How vitamin B12 deficiency due to alcohol abuse cause pernicious anemia


Some people drink occasionally, but some drink heavily on a regular basis, which means having four or more drinks in two hours, five or more days a week. This heavy drinking can cause health issues like heart and liver problems, as well as pernicious anemia, which can make you weak, lower your immunity, or even lead to heart failure. That said, it’s important to understand how alcohol abuse can cause pernicious anemia and some problems that come with it.

What is pernicious anemia?

Anemia is when your blood doesn’t have enough red blood cells to carry oxygen around your body. This can make you feel weak and tired. If you don’t treat it, it can be dangerous. It also comes in various types.

Pernicious anemia is a type of anemia caused by not having enough vitamin B12. It happens because your body can’t absorb this vitamin properly. If left untreated, pernicious anemia can cause big problems, like damaging your nervous system permanently.

Vitamin B and Alcohol

People know that drinking too much alcohol can affect the vitamins in your body.

People who drink alcohol a lot or have alcohol problems can lack important vitamins, especially vitamin B. Alcohol can stop your body from absorbing vitamin B1, also known as thiamine. Chronic alcohol users may also not have enough vitamin B6 and vitamin B12.

This lack of vitamins can lead to health issues like Beriberi, Wernicke’s encephalopathy (which is brain damage), and pernicious anemia.

What’s the importance of vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is really important for your body to work properly. It helps make red blood cells, builds DNA, and even helps with memory. You can find lots of vitamin B12 in foods like meat and dairy. But if you don’t get enough of it, you might have too much of something called homocysteine in your body. This can cause serious problems, like megaloblastic anemia and other health issues.

How does alcohol affect vitamin B12 levels?

Yes, alcohol affects how your body absorbs B12, even if you drink just a little. Studies found that even a small amount of alcohol can make your body absorb about 5–6% less vitamin B12.

Drinking alcohol can mess with how your body takes in B12 in different ways.

  • When you drink a lot, it causes your stomach linings and intestines to become irritated. It also causes gastritis, which makes it harder for your body to absorb B12.
  • The National Institute of Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism says that alcohol can also mess up how your body uses the nutrients it gets, making it harder for you to use B12 properly.
  • Gastritis can also mess with how much acid your stomach makes, which can let bacteria grow in your intestines. These bacteria use up B12, leaving less for your body to use.
  • Although a little bit of alcohol might make you hungry, drinking too much can mess up your appetite and stop you from eating healthy. This can also make it hard for your body to get enough B12.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Effects

Vitamin B12 dissolves in water and stays in your body until it’s needed. But if you don’t get enough B12 or if alcohol uses it up, it can cause problems.

  • Your liver mostly stores B12. So, not having enough can make you more likely to get liver disease or inflammation, which is called cirrhosis.
  • B12 also helps your body make red blood cells. Without enough B12, you might feel weak and tired because of anemia.
  • It’s important for your brain, too. Low B12 levels can mess with your mood and brain functions. That’s why some weight loss programs give B12 shots with other injections to help people feel better while losing weight.

The Role of Vitamin B12 in the Treatment of Alcohol Withdrawal

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is really important for a safe and effective alcohol withdrawal. It’s a coenzyme molecule that does lots of biochemical reactions in your body. It helps make DNA, RNA, neurotransmitters, and myelin, and helps cells divide. Lots of enzymes in your body rely on vitamin B12 to work.

There are four types of cobalamin, but only two work in your body. They all have a rare metal called cobalt in them. The kind you usually get in supplements, cyanocobalamin, has a tiny bit of cyanide attached to the cobalt.

Vitamin B12 is made by certain bacteria and archaea, but animals like us have to get it from our diet. Some bacteria in our gut can make B12, but we can’t absorb it, so we have to eat foods like meat or grains that have lots of B12. Our liver can store a bunch of B12, so even if we don’t get enough in our diet, it can take a few years before we start having problems.

Not eating enough foods with vitamin B12 or your body not absorbing it properly can cause a deficiency. This can happen because of things like stomach surgery, having low stomach acid, or a disease where your body can’t make enough of a protein called intrinsic factor.

What happens if you have vitamin B12 deficiency?

The main sign of not having enough vitamin B12 is pernicious anemia. It shows up with three main symptoms: feeling weak because of megaloblastic anemia, having tummy troubles like diarrhea, and problems with your nerves like feeling numb or having trouble moving.

For people who drink a lot, not having enough B12 isn’t just about not eating right. Alcohol can mess with how your body uses B12. Even if someone with alcohol problems has normal levels of B12 in their blood, they can still have the symptoms of pernicious anemia because alcohol stops the vitamin from working right.

Make Small Changes by Controlling Your Alcohol Consumption to Avoid Pernicious Anemia

Let’s take care of our bodies. Eating foods rich in vitamin B12 and avoiding excessive alcohol can help prevent deficiencies and health problems like pernicious anemia. Make small changes today for a healthier tomorrow.


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