Have you ever experienced an unexplained lack of energy or a consistent feeling of tiredness? These could be sings that your body is lacking in vitamin B12. This vitamin is not produced in the body, and is required from an outside food source; because of this, a majority of people with a B12 deficiency don’t realize they have it.
Vitamin B12 can be found in dairy foods such as milk or cheese, and proteins such as fish or poultry. This vitamin, also referred to as “cobalamin”, is available in supplement form and is commonly added to other foods such as cereal.
Functions of B12 in the Body…
|Produces adrenal hormones||Metabolizes folate3|
fat and carbohydrates
|Forms red blood cells|
|Aids in iron absorption||Helps ensure proper circulation|
|Promotes reproductive health||Aids in digestion|
|Supports nervous system function||Optimizes nerve growth and function|
How Much Vitamin B12 is Necessary?
The National Institutes of Health’s (NIH)4 recommends certain amounts of B12 for Men, Women, and Children.
- 2.4 micrograms for people age 14 and older
- 2.6 micrograms for pregnant women
- 2.8 micrograms for breastfeeding women
This vitamin is essential to living a completely healthy life. Aside from the functions listed above, B12 also aids in helping to make DNA. As well as red blood cells and nerves. A study done by Harvard Health stated:
“And therein lies the problem: Some people don’t consume enough vitamin B12 to meet their needs, while others can’t absorb enough, no matter how much they take in. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency is relatively common, especially among older people.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated that 3.2 [percent] of adults over age 50 have a seriously low B12 level, and up to 20 [percent] may have a borderline deficiency.”5
Signs of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Health Eternally notes:
“Technically speaking though, vitamin B12 does not contain any ‘real’ energy all on its own. However, if you have megaloblastic anemia, which is famous for making you feel tired and weak, then a sudden increase in B12 can certainly make it seem like you have all the energy in the world!
That’s because vitamin B12 is critical in the production of red blood cells, which transport oxygen all throughout your body. Without oxygen, you die! So it’s not hard to see how oxygenated blood can make you feel very energetic and alive.”8
One sign of this deficiency is the loss of senses such as taste or smell. Other signs can include:
|A numb, tingly, “pins and needles” sensation in your hands, legs or feet, which may indicate possible nerve damage.||Yellow skin, an indication that your red blood cells are degrading, which releases a yellow pigment in the process.|
|A swollen, “smooth” tongue with fewer papillae “bumps” containing taste buds.
One patient recovered completely after receiving B12 treatment.9
|Unstable, wobbly and dizzy feelings, which are signs there may not be enough oxygen in your blood, related to low B12.|
|Blurry or double vision, or shadows in your field of vision, caused by optic nerve damage from a B12 deficiency.||Memory loss, which may be a red flag when it has no other potential cause.|
What Causes a Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
There are some things that can factor into an individual having a vitamin B12 deficiency. Some of these can include:
|Vegetarians and vegans, who are susceptible because B12 is derived from animal products.||People who regularly drink alcohol, because B12 is stored in your liver.||Anyone with an autoimmune disease like Crohn’s or celiac, which may prevent your body from being able to absorb B12.|
|People who drink more than four cups of coffee daily, who have around 15 percent less B vitamins, including B12, than non-coffee consumers.10||Those who’ve had gastric bypass surgery and therefore have altered digestive systems, which may be a factor.||People exposed to nitrous oxide, aka laughing gas, which can wipe out whatever B12 reserves you may have in your body.|
|Older adults, because as you grow older, your ability to produce intrinsic factor decreases.
Intrinsic factor is a protein made by stomach cells that’s necessary for B12 absorption.
H. pylori (Helicobacter pylori) bacteria can also destroy them, preventing B12 absorption.11
|People who take antacids, which have a tendency to interfere with B12 absorption, especially over time.||Patients who take Metformin for low blood sugar, as the drug interferes with B12 absorption.|
|Anyone taking a proton-pump inhibitor like Prevacid or Nexium or H2 blocker such as Pepcid or Zantac.12|
There are ways in which a B12 deficiency can be corrected. Weekly shots of the vitamin or a higher intake of B12 supplements or those foods rich in B12.