Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that is crucial in human body for various functions. The human body does not produce it, so it has to be absorbed from foods and supplements. Although the human body requires small amount of vitamin B12 for its normal and adequate functioning. Mostly individuals above the age of 50 and vegetarians are deficient in this vitamin. Generally, a healthy diet rich in meat, fish and dairy products provide a natural source of vitamin B12 required for the body, but it may be deficient in vegetarians and vegans.
Functions Of Vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 plays a vital role in DNA synthesis and production along with cell growth. It plays a crucial role in red cell formation in the bone marrow. Deficiency of vitamin B12 could lead to immature, large and abnormal red blood cells and may cause difficulty in their movement from bone marrow to the blood, thus leading to anemia. It also helps in the conversion of homocysteine to methionine. It is also necessary for the maintenance of normal gastrointestinal lining.
It is also essential for the development and optimal functioning of the brain and nervous system. It is required in the formation of myelin sheath (the protective covering of nerve fibers) and also in the production of neurotransmitters (chemicals that help in the transmission of nerve signals between cells). B12 deficiency leads to damage of nerve cells in the brain and spinal cord causing extensive damage to myelin sheath. If the deficiency persists for long, it leads to symptoms of numbness and tingling, balance problems, memory loss, and depression and anxiety.
Can Lack Of Vitamin B12 Cause Anxiety?
Vitamin B12 deficiency can affect nervous system, gastrointestinal system, cardiovascular system as well as bone health. The deficiency symptoms include weakness, numbness, tingling, dizziness, memory loss, balance problems, confusion, dementia, fatigue, palpitations, tachycardia, shortness of breath, nausea, lack of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea, constipation, soreness and redness in tongue with loss of papillae, difficulty walking, muscle weakness, irritability, and/or vision loss.
Along with other neuropsychological symptoms, the deficiency of vitamin B12 has been known to cause depression and anxiety. There have been studies that have pointed out to more than twofold chances of depression in women with lack of vitamin B12 in the body, which could lead to anxiety and panic attacks. However, anxiety is noticed in people who are not particularly depressed too. Therefore, vitamin B12 has proven to be an essential vitamin for optimal mental health.
Ways to Treat Anxiety
Although, vitamin B12 deficiency makes an individual susceptible to anxiety; however, B12 deficiency is not the main cause of it. There are various primary causes of anxiety such as different phobias, grief, various conditions (such as medical health, family issues) and stimulants such as caffeine. People with anxiety take B12 in the form of B-complex vitamin daily, as anxiety can deplete vitamins in the body leading to their deficiency that aggravates anxiety. People should follow a diet rich in animal sources, such as fish, eggs, meat, poultry, dairy products such as milk, cheese, yogurt. This is the reason strict vegetarians, vegans often have vitamin B12 deficiency, they should prevent it by taking diet, and foods fortified with vitamin B12 such as vecon veg stock, textured veg protein, soya milk, veg and sunflower margarines and breakfast cereals. There are vitamin B12 supplements available in the form of capsules, sublinguals, nasal sprays, or injections, which should be taken under the prescription of a doctor.
If anxiety is not treated with vitamin B12 supplements then the problem should be addressed in other ways with the consultation of a medical professional. The other ways to treat anxiety are CBT (cognitive behavioral therapy), deep breathing exercises, meditation and physical activity. There are medications available for anxiety, which are prescribed by medical professionals only. Some people on medication for severe anxiety, on occasions, need counseling too, if there condition is not treated with medication alone.