Vitamin B12 supplements: Seven warning signs of toxicity – youve taken too much

Dr Dawn Harper on signs of vitamin B12 and vitamin D deficiency

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However, have you ever considered how taking vitamin B12 could lead to toxicity? One case study revealed how a patient being treated for pernicious anaemia didn’t respond so well to cyanocobalamin. Pernicious anaemia is an acquired autoimmune condition whereby a stomach protein – known as intrinsic factor – is missing, the National Institute of Health (NIH) explained. Intrinsic factor is needed to bind with vitamin B12 – from the foods you’ve eaten – to then be re-absorbed into the body via the gut.

For reasons yet undiscovered, the immune system turns on itself and attacks the stomach cells, where intrinsic factor is supposed to be made.

Symptoms of pernicious anaemia can take a while to become apparent, as the body can hold onto reserves of vitamin B12 for a number of years.

The Drug and Poison Research and Information Centre at a university in Colombia documented how a patient with the condition responded to cyanocobalamin – a manufactured form of vitamin B12.

It’s worth noting that cyanocobalamin is still a form of treatment used in the UK today.

“A young woman was treated with multiple daily doses of 1mg of cyanocobalamin for severe pernicious anaemia,” the researchers noted.

“After a total dose of 12mg, she developed acne, palpitations, anxiety, akathisia, facial ruddiness, headache, and insomnia.”

What is akathisia?

WebMD described akathisia as a “movement disorder that makes it hard for you to stay still”.

An uncontrollable urge to move might include fidgeting, crossing and uncrossing your legs, or to pace up and down.

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Usually, akathisia is a side effect of antipsychotic drugs used to treat medical conditions such as schizophrenia or bipolar.

Scientists have suggested that akathisia could be caused by a blockage to dopamine in the brain.

Insomnia

Insomnia is the difficulty one experiences falling or staying asleep during the night.

The NHS listed symptoms of insomnia, which includes:

  • Finding it hard to go to sleep
  • Waking up several times during the night
  • Lying awake at night
  • Waking up early and cannot go back to sleep
  • Still feel tired after waking up
  • Find it hard to nap during the day even though you’re tired
  • Feel tired and irritable during the day
  • Find it difficult to concentrate during the day because you’re tired.

It took two weeks – after the woman in the case study stopped taking cyanocobalamin – for her side effects of the drug to subside.

“Although these symptoms of cobalamin toxicity were unexpected and unusual,” the researchers began.

“The case reminds us that the administration of any drug is not entirely safe.”

In the UK, hydroxocobalamin is more commonly used than cyanocobalamin to treat vitamin B12 deficiency.

People administered either cyanocobalamin or hydroxocobalamin in the UK are not usually given a daily dose.

Instead, the NHS confirmed that people are usually given once-daily injections every other day for two weeks.

After this initial period, vitamin B12 injections are usually given every two to months for the rest of your life.

Whether you’re having vitamin B12 injections, or supplements, speak to your doctor if you’re experiencing side effects.

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