Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin obtained through the ingestion of fish, meat and dairy. However, a certain infection could cause issues with absorption. What could it be?
In the peer-reviewed journal American Family Physician, St. Luke’s Family Medicine Residency Programme identified a risk factor for a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Decreasing ileal absorption – the third and final part of the small intestine – could be due to a tapeworm infection.
The Mayo Clinic explained this occurs when a person ingests food or water contaminated with tapeworm eggs or larvae.
How can this happen?
For example, a pig infected with tapeworm will pass tapeworm eggs in its faeces, which gets into the soil.
If the same soil came in contact with a food or water source, it becomes contaminated with the microscopic tapeworm eggs.
Eating something grown from the contaminated soil will lead to a tapeworm infection.
Tapeworm larvae can grow into its adult form while in your intestines – consisting of a head, neck and a chain of segments known as proglottids.
The tapeworm head adheres to the intestinal wall, and the proglottids grow and produce egg.
“Adult tapeworms can live for up to 30 years in a host,” confirmed the Mayo Clinic.
They can grow as long as 80ft (25m), and some might pass through your stool and exit your body.
Worringingly, many people with an intestinal tapeworm infection don’t have symptoms.
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However, some signs to be aware of include nausea, weakness, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and diarrhoea.
Other symptoms include dizziness, salt craving and weight loss, as well as inadequate absorption of nutrients from food – including vitamin B12.
Risk factors for developing a tapeworm infection include eating undercooked meat.
Improper cooking may fail to kill tapeworm eggs and larvae in contaminated pork or beef.
Another risk factor is having exposure to livestock, for example on a farm, and having poor hygiene.
Poor hygiene includes infrequent washing and bathing, which can increase the risk of accidental transfer of contaminated matter to your mouth.
To prevent a tapeworm infection, it’s advised to wash your hands with soap and water before eating or handling food, and after using the toilet.
It’s also important to promptly treat pet dogs infected with tapeworm.
If you’re diagnosed with a tapeworm infection – which will require numerous stool sample analysis – then you’ll be prescribed medication.
You’ll most likely be prescribed Praziquantel (Biltricide), which is toxic to tape worms.
It’s vital to upkeep good hygiene standards to prevent re-infection with tapeworm.
There are other possibilities as to why you may have trouble absorbing vitamin B12, which can include Crohn’s disease.