Vitamin Deficiency Anemia

What is Vitamin Deficiency Anemia?

Anemia is characterized by a low level of red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen in the blood to the cells that are found throughout your body.

Vitamin deficiency anemia occurs when your body is deficient in the vitamins that play a role in producing red blood cells. These vitamins include vitamin B6, folate (vitamin B9), vitamin C, and vitamin B12. This deficiency can develop when you do not consume enough of these vitamins or your body has difficulty processing and absorbing these nutrients from food.

What are the Symptoms of Vitamin Deficiency Anemia?

Since vitamin deficiency, and vitamin deficiency anemia, develop slowly, symptoms might be subtle at the beginning. As months or years pass, however, the symptoms will increase in intensity as the deficiency becomes more extreme.

Symptoms commonly include:

  • Dizziness
  • Muscle weakness
  • Unsteady movements
  • Shortness of breath
  • Yellowish or pale skin
  • Fatigue
  • Forgetfulness or confusion
  • Weight loss
  • Changes in personality
  • Tingling or numbness in the feet and hands
  • Irregular heartbeat

Vitamin Deficiency Anemia Causes

Vitamin deficiency anemia occurs when an individual lacks sufficient levels of either Vitamin B12 or folic acid. This means that the body struggles to produce enough red blood cells, which are responsible for carrying oxygen throughout the body.

People often become deficient in a vitamin because they do not consume enough vitamin-rich foods. Overcooking foods can also remove vitamins from them, so those who frequently overcook food may find themselves deficient even if they are consuming foods which are known to be high in Vitamin B12 or folic acid.

Vitamin deficiency anemia can occur in pregnant women because their bodies are in need of higher levels of vitamins to remain healthy. Folic acid is particularly important for a healthy pregnancy, which is why anemia is even more of a worrying issue for expecting mothers.

Sometimes vitamin deficiencies can be caused by intestinal and digestive problems and medical conditions which makes it more difficult for vitamins to be absorbed by the body. Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) and Crohn’s disease are two examples of such intestinal issues.

Some medications can also inhibit the absorption of vitamins. Anti-seizure drugs are known to affect folic acid absorption, while antacids and some diabetes medications can affect vitamin B12 absorption. Alcohol is also known to interfere with folic acid absorption, and individuals who drink excessively may, therefore, develop vitamin deficiency anemia.

How is Vitamin Deficiency Anemia Treated?

Once your doctor has diagnosed you with vitamin deficiency anemia, he or she will recommend changes to your diet, as well as supplementation with the appropriate vitamins so that the deficiency can be resolved. Some vitamins can be taken orally, while others, such as B12, can also be administered via injection.

If your doctor tests you again and finds that your vitamin deficiency has been corrected and your anemia has been resolved, you might be able to stop supplementation. Other patients will have to take the supplements for life.

Vitamin Deficiency Anemia Prevention

To prevent vitamin deficiency anemia, consume lots of nutrient-dense foods which contain high levels of B12 and folic acid, or incorporate high quality supplements into your diet.

Each day, adults should try to consume:

  • 1.5mcg of vitamin B12
  • 200mcg of folic acid

Foods high in vitamin B12 include:

  • Meat
  • Milk
  • Cheese
  • Eggs
  • Cod
  • Salmon

Foods high in folic acid include:

  • Peas
  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Peas
  • Chickpeas
  • Spinach
  • Asparagus

Pregnant women can reduce their risk of developing anemia by taking a specialist prenatal multivitamin, or folic acid supplements. When pregnant or trying for a baby, 400mcg of folic acid is recommended until week 12 of the pregnancy.