Are you familiar with vitamin B12? Do you know what Cobalamin is? Are you aware of its significance to your health? It’s possible you might know a little something about it. Then again, chances are you don’t know the full extent of how important vitamin B12 is in aiding various bodily functions.
An Overview of How Beneficial Vitamin B12 is to Your Health
It would appear everyone is talking about vitamin B12 or Cobalamin nowadays. As Women’s Health points out, B12 is EVERYWHERE⎯in everything from smoothies to the bums of celebrities like Chelsea Handler. But why all the hubbub about it? Well, it’s because of its reputation as a powerhouse nutrient.
B12 is a water-soluble vitamin and is one of the eight B vitamins better known as the Vitamin B complex. These work hand in hand to help the body be more efficient and keep you energized. Style Craze lists the numerous benefits you get when your body has sufficient levels of vitamin B12:
- Vitamin B12 is known for its anti-aging properties. With sufficient B12 levels, your skin looks healthy and vibrant. Also, it can help treat eczema and prevent dry skin as well as vitiligo.
- Vitamin B12 works alongside vitamin B9 in the production of red blood cells, as it’s responsible for the creation of hemoglobin.
- Vitamin B12 also stimulates hair growth, which is good news if you suffer from premature hair loss. It can also cause repigmentation of your hair’s original color.
- Vitamin B12 helps to maintain healthier nails. If your nails are pale or brittle, then you could be suffering from a deficiency.
- The overall health benefits of vitamin B12 offer relief from fatigue and improved stamina.
- Vitamin B12 has also been documented to help control cholesterol levels.
- Vitamin B12 plays a significant role in cell maintenance to strengthen the nervous system.
- Also helping to prevent megaloblastic anemia, vitamin B12 plays a critical role in DNA formation.
- Vitamin B12 also helps improve your digestion to prevent problems such as diarrhea or constipation.
What it Means if You’re Deficient in Vitamin B12
Given all the benefits B12 has to offer, it’s surprising that the number of people deficient in this vitamin continues to increase. Then again, the symptoms of B12 deficiency tend to remain undiagnosed for a long time. In fact, many people only seek help when the symptoms are already severe and interfere with their ability to carry out their day-to-day activities. Unfortunately, your quality of living can deteriorate over time without you even knowing it.
Signs and Symptoms of B12 Deficiency to Watch Out For
Many people often overlook the signs and symptoms of a B12 deficiency. Moreover, they don’t think much of it when it happens. It’s because many times, the symptoms go away as soon as they appear.
As a result, it’s possible you’d brush it off and attribute it to a lack of sleep or some other factor. However, you should know that persistent symptoms of B12 deficiency, when left untreated, can escalate fast and cause serious problems like blood diseases as well as neurological difficulties. That said, be on your guard if you experience any of the following symptoms every so often⎯or if the sensation or experience intensifies over time.
Affects Your Sense of Taste
- Your sense of taste seems bland as B12 deficiency can cause the loss of papillae. These are tiny bumps on your tongue⎯your taste buds.
- Your tongue may also feel swollen and look inflamed. The soreness can make you lose your appetite from a sore tongue. Even if you plan to lose weight, this wouldn’t be a healthy way to go about it.
Affects Your Sense of Balance
- Your sense of balance is out of order. Unless you’re wearing heels all the time, then this shouldn’t happen often.
- When you’re deficient in vitamin B12, it can affect the nerves along your spinal cord and in turn, impact your control over your legs.
- With a B12 deficiency, you may experience difficulty walking, also known as ataxia.
Affects Your Nerves
- You get tingly but not in a nice way. B12 deficiency can cause numbness in your hands and feet, a sensation known as paresthesias.
- In severe cases, your feet might even feel like they are burning as a result of neuropathy. Neglecting the symptoms early on can leave you with permanent nerve damage⎯potentially meaning a life of chronic pain.
Affects Your Mental Health
- When deficient in vitamin B12, you may have a hard time thinking due to brain fog. Moreover, you seem more irrational than usual. It’s another consequence of nerve damage from B12 deficiency.
- In this case, memory loss can escalate in just a short amount of time.
