What is Vitamin B Deficiency?

Vitamin B deficiency occurs when the body doesn’t get adequate amounts of Vitamin B for the efficient functioning of different bodily processes. Vitamin B plays an important role in maintaining the good health of the human body by regulating body energy levels, metabolism, and cellular functions. When there is Vitamin B deficiency, normal bodily functioning is hampered, and also immunity is compromised. Vitamin B is required for maintaining proper hormonal and cholesterol balance, promoting nerve function, and ensuring cardiovascular health. Vitamin B deficiency leads to hormonal imbalances, neuropsychiatric disorders, metabolic disorders, and several other problems. Let us check them in detail here.

Vitamin B Deficiency: Causes and Symptoms

Vitamin B Deficiency: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

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date-icon 31 Aug 2021 |
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When the body is unable to get the required amount of Vitamin B for smooth functioning of various bodily processes, the condition is called Vitamin B deficiency. It not only hampers normal bodily functioning but also makes it susceptible to illnesses due to compromised immunity. Vitamin B is crucial for pregnant and lactating women as it assists in the brain development of the fetus. For mothers about to give birth, Vitamin B increases energy levels and reduces the risk of preeclampsia.

As we all know, vitamin B plays a crucial role in maintaining good health and well-being. It regulates the body's energy levels, cellular function and metabolism, and also helps in cellular health, development of red blood cells, eyesight, digestion, and appetite. Vitamin B is also responsible for promoting nerve function, maintaining proper hormonal and cholesterol balance and ensuring cardiovascular health.

How much Vitamin B do you need?

Daily recommended Vitamin B intake depends on age, dietary preferences, medical conditions etc. Pregnant women, lactating mothers and eldery are advised to consume more than normal adults. Those with medical conditions, may have a difficulty in absorption and should consult a doctor. 

Life Stage


Vitamin B Intake


Up to 12 months

0.4 mcg


1-3 years

0.9 mcg


4-13 years

1.8 mcg


14-18 years

2.6 mcg


19-70 years

2.6 mcg


70+ years

2.8 mcg

Pregnant women

All Ages

2.8 mcg

Symptoms of Vitamin B Deficiency

Some of the common symptoms of Vitamin B deficiency are rashes and cracks on skin and mouth, tongue swelling, tiredness and exhaustion, weakness, dizziness, depression, nausea, anemia, cramps in the stomach, diarrhea and tingling sensation in limbs. Symptoms vary depending on the Vitamin B Type that is Deficient in the Body.


  • Vitamin B1 deficiency: Weight loss and loss of appetite are common symptoms

  • Vitamin B2 deficiency: It occurs when the person suffers from endocrine gland disorders like thyroid, so the most common and visible symptom is mouth and throat swelling.

  • Vitamin B5 deficiency: Sleeplessness, headache and irritable behavior is experienced in Vitamin B5 deficiency. Hair-thinning, scaly rash eyes and depression are common symptoms.

  • Vitamin B7 deficiency: Hair-thinning, scaly rash eyes and depression are most common symptoms

Health Risks of Vitamin B deficiency

  • Neuropsychiatric Disorders: Vitamin B12 deficiency increases the risk of neuropsychiatric disorders. There is a higher probability of birth defects in children born to mothers deficient in Vitamin B12.

  • Hormonal Imbalances: Vitamin B1 or Thiamine breaks down carbohydrates and helps in formation of neurotransmitters. It also helps in hormonal synthesis. Vitamin B1 deficiency leads to serious hormonal imbalances in the body.

  • Weak Immune System: Vitamin B2 or Riboflavin helps in energy production and breakdown of fats and medicines. Vitamin B2 deficiency makes the immune system weak and makes the body vulnerable to diseases.

  • Metabolic Disorders: Vitamin B5 or Pantothenic acid helps in the creation of new fats, proteins and coenzymes. It also plays a role in metabolism. Vitamin B5 deficiency leads to metabolic disorders.

  • Stunted Brain Growth: Vitamin B6 or Pyridoxine supports over 100 enzyme reactions including brain development, stronger immune system, breakdown of carbohydrates and fats, and metabolism of amino acid. When the body lacks this vital vitamin, brain development, immune response and metabolism are hampered.

