You wake up tired and continue to feel sluggish for the rest of the day. You also notice that you’re winded with little exertion and are having a difficult time concentrating.
You can’t think of any event or illness that caused you to feel this way, so what’s going on?
Turns out, you could be suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency and not even realize it. This essential nutrient keeps your nerve and blood cells healthy and also helps fuel DNA production. Yet, it’s all too easy to let your levels fall below a normal level.
Today, we’re discussing the importance of vitamin B12 and the symptoms that could signal a deficiency. Then, we’ll share healthy ways to increase your intake and absorption and supercharge your health.
Ready to learn more? Let’s get started!
What is Vitamin B12?
Also known as methylcobalamin, vitamin B12 is a nutrient that’s critical to many of our body’s routine processes. As noted, it keeps our nerve cells functioning as they should, and it’s also a key player in red blood cell production and DNA synthesis.
In addition, adequate amounts of vitamin B12 are required to help prevent a condition called megaloblastic anemia. This is a blood disorder characterized by abnormally large red blood cells, along with an overall red blood cell count that’s lower than the standard range.
The only issue?
While our bodies rely on vitamin B12 to operate, we cannot produce the substance naturally. Thus, we depend on food sources to provide it for us.
When we eat a food item that contains vitamin B12, the absorption process is two-fold. First, our stomach produces hydrochloric acid to separate the vitamin from its attached protein source. Then, the stomach makes a separate protein called intrinsic factor, which binds to the vitamin and carries it throughout our body for absorption.
While this process is simple for most people, there are some who cannot produce the necessary intrinsic factor. This leads to a condition known as pernicious anemia. Those who suffer from it have a more difficult time absorbing B12 from food and other dietary supplements.
How Much Vitamin B12 Do I Require?
You know it’s important to fuel your daily routine, but how much vitamin B12 do you need? The answer depends on your age and life stage.
In general, your daily requirement increases as you get older. In addition, pregnant and breastfeeding women also require higher amounts.
Below, we’ve listed the daily recommended amounts of vitamin B12 for different age groups in micrograms (mcg):
Birth to 6 months: 0.4 mcg
Infants 7 to 12 months: 0.5 mcg
Children 1 to 3 years: 0.9 mcg
Children 4 to 8 years: 1.2 mcg
Children 9 to 13 years: 1.8 mcg
Teens 14 to 18 years: 2.4 mcg
Adults: 2.4 mcg
Pregnant teens and women: 2.6 mcg
Breastfeeding teens and women: 2.8
Which Foods are High in Vitamin B12?
For most adults, 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 daily is enough to maintain appropriate energy levels, improve stamina, and support good health. As you seek to make it an important part of your diet, which foods have the highest vitamin B12 concentration levels? Let’s take a look!
- Beef liver
- Milk and other dairy products
- Some fortified breakfast cereals
- Some nutritional yeasts
As you can see, vitamin B12 is present in most animal foods. However, it is not present in plant-based foods. Vegetarians and vegans can still find food products high in this nutrient, though they will be fortified.
Remember, while fortified foods (especially cereals) can be excellent sources of vitamins and minerals, always check the labels. You want them to include fortified nutrients, but not along with excessive amounts of sugar and other fillers that negate the actual nutritional content.
Groups at Risk of a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
One recent study of populations in the United States and the United Kingdom found that 6% of people aged 60 and above had a vitamin B12 deficiency. Of that group, 20% had levels that were only marginal.
Think you’re out of the woods because you haven’t reached sexagenarian status? Think again. While age is one factor to consider, it isn’t the only one. All of the groups below present a greater threat of a deficiency than others.
The researchers noted that the likelihood for deficiency increased as the study participants got older. The correlation between age and vitamin absorption likely stems from the fact that most older adults don’t have enough hydrochloric acid in their stomach to effectively absorb the levels of vitamin B12 present in food.
In this case, older adults should strive to get a majority of their vitamin B12 from healthy fortified foods or dietary supplements rather than depending on natural sources that hinder successful absorption.
Those suffering from pernicious anemia are unable to produce the intrinsic factor that their bodies require to naturally absorb vitamin B12. In most cases, physicians can still help them achieve the levels they require through supplements.
Gastrointestinal Surgeries or Disorders
There are myriad gastrointestinal conditions that will limit how much vitamin B12 your body can absorb. Sometimes, this will stem from a condition that occurs naturally, such as a digestive disorder, Crohn’s disease, or celiac disease. Or, the issue might originate in an outside event, such as weight-loss surgery.
Plentiful access to healthy whole foods (or lack thereof) also plays a major role. The same study found that people living in developing countries or poorer populations had higher odds of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency due to a low consumption of animal food sources.
