Essential for keeping our nervous system healthy, making red blood cells, and even releasing energy from food; vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that plays a crucial role in keeping our bodies functioning. That’s why if you’re not getting the right amount of this essential vitamin, your body will start to feel the effects - whether that may be feeling weak, run-down, or sometimes difficulty thinking straight.
Although we should be able to get our recommended daily intake of vitamin B12 through our diet alone, vitamin B12 deficiency is a possibility - particularly for those following a plant-based diet, with certain diseases such as Chron’s or diabetes or in those growing older. With studies estimating that around 15% of the general population in the United States has a vitamin B12 deficiency, it’s important to know more about the symptoms of this deficiency as well as the common causes and treatments.
See also: What Are The Functions Of Vitamins?
How do I know if I have vitamin B12 deficiency?
Vitamin B12 deficiency commonly occurs when a lack of Vitamin B12 causes the body to produce abnormally large red blood cells that can’t carry oxygen around the body properly .
Like most vitamins, vitamin B12 can’t be produced naturally by the body so when it comes to getting the right amount of this vitamin - our diet plays a huge role. While some people simply don’t consume enough vitamin B12, others may have trouble absorbing it - this can result in low levels of the vitamin.
Some signs and symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency may include:
- Extreme tiredness
- Lack of energy
- A sore and red tongue
- Mouth ulcers
- Muscle weakness
- Disturbed vision
- Psychological problems, which may include depression and confusion
- Problems with memory, understanding, and judgment
One of the most reliable ways to know more about your vitamin levels is through a test.
See also: 5 Foods High In Vitamin B12
What causes low vitamin B12 levels?
The majority of people with a deficiency in vitamin B12 have underdeveloped red blood cells, according to the NHS, this is usually referred to as megaloblastic anemia. In addition to this, there are a number of other issues that could result in a b12 deficiency.
Pernicious anemia is an autoimmune condition that affects your body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12. Although the exact cause is unknown, this condition is more common in older women or those with other autoimmune conditions.
Those following a plant-based diet or those who don’t have a healthy and balanced diet can become deficient in vitamin B12. This essential vitamin can be found in a number of different foods including meat, fish, dairy, and even a number of plant-based sources so make sure to do your research and add some of these foods to your daily diet.
Conditions that affect the stomach or intestines
Certain conditions such as Crohn’s disease and diabetes can affect the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12. Another risk factor is if a person has had part of their stomach or intestines removed.
As we grow older, according to findings from the National Institutes of Health, we are at a higher risk of experiencing vitamin B12 deficiency as well as other crucial vitamins such as vitamin D.
Can you prevent vitamin B12 deficiency?
One of the most reliable ways to reduce your risk of developing a vitamin deficiency is by ensuring you eat a balanced diet. This includes eating a variety of foods and doing research to find the foods rich in vitamin B12 that suit your diet.
Some foods rich in vitamin B12 include:
- Fortified breakfast cereals
- Dairy products
- Nutritional yeast
- Fortified plant-based milk
Other steps that can be taken to reduce your risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, according to Mayo Clinic, include:
- Drink alcohol in moderation (if at all)
- Don’t smoke
- Enquire with your doctor about the option of a multivitamin
How can you test your Vitamin B12 levels?
It’s important to keep an eye on your vitamin levels and monitor them regularly. This can be done by visiting your local doctor or taking a vitamin test from the comfort of your own home.
At LetsGetChecked, we offer a range of at-home Vitamin and Mineral Tests which can help identify any potential nutritional deficiencies - including vitamin B12.
LetsGetChecked’s Micronutrient Test allows you to measure key nutrient levels and identify potential imbalances in each of the micronutrients we dealt with in this article! Online results will be available within 2-5 days and our dedicated medical team will be available to answer any questions you may have throughout the process.
You should consider taking a test if:
- You’re suffering from chronic fatigue
- You’re following a plant-based diet
- You’re planning on becoming pregnant
- You’re over the age of 50
- You suffer from Crohn's disease
- You suffer from Coeliac disease
- You’re deficient in the intrinsic factor, a glycoprotein which plays an important role in absorbing vitamin B12