Can You Get Vitamin B12 Anemia If You Had Your Gallbladder Removed?

Vitamin B-12 is important for your body to work properly; therefore, poor intake or absorption of this vitamin can cause a deficiency. If you've had your gallbladder removed, you may have trouble absorbing some vitamins. Although vitamin B-12 can still be absorbed well after this surgery, you may have to make dietary changes that interfere with vitamin B-12 intake.

Doctor holding model of the gallbladder. (Image: Jan-Otto/E+/Getty Images)

The B-12 Basics

Vitamin B-12 is a member of the B complex family of vitamins, also known as cobalamin. The body needs B vitamins to use the energy from fats, proteins and carbohydrates. Vitamin B-12 is also needed for other processes in the body, such as manufacturing new DNA and making red blood cells. Myelin, a protein that covers and protects your nerves and speeds up nerve signaling, also needs vitamin B-12 to be made.

Gallbladder Removal

The gallbladder is responsible for storing bile, a substance that is made by the liver. Bile helps your digestive tract break down fat globules from your diet, allowing them to be digested and absorbed by your digestive tract. If your gallbladder is removed, you may have trouble absorbing fats, which can also cause a deficiency of some "fat soluble" vitamins, such as vitamins A, D, E and K. However, gallbladder removal does not directly affect vitamin B-12 absorption.

Dietary Changes and B-12

Some of the dietary changes necessary after gallbladder removal may cause a vitamin B-12 deficiency. This vitamin is primarily found in animal-based foods, such as eggs, milk, beef, poultry, pork and fish. Because these foods are also often high in fat, they can cause pain and diarrhea if you have your gallbladder removed. Avoiding animal-based foods can, over time, cause a vitamin B-12 deficiency.

Identifying a Deficiency

Vitamin B-12 deficiencies initially manifest as pallor, fatigue and weakness. As the deficiency progresses, your nerves can be affected, resulting in numbness, tingling or pain in your extremities. If you have to make significant changes to your diet after gallbladder surgery, talk to your doctor, especially if you develop signs of vitamin deficiencies. Vitamin B-12 can be found in fortified grains and is also available as a supplement.

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