A healthy person has a minimum of three bowel movements per week, according to Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine. Fewer bowel movements may indicate you are constipated. Lack of the essential vitamin B-12 is a potential cause of constipation, but you should consult your doctor as there could be many possible reasons why you are constipated.
Constipation and Other Symptoms
Symptoms of vitamin B-12 begin so mildly that you might not even notice them at first. A lack of vitamin B-12 interferes with your body's ability to make red blood cells. Insufficient red blood cells causes anemia, or weak blood. As time passes and you get older, your symptoms can become more severe as the anemia worsens. This potentially causes constipation, diarrhea, fatigue, an upset stomach and feeling lightheaded. If you continue to not get enough vitamin B-12, constipation will be the least of your worries. A long-term deficiency can cause incontinence, low blood pressure, vision problems, difficulty walking, psychoses and other abnormal psychiatric and neurological symptoms, according to MayoClinic.com.
Supplements can both prevent and treat a vitamin B-12 deficiency. A simple blood test performed by a doctor tells you if you have too little vitamin B-12 in your blood. Supplements given in pill form orally, injections given intramuscularly, or through the muscles, or intranasally through the nose. Pills are typically easier than injections. You need a prescription for injections and for some oral B-12 supplements, depending on the strength. Follow your physician's advice on what form of supplement to take and how much to take, as dosages vary due to age and level of deficiency.
Eating foods that are sources of vitamin B-12 can also raise your B-12 levels along with supplements. A varied diet consisting of milk products, meat and eggs is beneficial for vitamin B-12 deficiencies. Eating certain foods always reduces constipation, says Vic Shayne, M.D., in an article published in September 2007 by the Nutrition Research Center. These foods include raw fruits, particularly apples, healthy oils and fats, such as flaxseed oil, wheat germ oil and coconut butter, and water to counteract the lack of moisture typical of constipation.
Foods to Avoid
Certain foods can contribute to constipation. Alcohol and processed foods are drying agents that soak up moisture, thereby contributing to constipation, says Shayne. Some foods like beef that may contain vitamin B-12 can also contribute to constipation, so you should eat other foods with B-12. Also avoid spicy foods, cake, rolls, bagels, doughnuts and breads as these contribute to constipation, as well.