People can become vitamin B-12 deficient for a variety of reasons: old age, use of antacids, side effects of prescription medications, bacterial infections, and meatless diets.
According to Dr. Reed Mangels, PhD, RD, bacteria are responsible for producing vitamin B-12, and plants and animals only get vitamin B-12 when contaminated by this strand of bacteria.
Vitamin B-12 is essential to your health for:
- Proper digestion
- Nervous system functioning
- Regulation and formation of red blood cells
- Immune system functioning
- Mental clarity and concentration
- Physical energy
- Adrenal hormone production
It’s crucial that you know the first warning signs of vitamin B12 deficiency so that you can treat it on time and prevent numerous health problems.
Once you learn the first signs of vitamin B12 deficiency, you’ll also read why is it so important to your overall health and which foods contain it in highest amounts.
7 WARNING SIGNS OF VITAMIN B12 DEFICIENCY
One of the first warning signs of vitamin B12 deficiency is frequent bouts of vertigo and lightheadedness (dizziness). You might get dizzy when walking upstairs or downstairs, or wobble when standing up too fast from a chair.
These situations can sometimes be dangerous. If you experience symptoms of chronic vertigo, it’s best to consult your doctor to receive the proper treatment for the vitamin deficiency.
Do you often have a hard time remembering ordinary things like where have you put your keys, or what’s the name of your friend? Well, this type of uncharacteristic forgetfulness doesn’t necessarily indicate early dementia, but it can mean lack of vitamin B12, especially if it’s chronic.
Many older people think they have Alzheimer’s or dementia when they have vitamin B12 deficiency. You can check this by doing a simple blood test, and improve your memory with a supplemental regimen.
3. MUSCLE WEAKNESS
If your muscles are weak, so your grocery bags feel like thousand pounds, they are probably deprived of the proper amount of oxygen from erythrocytes.
Improper oxygenation to muscle cells and vitamin B12 deficiency can cause uncharacteristic muscle weakness and sluggishness. This might be the reason why you’re no longer able to carry your gym bag or heavy purse.
4. PALE SKIN
You used to have those rosy cheeks that revealed your perfect health, but now you’re pale with a yellow cast. This might be caused by lack of vitamin B12 which means lack of erythrocytes. As a result, your body produces more bilirubin which replaces that rosy complexion with a pale visage.
5. PINS AND NEEDLES
Insufficient amounts of this vitamin can cause paresthesia – more known as pins and needles. You experience tingling, prickling, or numbing sensation throughout the body, especially in the hands and feet, and a feeling of electric shock waves because of the nerve damage caused by lack of vitamin B12.
Being deficient in this vitamin means reduced production of erythrocytes which in turn results in low oxygen levels in the nerve tissues.
6. UNEXPLAINED FATIGUE
You’re regularly getting a good night’s sleep, but you still have that constant fatigue. Well, this can be another sign of vitamin B12 deficiency.
Once again, this unexplained fatigue can occur because of reduced production of erythrocytes in your body which results in insufficient amounts of oxygen been transported to your organs.
7. EYE PROBLEMS
Long-term vitamin B12 deficiency can damage your vision and cause vision changes.
Although rarely, the lack of this vitamin can cause an optic neuropathy by damaging the optic nerve resulting in reduced central vision, blurred or doubled vision, light sensitivity, shadows or tracers. Still, supplements can help restore your vision.
HEALTH BENEFITS OF VITAMIN B12
To better understand the importance of this vitamin, here are its most significant health benefits:
1. PREVENTS HEART DISEASE AND STROKE
Since heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S., taking some extra measures to protect your heart is something everyone should consider. New research has discovered that increased levels of homocysteine are a higher risk factor for heart disease than cholesterol.
This non-protein α-amino acid can create inflammation if there’s a lack of vitamin B12. In other words, this vitamin reduced the levels of homocysteine, and with that the risk of heart disease and stroke.
2. PREVENTS NERVE DAMAGE
Nerves have a natural covering called myelin sheath whose primary purpose is to protect them from toxins and free radical damage. Without this protective covering, nerves can be easily damaged and killed which can result in nerve-related disorders.
This is because dead nerves are interrupting the transmission of signals to and from the brain.
3. SUPPORTS ENERGY
Vitamin B12 stimulates the production of energy by keeping your cells happy, healthy, and well-fed. Insufficient amounts of this vitamin starve your cells, making you tired and weak.
The metabolism requires vitamin B12 to convert carbs into usable glucose – an essential participant in the production of energy. Therefore, if you’re deficient in this vitamin, you are more likely to suffer from fatigue.
4. HELPS DIGESTION
This vitamin aids in the production of digestive enzymes, thus helping the breakdown of foods in the stomach and supporting a healthy metabolism.
It helps foster healthy gut bacteria and removes the harmful bacteria in the digestive tract. This, in turn, prevents inflammatory bowel disease, candida, and other digestive disorders.
5. HELPS PRODUCE ERYTHROCYTES AND PREVENT ANEMIA
Since this vitamin helps the production of erythrocytes, it can prevent megaloblastic anemia which is manifested by weakness and chronic fatigue.
6. GOOD FOR BONES
This vitamin is recommended for osteoporosis patients and anyone who suffers from bone conditions as they have higher levels of homocysteine than those with healthy bones.
As we already mentioned, vitamin b12 can reduce the levels of homocysteine, which makes it an ideal supplement for these patients.
NATURAL SOURCES OF VITAMIN B12
Here are the foods which contain the highest levels of this vitamin:
Beef and chicken liver — 81 milligrams in 3 ounces
Salmon — 19.5 milligrams in 108 grams (1 filet)
Herring —18.7 milligrams in 143 grams (1 filet)
Mackerel — 15.3 milligrams in 3 ounces
Sardines — 13.3 milligrams in 1 cup
Tuna — 9.3 milligrams in 3 ounces
Trout — 9.1 milligrams in 1 filet
Organic yogurt — 1.3 mg in 1 container of plain Greek yogurt
Turkey — 1.1 milligrams in 3 ounces
Raw milk — 1 milligram in 1 cup
Beef tenderloin — 0.9 milligrams in 3 ounces
Lamb — 0.8 milligrams in 3 ounces
Other non-vegan sources of this vitamin include cereals, cheese, nutritional yeasts, plant-based milk (soymilk, almond milk, and coconut milk).
As you can see, vitamin B12 plays an important role in our overall health and can protect us from various health problems and diseases. That’s why recognizing the early symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency is crucial to treat it as soon as possible and prevent further health complications.