Vitamin and mineral deficiencies in inflammatory bowel disease (IBD)

Vitamin B12 helps to keep the nervous system healthy. It is needed to make new cells in the body. A lack of it can be a cause of anaemia (pernicious anaemia) which leads to a reduced about of oxygen being carried around the body in the blood.

Common symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency include:

  • Tiredness
  • Lethargy
  • Feeling faint
  • Breathlessness

Less common symptoms include:

  • Headaches
  • Heart palpitations
  • Altered taste
  • Loss of appetite
  • Ringing in the ears (tinnitus)
  • Looking pale
  • Sore mouth and tongue
Read more about symptoms and B12 deficiency.

If it is left untreated you can end up with longer term problems including:

  • Psychological problems such as depression, confusion, memory problems
  • Nerve problems such as numbness, pins and needles, vision changes and unsteadiness
Read more about the complications of a B12 deficiency.

A blood test can indicate if you have a B12 deficiency. Read more about diagnosing a B12 deficiency. Some companies also provide private at home testing - such as this company* based in the UK.

Why might people with IBD be deficient in B12?

Pernicious anaemia is more common in people who already have autoimmune conditions such as Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis (both types of inflammatory bowel disease).

B12 is absorbed in the end of the small intestine and people with Crohn’s disease in this area may not be able to absorb B12 very well.

People who have had surgery to remove the stomach or the end of the small intestine may also not be able to absorb vitamin B12.

Read more about the general causes of a B12 deficiency.


How can B12 deficiency be treated?

B12 injections are often given to people with a deficiency. These help to quickly build up stores of the vitamin. Once the stores have been replaced then only maintenance injections will be required, depending on the reasons for the deficiency.

Vitamin B12 supplements are available to buy* in tablets or as a spray* and these may be recommended for people if their diet is lacking in B12.

Vitamin B12 can be found naturally in certain foods, including:

  • Meat
  • Fish
  • Eggs
  • Milk

Read more about treatment.

*Please note this is an affiliate link which means if you buy from the company we may receive a commission. You will pay the same price as you normally would and any money earned will be used to support IBDrelief's work.

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