Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the functioning of the brain and nervous system, and in the formation of the red blood cells. It is required for energy production in every cell in the body, and in the synthesis of DNA.
If left untreated, vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia, as well as nerve and brain damage which may manifest in symptoms such as brain fog, memory problems, fatigue, depression, muscle fatigue and tingling in the extremities. In the long-term, this damage can become irreversible.
Causes of B12 Deficiency
Deficiency of vitamin B12 tends to be due to one of three causes:
- Insufficient dietary intake
- The inability to absorb it adequately
- A medical condition
Nutritional Therapist, Naomi Mead tells us about the 6 signs that indicate you could be low in vitamin B12, and how this may be addressed:
1. You’re over the age of 60
vitamin B12 requires stomach acid for its release from food and its subsequent absorption; and as you get older, the lining of the stomach gradually loses its ability to produce this acid. It is therefore likely that if you’re over 60, you are not absorbing vitamin B12 at an optimal level. This is a prime case where a BetterYou Boost B12 Oral Spray could be beneficial. In food, vitamin B12 is bound to proteins that it needs to be separated from, whereas in a supplement it is in a “free” form and does not require stomach acid to be absorbed.
2. You’re a vegetarian or vegan
Vitamin B12 is produced by the bacteria in the guts of animals, and is not found naturally occurring in plant foods. Some of the best food sources of vitamin B12 include meat, eggs, milk, and cheese. Vegetarians and vegans who do not supplement this vitamin may be at risk of deficiency. There is a common misconception that it’s possible to get B12 from plant sources like fermented soy, spirulina and brewers yeast. However, these plant foods actually contain B12 analogs called cobamides, which are thought to compete with B12 and block its intake, therefore actually increasing the need for B12. The Vegetarian Society recommend “diets which exclude all animal products need to ensure that they obtain their recommended daily intake from fortified sources or supplements”.
3. You take regular PPI (proton pump inhibitor) medication - such as omeprazole.
PPIs reduce acid production in the stomach, which we know is needed to unlock and absorb vitamin B12 from food. If you’re taking these drugs on a regular basis, you may be at higher risk for B12 deficiency. If you’re concerned about this, it’s advised you ask your doctor to have your B12 levels tested.
4. You suffer from digestive issues
A compromised digestive system can affect your ability to absorb vitamin B12 from your food. Sufferers of chronic digestive disorders such as IBS, IBD and celiac disease are all at a potential higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Individuals who have undergone any form of weight loss surgery that involves removing part of the stomach, are also at risk. Supplementing vitamin B12 in an oral spray form, meaning that it’s absorbed by the blood vessels in the mouth, is advantageous for these individuals who may have trouble absorbing it from the stomach.
5. You have low energy levels
You need B12 to make red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout your body. Not having enough vitamin B12 can lead to anemia (low red blood cell count), which can make you feel weak and low in energy. If you suspect that your fatigue may be a result of low vitamin B12, it is advised that you have your levels tested. Whilst a B12 supplement when deficient is important, supplementing in the absence of a deficiency has not been shown in studies to have a beneficial effect on fatigue.
6. You have raised homocysteine levels
vitamin B12 is important for homocysteine metabolism. Studies show insufficient amounts of vitamin B12 can elevate your homocysteine levels; and there is evidence to suggest that even slightly elevated homocysteine can increase risk of heart disease, stroke and pregnancy complications.