Your body can't make all the chemicals it needs for good health, and you need to consume several nutrients each day to avoid a dangerous deficiency. Among the essential nutrients are 12 vitamins -- vitamins A, D, E and K, a well as eight B-complex vitamins. If you don't get enough B-vitamins each day, you develop a number of side effects, including side effects that affect your tongue.
Glossitis refers to the tongue condition characterized by swelling, soreness and changes in color. It may cause difficulty chewing, swallowing or speaking and interfere with your quality of life. Glossitis associated with B-vitamin deficiencies can cause a fiery red tongue, notes National Institutes of Health online medical encyclopedia Medline Plus.
Vitamin B-6 Deficiency
Vitamin B-6 plays an important role in red blood cell production. Many foods contain vitamin B-6, including fortified cereals, legumes, meat, poultry, seafood and some vegetables and fruits. Vitamin B-6 deficiency occurs only rarely in the United States. Alcoholics and older adults may be more vulnerable to vitamin B-6 deficiency, notes the National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements. Vitamin B-6 deficiency can cause glossitis as well as skin inflammation, convulsions, depression and confusion.
Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
Vitamin B-12 also plays an important role in red blood cell production, as well as in neurological function, protein and fat metabolism and DNA synthesis. Animal-based foods such as liver, clams, trout, salmon, beef, turkey and chicken provide vitamin B-12. Vitamin B-12 deficiency affects as much as 15 percent of the population, according to the National Institutes of Health. B-12 deficiency can cause glossitis as well as weakness, fatigue, loss of appetite, weight loss, numbness and tingling in hands and feet and, in severe cases, memory loss, depression and dementia. Those at a high risk of B-12 deficiency include vegetarians and vegans, people who have had gastrointestinal surgery and those suffering from atrophic gastritis, pernicious anemia, Crohn’s disease or celiac disease.
Folate -- a B-vitamin found in green, leafy vegetables, citrus fruits and legumes -- assists in the production of healthy red blood cells. Pregnant women, alcoholics and individuals with kidney failure or liver disease have an increased risk for folate deficiency. Symptoms of folate deficiency may include sore tongue, weakness, loss of appetite, weight loss, heart palpitations and behavioral disorders. Folate deficiency in pregnant women can increase the risk of preterm birth and neural tube defects in infants.
If you suffer from a sore tongue, seek medical attention -- don't just assume that it's associated with a B vitamin deficiency. Other factors -- including allergic reactions to toothpaste, mouthwash or dyes in candy, bacterial or viral infections such as oral herpes, burn injuries, yeast infection, skin conditions and irritants such as tobacco, alcohol, hot foods and spices -- can also cause glossitis. Your doctor can perform an examination to determine the underlying cause and provide appropriate treatment.
- Medline Plus: Glossitis
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B-6
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Vitamin B-12
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Folate
- National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements: Iron
- BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images
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