Many people who are diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency are surprised to learn that their vitamin B12 levels have been plummeting for years, despite exercising and following a healthy low-fat diet. Here are some risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency, and warning symptoms that many doctors overlook.
Nearly half of the American population has some form of vitamin B12 deficiency, and most don’t even realize it…
Only after you go to the doctor for symptoms of tiredness, depression, memory loss, or painful numbness, and are told after taking a blood test that your vitamin B12 levels have been dropping steadily for several years does B12 deficiency finally come under the radar.
Also read: Is Vitamin B12 Deficiency a Crisis?
Why does vitamin B12 deficiency happen?
There are many risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency, but for the most part, they can be broken down by 1) diet, and 2) vitamin B12 malabsorption.
Vitamin B12 deficiency from diet
Two out of three people diagnosed with vitamin B12 deficiency aren’t getting enough in their diets.
Vitamin B12 occurs naturally in animal-based foods, such as meat, poultry, fish, and dairy products. As a result of low-fat and vegan dieting, many of the foods that are highest in vitamin B12 have all but disappeared from the average American diet.
How often do you consume the following B12-rich foods?
- Organ meats (liver, heart, kidneys)
- Lean beef
If you follow a vegan or vegetarian diet…
If you have been advised to shun beef in favor of low-fat turkey and chicken (which have very small amounts of vitamin B12)…
Or if you consume mostly restaurant or processed foods, then you aren’t getting nearly enough vitamin B12 in your diet to prevent severe depletion by the time you reach your 30s and 40s.
Vitamin B12 malabsorption
Another third of people who suffer from severe vitamin B12 deficiency are unable to digest the nutrient efficiently from food sources.
So, even if you eat plenty of meat and fish- and even in you take regular vitamin B12 pills- you may still develop potentially life-threatening and debilitating vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms, if you fall into any of these qualifying risk factors:
- You are over the age of 50, so unable to produce enough stomach acids to break down vitamin B12
- You have a family history for pernicious anemia
- You have autoimmune disorders, including an intrinsic factor antibody that occurs with pernicious anemia, preventing you from absorbing vitamin B12
- You have had stomach or intestine surgeries, either for weight loss, treatment of ulcers, or Crohn’s disease
- You have some form of atrophic gastritis
- If you suffer from fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, migraines, celiac, or other commonly comorbid conditions
Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency
Untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to severe nerve damage, increased risk for heart attack and stroke, bone loss, dementia, clinical depression, and rarely, death.
Here are some often overlooked signs that may indicate vitamin B12 deficiency:
- Constant fatigue
- Short-term memory loss
- Brain fog
- Tinnitus (ear ringing)
- Painful numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- Muscle weakness and spasms
- Burning mouth syndrome
- Sore, red smooth tongue
- Difficulty controlling arm and leg movements
- Frequent falling and dropping things
Doctors recommend at least 1,000-2,000 mcg doses of vitamin B12, taken as needed- once monthly or weekly, depending on the severity of symptoms.
Since vitamin B12 is a water-soluble nutrient, it is perfectly safe to take as much as you need in order to replenish vitamin B12 levels and alleviate symptoms that occur with vitamin B12 deficiency.
For optimum absorption and effectiveness, patients should use non-dietary vitamin B12 supplements that are secreted directly into the bloodstream, and do not require swallowing or digestion through the stomach.
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