If you’ve been feeling overly weak and fatigued, it’s possible you have a vitamin B12 deficiency. While not the only symptom, a lack of energy and feeling sluggish are two of the main signs that you’re lacking B12. The essential nutrient is mostly found in animal products, including meats, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy, so if you’re a vegan or vegetarian or don’t consume these foods on a regular basis, you’re at risk of deficiency. To increase vitamin B12 in your diet, there are certain foods and treatment options you can use to feel more energized. Take a look at 14 vitamin B12 deficiency treatment options and foods to try!
Why is Vitamin B12 Important?
1. Prevents Megaloblastic Anemia (Which Makes People Tired and Weak)
Vitamin B12 helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and is necessary for the synthesis of DNA. It’s an essential vitamin that your body needs but, like most vitamins, can’t produce on its own. Low vitamin B12 levels decrease red blood cell formation and prevent them from developing properly, making it harder from them to move from the bone marrow into the bloodstream at an appropriate rate. This results in megaloblastic anemia, in which your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells to transport oxygen to your vital organs. Megaloblastic anemia results in symptoms such as weakness and fatigue.
2. Healthy Nervous System
If you’re vitamin B12 deficient, it can have an effect on your nervous system. It can start with numbness and tingling in your hands, legs or feet, and when the deficiency becomes more severe, you may experience difficulty walking, and start to stagger or lose your balance.
3. Improves Your Mood
Vitamin B12 also plays an important role in improving your mood. It helps synthesize and metabolize serotonin, the happy hormone, that’s responsible for regulating your mood. Vitamin B12 deficiency may lead to a decrease in serotonin production, which can increase your risk of depression.
3. Increases Your Energy
Vitamin B12 also has a role in your body’s energy production, improving your energy level considerably. If you’re low in vitamin B12, you’re likely low in energy. If you’re deficient, increasing your intake by food or treatment options will likely improve your energy level, especially since one of the main symptoms of B12 deficiency is fatigue and lack of energy.
4. Healthy Hair, Skin and Nails
If you want to maintain healthy hair, skin and nails, vitamin B12 is important for that too. B12 plays an essential role in healthy cell production, so it makes sense that optimal levels of it are needed for healthy hair, skin and nails. If you’re deficient in B12, you could experience skin hyper pigmentation, nail discolouration, hair changes and other symptoms.
5. Cognitive Health
A vitamin B12 deficiency can also produce cognitive deficiencies. You may experience difficulty thinking and reasoning, as well as memory loss. Vitamin B12 may play a role in preventing brain atrophy, which is the loss of neurons in the brain and often associated with memory loss and dementia.
What Causes Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
The most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is a lack of a substance called intrinsic factor. Intrinsic factor is a protein made in the stomach, and it’s needed to absorb vitamin B12. The inability to make intrinsic factor may be caused by things such as chronic gastritis, surgery to remove all or part of the stomach, or an autoimmune disease, where the body attacks its own tissues.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can also result from a diet lacking in B-12, which is found mainly in meat, eggs, poultry and dairy products. Vegetarian and vegan diets are typically low in B12 because of this, however, there are fortified foods you can eat, such as fortified tofu and soy milk to help increase your intake.
There are also certain factors that make someone more likely to be vitamin B12 deficient. These include:
- The elderly
- Those who have had surgery to remove the part of the bowel that absorbs vitamin B12
- People on the drug metformin for diabetes
- Those who have gastritis
- People following a strict vegan diet
- Those taking long-term antacid drugs for heartburn
- Excess alcohol consumption
- Excess antibiotic use that leads to bacterial overgrowth in the intestine
- Some genetic disorders
12 Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms
- Weakness and fatigue
- Palpitations and rapid heart beat
- Shortness of breath
- Poor appetite
- Weight loss
- Numbing or tingling in your hands or feet
- Yellowish tinge to skin and eyes
- Sore, red tongue
12 Foods High in Vitamin B12
- Red meat
- Dairy including cheese, low-fat milk, and low-fat yogurt
- Fish like sardines, tuna, trout and salmon
- King Crab
- Fortified cereals
- Fortified soy milk
- Fortified tofu
- Nutritional yeast
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Treatment Options
Vitamin B12 Injections
If you’re very low in vitamin B12, the deficiency can be treated with vitamin B12 injections. There are two types of vitamin B12 injections: hydroxocobalamin and cyanocobalamin. Hydroxocobalamin is typically recommended as it stays in the body for longer. Someone with very severe symptoms may receive five to seven injections in the first week to restore the body’s reserves of the vitamin. Once the B12 reserves reach normal levels, an injection will be done every one to three months.
Vitamin B12 Supplements
If your vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by insufficient dietary intake, you can take vitamin B12 supplements. A B12 supplement will help increase your energy levels, and boost your memory and mood if you’re vitamin B12 deficient.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to some serious symptoms and lower your quality of life. If you’re vitamin B deficient, make sure to make changes to your diet or look into supplements or vitamin B injections.
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