What You Need To Know About B12 Deficiency.
The human body needs vitamin B12 also known as cobalamin, to make red blood cells, nerves, DNA, and carry out other functions.
B12 has many forms, and the most common are cyanocobalamin and methylcobalamin (methyl-B12). Cyanocobalamin is commonly found in supplements and energy drinks. However, in order for our bodies to use it, cyanocobalamin must be converted into methylcobalamin.
The average adult should get 2.4 micrograms a day. Like most vitamins, B12 cannot be made by the body....but, you can get it from food or supplements.
The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated that 3.2% of adults over age 50 have a seriously low B12 level, and up to 20% may have a borderline deficiency.
One symptom of B12 deficiency is…
Fatigue is the most common symptom of people who have low levels of vitamin B12.
But fatigue by itself can be a sign of almost any health condition — or just that you haven't been sleeping enough!
Other signs of B12 deficiency include brain fog, memory loss, confusion, dementia, heart palpitations, loss of appetite, digestive issues such as diarrhea or constipation, frequent bruising or bleeding, anemia, depression or mood issues & numbness and tingling in hands or feet.
Vitamin B12 deficiencies may happen when you aren't getting the right nutrients in your diet, when your body can't absorb nutrients properly, and when you have various other problems of the digestive system.
Common causes are of B12 deficiency are:
- Vegan and Vegetarian diets
- MTHFR gene mutations
- Pernicious anemia
- Autoimmune diseases such as Graves’ disease and systemic lupus erythematosus
- Intestinal inflammation from Crohn's or celiac disease
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Small Intestine Bacterial Overgrowth (SIBO) and leaky gut
- Low stomach acid from prolonged use of stomach acid-reducing drugs
- Bariatric surgeries
Since most B12 in our diets comes from animal products, vegans are at risk for B12 deficiency.
Crohn's and celiac disease, weight loss surgery, and chronic alcoholism can all interfere with a person's ability to absorb enough of the nutrients they need. Seniors have more problems with nutrient absorption and malnutrition as well.
What happens to you when you do not get enough B12?
Vitamin B12 is a critical nutrient that helps your body make healthy red blood cells.
If you have a chronic lack of B12, your body can't make the amount of red blood cells that it needs, which can lead to anemia.
Animal products like meat, and poultry, seafood, and dairy foods like milk, eggs, yogurt, and cheese are the best sources of vitamin B12. Honey, vegetables, and fruits are not really sources of vitamin B12, which is why people who follow a vegan diet may not get enough of it.
If you're a vegan, think about eating a breakfast cereal fortified with B12. You can also take a B12 supplement, which is recommended for pregnant and nursing mothers who are vegans or even strict vegetarians.
Sometimes B12 deficiency is caused by conditions other than diet. If your body can't absorb B12 properly, you'll need a doctor's help to boost your B12 to safe levels.
Some people can easily fix low levels of B12 by simply changing their diet, while others will need a doctor's help.
Taking a blood test at your Dr's office can tell you if you have a true B12 deficiency.
Most mediactions like diabetes medication, antibiotics, antacids & seizure medication can also make it hard for your body to absorb vitamin B12.
The best way to treat a B12 deficiency is by taking a B12 supplement.
For some people, taking a vitamin supplement or eating more animal products (or both) can help boost their B12 levels back to where they should be.
But other people may have a severe deficiency or may have an underlying health condition that causes their B12 to drop.
You can treat your B12 deficiency with:
- A oral B12 supplement, which you take once a day;
- A vitamin B12 nasal spray used weekly;
- Or vitamin B12 injections, which you need less frequently. B12 shots can help restore ideal levels and provide a nice energy boost.
But remember, whether you take supplements or a B12 injection, your diet is the foundation for good health & performance, so be sure to include B12-rich animal protein & fortified foods to keep your levels topped up throughout the year.
Some examples of B12-fortified foods:
Organ meats are some of the most nutritious foods out there, Liver and kidneys, especially from lamb, are rich in vitamin B12: A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of lamb, beef or veal liver contains up to 1,500% of the RDI for vitamin B12, while the same serving of kidneys contains up to 1,300% of the RDI.
Clams : A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of clams contains up to 99 mcg of vitamin B12, which is 1,600% of the RDI.
Sardines: One cup (150 grams) of drained sardines contains up to 200% of the RDI for vitamin B12.
Beef: One 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of beef contains about 6.2 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 102% of the RDI.
Fortified cereal: Cereal fortified with vitamin B12 may also help you increase your vitamin B12 levels. A 3/4-cup (29-gram) serving of Malt-O-Meal High Fiber Bran Flakes provides 137% of the RDI.
Tuna: A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of cooked tuna provides 9.4 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 157% of the RDI.
Nutritional yeast is a good vegan source of protein, vitamins and minerals : Two tablespoons (16 grams) of nutritional yeast provide 7.8 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 130% of the RDI.
Trout is considered to be one of the healthiest fish out there: A 3.5-ounce (100-gram) serving of trout contains 7.5 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 125% of the RDI.
Salmon is well known for having one of the highest concentrations of omega-3 fatty acids & is also an excellent source of B vitamins: A half fillet (178 grams) of cooked salmon offers more than 80% of the RDI for vitamin B12.
Fortified non dairy milk: One cup (240 ml) of soy milk contains 2.6 mcg of vitamin B12, or 45% of the RDI.
Milk & dairy products: Dairy is a great source of vitamin B12. One cup of whole or full-fat yogurt provides up to 23% of the RDI, and one slice (28 grams) of Swiss cheese contains 16%.
Eggs are a great source of complete protein and B vitamins, especially B2 and B12: Two large eggs (100 grams) contain 1.3 mcg of vitamin B12. That’s 28% of the RDI.
The Bottom Line....
Vitamin B12 is a key nutrient that your body needs for many essential functions as we have explained.
Whether you want to increase your vitamin score or prevent deficiency, eating these foods and taking the correct supplement may considerably improve your overall health.
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