Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Causes, Signs, and How to Address It
With all of the vitamins and minerals out there, it can be tough to keep track of which ones are going into our bodies and what, exactly, they all do.
Do you know if you’re getting enough vitamin B12? Could vitamin B12 supplements be the solution to your symptoms?
Keep reading to learn more!
What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is an essential nutrient that plays a few important roles in the body: red blood cell and DNA formation, nerve function, and energy production, for example.
Since our bodies don’t make vitamin B12 on their own, we need to get it from our diet—primarily through foods that come from animals.
Fun fact: the liver can store vitamin B12 for up to five years, which makes our bodies pretty forgiving if our B12 intake levels fluctuate.
That said, if you consistently consume low levels of B12 or have a condition that interferes with your ability to absorb essential nutrients, this could eventually lead to a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Causes of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12 is relatively uncommon in the United States, especially among those who eat a well-balanced diet. However, there are a few key risk factors that contribute to vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Being vegan or vegetarian; consuming limited animal products
- Old age
- Excessive alcohol consumption
- Conditions that affect the digestive tract and ability to absorb nutrients, such as Crohn’s or celiac disease
- Certain medications that interfere with vitamin B12 absorption, such as diabetes or heartburn medications
- Being a pregnant or breastfeeding mother
Signs of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
The primary consequence of vitamin B12 deficiency is anemia, a condition that results from insufficient red blood cell production.
It’s not always obvious—especially in mild cases—but if untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to:
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Poor coordination
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Pale skin or even jaundice
- Digestive problems
- Appetite loss
- Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
- Soreness of the mouth or tongue
- Vision loss
- Trouble focusing
- Depression or other mood changes
If you suspect that you may be deficient in vitamin B12, your doctor will be able to perform a blood test to check your levels.
How to Boost Your Vitamin B12 Levels
Ideally, adults should be getting approximately 2.4 micrograms of vitamin B12 each day, though this can vary depending on health and diet.
If you have a severe vitamin B12 deficiency, your doctor may administer high doses of B12 through injections or nasal sprays.
In order to prevent yourself from becoming deficient, though, there are two primary ways to boost your vitamin B12 levels:
Because vitamin B12 occurs naturally in animal foods, the simplest way to get your fix is through a well-rounded diet that includes:
If you’re vegan or vegetarian, this can understandably prove to be a bit difficult. While you may be able to find B12-fortified foods such as breakfast cereals or dairy-free milk alternatives, your best bet is to add vitamin B12 supplements to your diet to ensure you’re getting sufficient amounts.
Vitamin B12 supplements are pretty easy to find in your grocery store, pharmacy, or health food store. Look for a B12 vitamin or even a daily multivitamin in your preferred form: tablets, capsules, or gummies.
Of course, you can also try Hilo Energize Gummies! Made with a blend of natural ingredients including beetroot, rhodiola, lion’s mane, and maca in addition to vitamin B12, these tasty gummies offer a caffeine-free energy boost to improve focus and boost athletic performance.
Can You Get Too Much Vitamin B12?
One extra perk about vitamin B12: you don’t need to worry about overdoing it. In fact, our bodies are able to absorb just as much as we need, removing the excess amounts through the urine.
If you do take too much, you may just risk some minor side effects: diarrhea, nausea, vomiting, and/or a headache.
Basically, doubling up on your B12 supplements won’t necessarily be harmful OR helpful, so it’s best to stick to the recommended amounts.