By Dr Harold Gunatillake - Health Writer
Pharmacies in Sri Lanka don't stock vitamin B12, Instead they offer multivitamin capsules containing minute insufficient amounts of vitamin B12. The importance of taking vitamin B12 is not emphasized by health authorities and medical practitioners, especially for the elderly people having poor digestion and absorption of food in the gut. Furthermore, with age the gastric juice secreted in the stomach lining is diminished and most of them have low acid levels (hypochlorhydria)
A normal acid level is important for the digestion of food and other nutrients. The intrinsic factor which is secreted in the stomach is essential for the absorption of vitamin B12. This factor is also diminished in production with age. So it is essential one takes additional vitamin B12 supplementation with age.
Vitamin B12 is essential for wellbeing and many people don't get enough in their food and that deficiency can cause some serious problems. B12 helps making your DNA and your red blood cells.Meat has vitamin B12 but most people cannot afford to buy meat.
Vitamin B12 deficiency causes thinning of the stomach lining (atrophic gastritis), can cause Pernicious anaemia which makes it difficult to absorb vitamin B12.
Autoimmune system disorders common in Sri Lanka like Crohn's and celiac disease, bacterial growths, parasites, especially worm infestations in children can cause B12 deficiency.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause tiredness, light-headedness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, a smooth tongue, constipation, and diarrhoea, a loss of appetite, gaseous distensions, numbness and tingling, muscle weakness and so on, including mental states like depression.
There are plenty of old people having these symptoms mostly caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, but it is strange that there is no public education for its necessity.
People having diabetes taking metformin, can have vitamin B12 deficiency, quite common.
Homocysteine is an amino acid produced through the normal metabolic breakdown. This breakdown is disrupted when amounts of vitamin B12, B6 and folic acid are inadequate.
Accumulation of excessive homocysteine in the blood can cause 'arteriosclerosis', a medical term used for hardening of arteries. Such changes in the elastic blood vessels can lead to heart disease, stroke and other conditions.
The elderly should take a daily B12 supplement, in addition to taking in their food. In addition the young who hit the gym should take foods rich in B12 such as hard-boiled eggs or cereal with added B12. B12 helps your body break down for energy. Some athletes and trainers take supplements before workouts and they feel the difference.
People who read this article need to ask their relatives living abroad to send stocks of vitamin B12 for their loved ones in our 'Paradise'.
Medical education in Sri Lanka seems to be controlled by the pharmaceutical industry. To promote the popular multivitamin capsules with such high profits may be one reason B12 is not manufactured or imported.
Multivitamins purchased at a price, they say feeds the fish in the ocean.
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