Vitamin B-12 injections are often given to those who ingest alcohol on a consistent basis, because chronic alcohol exposure is a precursor for significant deficiency. B-12 is necessary for many biological functions, including the maintenance of blood and neural cells. Habitual alcohol consumption can affect levels of the B-12 vitamin in a number of ways. In severe alcoholism, the majority of the diet is replaced by alcohol, resulting in serious malnutrition, with one of the most serious concerns being lack of B-12 in your system. Alcohol ingestion can also cause significant damage to the tissues of the digestive system and liver, which results in the malabsorption of the vitamin. The condition may be classified as anemic or neural.
B-12 Anemic Deficiency Symptoms
Prolonged alcohol ingestion may prompt a clinician to look for signs of B-12 anemic deficiency. One of the first symptoms is a feeling of generalized fatigue, often accompanied by either diarrhea or constipation. Your appetite may diminish, and you may exhibit shortness of breath and swollen, bleeding gums.
B-12 Nerve Deficiency Symptoms
A different set of symptoms related to neural function may become apparent as well. Common neural symptoms that present include a profound sense of depression and confusion. Furthermore, changes in mental status are often caused by the condition. You may experience numbness and tingling in your feet and hands and may have trouble keeping your balance. Long-term heavy alcohol ingestion can lead to alcoholic neuropathy, a condition in which these symptoms continue to get worse and new symptoms, such as speech impairment and muscle atrophy, may occur.
Specific Effects on Body Systems
If B-12 supplementation does not begin quickly, changes can be observed in organ structure. Ingesting too much alcohol causes changes in the secretion of gastric acid. In higher doses, it decreases the secretion severely. This reduction is one of the main catalysts by which deficiency and malabsorption can occur. The small intestine, the place where most absorption of B-12-containing foods takes place, is severely affected, which can make B-12 injections necessary.
Treatment with B-12 Injection
Not all substances necessary for human metabolism can be absorbed effectively by injection; B-12 is an anomaly. Vitamin B-12 is injected directly into the bloodstream, where it can bypass many of the absorption problems that it may have in a body that has been subjected to abusive alcohol ingestion.