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Vitamin B12 deficiency: How many times do you go to the toilet? Sign you could lack B12

Constipation occurs when a person has infrequent bowel movements or has trouble passing stools. If one has fewer than three bowel movements per week, they are more than likely constipated. In most cases, constipation can be treated with lifestyle changes or over-the-counter remedies. But often, constipation may be due to a vitamin B12 deficiency. Why?

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Why would a B12 deficiency cause constipation?

According to the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, constipation can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency.

This is because the digestive tract can be impaired if a person is deficient in vitamin B12.

A person’s digestive health relies on the healthy function of the stomach, small and large intestines, the colon and the rectum, and these tissues rely on B vitamins.

Low intake of vitamin B12 affects the digestive tract, and a severe deficiency paralyses the muscle tissue in the lining of the digestive tract, hindering intestinal function.

During constipation a person’s stools often become difficult to push out and are larger than usual. 

The stools are often dry, hard or lumpy.

As well as constipation, vitamin B12 deficiency may lead to a person being overly gassy or suffering with diarrhoea.

However, the problems with the digestive tract are not the only body part to suffer due to a deficiency.

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People with a vitamin B12 deficiency may experience:

  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Loss of appetite
  • Weight loss

While taking vitamin B12 supplements may not help those without a deficiency, correcting the deficiency may relieve symptoms in those who do, explained Medical News Today.

It continued: “Groups of people that are most at risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency include people with pernicious anaemia, poor absorption of vitamin B12 from food, poor absorption of vitamin B12 following an operation or dietary deficiencies.”

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Dr Will Bulsiewicz, a gastroenterologist in Mount Pleasant spoke to Best Health and said: “We all know that eating enough fibre and drinking  enough water are keys to healthy bowel movements, but a vitamin B12 deficiency can also cause constipation.

“Vitamin B12 relies on the production of intrinsic factor by the stomach and is absorbed in the last part of the small intestine.

“Therefore, stomach or small bowel disturbances can create a B12 deficiency.

“Inflammation of the small bowel can also cause Crohn’s disease.”

How to treat a deficiency and improve constipation

Vitamin B12 deficiency anaemia is usually treated with injections of vitamin B12.

There are two types of vitamin B12 injections including hydroxocobalamin or cyanocobalamin.

It is worth noting that a B12 deficiency can be caused by a lack of the vitamin in the diet.

According to the NHS, you may be prescribed vitamin B12 tablets to take every day between meals if this is the case.

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