Three weeks ago I thought I might be taking my last breath. I had a virus which coupled with whooping cough (that I caught back in April), meant that each breath I took felt like trying to push a train uphill, through a very, very tight tunnel.
Thankfully, excellent care from first responders Gina and Bob and paramedics Rachel and Dan saved me from hospital. I am now fully on the road to recovery.
This terrifying experience was relatively short lived but I know that for some with B12 deficiency the inability to breathe without real effort is part of everyday life. Those who are desperately under treated or are currently undiagnosed may struggle with these symptoms everyday.
The problem for many with presenting symptoms of B12 deficiency which include depression and anxiety may result in them being given a mental health diagnosis whilst their physical symptoms are disregarded.
B12, iron and magnesium deficiency can cause breathing problems but how often are these causes fully explored?
Mental Health diagnoses often equal invisibility for patients and a separation from other physical health disciplines, but the link between poor mental health and B12 deficiency was made over 100 years ago.
Unfortunately patients with poor mental health with undiagnosed B12 deficiency are often given higher and higher doses of antipsychotics and antidepressants but experience a lack of response and continued deterioration.
Does B12 Deficiency Lead to Lack of Treatment Response to Conventional Antidepressants?
Subjects with depression who do not respond to conventional antidepressants should be evaluated for nutritional factors.
At times, medical disorders may be mistaken for a primary psychiatric disturbance because of prominent and commonly associated psychiatric or behavioral manifestations. The lack of recognition of the underlying medical condition precludes optimal treatment even though the psychiatric treatment might be appropriate for the symptoms, often manifesting as inadequate response or psychotropic treatment resistance.1 Increasing severity of the underlying medical illness can also increase the risk of relapse in psychiatric disorders despite adequate psychotropic medication.2
Desperate Mental Health Patient
I became aware of this patient after seeing her post on social media.
Her diagnoses include:
Depression with psychotic features
Somatic symptom disorder
(Obviously there are a great many causes for poor mental health which include: B12, folate, and magnesium deficiency and thyroid problems.)
For the past three years this patient has experienced:
High blood pressure – (magnesium deficiency and hyperthyroidism?)
An inability to breathe without effort – (iron
, magnesium and B12 deficiency?)
Tightening and choking around the throat – (an inability to swallow can also be caused by iron deficiency
, magnesium deficiency and hyperthyroidism).
Can you imagine being sectioned, struggling for breath and struggling to swallow, but all those in charge of your care ignore requests for further investigation for the cause of your symptoms?
Not being heard, or ‘seen’ properly is shattering to anyone in hospital but if you are held under section 3
of the Mental Health Act you are literally at the mercy of somebody else. You cannot refuse treatment under this section.
This patient can’t call paramedics, can’t make herself properly heard and has been told that her physical symptoms are in her mind. But what if she has never been screened for nutritional deficiencies or hyperthyroidism
despite presenting with symptoms?
What if she has been screened but the test results have not been fully understood due to the limitations of B12
and thyroid testing
? Strict reliance on ‘normal’ lab reference ranges means so many people deteriorate without any treatment for the root cause of their symptoms.
Whilst psychosomatic symptoms (physical illness or other condition caused or aggravated by a mental factor such as internal conflict or stress) are a very real thing, physical causes for poor mental health should always be ruled out. If doctors haven’t received any training in the fundamentals of nutrition, then they aren’t exploring this as a cause. This situation needs to be rectified.
Have you been told your symptoms are psychosomatic?
Have you been injected with antipsychotics against your will?
Are you terrified that each breath you take might be your last?
This is what this patient is living through now.
We need those who are in charge of her care to take a serious look at information surrounding vitamin B12 and other nutrient deficiencies for her and others with mental health problems.
For those who follow my blog you may be aware that in September Dr Marjorie Ghisoni
facilitated my lecture on B12 deficiency for RCN members in North wales and for Mental Health Nursing students at Bangor University. What we need are more open minded clinicians like Marjorie who will make an enormous difference to their patients once armed with fundamental information which is currently missing from their training.
Please share this blog, you could make a difference to someones life.
Best wishes Tracey
If you are a health professional requiring training on B12 deficiency please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org
for more information.
If you think you may be B12 deficient then please visit this page:
Please don’t supplement with oral B12 before testing, this could skew your results.
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