Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin which is required on an everyday basis and our body cannot make it, neither it can store it. It is a part of Vitamin B complex family.
Many people feel low and ignore this symptom. But this could be an alarming signal for a big thing!
Never ignore such symptoms, early diagnosis can save you from a lot!
Signs and symptoms (if you are low on Vitamin B12)
These are the most common signs and symptoms of Vitamin B12 deficiency. Severe deficiency of this vitamin leads to anemia.
- Weakness, tiredness, or lightheadedness
- Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
- Pale skin
- A smooth tongue
- Constipation, diarrhea, a loss of appetite, or gas
- Nerve problems like numbness or tingling, muscle weakness, and problems walking (extreme cases if left unattended)
- Vision loss
- Mental problems like depression, memory loss, or behavioral changes
What are the causes of Vitamin B12 deficiency?
- The most common cause of Vitamin B12 deficiency is vegetarian or vegan diet.
- Heavy intake of alcohol can also lead to vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Long-term use of antacids, in the form of syrups and tablets, can lead to severe vitamin B12 deficiency.
- Babies who are born to vegetarian mothers are also at a high risk of suffering from vitamin B12 deficiency.
- The risk of being vitamin B12 deficient also increases with age.
What are the sources of Vitamin B12?
- Animal sources are very rich sources of vitamin B12 such as Clams, Oysters, Mussels, Crab, Sardines, Trout Fish, Salmon, Tuna, Haddock, Beef, Milk, (good source- not a rich source) Yogurt, Eggs, Chicken and Turkey.
- Vegetarian sources of vitamin B12 are very less. That’s why vegetarians or vegans are at a high risk of getting Vitamin B12 deficiency. However, vegetarians can consume milk and yogurt once a day along with a supplement to deal with low Vitamin B12 issue. There are food products coming up for vegetarians/vegans that are fortified with Vitamin B12- such as cereals and other processed foods.
As I mentioned above, vegetarians or vegans should support their diet with supplement, because it not only provides you with vitamin B12, but it also increases the absorption in the body. But I have many patients coming in with a doubt that how should we choose a supplement. Usually, I prescribe them and they buy it from the chemist, but this isn’t correct. The person taking the supplement should be aware of why he/she is taking the prescribed supplement only!
Here are some ways which can help people in choosing right Vitamin B12 supplement for them! Have a look!
Choose a supplement, not fortified food products.
- There are many people who get confused between supplements and fortified food products. They often tend to use fortified food products instead of supplement which does no good to them. Fortified food products come with a lot of added sugar and unwanted fats as well which could be risky.
Check if it is suitable for vegetarians or vegans.
- If you are vegetarian, using a supplement which comes from the animal source will not be acceptable.
- Check for the vegetarian sign on the supplement label before buying it for yourself.
Choose methylcobalamin over cyanocobalamin.
- If you check out for vitamin B12 supplements in the market, they are available in 2 forms, methylcobalamin and cyanocobalamin.
- Don’t confuse yourself with the names. Choose the ones having methyl word on it. This is because, methylcobalamin has a better absorption power than cyanocobalamin, which makes it readily available and useful for the body.
This is very important- choose the right dosage for you.
- It is always better to consult an expert before giving self-prescription.
- If you see most of the supplements, they range from 500 mcg (micrograms) to 5000 mcg (micrograms), which is safe to be given over the counter.
- Don’t rush and think about adding up more doses if you are highly deficient. High doses of any supplement will do no good to your body.
- If you are borderline deficient, start with the dose of 1000 mcg per day, and gradually increase it by 1000 points if that is not helping you much.
- For non-vegetarians, it is always better to get it from the diet but if you can’t get it, the dosage of 100-200 mcg per day can be taken.
If you face any of the above symptoms, it is time for you to get yourself checked for Vitamin B12 deficiency and follow the remaining steps as instructed!
Feel free to post your doubts below. Happy to help you!