Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA, the genetic material in all cells. Most people take for granted the contribution B12 makes until they become deficient in it. Then its impact is brought into sharp relief.
B12 deficiency can disrupt the nerve signals transmitted throughout the body, which can impair certain senses.
When this happens, your tongue may undergo a series of unsettling changes.
According to the Winchester Hospital, a stinging feeling on the tongue or a smooth, red tongue can indicate low B12 levels.
Research published in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology suggests “glossitis with linear lesions” is an early clinical sign of vitamin B12 deficiency too.
READ MORE: Vitamin B12 deficiency: ‘Psychological problems’ – doctors warn it may be a sign
Glossitis is a problem whereby the tongue is swollen and inflamed.
A lesion is an area of tissue that has been damaged through injury or disease – they have an abnormal appearance compared to the skin around it.
Other symptoms of B12 deficiency include:
- Weight loss
- Pale skin colour
- Changes in the way things taste
- Mood changes
- Balance problems, especially when in the dark
- Lightheadedness when changing to standing position
- Rapid heartbeat.
How to respond
You should see a GP if you’re experiencing symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, advises the NHS.
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As the health body explains, these conditions can often be diagnosed based on your symptoms and the results of a blood test.
It’s important for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia to be diagnosed and treated as soon as possible.
“Although many of the symptoms improve with treatment, some problems caused by the condition can be irreversible if left untreated,” warns the NHS.
“The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage.”
Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified.
According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), B12 is naturally found in the following:
- Beef liver and clams, which are the best sources of vitamin B12.
- Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products, which also contain vitamin B12.
- Some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts and other food products that are fortified with vitamin B12. To find out if vitamin B12 has been added to a food product, check the product labels.
The treatment for vitamin B12 or folate deficiency anaemia depends on what’s causing the condition.
“Most people can be easily treated with injections or tablets to replace the missing vitamins,” explains the NHS.