Vegetarians and Vegans
Along those same lines, vegetarians and vegans are also at risk, as they do not consume the normal animal proteins that contain the highest and most concentrated forms of vitamin B12. Remember: Only animal foods contain vitamin B12 in its natural form.
If you drink heavily, your body might also have a more difficult time absorbing vitamin B12. This is because alcohol robs your body of the nutrient, essentially washing it from your system.
Those Taking Certain Medications
You could also be at risk of a vitamin B12 deficiency if you’re taking certain medications that inhibit your body’s ability to absorb the nutrient. These include some heartburn medications, proton pump inhibitors, H2 blockers and diabetes medicines. Be sure to ask your doctor before combining any of these prescriptions with a B12 supplement.
Pregnant or Breastfeeding Women
Women who are carrying or breastfeeding a child should prioritize vitamin B12. Not only does it help keep stamina and energy levels up during pregnancy, but it’s also great for your developing baby.
In fact, low levels of the vitamin can lead to neural tube birth defects, which affect a baby’s brain and spinal cord. Two of the most researched defects include spina bifida and anencephaly. The latter is a fatal condition that results from a severely underdeveloped brain and skull.
How Do I Know if I Have a Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
A vitamin B12 deficiency can be difficult to diagnose or even identify because its symptoms mirror those of other conditions and tend to be blurry in nature. For instance, you might know that you feel tired, but you can’t put your finger on where the exhaustion came from.
Wondering how to know if you have B12 deficiency? Let’s take a look at the three most common types of symptoms: physical changes, nerve problems and mental shifts.
It can come on all at once, or the transformation might be more gradual. If your nutrient levels are too low, some of the most common physical signs of b12 deficiency include:
- Muscle weakness
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Heart palpitations
- Megaloblastic anemia
Let’s explore a few of these in greater detail.
Mouth and Tongue Changes
Some of the first signs to look out for are the physical changes, including soreness around the mouth or the tongue. You might also notice your tongue become unusually smooth.
Your tongue feels that way because when you’re deficient in vitamin B12, it sheds its papillae. These are the tiny bumps on your tongue that contain your taste buds. If no other symptoms on this list can convince you to fix your B12 levels, here’s one that might: Your food could start tasting lackluster!
Is your complexion more pale than it was last week? Believe it or not, your paleness is a direct result of your lagging red blood cell count! When those levels dwindle, your body over-produces a chemical known as bilirubin, which gives your complexion a pale, sometimes yellow visage.
In terms of dizziness, most people first notice this condition when they rise from a seated position or change positions too quickly. While this could be due to a sudden dip in blood pressure, if you experience it in correlation with other B12-related symptoms, it’s worth a second look.
The same goes for fatigue. If you stayed up all night the night before and are running on Red Bull and an hour of shut-eye, you’ll naturally be exhausted all through the day. However, what happens when you get a full eight hours of sleep and you’re still yawning profusely at 9:00 a.m.?
As you drag your feet, take note of how heavy items feel in your hands. Is it hard to pick up a pocketbook? Can you open the door for someone?
Your body doesn’t only rely on vitamin B12 to oxygenate your organs. It also needs it to do the same for your muscles. When you deprive them of the oxygen they need to grow, they won’t deliver like they’re supposed to and you’ll find that the simplest lifting becomes a major chore.
Unexplained fatigue and muscle weakness are two of the most common signals of a B12 deficiency. If you’re making it a point to get a great night’s sleep and you’re still dragging into work the next day, it’s time for answers.
While it fits under “Physical Changes”, we wanted to separate vision loss and go into further detail. If your vitamin B12 levels are lower than they should, you might notice that it’s more difficult to see the whiteboard on the other side of the room. You’re also more pronet to tracers and broken capillaries inside of your eye.
Before you drop hundreds at the eye doctor and spend hours picking out the right frames, try a B12 blood test, first. It’s important to pinpoint if this is the issue because real retinal damage can happen if the blood vessels in your eye become blocked. The trademark signs of this issue include:
- Light sensitivity
- Blurred vision
- Double vision
In addition to the general feeling of malaise described above, you might also experience nerve-related complications in addition to physical ones. For instance, one of the first signs of low B12 that people experience is a numbness or tingling in their hands or feet.
On a normal day, you might experience this feeling if you’ve been sitting in a position that pinches the nerves in your limbs. For instance, your leg might “fall asleep” if you uncross your legs after a few hours at your desk. However, if you get the feeling that you’re sitting on pins and needles but you aren’t compressing your body, it’s time to let your physician know.
