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Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Signs, Causes & How to Increase Intake

Identifying vitamin B12 deficiency is essential to ensure your body is working the way it should. The nutrient is central to many important processes in your body, including energy production and immune function. This ultimate guide to vitamin B12 deficiency walks you through the symptoms, causes, and how to encourage optimal intake.

Table of Contents:

What is Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

Vitamin B12 deficiency is when you aren’t getting enough vitamin B12 for your nervous system and energy production needs. Your body requires certain amounts of each nutrient to function at its best. If you struggle to obtain sufficient amounts of B12 through your diet, vitamin B supplements can encourage your levels.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is a specific type of vitamin B deficiency, when you are low in B12 in particular. Vitamin B12 is one type of vitamin in the B family. Vitamin B12 is the most commonly known of the B vitamins, because it is important for the brain, blood, and DNA. Without the correct intake, you may experience detrimental health side effects. 

6 Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

As with most vitamin and mineral deficiencies, there are signs and symptoms which may indicate your levels are low. This is because the essential processes that these vitamin supplements contribute to, may no longer be functioning as they should. The symptoms differ depending on which of the B family you have low levels of. Some key signs of low vitamin B12 include:

  1. Tiredness and fatigue - This is because B12 is needed to make red blood cells. These cells are vital to carry oxygen around your body. This oxygen is used to create ATP for energy. Without sufficient red blood cells, your body cannot make as much energy, leaving you tired and fatigued. Taking energy supplements can help to boost your energy levels naturally by providing you with the right vitamins and minerals to produce ATP.
  2. Pale skin - Although not solely a symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency, as well as iron deficiency. A lack of red blood cells may cause you to have pale looking skin. This is because, without enough B12, red blood cells produced in the bone marrow can become large and fragile. This makes them unable to pass into circulation.
  3. Poor mood - ​​Vitamin B12 deficiency can affect your levels of the amino acids homocysteine and methionine. These are dependent on B12 and in turn, can affect your mood. If you find you are in a low mood more often than usual, it could be that you are experiencing vitamin B12 deficiency.
  4. Sore and red tongue (Glossitis) - Studies have found a swollen and inflamed tongue could be an early sign of low vitamin B12. Whilst not the only cause of Glossitis, many have experienced it as a symptom of vitamin B12 deficiency.
  5. Pins and needles - The first signs of neurological damage as a result of vitamin B12 deficiency may not be the decline in memory and concentration. A more common symptom is the sensation of pins and needles in your hands and feet. Whilst low nutrient levels are not the only cause of pins and needles, you may wish to assess your intake.
  6. Memory and concentration problems - Vitamin B12 is vital in providing cofactors that form myelin. This is a protein that is essential in forming the myelin sheath that protects your spinal, cranial and peripheral nerves. A lack of protective covering can cause damage to these nerves resulting in neurological problems.

B12 deficiency can also lead to nerve and brain damage. This damage 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.

Always seek medical advice from your doctor if you are concerned about your levels of nutrients. If you think you may be suffering from vitamin B12 deficiency, try BetterYou’s At Home Test Kits. You can test your levels with a Vitamin B12 Test Kit to identify if you are at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. Receive a personalised supplementation plan based on your levels, and find peace of mind when it comes to your nutrition.

How Much Vitamin B12 Per Day?

According to the NHS, adults (aged 19 to 64) need about 1.5 micrograms a day of vitamin B12.

There is no recommended upper limit of vitamin B12 per day, as it is water soluble. Therefore, higher amounts are unlikely to cause problems. Adhering to nutrient reference values and keeping within the upper limit is essential to ensure you are taking safe, proper vitamin B12 dosage. 

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Causes

Vitamin B12 deficiency is caused by a lack of vitamin B12. However, your levels of the nutrient may be low due to a number of reasons. Vitamin B12 deficiency tends to be caused by one of three reasons:

  • Insufficient dietary intake
  • The inability to absorb it adequately
  • A medical condition

1. Age

Vitamin B12 requires stomach acid for its release from food and its subsequent absorption. As you age, 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 and may be more at risk of B12 deficiency. 

This is a prime case where an oral spray supplement could be beneficial. In food, vitamin B12 is bound to proteins that it needs to be separated from. Whereas a supplement in a “free” form does not require stomach acid to be absorbed.

