Could you suffer from Vitamin B12 deficiency without knowing it? Vitamin B12 is a powerhouse vitamin that not only enables the production of DNA, but also helps generate nerve and blood cells, making vitamin B12 vital for a healthy brain and immune system. In fact, your body’s metabolism will not function properly without this essential vitamin.
Unlike many other vitamins, B12 can only be found in animal products such as shellfish, meat, eggs, and dairy. About 15% of people do not get adequate vitamin B12 and most of them are likely to be vegetarians or vegans. A deficiency in B12 could lead to a host of problems, some of which we are going to look at in this article. (1)
The deficiency of vitamin B12 in the body is caused by pernicious anemia which is caused by a lack of a glycoprotein called intrinsic factor. This glycoprotein is needed for absorption of vitamin B12 and when it is not present, a vitamin B12 deficiency occurs. (2)
When you have a B12 deficiency, your body may present a variety of symptoms, including:
- Incessant fatigue
When you don’t have enough vitamin B12, you will always feel tired and weak even without doing any strenuous work. Note that this symptom alone is not a guaranteed sign that you have a vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Weight loss
Vitamin B deficiency usually leads to weight loss. Unfortunately, this particular symptom can lead to other problems especially when the patient has an excessive weight loss. Weight loss as a result of vitamin B deficiency can also result in weakness, sleeplessness, and gastrointestinal problems.
Incontinence, specifically the lack of the ability of the bladder to hold urine, is one of the major symptoms of vitamin B deficiency. When incontinence occurs, you can experience a leakage of urine. Although it can be caused by many things, incontinence that resolves when vitamin B is increased can be attributed to a vitamin B deficiency.
- Tingling in fingers and toes
A deficiency of vitamin B12 also contributes to poor circulation or a neurological problem which can result in a tingling sensation in the fingers and toes. This symptom can be treated by maintaining an adequate level of vitamin B12 in the body.
- Psychosis and hallucinations
When the deficiency of vitamin B12 gets to an advanced stage, you could begin to have both audio and visual hallucinations. This could lead to other health and mental problems if not treated quickly by administering vitamin B12. (3)
- Shortness of breath
Labored breathing is another symptom that has been associated with deficiency of vitamin B12. You may find yourself gasping for breath without much exertion which is a result of B12 not being absorbed properly.
- Forgetfulness and confusion
Forgetfulness and confusion usually occur when the neurological system is deprived of vitamin B12.
It is not uncommon to see people suffering from depression due to lack of vitamin B12. When there is inadequate nutrition, a person’s mental state can be altered. However, this generally occurs only when the body has been deprived of vitamin B12 over a long period of time.
Tremors are uncontrolled movements of the extremities. Tremors can occur as result of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Treatment of vitamin B deficiency
Vitamin B12 deficiency can be treated in a number of ways. You should check with your doctor if you are experiencing symptoms that indicate a vitamin B12 deficiency. They may recommend one or more of the following treatments: (4)
- Modify your diet
Vitamin B deficiency can be treated by modifying your diet. The best sources are meat and fish. According to the National Institutes of Health, beef liver and clams have the highest amounts of B12. Additionally, you can eat other foods such as turkey, beef, oysters, salmon, trout, and chicken. All these foods are rich in vitamin B and a serving of any of them will deliver up to 100% of your daily requirement. (5)
- Add fortified foods and supplements
For vegetarians who find it hard to absorb naturally occurring B12, eating the synthetic form of B12 can help their condition. This type of synthetic B12 can be found in fortified cereals, many of which have 100% of your daily B12 requirement per serving.
- Take folate tablets
In some cases, your doctor will prescribe a daily folic acid supplement in order to build up your folate levels. Additionally, you can increase your folate intake by consuming foods rich in folate, such as peas, brown rice, broccoli, asparagus, chickpeas, and Brussels sprouts. (6)
Vitamin B12 is very important for your health. Do not neglect it and always ensure you eat products or supplements that will give you the required amount of vitamin B12 so that your body can operate at its maximum level.