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Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Coeliac Disease

I recently heard about vitamin B12 deficiency on a coeliac disease discussion group I’m on. Several of the group’s members disclosed that they get regular vitamin B12 injections, and I wondered how prevalent vitamin B12 deficiency is in coeliacs. I admit I was a little concerned whether my ongoing symptoms and food allergies may be affected by this.

On asking them for more information, I discovered that one of the members who received injections had a deficiency of folates and B12, which are used in cell growth. This article on vitamin B12 deficiency details what B12 and folates are used for in the body.

B12 deficiency caused by pernicious anaemia

Another of the coeliac group’s members told me that she received shots of vitamin B12 due to another auto-immune disease she has, called ‘pernicious anaemia’. On her annual coeliac checkup she was found to have very high levels of homocysteine and low B12 and folic acid levels.

She mentioned that her symptoms associated with the pernicious anaemia included extreme tiredness, feelings of coldness and bleeding gums. These symptoms have all vanished since the B12 injections.

Vitamin B12 injections are apparently essential for raising B12 levels in people with pernicious anaemia, as the condition involves a lack of something called ‘intrinsic factor’, which is essential for absorbing B12 from the gut.

B12 deficiency uncommon in coeliac disease

A group member who seems to have a medical background (or at least an impressive medical vocabulary!) stated that B12 deficiency is not that common in coeliac disease, and that iron and folate deficiency are far more common. I guess she must have been referring to coeliacs on a gluten free diet, as these studies conclude that B12 deficiency is common in untreated coeliacs.

So it looks like that while vitamin B12 deficiency may not affect a huge proportion of coeliacs, it’s easy to test for and easily treated with B12 injections.

(As always, I’m not a doctor, so if you’d like to correct me or comment on anything here, please drop me an email).

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