Are you Getting Enough B-12?
Are you getting enough vitamins in your diet? Better yet, are you getting enough B-12 vitamins? If you’re not eating a balanced diet, chances are you may be vitamin B-12 deficient.
Vitamin B-12 is found primarily in animal products, such as dairy products, meat, and shellfish, so those who abstain from those foods may be most at risk for suffering from a vitamin B-12 deficiency.
If you are not getting enough vitamin B12, you may be compromising the health of your brain and immune system. If you are suffering from a B-12 deficiency, you may notice some unpleasant symptoms such as an irregular heartbeat, extreme fatigue, and a foggy memory.
Not getting enough vitamin B-12 can even lead to serious, irreversible consequences such as anemia and nerve damage. If you think that you are at risk for a vitamin b-12 deficiency or actually schedule an appointment with your physician.
The sooner you find out the sooner you can talk about the steps you can take to get back on track and to avoid the serious consequences not getting enough vitamins.
Symptoms of Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
A mild vitamin B-12 deficiency may not display any symptoms, however, a severe vitamin B-12 deficiency may lead irreversible damage, such as anemia. If you think you are suffering from or at risk for suffering from a vitamin B-12 deficiency, some of the symptoms may include:
- Fatigue and weakness are symptoms that may creep up on you if you are deficient in B-12 vitamins
- People suffering from a vitamin B-12 deficiency may notice some weight gain that may be a result of fatigue and sluggishness characteristic of B-12 deficiencies
- A vitamin B-12 deficiency may leave telltale signs on your skin such as skin lesions or light and dark patches of skin
- Fingernail ridges—every six months, your body produces new fingernails. Your fingernails can be a good indicator of whether or not you’re getting enough vitamin B-12 in your diet
- Not getting enough vitamin B-12 can wreak havoc on your digestion, resulting in constipation, diarrhea, gas, or even loss of appetite
- Neuropathy—an uncomfortable tingling feeling in the hands and feet.
- People suffering from a vitamin B-12 deficiency may suffer from muscle weakness or may be unstable on their feet and have trouble walking
- If you’re suffering from a vitamin B-12 deficiency, you may experience shortness of breath and heart palpitations
- A deficiency of vitamin B-12 can affect your vision or may even produce hallucinations
- A smooth tongue and mouth sores, or a beefy swollen tongue may be the result of a B-12 deficiency
- A vitamin B-12 deficiency may even affect your mental health, resulting in confusion, depression, and behavioral changes
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms for more than a couple weeks at a time, schedule an appointment with your physician.
Vitamin B-12 symptoms mimic other disorders, so it is important to get a blood test to rule out any other conditions. The key features of a vitamin B-12 deficiency are confusion, dizziness, and impaired thinking.
Permanent Damage Related to a Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
It is important to diagnose a vitamin B-12 deficiency, because it can lead to permanent damage. However, if the deficiency is caught early enough, the problems can be reversed. If left untreated, a vitamin B-12 deficiency can result in:
- Erectile dysfunction
- Memory loss
- Problems controlling bladder and bowels
Causes of Vitamin B-12 Deficiency
The following may be responsible for causing a vitamin B-12 deficiency or may inhibit absorption of vitamin B-12:
- Not eating enough foods rich in vitamin B-12—vegans and vegetarians are especially at risk
- Being over the age of 50 increases the chances of suffering from a vitamin B-12 deficiency
- Having more than a couple drinks daily may irritate stomach lining and impair the functioning of the liver, therefore making vitamin B-12 absorption difficult
- Persistently using acid reducers for a long period of time—acid reducers break down the animal proteins that contain vitamin B-12
- Taking birth control pills may make the absorption of vitamin B-12 difficult
- Thinning stomach lining due to such conditions as gastritis
- Disorders that affect the immune system such as lupus or Graves’ disease
- Suffering from disorders that affect the small intestine such as celiac disease, Crohn’s disease
- Bacterial growth or a parasite in the small intestine
Who is Most at Risk for a Vitamin B-12 Deficiency?
Vitamin B-12 is gleaned through diet, so those not consuming foods rich in vitamin b-12 or have trouble absorbing the vitamin are more likely to suffer a deficiency.
Vegans and Vegetarians
Chances are, if you’re diet mostly consists of plant-based foods; chances are you might be suffering from a vitamin B-12 deficiency. If you fall under this category, can take a vitamin B-12 supplement or eat foods fortified with the vitamin, such as grains and cereals.
Some other foods that are fortified with vitamin B-12 are vegan meat substitutes and some non-dairy milks. Be sure to check the label though, not all of non-dairy milks and veggie meats are fortified with the vitamin.
Babies Born to Vegan and Vegetarian Mothers
Unfortunately, babies can suffer from a vitamin B-12 deficiency and experiences all its negative side effects such as anemia. If a baby is fed a diet devoid of any animal products or is being breast-fed by a vegan mother, it may suffer serious health issues.
Some issues could be failure to thrive, problems reaching developmental milestones and other chronic health issues. Adding vitamin B-12 supplements to a baby’s diet can reverse these problems and prevent them from occurring in the first place.
People Over the Age of 50
Unfortunately, as we age, things in our body break down and do not work as effectively. This is especially true for our digestive system—the older we get, the less acid our stomach produces, therefore making vitamin B-12 absorption difficult.
Other factors that may make this specific population more vulnerable to vitamin B-12 deficiency are poor diets and certain medications they may be taking. If you’re a senior and are unable to absorb vitamin B-12, you may get your source of the vitamin via supplements and injections.
People that Just had Weight Loss Surgery
Gastric bypass surgery affects the digestive system and the way the body digests food—this can lead to permanent problems absorbing vitamin B-12. Those who have had gastric bypass surgery may have to take a supplement to maintain healthy levels of vitamin B-12 in their system.
Getting Enough Vitamin B12
If you want to prevent developing a vitamin B-12 deficiency, you can either take a supplement or fortify your diet with some of the following foods:
- Shellfish such as cooked clams, oysters, and muscles
- Beef and liver
- Fish such as mackerel, smoked salmon, herring, tuna, trout, and even canned sardines
- Crustaceans such as crab, crayfish, shrimp, and lobster
- Red meat
- Dairy products such as yogurt and milk
- Cheese such as Swiss, mozzarella, feta, and Parmesan
- Fortified soy products such as silken tofu and soymilk—when purchasing soy products, be sure to check the label as not all soy products are fortified with vitamin B-12
- Eggs such as chicken, goose, and duck
- Fortified breakfast cereals—these are typically all bran cereals; be sure to check the label to ensure there is a good amount of vitamin B-12 before purchasing
- Yeast extracts spreads such as Marmite