2. Dietary Restrictions

Vitamin B12 is produced by the bacteria in the guts of animals, and is not found naturally occurring in plant foods. Therefore those with meat-free diets are more likely to suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency. Some food sources of vitamin B12 include meat, fish, and seafood. Usually removed from vegetarian diets, this means B12 is one of the supplements vegetarians should take. Other sources of B12 are eggs, milk, and cheese, which are removed from plant-based diets. Therefore vitamin B12 is one of the supplements that vegans should take.

Vegetarian supplements and vegan supplements are available to help bridge the gap of nutrients from these diets. The Vegetarian Society recommends those with “diets which exclude all animal products need to ensure that they obtain their recommended daily intake from fortified sources or supplements”. 

3. Digestive Issues

A compromised digestive system can affect your ability to absorb nutrients. This can leave you with vitamin and mineral deficiencies. 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 via oral spray technology can avoid the digestive tract. This formulation means that the nutrients are absorbed by the blood vessels in the mouth. This method of supplementation is advantageous for these individuals who may have trouble absorbing it from the stomach. That way, you can help to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency without the hassle of taking a tablet or pill.

4. Pernicious Anaemia

Another cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is pernicious anaemia. This is an autoimmune condition that affects your stomach lining. This therefore impacts your body’s ability to absorb vitamins. Pernicious anaemia is the most common cause of vitamin B12 deficiency in the UK. Those diagnosed with Pernicious Anaemia need replacement therapy B12 for life, preferably in a form that bypasses the stomach.

5. Proton Pump Inhibitors 

PPI medication, such as omeprazole, can reduce acid production in the stomach. We know this acid is needed to unlock and absorb vitamin B12 from food. If you’re taking these medications on a regular basis, you may be at higher risk of B12 deficiency. If you’re concerned about this, it’s advised you ask your doctor to have your B12 levels tested.

12 Benefits of Vitamin B12

There are many essential benefits of vitamins and types of minerals which contribute to your health. The benefits of vitamin B, and including B12, may include:

  1. Supporting your immune system
  2. Boosting your energy levels naturally
  3. Avoiding B12 deficiency
  4. Promoting cell health
  5. Maintaining healthy red blood cells
  6. Supporting healthy brain function
  7. Increasing concentration levels
  8. Supporting good digestion
  9. Promoting a healthy appetite
  10. Encouraging proper nerve function
  11. Producing hormones and cholesterol 
  12. Supporting cardiovascular health

If you suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency, you may not experience the benefits of this nutrient. This means your body’s ability to function as required may be diminished. Ensure your levels are at their optimal in order to avoid B12 deficiency and feel these benefits. 

Increase Vitamin B12 Levels with BetterYou

Taking supplements in addition to eating the right foods can help to encourage a healthy lifestyle and avoid low levels. With BetterYou supplements, like the Boost B12 Spray, you can support your body against B12 deficiency. In this pill-free formula, you can simply spray the nutrient into your mouth and get on with your day. Ensuring you avoid each type of vitamin B deficiency is easier than ever with our B-complete Oral Spray. This all-in-one supplement provides optimum dosage of all 8 B vitamins. 

Specially formulated to deliver vitamin B12 directly into the mouth - an effective alternative to traditional supplements. Not only can eating the right foods help to increase your nutrient intake, but taking a daily natural supplement can encourage sufficient levels and help you avoid B12 deficiency.

7 Sources of Vitamin B12

To avoid B12 deficiency, it is advised you try to intake all your vitamins from your diet. However, this may not always be possible. Sources of B12 include:

  1. Meat
  2. Fish
  3. Milk
  4. Cheese
  5. Eggs
  6. Some fortified breakfast cereals
  7. Vitamin B12 supplements

While those with dietary requirements may not be able to source all their required B12 from their diet, they may be more at risk of B12 deficiency. BetterYou’s food supplements provide those which may not be available depending on your diet. Whilst those who avoid gluten can ensure their nutrient levels are encouraged with gluten-free supplements. That way, no one has to miss out on balanced nutritional intake, and can help to avoid vitamin B12 deficiency in a hassle-free formula.

Supplementing with BetterYou

At BetterYou, we specialise in pill-free nutritional supplements. From sleep supplements to help you rest, to pregnancy supplements for that special time, support your healthy lifestyle today.
Boost B12 Oral Spray
BetterYou Boost B12 Oral Spray is an effective B12 supplement formulated to aid normal psychological functions,...

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