Millions of Americans are taking dietary supplements in hopes of achieving optimal health. But B12 is one vitamin too few are aware they may be deficient in.
So what is B12 and why is it important? B12 also known as Cobalamin is a water-soluble vitamin that is essential for nerve cell function, DNA synthesis and red cell production. B12 is an essential vitamin necessary for life.
Symptoms of B12 deficiency include the following:
- Brain fog or memory loss
- Loss of balance and difficulty walking
- Tingling or numbness in the hands and feet
Causes of B12 Deficiency
- Pernicious Anemia—B12 is necessary for the production of red blood cells (the blood cells that transport oxygen to our vital organs and tissues for energy, for life). People with Pernicious Anemia lack the enzyme necessary to absorb B12 in the gut. Thus folks with Pernicous Anemia not only have the symptoms associated with B12 Deficiency, they will also be anemic. Being anemic can accelerate the symptoms of fatigue. But you may have even more serious symptoms, such as shortness of breath, chest pain or palpitations.
- You are not eating enough foods rich in B12–Foods rich in B12 include: dairy products, eggs, poultry, meat , fish and fortified cereals. Vegetarians and Vegans have higher risk of B12 Deficiency.
- Chronic illness–People with intestinal illnesses such as Crohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis or Celiac Disease are at risk for B12 malabsorption.
- Age–Not only do we need more B12 as we age, but our ability to absorb B12 decreases.
- Drinking too much alcohol–heavy alcohol intake inhibits B12 absorption.
- Certain medications can inhibit absorption of B12–Commonly used and prescribed acid reducing medications such as Prilosec inhibits B12 absorption. Also, Metformin, a commonly prescribed anti-diabetic drug has been linked to B12 deficiency.
If you experience one or more symptoms associated with B12 deficiency, talk to your doctor and inquire about getting a B12 level. A blood sample will let you know if you have a B12 deficiency. If your B12 level is low enough or if you have Pernicious Anemia, your doctor will recommend an injectable form of B12. B12 can also be taken in the form of a dissolvable tablet or liquid drop. Since B12 absorption diminishes as we get older, a dissolvable tablet or a liquid drop placed under the tongue (sublingual) may be preferred.
Check in with your doctor for the right B12 dose and form of B12 that is appropriate for you. B12-Aware.