Vitamin B12 supplements and bariatric surgery

Vitamin B12 supplements are vital after bariatric surgery as it is a nutrient that helps keep your body’s blood and nerve cells healthy. It also plays a vital role in making DNA, the genetic material in all of your cells.

It is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods (meat, chicken, fish, eggs), but plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified.

The body absorbs vitamin B12 from food in a two-step process, and bariatric surgery has a detrimental effect on both of these steps. Hydrochloric acid in the stomach separates vitamin B12 from the protein that it is attached to. The vitamin B12 then combines with a protein made by the stomach, called intrinsic factor, and the body absorbs them together. After bariatric surgery, your tiny stomach does not make enough hydrochloric acid, or intrinsic factor, to absorb B12 properly from any food that you eat. It is therefore essential that this vitamin is supplemented by regular intramuscular injections of vitamin B12, or by taking a suitable oral preparation of readily absorbable B12, combined with intrinsic factor.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can initially make you feel tired or weak. These are symptoms of megaloblastic anaemia. It can also result in pale skin, heart palpitations, loss of appetite, weight loss, and infertility. Your hands and feet might become numb or tingly, a sign of nerve problems. If left untreated, the damage caused to the nervous system by B12 deficiency can be severe and permanent. Other symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency include problems with balance, depression, confusion, dementia, poor memory, and soreness of the mouth or tongue.

Your endocrinologist and dietician will discuss the most suitable options of vitamin B12 supplements available to you. Maintain your regular post operative appointments with the required team members, where they will also be able assess your routine blood results to ensure optimum health for you after surgery.


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