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Persistent Headaches? You Could Have a Vitamin B12 Deficiency

3 min read

Headaches can disrupt your daily life, making even simple tasks seem a struggle. While there are many potential causes for persistent headaches, one often overlooked culprit is a vitamin B12 deficiency. This essential nutrient plays a crucial role in our overall health, and its absence can lead to a host of problems, including severe headaches. In this article, we will look at how a vitamin B12 deficiency could be causing your headaches, the importance of B12, symptoms of deficiency, and ways to address it.

The Role of Vitamin B12 in the Body

Vitamin B12, is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for the proper function and development of the brain and nerve cells. It helps in the formation of red blood cells and DNA synthesis. Vitamin B12 is also integral in the metabolism of every cell of the human body, affecting DNA synthesis and regulation, fatty acid synthesis, and energy production. The most common form of vitamin B12 in dietary supplements is cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin.

How Vitamin B12 Deficiency Leads to Headaches

The link between vitamin B12 deficiency and headaches is not entirely understood, but several theories provide some insight. B12 plays a role in the production of chemicals involved in signal transmission in the brain, such as serotonin and dopamine. When B12 levels are low, there may be a disruption in these signals, leading to headache symptoms. Additionally, vitamin B12 deficiency can cause anaemia, a condition where the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. This lack of oxygen can result in headache, among other symptoms.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Besides headaches, vitamin B12 deficiency can manifest in various ways, which often makes it hard to diagnose. Common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue or unexplained weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Pale or jaundiced skin
  • Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
  • Nerve problems like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, and problems walking
  • Vision loss
  • Cognitive problems like memory loss, changes in mood, or behavioural changes

Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency can result from a variety of factors, including:

  • Lack of Dietary Sources: B12 is naturally found in animal products such as fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and milk products. Vegans or people who eat very little animal products might not get enough B12 from their diet.
  • Absorption Issues: Certain conditions like pernicious anaemia, celiac disease, Crohn's disease, and growth of bacteria in the stomach or small intestine can affect the body’s ability to absorb B12.
  • Medications: Some medications, including common antacids and certain type 2 diabetes drugs, can interfere with B12 absorption.

Diagnosing and Treating Vitamin B12 Deficiency

If you suspect a vitamin B12 deficiency might be at the root of your persistent headaches, it’s important to see your healthcare provider. They can perform a blood test to check B12 levels. If you are diagnosed with a deficiency, the treatment typically involves vitamin B12 supplements or injections, depending on the severity of the deficiency.

Prevention is Key

Maintaining adequate levels of vitamin B12 is easier than treating a deficiency. Include plenty of B12-rich foods in your diet, such as eggs, dairy, and meat. If you follow a plant-based diet, consider fortified foods or supplements. Regular blood checks can also be beneficial, especially if you belong to a risk group prone to deficiency.


Persistent headaches could be a sign of many conditions, and vitamin B12 deficiency is one of them. Recognising the symptoms and getting tested can help you identify the issue and address it promptly. With proper diet and supplements, you can maintain healthy B12 levels and possibly reduce or eliminate your headaches. Remember, a headache might not just be a part of life; it could be a signal from your body that something needs attention.

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A healthy balanced diet is the best way to consume all the nutrients we need. Sometimes however this isn't possible and then supplements can help. This article isn't intended to replace medical advice. Please consult your healthcare professional before trying any supplements or herbal medicines.