When we talk about deficiencies, we usually talk about mineral deficiencies, they are the most common, but vitamin deficiencies can be just as serious and most people fail to notice the warning signs. Here are some of the most obvious symptoms of a severe vitamin B12 deficiency:
- Feeling light-headed, tired and fatigued for no apparent reason
- Experiencing shortness of breath, accelerated heartbeat
- Having trouble concentrating, memory problems
- Tingling and numbness in limbs
- Coordination and balance problems
- Unusually pale complexion
- Sore tongue
- Sensitive gums, bleeding and bruising in the gum area
- Excessive weight loss
- Hallucinations, depression, mania and irritability
These symptoms are a sure sign of a severe vitamin B12 deficiency and if you notice some of them you need to consult a doctor and have yourself checked.
The importance of vitamin B12
Vitamin B12 is a very important vitamin for your overall health, but it has an essential role in your blood cells and nerves. It takes part in the creation of genetic material in our cells and optimal levels of this vitamin protect our organism from megaloblastic anemia. The symptoms of this condition are an overall feeling of weakness and tiredness.
The absorption of this vitamin in our organism happens in two phases. First the hydrochloric acid isolates the vitamin form the proteins we’ve ingested and then it binds to the intrinsic factor, a protein that is naturally produced in the stomach. Afterwards, our organism absorbs the vitamin B12. Patients suffering from pernicious anemia usually lack the intrinsic factor, which is key in the absorption of this vitamin and therefore their body can’t absorb vitamin B12.
How does vitamin B12 deficiency happen?
People over the age of 60 have the highest risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency. The low limit for vitamin B12 is pretty high, which is why the majority of people don’t even know that their body lacks this important nutrient.
Increase your B12 intake
Vitamin B12 can be absorbed thorough food although as we mentioned some people can’t absorb it properly. If you suspect your body lacks this vitamin you should get tested and determine if you’re right.
The following groups of people are most at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency:
- People over 50 tend to have vitamin B12 deficiency pretty often because they fail to absorb vitamin B12 from the food they eat. Why? Because they have low amounts of hydrochloric acids in their stomach. And we mentioned earlier that this acid is essential for the proper absorption of this vitamin
- People suffering from pernicious anemia cannot absorb sufficient amounts of vitamin B12, because they don’t have the intrinsic factor in their system. The solution to their problem is to take vitamin B12 supplements either orally or in the form of injections.
- Individuals who deal with digestive problems, like Crohn’s disease or Celiac disease, or patients who have experienced gastrointestinal surgery (weight loss surgeries) are unable to absorb vitamin B12 properly.
- Vitamin B12 deficiency is pretty common among vegans and vegetarians, because the only sources of this vitamin are products from animal origin. It’s also quite common for babies of vegan or vegetarian moms to be deficient in vitamin B12.
The greatest food sources of vitamin B12
The biggest sources of this vitamin are animal products. There are some plant food products which can be fortified with vitamin B12 but you need to check the labels to see which ones have been fortified with this exact vitamin. These are the best sources of vitamin B12:
- Clams and beef liver
- Eggs, poultry, meat, fish, milk, and dairy products
- Nutritional yeast, certain cereals, and some fortified foods
How can you know if you suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency?
- Anemia accompanied with high mean corpuscular volume
- Problems with balance and walking, numbness, tingling, and similar neurological symptoms
- The feeling of disorientation, confusion, and altered mental status
- Alzheimer’s disease and dementia
- Schizophrenia, mania, and bipolar disorder
- Pancreatic insufficiency and similar GI disorders
- Gastric bypass
- People over 60
- Restricted diet regimens (vegan and vegetarian diet)
- Autoimmune disorders
- Children with autism and delayed development
- Babies of mothers who lack vitamin B12
- Eating disorders
- Family history of anemia
- Metformin and PPI drugs
- Cardiovascular disorders, such as blood clotting, stroke and heart attack
Don’t leave your deficiency untreated!
Vitamin B12 deficiency can easily be treated; you just need to know if you suffer from it first. This vitamin is water soluble and non-toxic, meaning you can take it orally or in the form of injections and resolve your problem fast and simple. Consult with your doctor to determine which course of treatment works best for you.
If you want to treat your deficiency naturally eat foods rich in vitamin B12 like dairy products, meat, eggs, poultry, seafood and fish. If you are a vegan or vegetarian find B12 fortified food and take multivitamins to get your needed daily dose of this vitamin.