  • Hair Fall: Vitamin B7 or Biotin is needed for cellular communication and DNA regulation. Vitamin B7 deficiency increases the risk of conjunctivitis. Vitamin B9 deficiency leads to premature hair fall and skin problems.

  • Anemia: Vitamin B 12 is termed Cobalamin because it contains cobalt. It is crucial for generation of new red blood cells, body metabolism, proper neurological functions and DNA synthesis. Vitamin B12 deficiency can also lead to anemia and neurological disorders.

Causes of Vitamin B Deficiency

Vitamin B deficiency can be caused by lack of regular dietary intake or factors like atrophic gastritis which thins the stomach lining. Medical conditions like anemia, Celiac disease, Crohn's disease also impact Vitamin B absorption. Certain immune disorders like Graves disease can also cause Vitamin B deficiency. Those who consume alcohol excessively are also at a risk of Vitamin B deficiency. Prescription drugs like lansoprazole and omeprazole also limit Vitamin B absorption.

Tests for Vitamin B deficiency

Vitamin B deficiency can be diagnosed using a blood test. Complete blood count (CBC) test checks the health of blood cells and the number of white blood cells (WBCs) and red blood cells (RBCs), hemoglobin, platelets etc. Deformity in blood cells or any other irregularity is generally due to lack of Vitamin B. Vitamin B deficiency also leads to reduction in RBCs, hemoglobin and platelets.

Methylmalonic acid (MMA) test: It is conducted to check for Vitamin B12 deficiency. Low vitamin B12 level indicates that MMA is high.

Treatment for Vitamin B Deficiency

  • Vitamin B Supplements: Treatment for Vitamin B deficiency involves eating food rich in Vitamin B and taking supplements referred by doctors.
  • Oral Supplements: Pregnant women and lactating mothers require more Vitamin B than normal as it's crucial for brain development of the fetus and infant, and hence, the doctor usually prescribes them oral supplements.

  • Injections: In case of any absorption issue with Vitamin B12 due to medical conditions, the doctor may prescribe Vitamin B injections.

  • Oral Shot: Anemia patients and those who cannot absorb Vitamin B12, will require a vitamin shot initially. After that they can continue with the shot or take a nasal dose. Vegans and vegetarians should either consume Vitamin B fortified grains or take supplements or high oral dose.

  • Multivitamins: Multivitamin tablets containing Vitamin B are also available and can be consumed. Vitamin B treatment is successful in most cases, but if there's any nerve damage due to deficiency then it may become a permanent condition.

Common food sources of Vitamin B

Vitamin B occurs naturally in foods such as milk, eggs, cheese, liver, red meat, and oysters. Vitamin B is water-soluble so it isn't stored in the body and is excreted daily via urine. This makes adequate consumption of Vitamin B, both through diet and nutritional supplements, extremely important. 



Vitamin B (micrograms)

Beef Liver

3 ounces


Tuna Fish

3 ounces



1 cup



6 ounces


Fortified Cereals

1 serving



1.5 ounces



1 piece


How to prevent Vitamin B Deficiency

Best way to prevent Vitamin B deficiency is to eat a balanced diet and reduce the intake of alcohol. In case you experience any of the symptoms, consult a doctor immediately and ask whether you should take Vitamin B12 supplements. If you are a vegan, then you should eat more cereals and other foodstuffs fortified with Vitamin B.


Vitamin B deficiency leads to a variety of symptoms from insomnia, fatigue, headache to skin discoloration. In case of any symptoms consult the doctor immediately. Pregnant women and elderly need to be extra cautious about their daily intake of Vitamin B. Vitamin B deficiency in pregnant women increases the risk of birth deformities in children. Vitamin B is crucial for cellular regeneration processes, brain development, immunity, DNA synthesis as well as hormonal balance. It’s also responsible for healthy, glowing skin and hair. Vitamin B supplements are readily available and should be taken in case of any deficiency. Availing quality healthcare access in such circumstances could be a costly affair and a good health insurance policy such as those available on Finserv MARKETS can help you manage such medical exigencies.

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