Trouble when you walk could be a sign of a vitamin deficiency – could be ‘harmful’

Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency

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Vitamin B12 is found in lots of animal products including meat, fish and cheese. And it can also be found in some fortified cereals and yeast products like Marmite. Without enough B12 it can prevent our red blood cells from functioning properly, leading to anaemia – a condition that can become serious.

A deficiency in B12 can lead to a wide range of symptoms, which means it is often “overlooked” or “confused” for something else.

According to Harvard Health, “difficulty walking” including staggering and balance problems can be a sign.

It warns this issue could be “slow to develop” and “intensify” over time.

However, the health body said: “It can also come on relatively quickly.”

Harvard Health says a B12 deficiency can be “sneaky and harmful”.

It recommends seeking medical help as soon as possible if you believe you could have a deficiency.

“While an experienced physician may notice the symptoms and be able to detect a vitamin B12 deficiency with a good interview and physical exam, a blood test is needed to confirm the condition,” it explains.

“It’s a good idea to ask your doctor about having your B12 level checked if you are a strict vegetarian or have had weight-loss surgery or have a condition that interferes with the absorption of food.

“Early detection and treatment is important. If left untreated, the deficiency can cause severe neurologic problems and blood diseases.”

Other symptoms of a B12 deficiency include:

  • Strange sensations, numbness, or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet
  • Anaemia
  • A swollen, inflamed tongue
  • Difficulty thinking and reasoning (cognitive difficulties), or memory loss
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue.

Often simply upping the intake of the vitamin in your diet will help.

However, if it is more severe or your body is unable to properly absorb B12, supplements or injections from a GP will be needed.

Harvard Health says: “A serious vitamin B12 deficiency can be corrected two ways: weekly shots of vitamin B12 or daily high-dose B12 pills.

“A mild B12 deficiency can be corrected with a standard multivitamin.

“In many people, a vitamin B12 deficiency can be prevented. If you are a strict vegetarian or vegan, it’s important to eat breads, cereals, or other grains that have been fortified with vitamin B12 or take a daily supplement.

“A standard multivitamin delivers 6 micrograms, more than enough to cover the average body’s daily need.”

Good sources of vitamin B12 include:

  • Meat
  • Salmon and cod
  • Milk and other dairy products
  • Eggs
  • Fortified cereals
  • Yeast extract, such as Marmite
  • Some soy products.

The NHS advises: “Check the nutrition labels while food shopping to see how much vitamin B12 different foods contain.”

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