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Feeling blue? For many older adults, vitamin B12 deficiency and low vitamin B6 can cause depression, leaving you feeling down in the dumps. Before you rush off to the doctor for a new pill to ease your depression, CHECK YOUR DIET!! Here’s the scoop on B vitamins and depression in senior citizens.
Vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 are both essential nutrients for neurological health and emotional balance. As you age, your ability to digest vitamin B12 from food naturally diminishes, leading to increased risk for vitamin B12 deficiency and also low vitamin B6.
Can Vitamin B12 help depression in seniors?
Study focuses on depression in older adults
The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently featured a study in which it was discovered that higher intakes of vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 were associated with a lower likelihood of depression in older adults. Both vitamins B12 and B6 play critical roles in the production of neurotransmitters, or “chemical messengers” in the brain, including Serotonin, which is the brain’s “feel good” neurotransmitter.
Thus it makes sense that a deficiency of vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 may be a cause or symptom of depression.
The subjects of the study were adults aged 65 years or older from the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP). Their diets were evaluated for consumption of vitamins B12 and B6 over a period of seven years. The incidence of depression was also noted. It appeared that for every 10 mg increase in vitamin B12, patients reported a 2% increase in overall good mood. The same effect on depression was also noted with each 10 mg increase of Vitamin B6.
Foods rich in B vitamins
Foods rich in vitamin B6 include bran (rice and wheat), bananas, avocados, chicken or turkey breast, raw garlic, dried herbs and spices, fish (such as tuna, salmon, and cod), liver, whole grains, beans, peanuts, pistachios, and walnuts, sunflower seeds and sesame seed (and techina). Foods rich in vitamin B12 include fish, meat, liver, poultry, eggs and dairy. Today many breakfast cereals are now fortified with vitamin B12 also.
Older adults at risk for B12 deficiency
Older adults tend to exhibit a higher incidence of both depression and vitamin B12 deficiency. However, it has been noted that some adults, despite eating foods high in B-vitamins, continue to suffer a vitamin B12 deficiency. This may be related to limited stomach acidity in older people, which can prevent vitamin B12 from food from being absorbed into the body. In other cases, the lack of intrinsic factor as we age, which impairs our ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food and supplements, may be the cause of this inability to absorb Vitamin B12.
Treat vitamin B12 deficiency now!
When evaluating symptoms of depression in older adults, diagnosticians should evaluate their overall diets in order to rule out any vitamin deficiencies. Individuals aged 50 or older, especially vegetarians, will likely benefit from supplementing their diets extra vitamin B12, as well as eating fortified breakfast cereals or sprinkling nutritional yeast onto meals and snacks.
In this way older adults can simultaneously reduce the risk of depression and vitamin B12 deficiency.
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About 25% of people in the US have vitamin B12 deficiency anemia without even knowing it. Pernicious anemia, a debilitating condition that occurs when vitamin B12 levels dip to a dangerous low, can result from underlying health problems that many doctors don’t pick up.
Anemia is a condition that happens when your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells or hemoglobin. Vitamin B12 is necessary for producing plenty of normal-sized red blood cells, so when vitamin B12 levels dip low, you experience symptoms of pernicious anemia, which is a type of megaloblastic anemia.
Early signs of pernicious anemia such as dizziness, tiredness, and difficulty remembering things occur because your brain is not getting enough oxygen, due to fewer red blood cells.
Symptoms of pernicious anemia include:
Painful numbness and tingling sensations
B12- why you’re not getting it
People often ask, “What’s the big deal about vitamin B12 deficiency anemia? If you’re not feeling well, then can’t you just eat more foods with vitamin B12?”
Most people do eat enough foods containing vitamin B12. Unless you follow a vegan diet, then you probably ingest enough vitamin B12 from beef, chicken, and seafood to last a lifetime.
The problem lies with vitamin B12 malabsorption; there are so many risk factors that interfere with your ability to digest vitamin B12 from the foods you eat.
Medications, autoimmune disorders, weight-loss surgeries, and gastrointestinal disorders- these all affect vitamin B12 absorption.
Vitamin B12: It takes two
Vitamin B12 cannot be digested by itself- it requires a co-factor, a “partner” in digestion. To absorb vitamin B12, you need specific digestive enzymes, such as intrinsic factor, which is manufactured in your gut, or stomach acids that help to break down vitamin B12 molecules.
You risks for developing vitamin B12 deficiency- pernicious anemia are high if:
You don’t have intrinsic factor in your gut
Your autoimmune system destroys the intrinsic factor you make
You are a senior citizen who doesn’t produce enough stomach acids to digest vitamin B12
You have had gastrointestinal surgery, such as bariatric surgery
If you fall into any of those categories, then it’s essential to get your vitamin B12 from supplementation, preferably in a non-dietary form, so that you may bypass the need for digestion in the stomach.
