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Can Vitamin B-12 Cause Side Effects?

How your body uses B-12

Everyone needs vitamin B-12, and most people get enough through their diet. However, it’s important to know what side effects occur when you take too much.

Vitamin B-12 is water soluble, so it’s not stored in the body. But if you take supplements, you might ingest more than your body needs.

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Side effects

What are the side effects of vitamin B-12?

Vitamin B-12 can cause the following side effects:

  • restenosis (reoccurrence of narrowing of a blood vessel) after stent placement
  • high blood pressure
  • acne
  • rash
  • itchy or burning skin
  • pink or red skin discoloration
  • facial flushing
  • urine discoloration
  • numbness
  • nausea
  • difficulty swallowing
  • diarrhea
  • increase in blood volume and red blood cells
  • low potassium levels
  • gout flare-up

Vitamin B-12 should be used with caution if you have any of the following conditions:

  • heart concerns
  • high blood pressure
  • history of cancer
  • skin disorders
  • genitourinary concerns
  • gastrointestinal concerns
  • blood disorders
  • low serum levels of potassium
  • history of gout

Some agents are linked to reduced absorption or serum levels of vitamin B-12. Use with caution if you take any of the following:

  • angiotensin converting enzyme inhibitors
  • aspirin
  • alcohol
  • antibiotics
  • anti-seizure agents
  • bile acid sequestrates
  • chloramphenicol
  • colchicine
  • H2 blockers
  • metformin
  • neomycin
  • nicotine
  • nitrous oxide
  • oral contraceptives
  • para-aminosalicylic acid
  • potassium chloride
  • proton pump inhibitors
  • tobacco
  • vitamin C
  • zidovudine (Retrovir)

Don’t take vitamin B-12 supplements if you have sensitivities or allergies to vitamin B-12, cobalt, and or any other ingredients. Vitamin B-12 is safe to take in recommended dosages if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.

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See a doctor

When should you see a doctor?

If you notice any adverse effects after you start to taking vitamin B-12 supplements, you should discontinue use immediately. Seek medical attention if your symptoms get worse or are severe. You can consult your doctor to establish an appropriate dose if it’s determined that you don’t get enough B-12 from food sources.

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Dosage

What’s the correct dosage of vitamin B-12?

According to the Mayo Clinic, the recommended dietary amounts (RDAs) are as follows:

  • 2.4 micrograms daily for ages 14 years or older
  • 2.6 micrograms daily for pregnant women
  • 2.8 micrograms daily for breastfeeding women

If you’re over the age of 50, you should try to get your RDA by eating foods with B-12 or by taking a supplement containing 25-100 micrograms of B-12.

Foods with vitamin B-12 include:

  • eggs
  • cheese
  • fish
  • shellfish
  • liver
  • kidney
  • red meat
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Treatment

How are vitamin B-12 side effects treated?

See your doctor if you have severe side effects that do not go away once you stop taking the supplements. Avoid taking supplements if possible and try to get B-12 from food sources.

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Bottom line

The bottom line

If you develop any side effects from taking vitamin B-12, you can stop taking the supplement and the symptoms should subside. After this, you’ll need to determine either an appropriate dose or how to get the vitamin B-12 you need from food sources. You can discuss this with your doctor.

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