One of the most common nutritional deficiencies humans experience is a B12 deficiency. Two of the biggest factors that contribute to having a B12 deficiency are actually things that people do in order to improve their health: weight-loss surgery and having a strict vegetarian diet. Considering that the B12 vitamin is responsible for lots of things going on in your body, there are plenty of symptoms to look for. Keep scrolling to find out what some of those symptoms are and maybe you can find an answer to some questions you’ve been having about your own health.
Because your red blood cells aren’t able to carry oxygen throughout your body, you’ll find yourself exhausted or even light-headed. There are lots of things that could make you tired, but if it’s a constant thing, make sure you contact your doctor.
Not having enough B12 in your body affects the amount of serotonin your brain produces. Serotonin is one of those “happy chemicals” that your brain creates, so it’s extremely important that you’re producing enough of it. If you feel that your B12 production could be affecting your mood, check in with your doctor. That bad mood that seems to be appearing every morning could be simply handled with some B12 supplements!
B12 is responsible for making hemoglobin, the protein that transports oxygen throughout your body. Lacking B12 could lead to your tissues not receiving enough oxygen, causing weakness and shortness of breath. It’s important to contact your doctor immediately if you have heart palpitations, shortness of breath, or unexplained fatigue.
When you don’t have enough B12, your body’s DNA synthesis becomes impaired. When this happens your mouth’s epithelial cells begin to rapidly divide, causing glossitis, recurrent oral ulcers, angular cheilitis, and oral candidiasis. A change in your eating habits could fix this by adding some fortified cereals, fish, red meat, poultry, eggs, or milk to your diet. For vegan sources, add foods such as plant milks, breakfast cereals, soy products, and nutritional yeast.
B12 allows your body to produce red blood cells, and when your body isn’t producing enough, you can develop a condition called megaloblastic anemia. Megaloblastic anemia causes your red blood cells to become fragile, too large, and unable to divide. And because they’re too large, they can’t pass into the bloodstream, causing your skin to become pale. The fragile blood cells will break down and cause an excess of bilirubin. This gives skin and eyes a yellow tinge.
Not having enough B12 in your body means that your osteoblasts can’t do their job correctly. When you have a B12 deficiency your body begins to lose important bone tissue, and eventually, you could suffer from osteoporosis. Having osteoporosis means that your bones are weak and brittle, which could lead to falls and bone fractures. This is why it’s so important for the elderly to get their blood tested.
Low levels of B12 affect the way your gastrointestinal tract functions. You could experience diarrhea, constipation, upset stomach, loss of appetite, or gas. Most people that have a B12 deficiency lack intrinsic factor, the protein in the stomach that allows absorption of B12. Without it, your body isn’t able to absorb any B12, so when this happens you’ll need to take B12 injections.
Because of this, lacking B12 can lead to decreased vision and optic neuropathy. Research has shown that taking Vitamin E, DHA, and Vitamin B12 could actually help improve your eyesight!
You could begin to feel the pins and needles sensation in your hands and feet, and if left untreated it could turn into paresthesia. B12 is necessary to form the myelin sheath around nerve fibers. The myelin sheath determines how fast impulses are performed. If you have an untreated B12 deficiency, you could eventually suffer from deterioration in your optic nerves, spinal cord, peripheral nerves, and cerebral tissue.
Approximately 10-15% of people over the age of 60 are told they aren’t producing enough B12. If left untreated for too long, the person could eventually be diagnosed with dementia. So if you find yourself experiencing memory loss, make sure you contact your doctor immediately.
Most of our B12 comes from animal products, so those that don’t eat meat are at a higher risk of the deficiency. Also, people that have had a weight-loss surgery, have celiac disease, or are chronic alcoholics have a harder time absorbing the vitamin. If you are experiencing any of the symptoms we talked about, make sure you contact your doctor. All it takes is a blood test and you’ll be on your way to feeling better!