How much vitamin B12 should I take?
To test for vitamin B12 deficiency, ask your doctor for a simple blood test. You may need to continue checking your vitamin B12 levels regularly.
To prevent vitamin B12 deficiency anemia and restore healthy vitamin B12 levels, doctors recommend at least 1,000mcg of vitamin B12 supplements weekly, or more often, as needed.
The symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency are strikingly similar to other illnesses. For this reason, it is important to become familiar with the signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency in order to treat it properly. People who are at greatest risk for this are smokers, vegans, anyone over the age of fifty, and children of vegans. Here is a partial list of symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency:
Fatigue – Suffering from a lack of energy. Since vitamin B12 is necessary for proper blood cell formation, a lack of vitamin B12 leads to smaller blood cells, and therefore carries less oxygen and nutrients to the rest of the body, leading to fatigue.
Memory loss – Forgetfulness of important information. As mentioned previously, vitamin B12 is necessary for blood cell formation. Low levels of B12 lead to smaller blood cells, and less nutrients for the body and the brain. In the case of someone with a severe vitamin B12 deficiency, the memory loss can be mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease or senile dementia.
Depression – Feelings of sadness and worthlessness are often attributed to an underlying mental illness, and a vitamin B12 deficiency may go unnoticed.
Anemia – A low red cell blood count. A vitamin B12 deficiency leads to the creation of fewer red blood cells in the body.
Vision loss – Vitamin B12 is necessary for the proper formation of nerve cells in the body. Specifically, vitamin B12 is needed for the fatty membrane surrounding the nerve cells, known as the myelin sheath. Without this myelin sheath, the electrical signals being passed by the nerve cells go haywire in the body, with many consequences. This loss of vision can be reversed with injections of vitamin B12.
Dizziness – Poor coordination and clumsiness may be due to a severe vitamin B12 deficiency. As mentioned previously, improperly formed nerve cells cause electrical impulses to be lost in transmission.
Muscle weakness – Muscle weakness can be in the arms or legs, also due to nerve cell issues.
Tingling sensation in either the hands or feet – Low levels of vitamin B12 affects nerve cell development, and loss of muscle control is a symptom of a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Urinary incontinence – Also a loss of muscle control due to low levels of vitamin B12.
Paralysis – A total loss of muscle control sets in when stores of vitamin B12 are depleted from the body.
As you can see, many symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency can be easily confused with symptoms of other illnesses. If you are suffering from any of the above, you should have your blood tested for a vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vitamin b12 for anemia is a sound treatment option. Anemia is a disorder of the blood that affects almost thirty percent of all women – although it is not exclusively relevant to women it just seems to affect them more.
Anemia is a deficiency in the blood it is a reduction in the red blood count. It is typically associated with an iron deficiency and the course of treatment usually involves prescribing iron supplements, but there is anemia that is completely caused by a vitamin b12 deficiency. Anemia can result in fatigue, dizziness and lowered immunity. Treatment applications usually can sure anemia over the course of a period of time.
Why Vitamin B12?
Anemia is thought to be caused by iron deficiency in the blood, but vitamin b12 is an intrinsic ingredient in the production of red blood cells. Vitamin b12 for anemia taken in conjunction with iron supplements can speed the recovery time. Vitamin b12 can also result in anemia that is not associated with iron poor blood. Vitamin b12 anemia is that there are simply not enough red blood cells in the blood to carry oxygen to vital organs. Vitamin b12 is an important nutrient and usually is sufficiently supplied to the body through the diet. Vegetarians may not receive enough vitamin b12 through the diet because vitamin b12 is not found in substantial amounts in non animal foods. There are other reasons that there may not be enough vitamin b12 in the body to help produce red blood cells. There may be a medical reason in the form of disease. Crohn’s disease prevents vitamin b12 from being absorbed along with bacterial growth in the small intestines and pernicious anemia. There are medications that may prevent the absorption of vitamin b12, typically these medications are associated with heartburn and stomach ulcer medications. Treating the type of anemia that is associated with vitamin b12 deficiency is simply upping the vitamin b12 intake.
Vitamin b12 for anemia can be delivered in several different ways. There are inject able vitamin b12 supplements that usually require a doctor office visit, there are over the counter vitamin b12 supplements that come in a variety of delivery methods. The over the counter vitamin b12 for anemia options can include, pills, lozenges, drops. There are also prescription strength vitamin b12 supplements and shots for anemia options. The prescription strength options will also require a visit to the doctor’s office.
Preventing anemia that is related to vitamin b12 deficiency is a very simple task that can be accomplished by simply adjusting the diet to include foods that are rich in vitamin b12. Supplements can also be taken to head off any potential problems.
Vitamin b12 for anemia can solve the issue, and can result in feeling better and better overall health.