The connection between mental health and B12 deficiency is staggering and yet it appears screening is rarely carried out within the NHS.
My experience of trying to help mental health patients to acheive a diagnosis or the correct level of treatment is met with a reluctantance to even acknowledge a link between B12 deficiency and poor mental health. This is despite the connection between B12 deficiency and psychiatric manifestation being well documented. This link was discovered in the early 1900's by Dr. Melvin Hector and Dr. John Burton.
There is a dire need for all health professionals to educate themselves regarding this devastating reality especially when the patient in front of them is pleading for more B12 injections than the 4 per year most patients in the UK are allowed. B12 is a not a drug and it cannot be overdosed.
An undiagnosed or under treated deficiency means that the protection for nerves and spinal cord is deteriorating. The myelin coating is being stripped away affecting and brain function and all body systems. This continues on whilst the prescribed psychiatric drugs simply modify symptoms.
Imagine being sectioned due to this condition? Psychosis is a common symptom, but unless your GP or psychiatrist are aware that Vitamin B12 deficiency, coeliac disease and thyroid dysfunction can cause this you may never be tested.
How many young mothers are misdiagnosed with early onset Alzheimer's simply due to the fact that it is not widely understood just how important it is to screen for a physical cause for this illness?
New mothers presenting with post natal depression could be B12 deficient, either due to nitrous oxide use during labour, or as a result of an undiagnosed deficiency worsened by the growing baby's demands on diminished supplies.
How many patients with eating disorders are left without this essential vitamin?
GPs should be screening patients for any physical cause for their mental health problems, however due to ignorance, this is routinely overlooked.
Below Information supplied with kind permission of Sally M. Pacholok R.N. and Dr. Jeffrey J. Stuart.
Among the most common psychiatric symptoms seen in people with B12 deficiency are the following:
- Memory loss
- Suicidal ideation
- Personality changes
- Inappropriate sexual behaviour
- Violent/aggressive behaviour
- Schizophrenic symptoms
- Sleep disturbances
- Changes in taste, smell, vision, and sensory/motor function which can mistaken for psychiatric problems
Post natal depression
Tests that could save a mother's sanity and a child's life.
More research is needed to determine the incidence of B12 deficiency in women with post natal depression or post natal psychosis. In the meantime, we believe that all women diagnosed with post natal mental illness should undergo screening, including serum B12 and urinary MMA tests. Pregnancy can dramatically worsen a pre-existing B12 deficiency, because B12 is transferred to the growing foetus throughout pregnancy, and prenatal vitamins contain only sixteen micrograms of this nutrient (compared to the 1,000 micrograms needed to treat deficiency). Pregnant women at greatest risk for deficiency include vegans and vegetarians, those with autoimmune pernicious anaemia or malabsorption syndromes such as Crohn's disease (an inflammatory intestinal disease) or coeliac disease, and those with a history of gastric bypass for weight loss, strict dieting, anorexia, or bulimia. However, any women who develops symptoms of mental illness following pregnancy needs B12 screening.