Many of us are aware of the importance of vitamins and minerals in our body. We all agree to them, right? But do we know that we had enough of these vitamins or not? Vitamin b12 (aka “the energy vitamin”) is equally important nutrient our body needs.
It also referred as cobalamin. It’s an essential water-soluble vitamin that plays vital role in major functions of our body. Somehow this vitamin is used by our body to perform many crucial organs for proper working.
Vitamin B12 do lot of things in our body including DNA synthesis, normal and healthy functioning of nerve system, red blood cells production as well as normal brain function.
Apart from this, this compelling vitamin acts as an energy producer by helping to convert food into fuel. It keeps your hair, skin, eyes and nails healthy by re-growing healthy cells of them.
What is vitamin B12 deficiency?
Deficiency of any vitamin or nutrient occur when you’re not taking enough of it. Vitamin b12 deficiency is a condition where your daily intake of b12 is less than recommended. This means that you are not including enough b12-rich foods in diet and thus leading to low levels of b12.
Unfortunately, vitamin b12 deficiency is becoming very common, especially in adults. People with strict vegan diet or weight-loss surgery are at major risk of this type of deficiency.
Also there are many other factors that contribute to low levels of b12 such as bowel surgery, some underlying health conditions or medications.
Human body does not produce vitamin b12 by its own. So we need to consume it in daily diet or through supplements. Animal foods and dairy products contains high percentage of b12. However, plant foods don’t have vitamin b12 naturally.
So if you are a vegetarian and not including animal foods, you can start consuming dairy products or vitamin b12 supplements.
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The signs and symptoms of vitamin b12 deficiency are not very specific and can be easily mistaken with other conditions sometimes. The deficiency symptoms remains unnoticed for long time as diagnose of it is very complex.
So the question is how to know we are b12 deficient?
Freaky Thoughts has the answer for your question. Deficiency signs and symptoms usually go from mild to severe and only noticeable when you are at moderate to severe stage of deficiency.
The hardest part in case of b12 deficiency is to recognize actual symptom of it. Check out the 11 signs and symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency that may help you to recognize whether you lack of this vitamin or not:
1. Weakness and Fatigue
If you are feeling overly tired or weak even after having a good night sleep then this could be the warning sign of vitamin b12 deficiency. Weakness, fatigue or lightheadedness are the common symptoms of low b12 levels.
Vitamin b12 plays a role in red blood cells production. Therefore, when your body doesn’t have enough b12, it reduces amount of red cells which are responsible for transporting oxygen to each and every cell of body.
As your body don’t get enough oxygen, you always feel sleepy, tired and exhausted. This is considered as a type of anemia.
A very common form of anemia called “Pernicious anemia” is a most common severe cause of vitamin b12 deficiency. It’s an autoimmune disorder in which important protein called “intrinsic factor” is not produced enough, results into inability to absorb b12.
Many times people confuse this symptom with poor sleep or stress, but if you’re feeling this constant, then it’s a time for you to visit a doctor to treat it early.
2. Numbness and Tingling in hands and feet
Caused by nerve damage, vitamin b12 deficiency leads to pins-and-needles sensations in hands and feet. If you have too many low levels of vitamin b12 then you are more prone to experience numbness and tingling in the hands and feet.
B12 is essential to keep nerve system healthy as it helps to form myelin,which acts as a protective layer to nerve fibers. Without b12, your nervous system won’t be able to work properly.
An untreated long-term vitamin b12 deficiency leads to severe nerve damage and causes paresthesia. You may eventually suffer from other neurological issues such as degeneration of the spinal cord, optic nerves or peripheral nerves.
However, sensations of pins and needles can have many other causes, so better to get tested by your doctor.
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3. Trouble walking / loss of balance
One of the most serious side effects of long-term untreated b12 deficiency is improper functioning of nervous system. Nerve damage not only give you numbness and tingling sensations but also affects the way you walk or move.
Lack of vitamin b12 make your spinal cord wither, that triggers dizziness. You may feel wobbles when you get up too fast or dizzy when you walk up or downstairs.
It also affects your ability to keep balance while standing or walking and make you more liable to fall.
This symptom is more noticed in elderly people over the age of 60. Young people also experience trouble walking or loss of balance in case of severe, long-term untreated deficiency.
4. Pale or jaundiced skin
Pale or jaundiced skin is another physical condition explaining vitamin b12 deficiency. People with the deficiency of this vitamin are more likely to have pale or yellowish skin and whites of the eyes, which known as jaundice.
This happens when your body lack of healthy red blood cells. Vitamin b12 helps our body to produce healthy red blood cells and lack of it causes a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia.
