Although mineral deficiencies are more widespread than vitamin deficiencies, at least one in four adults suffer from inadequate levels of vitamin B12. Now is your chance to learn how to recognize the different symptoms and causes of B12 deficiency, and what easy steps you can take to correct it!
What Is Vitamin B12?
Most of us are familiar with B12 as an “energy” vitamin that can give you an afternoon pick-me-up, or help you muster through a boring cardio workout. B12 has also become ubiquitous as a weight loss wonder “drug” at medical weight loss clinics. Realizing how much people love this popular vitamin, clinics and health spas now offer discounted B12 injections on “daily deal” type websites in the hopes that you’ll purchase an upgraded package once you step through the front door!
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.
Why Do You Need B12?
According to Dr. Mercola, vitamin B12 serves several vital functions in the body, including but not limited to:
– adrenal hormone production
– proper circulation
– red blood cell formation
– properly functioning nervous system
– good digestion
– iron absorption
– fat and carbohydrate metabolism
– promotes nerve growth and formation
– female reproductive health
Populations At Risk Of B12 Deficiency?
Some foods are fortified with vitamin B12, but this may not be enough maintain adequate levels in the body. Therefore, it’s important for these high-risk groups to supplement with B12 on a daily basis!
– people over the age of 60 that produce very little stomach acid
– people who suffer from autoimmune disorders, such as celiac or Crohn’s disease
– vegans or vegetarians who don’t consume animal products
– diabetics who take Metformin, a medication known to interfere with B12 absorption
Symptoms Of B12 Deficiency
– If you can’t keep your eyes open, you might not have enough oxygen in your blood to support your energy needs.
– If you feel numb, tingly, or are getting a “pins and needles” sensation, watch out! These are common signs of nerve damage from low B12 levels.
– Memory loss can be attributed to low levels of B12, especially if you’re still too young to suffer from age-related dementia.
– Feeling wobbly or dizzy is another common sign that there’s not enough oxygen in your blood.
– Yellow skin can be a symptom of red blood cell degradation, which spills out a yellow pigment when it breaks apart. If you don’t have adequate levels of B12, then your body can’t make cells with strong walls.
– A smooth tongue is a sign that you’ve lost a few papillae “bumps” on your tongue. The papillae contain your tastes buds, so if your food tastes ‘blah,” this can be a sign of low B12 levels.
– If you’re feeling extra anxious or tearful, it could be a lack of B12, which is responsible for making the “happy” brain chemicals, serotonin and dopamine.
– Optic nerve damage can cause strange vision issues, such as blurry or double vision. You might want to “look” into getting your vitamin levels tested if you suddenly spots shadows in your field of vision, as this is another symptom of B12 deficiency.
Causes Of B12 Deficiency
One of the most critical but overlooked vitamins in the world is B12. The causes of B12 deficiency are varied, but here are some of the more interesting reasons why you may be suffering from low levels of this vitamin:
– Antacids interferes with B12 assimilation. It turns out that B12 needs stomach acid for absorption!
– Nitrous oxide, or laughing gas, has the “funny” ability to destroy the B12 reserves in your body.
– The H. pylori bacteria can destroy the stomach cells that are responsible for creating a protein known as “intrinsic factor.” Your body can’t absorb any amount of B12, ever, without this intrinsic factor.
– Gastric bypass weight loss surgery physically re-routes your digestive mechanisms, which can potentially disrupt B12 absorption.
– Coffee connoisseurs who consume at least 4 cups of coffee per day have 15% less B-vitamins in their bodies as compared to non-drinkers. The reason why is still unclear.
Dietary Sources Of B12
Plants have no metabolic need for vitamin B12, and therefore do not produce it. So you will only be able to find B12 in animal products, or in some fortified foods. Some good examples include:
Seafood – try sardines, salmon, tuna, cod, shrimp, or scallops
Meat – eat beef, pork, chicken, lamb, goat, or turkey
Dairy – try cow’s milk, hard and soft cheeses, cottage cheese, cream cheese, or yogurt
Eggs – find it in the yolks, which contain all the vitamins and minerals
Vegan sources – look for nutritional yeast, fortified coconut milk, or tempeh
Don’t forget to supplement with B12 if your body isn’t able to absorb it from the foods that you eat.
B12 And Beyond
Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin that can easily be found in animal products. However, despite the widespread availability of this nutrient in our food supply, many people aren’t able to adequately absorb it. To maintain good health, be aware of the signs and symptoms of B12 deficiency, get yourself tested regularly, and be sure to follow up with your physician if you feel dizzy, weak or numb.