- The condition could get serious if left untreated and lead to conditions such as dementia⎯a precursor to Alzheimer’s Disease.
- B12 deficiency can also cause hallucinations. So, if you start hearing voices, then it might not be your imagination or a scene from your favorite horror movie.
Affects Your Mood
- The lack of vitamin B12 can also affect your moods and give rise to depression. The condition has an impact on a lot of senior men and women. As a result, you need to prevent deficiency as you age.
- Behavioral changes can also occur according to WebMD. You may feel stressed and moody. Moreover, you start to cry all the time. Why? It’s because B12 deficiency affects the production of serotonin and dopamine, better known as your body’s happy chemicals.
Causes of B12 Deficiency that Put You at Risk of B12 Deficiency
A variety of foods contain vitamin B12. Quite often, you can get the daily recommend dose of 2.4 micrograms to experience its benefits. However, certain conditions can lead to a deficiency.
You’re a Strict Vegetarian
- A poor diet lacking in foods rich in vitamin B12 can cause a deficiency. If you’re a strict vegetarian, then this can be a problem as the common sources are meat, seafood, dairy products, and eggs.
- With more and more people choosing things like dairy-free milk, they can rest assured to know that it is possible to get your recommended daily allowance of B12 from dairy-free alternatives.
- ATP Science advises that vegetarians as well as those who practice fruitarianism and raw-veganism can get vitamin B12 from edible mushrooms and nori or edible algae laver. Additionally, there is an option for taking a multivitamin or vitamin B12 supplement.
- The Post Bulletin cited a recent study by Bristol University indicating the greater susceptibility of a vegetarian to suffer depression from B12 deficiency⎯an excellent reason to consider taking a supplement or talk to a medical practitioner if you think this could be happening to you.
You’re 50 Years Old and Above
- Aging brings about reduced stomach acid. This condition is known as atrophic gastritis. As a result, it affects your body’s ability to absorb nutrients like B12, iron, magnesium, and calcium.
- As you get older, your daily caloric needs change as well. However, taking out nutrient-rich foods is not an option.
- With a more limited diet and reduced stomach acid, it is advisable for older people to take a vitamin B12 supplement.
You Suffer from a Chronic Digestive Disorder
- Malabsorption is one of the causes of B12 deficiency and occurs in people who have gastrointestinal disorders (GI disorders). Examples of this are celiac disease and Crohn’s disease, which is a degenerative inflammatory bowel disease (IBD.)
- B12 deficiency can also occur if you’ve undergone any GI surgery. Examples of this include gastric bypass for weight loss, or any other operation to correct an intestinal problem.
You Suffer from Pernicious Anemia
- The National Organization for Rare Disorders describes Pernicious Anemia as a rare blood condition.
- Pernicious Anemia destroys stomach cells and in turn reduces the production of intrinsic factor, the key element necessary for absorbing B12.
- If you suffer from Pernicious Anemia, then you might experience weakness and chest pain.
- In this case, it’s in your best interest to consult your doctor about intramuscular B12 injections.
You’re Taking Medications for a Specific Condition
- There are numerous medications that are understood to interact with vitamin B12 absorption and utilization.
- If you’re taking acid-reflux medication for heartburn, ulcers, and GERD, then you’re at risk of a B12 deficiency.
- Nexium, Prevacid, and Prilosec are examples of Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs). Likewise, H2 blockers for acid suppression include brands like Zantac, Tagamet, and Pepcid.
- You’re also at risk of B12 deficiency if you take Metformin for diabetes.
The experts at Get Healthy Lab understand that the benefits offered by vitamin B12 are essential for the body’s overall functioning. That said, it is crucial to talk to a doctor if you experience any symptom that could indicate a B12 deficiency⎯or if you’re a vegetarian or in your later years of life. While vitamin B12, or cobalamin, provides many benefits at adequate levels, it’s deficiency could go undetected for a while. That said, it’s important to get tested if you suspect you’re at risk of B12 deficiency.
About the author: Kimberley is a health enthusiast and advocate for the overall health of children and families in the community. She’s studying to become a dietitian and currently writes for gethealthylab.com. In her spare time, she loves spending time with her beautiful family and traveling.