Megaloblastic anemia is a condition in which red blood cells become too large and fragile and so unable to divide. They become too large that they cannot pass out of your bone marrow and into blood circulation.
Therefore, your body does not have many healthy cells to circulate around the body which results into pale color of skin.
5. Shortness of Breath and dizziness
One of the possible sign of inadequate amount of b12 is shortness of breath on exertion. Vitamin b12 is responsible in making an essential protein called hemoglobin that transports oxygen throughout the body.
This vitamin deficiency reduces the sufficient oxygen flow to body tissues, causing shortness of breath and dizziness. When the body doesn’t get the enough red blood cells to supply oxygen to each and every cell of the body, you may feel short of breath and a bit dizzy.
Take an immediate visit to your doctor if you experience shortness of breath, unexplained fatigue or heart palpitations.
6. You have trouble in remembering
Do you have trouble in remembering the basic things in daily life? Then this could be the sign of b12 deficiency. If you often tend to forget things then that is of course not a normal thing.
Vitamin b12 deficiency leads to severe nerve damage and this leads to a foggy and confused brain. The extreme and untreated deficiency often mimics the symptoms of dementia like memory loss, disorientation and struggle to remember or think.
The reason for this is low level of b12 obstruct brain chemistry that results into imbalance in your neurotransmitters. Especially in elder people, the two – b12 deficiency and dementia are seems to be very common due to age and hard to differentiate.
If you experiencing the same symptoms then visit a doctor before it becomes awful.
7. Depression, mood swings and behaviour changes
Unfortunately, mental health is equally affected by b12 amount shortage with physical health. Extreme circumstances of vitamin b12 inadequacy lead to depression, anxiety and mood changes.
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Not having enough b12 has a strong impact on serotonin production in your brain. Serotonin is a mood-regulating neurotransmitter chemical that your brain creates with the help of B12.
Lack of this vitamin affects the production of serotonin and lead to mood swings and behaviour changes. It won’t take a long time to get you into depression and anxiety stage.
So if you have no firm reason for your depression or mood swings, then that must be a b12 call.
8. Blurred or disturbed vision
People who are deficient in vitamin b12 may have blurred or disturbed vision. This happens when nervous system damaged due to lack of sufficient b12 amount. This further leads to optic nerve damage.
This damage can disrupt the nervous signal that travels from eye to brain, causing impaired vision.
However, the vision can be often restore by supplements.
9. Swollen, red and smooth tongue
When you don’t take enough vitamin b12, DNA synthesis becomes impaired. As a result, mouth’s epithelial cells begin to divide rapidly, causing glossitis, oral candidiasis, angular cheilitis and recurrent oral ulcers.
Glossitis is characterized by a beefy, red, smooth tongue results from loss of papillae, the tiny bumps on tongue that contain taste buds. The inflammation make your tongue red, swollen and painful.
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Not only this, but glossitis also change the way you eat or speak. Swollen and inflamed tongue could be the early sign of vitamin b12 deficiency. Some people also experience mouth ulcers.
10. Digestive problems
There can be many causes for digestive problems such as constipation, gas or diarrhea, and b12 can be one culprit among those. If long-term deficiency is ignored, it triggers gas, constipation, upset stomach and loss of appetite.
This happens because low level of the vitamin affect the normal functioning of gastrointestinal tract. To get relief and treat, you need to take b12-rich foods or supplements.
Sometimes, people with the deficiency also lack intrinsic factor – a protein in the stomach that allows absorption of vitamin b12. In that case, your body is not able to absorb b12 and the only option is to take vitamin b12 injections.
11. Muscle Weakness
As vitamin b12 plays vital role in the formation of bone-building cells, osteoblasts, lack of it results in losing important bone tissues, causing osteoporosis.
Bones become very weak, fragile or brittle as a result of loss of bone tissues. Because of this, you are more prone to fall or having bone fractures.
Some individuals shows early signs of this “energy vitamin” deficiency such as fatigue, weakness and confusion. But those can be easily misplaced with other causes and actual deficiency get unnoticed.
If the symptoms visible often then it’s time to get an appointment of doctor to stop the effect before the damage becomes irreversible.
Normally, elderly people with 60+ age, those who follow strict vegan diet and undergone of some surgery or taking heartburn medications are at major risk of this vitamin deficiency.
So, get appropriate diet and supplements to prevent the deficiency at early stage. Go for animal products, fortified cereals or supplements to restore the level of vitamin b12.
If you see any of the symptom above, speak to your doctor. For most people it is easily prevented by just taking enough b12 from diet or supplements.