach acid is necessary for the absorption of this nutrient. They recommend monitoring of B12 levels in people taking proton-pump inhibitors for prolonged periods of time. According to the American Academy of Family Physicians, stomach acid enhances the absorption of iron from the small intestine. They recommend avoiding medicines that reduce stomach acid if you are taking oral iron supplements to help correct iron deficiency anemia.


The symptoms of GERD include heartburn, or indigestion, a burning pain in the lower chest, as well as a sour taste in the mouth and, occasionally, vomiting. Iron deficiency anemia causes weakness, chronic fatigue, headaches, shortness of breath and low body temperature. Vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause anemia, with similar symptoms of those with iron deficiency. B12 deficiency also causes nerve damage, or neuropathy, which can cause tingling of the extremities, difficulty maintaining balance and confusion.

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