Vitamin B12 is part of the Vitamin B family and one of the essential vitamins for health and well-being. The good news is that you don’t have to worry too much about being deficient in it as long as you are eating a standard diet. It is present in many foods and it’s a bit rare for someone to run chronically low on it. Here we will outline some of the common reasons for low B12 levels, and how to spot if you might be short on them.
Some of the big name vitamins seem to get all of the media and mainstream attention. Vitamins like C, D, and A are always making headlines for their antioxidant properties and feel good effects on the body. But the B vitamins are finally getting their moment in the sun, and more and more people are realizing the health benefits of making sure they’re getting enough of them.
If you’re not getting enough Vitamin B-12 you’ll be setting yourself up for complications that can arise if this goes on for too long. You could be leaving yourself open to decreased brain size and function due to brain shrinkage with age, and you’ll be at greater risk of various diseases of the heart. You’ll also be more susceptible to different cancers, as B12 has been directly related to prevention and treatment of these conditions.
It’s a key vitamin that you don’t want to go without, and is as important as the other B vitamins and other well-known vitamins like Vitamin A, C and D. The interesting thing is that you might not notice the effects of not having enough of it until it has manifested into something bigger. That’s why it’s a good idea to check for signs of a deficiency so that you can take steps to correct it before it escalates.
To understand more about why Vitamin B12 is important, see our list of 14 Surprising Benefits of Vitamin B12.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
You might notice that you’re lacking in the energy department, or perhaps you’re feeling especially weak. You may even feel lightheaded for no apparent reason. Many think that this is just part of being human, and for some this might just be written off as par for the course, but it’s reason enough to explore further to see if lower B12 levels are to blame.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that your heartbeat is more rapid than it usually is, or that your breathing is accelerated. You may have noticed that your skin is more pale than it usually is, or that you’ve got a pain in your tongue that you can’t explain.
Another sign that you might be running low on Vitamin B-12 is that you may start bruising more easily than you normally do, and you may also notice that you bleed more easily, or notice crimson in the sink after you spit out your toothpaste. This could be any number of things, but it also could mean you need more Vitamin B-12.
If your stomach has been hurting when it usually doesn’t, this could also be a clue that your B12 levels are off. Unexplained weight loss might seem like a blessing, but you always have to wonder if something more dire is at play, and it’s good to get that checked out if you haven’t changed anything in your lifestyle that would lead to weight loss.
Things can get more severe if you stay in a state of low B-12 for an extended period of time. You might start to feel your fingers and toes go numb. You might also find it more difficult to walk and experience mood swings or feelings of depression. When things get dire you might notice that you’re having trouble remembering things, or that you’re having feelings of disorientation or even dementia.
Testing Your Vitamin B-12 Levels
The only sure way to test to see where your Vitamin B-12 levels are at is to have your doctor check them. It’s best to have them run tests on all of your vitamin levels to see if your short on any of them, because many of the symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency are the same as lowered levels of other vitamins, like Vitamin D.
It’s one thing to assume that you’re low on a certain vitamin because some of the symptoms apply to you, but it’s best to just get tested so that you can know for sure where to apply your efforts. If you are unnecessarily raising your intake of certain vitamins under the assumption that you’re low on them, it will be a waste of time and now your body will have to figure out what to do with the excess. Knowing where you stand across all vitamins is a big help so that you can apply the most effective strategy for overall wellness.
Causes of Low Vitamin B-12
There are certain diets that might cause a person to become low in Vitamin B-12. Vegetarians and vegans are at risk because many of the foods that contain B12 are not allowed on these types of diets.
Aside from these dietary considerations, there are other causes of low B12 that you should be aware of. The most common cause is from drinking too much alcohol. This can deplete the body of B12 pretty quickly, and special care should be taken to avoid excessive alcohol consumption, and to restore these vitamins in the case of a big night of drinking.
There are also several conditions which can lead to lowered amounts of B12 in the body. These include Crohn’s disease, Graves’ disease, celiac disease, and others that act to affect how the body absorbs the B-12 that you do take in through food. Often it is not that you’re eating the wrong foods, or not enough of the right foods, but that your body isn’t able to absorb the vitamins and nutrients from them properly due to a certain condition or disease. In these cases it won’t matter if you eat more foods that contain the right vitamins, they still won’t be absorbed properly.
How to Get More Vitamin B-12
The best way to get more Vitamin B-12 is to eat foods that contain it. Luckily this is not a rare vitamin, and plenty of foods have at least some B12 in them. There are also those that are laden with it, which we’ve outlined in our list of Vitamin B-12 foods.