Vitamin B12 has several roles in the body, but its involvement in the nervous system is among the most important. Without enough B12 the spinal cord becomes vulnerable to injury, which can cause collateral damage to several other organs. One sign of spinal cord injury due to low vitamin B12 levels may show up when taking a trip to the toilet, several health bodies have warned.
There are several causes for bladder incontinence related to the pelvic floor muscles, many of which fall under the bracket of neurological conditions.
Neurological conditions like vitamin B12 deficiency, for example, have been known to affect the spinal cord.
Degeneration of the spinal cord is a well-known neurological symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency that occurs due to the demyelination of nerves.
In other words, it happens when there is not enough myelin – a protective substance on the nerve endings that enables the transfer of signals.
Because the bladder is also under neural control, the demyelination of nerves in the spinal cord directly affects bladder control.
The National Association for Continence explains that any injury to the spinal cord is likely to thwart communication between the nerves in the spine that control the bladder and bowel function.
“This results in bladder or bowel dysfunction that is termed neurogenic bladder or neurogenic bowel,” explained the health body.
With low levels of B12 in the blood, red blood cells can also fall to dangerous levels, which may lead to complications like intestinal bleeding and a loss of bladder control.
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Additionally, the pelvic floor, which includes collagen, elastin and smooth muscle, is paramount in preventing urinary incontinence, according to the journal of Lower Urinary Tract Symptoms.
This means that low vitamin B12 levels may also be involved in urinary incontinence via disruption to the production of collagen in the blood.
Harvard Health explains: “A severe vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to deep depression, paranoia and delusions, memory loss, incontinence, loss of taste and smell and more.”
Urinary incontinence is the term describing the involuntary passing of urine, a problem that affects millions of people worldwide.
Early research in the Journals of Gerontology set out to investigate the relationship between vitamin B12 levels and incontinence in older patients.
The results showed that some form of incontinence was found in 41 percent of subjects, including urinary or faecal incontinence.
Scientists concluded that the findings “suggest that serum B12 at levels of 300 pg/ml or less are not associated with isolated urinary incontinence or isolated focal incontinence but may play a role in double incontinence”.
The B12 Deficiency Information website advised anyone experiencing incontinence to go and see their doctor.
“If you feel it might be due to B12 deficiency make sure you get tested before taking supplements,” adds the health body.
Who is at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency?
Harvard Health explains: “Plants don’t make vitamin B12. The only foods that deliver it are meat, eggs, poultry, dairy products, and other foods from animals.
“Strict vegetarians and vegans are at high risk for developing a B12 deficiency if they don’t eat grains that have been fortified with the vitamin or take a vitamin supplement.”
Individuals who undergo weight loss surgery may also encounter problems if an operation interferes with the production of stomach acids, which the body needs to extract B12 from food.
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