Sometimes, the most painful and debilitating symptoms are those that are invisible to the outside world. Thus, it’s important to shed light on some of the mental conditions that could affect people with a severe vitamin B12 deficiency. These include:
- Behavioral changes
- Memory loss
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the production of your body’s “feel good” chemicals, including serotonin and dopamine. Thus, when these levels sink, those chemicals stores do, too. It comes as no surprise, then, that a deficiency can lead to both depression and anxiety.
This condition lowers the amount of oxygen that the neurons in our brain can process.
Blood Tests for Accuracy
Notice that some of these symptoms, including fatigue and weight loss, can be indicative of other conditions, such as a thyroid disorder. That’s why it’s important to talk to your physician before self-diagnosing.
In most cases, your doctor can perform a blood test to tell you exactly where your vitamin B12 levels stand.
If an infant is born to a mother with low B12 levels herself, that baby could also exhibit symptoms of a deficiency. In this case, the signs to look out for include:
- A failure to thrive
- Movement delays
- Developmental and milestone delays
- Megaloblastic anemia
This is why it’s important for expectant mothers to consume plenty of vitamin B12!
Smart Ways to Treat a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
If your doctor does deem that your vitamin levels are too low and it’s time to start a supplement program, make sure you do your due diligence before you begin. You want to make sure you’re making a sound decision for your health, so explore all of your options and consider how they fit into your lifestyle.
Along the way, make sure any advice you receive is sound. For instance, you might have heard that folic acid can help correct one of the hallmarks of a vitamin B12 deficiency: megaloblastic anemia. While this is true, resist the urge to consume large amounts of folic acid to address the issue.
Why not? While the folic acid does help treat the anemia, it doesn’t help treat any of the other symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Rather, it masks them.
This means you might feel better in the short-tem, but you’re still doing major progressive damage to your nervous system. Aim to consume no more than 1,000 mcg of folic acid per day.
A Word on Vitamin Injections
When you’re ready to bring your B12 levels back up, you might also consider getting shots of the vitamin. After all, isn’t it the quickest and most effective way to create a surge within your system?
Not quite. Along with being painful, these shots work progressively, building on one another until your levels balance out. You’ll receive an injection into your muscle tissue every other day for the initial two weeks or until your symptoms improve. Then, you’ll get a shot every one to three months.
While this schedule may vary depending on your age and medical history, one answer is clear: A vitamin B12 shot is a far cry from the immediate relief you need.
The Hassle and Headache of Pills
Of course, prescription and over-the-counter medications are less invasive than injections and many are equally potent.
However, take a look at the symptoms we described above! If you sought a separate medication for every ache or pain, you’d need to dedicate hours of your time every day to sorting, splitting, measuring and labeling every pill for the week. Then, you’ll need to find a safe spot that’s out of reach for small and curious hands!
Why Vitamin Patches Work
Looking for a more effective and economical to find relief from your vitamin B12 deficiency? We encourage you to give our B12 Energy Plus Patch a try. This innovative patch applies directly to your skin and delivers eight hours of powerful relief.
With these, you get all of the effectiveness of a B12 injection, without the headache and hassle of keeping up with appointments. The patches are also painless and effortless to apply. While you wear one, your body can absorb the following nutrients:
- Vitamin B1 (as thiamine mononitrate): 100mcg, 6667% of DV
- Vitamin B2 (as riboflavin): 100mcg, 5882% of DV
- Vitamin B3 (as niacinamide): 100mcg, 500% of DV
- Vitamin B5 (as calcium D-pantothenate): 100mcg, 1,000% of DV
- Vitamin B6 (as pyridoxine HCL): 100mcg, 5,000% of DV
- Vitamin B6 (as pyridoxal 5-phosphate): 50mcg, 2500% of DV
- Vitamin B9 (as 5-MTHF-L-Methylfolate): 400mcg, 100% of DV
- Vitamin B12 (as methylcobalamin): 1,000mcg, 16,667% of DV
- Biotin: 300 mcg, 100% of DV
Where else can you get nearly 17,000% of your recommended daily value of vitamin B12 in a painless and convenient way?
The patch is a no-brainer. You can even sleep with it on! Stock up today with our three-month supply.
Get the Relief You Need Today
A vitamin B12 deficiency isn’t a jail sentence. Nor does it have to derail your personal and professional pursuits. Now that you know a little more about the signs and symptoms of one, you can take steps today to increase your intake of B12 the safe and healthy way.
Rather than spending hours behind the wheel visiting the doctor every few weeks for shots or mixing up a cocktail of pills each morning to keep your symptoms at bay, it’s time to treat them for good.
Our vitamin B12 patch does all the legwork for you. If you can peel and apply a sticker, you’re one step closer to the good health of your dreams. Contact us to learn more about the wide range of vitamin patches we offer and the conditions they help treat.