Vitamin B12 and IBD

IBD Can Cause An Inability To Absorb Enough Vitamin B12

Duck liver mousse on crustini
Organ meat, such as liver, is high in vitamin B12. Liver is often prepared in a variety of ways to make it more palatable. Thomas Barwick / Getty Images

What Does Vitamin B12 Do For You?

Vitamin B12 is used by the body for several different purposes. Our bodies need vitamin B12 to function properly and especially to make more red blood cells. Some of the things vitamin B12 does include:

  • regulating metabolism
  • maintenance of the central nervous system
  • creation of red blood cells

What Is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is one of the water-`soluble vitamins and is excreted through urine if it is not used by the body.

Vitamin B12 is stored in the liver. A lack of B12 can leave the body unable to make more red blood cells, which can result in symptoms such as weakness, tingling in the arms and legs, or a condition called pernicious anemia.

Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the small intestine, and people who have had surgery to remove sections of small intestine (such as people who have Crohn's disease) may not be able to absorb enough B12. A lack of vitamin B12 is treated by supplementation, such as by receiving B12 shots on a regular basis.

Who Is At Risk For Low Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is absorbed in the small intestine. Conditions that affect the small intestine could result in lower amounts of vitamin B12 being absorbed. This includes Crohn's disease and celiac disease. This could also occur with people who have For people who can't absorb enough vitamin B12 in the intestine, an injection of B12 might be needed.

Supplementing Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 is present in some foods and is also available as a supplement. The supplement can be bought over-the-counter as a capsule, a sublingual tablet (that's put under the tongue, and a liquid. It is also available as an injection, which is prescribed by a physician and, in most cases, given as a shot in the office.

In some cases, certain patients are given the B12 injections to give to themselves at home.

Supplementing with B12 isn't necessary for most healthy people, but some people with IBD or other digestive conditions may find a need for supplements. In most cases, the deficiency is found during a blood test. A physician will then recommend a supplement, which could be an over-the-counter supplement or a injection, or a combination of the two. In some cases, supplementation daily or weekly is done until levels rise, and then supplementation is done on a less frequent basis.   

Food Sources of Vitamin B12

For those who need supplements, food might not provide enough B12. However, most people are able to get their vitamin B12 needs met through foods. Food sources of vitamin B12 include: 

  • eggs
  • meat (especially organ meats such as liver)
  • poultry
  • shellfish
  • milk
  • fortified breakfast cereals

Vitamin B12 from animal sources (meats, eggs, milk) is easier for the body to use. Vegetarians and vegans that don't require supplementation can typically get enough vitamin B12 from eating a fortified breakfast cereal.

Recommended Daily Amount of B12

The recommended daily amounts of vitamin B12, in micrograms, are:

  • Infants aged 0 - 6 months: 0.4 mcg
  • Infants aged 7 - 12 months: 0.5 mcg
  • Children aged 1 - 3 years: 0.9 mcg
  • Children aged 4 - 8 years: 1.2 mcg
  • Children aged 9 - 13 years: 1.8 mcg
  • Men and women aged 14 years and older: 2.4 mcg


Office of Dietary Supplements. "Vitamin B12: Fact Sheet for Health Professionals." National Institutes of Health. 11 Feb 2016.

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