Did you know your ability to absorb Vitamin B12 gradually decreases with age? In fact, B12 deficiency is a silent epidemic with serious consequences to your health. Reports from the USDA show B12 deficiency may be more widespread than thought, with at least 40% of the population being severely deficient. Okay, yeah, so? Why do we even need B12? What does it do? Vitamin B12 is a powerhouse that helps make DNA, nerve and blood cells, and is crucial for a healthy brain and immune system. Plus your metabolism wouldn’t run smoothly without it. So, it’s pretty important. Add advancing age, certain prescription meds (such as heartburn medications), and a lack of meat in one’s diet (looking at you, vegetarians & vegans!) and you could find yourself severely lacking in vitamin B12.
So how do you know if you’re deficient? The following symptoms are signals of a possible deficiency!
- Fatigue – The fatigue we’re talking about here isn’t the kind you get after a long day of work and chasing the kiddos around, on only 5 hours of sleep. Nope, this fatigue is constant and is around no matter how much sleep you get. Researchers from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found those who felt zapped of energy even though they get plenty of zzzzz’s may be struggling with low B12 levels. Why? Because your body relies on B12 to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen to your organs, and without enough oxygen in your cells, you’ll feel tired no matter how long you sleep.
- Weakness – If they’re not getting enough oxygen from red blood cells, your muscles will feel like mush. This can equal weakness and sluggishness.
- Dizziness – Been feeling a bit off-kilter? Frequent bouts of dizziness or vertigo often signal B12 stores are low. (ie experiencing a feeling of swaying when you get up too fast from a sitting position) One Turkish study compared the vitamin B12 levels of patients who sought treatment in the ER for dizziness with those of 100 healthy volunteers. The result? Those dizzy patients had 40% less B12 than the volunteers.
- Vision Issues – No, there isn’t something in your eye causing the spotting, blurred and double vision. Low B12 stores can lead to vision changes and actually damage vision, so you may experience light sensitivity, blurred or double vision, and tracers or shadows.
- Pins & Needles – You know the numbness (and then tingling) you get when you leg goes to sleep after you have it tucked under you for too long? Well, if you experience that numbness/tingly sensation without something having fallen asleep, you might have a B12 problem. Remember the whole “poor red blood cell production from the lack of B12” thing? Yeah…that can result in nerve damage (and trust us, you do NOT want to go to there!).
- Smooth Tongue – Smooth tongue? What? About half of people with a severe B12 deficiency lose the papillae—those little bumps—on their tongues, especially around the edges. Patients also complain of burning and soreness, particularly on the back of the tongue. And since most of those papillae contain taste buds, if you lose a lot of them even your favorite foods are going to taste blah.
- Forgetfulness – Forgetting where you put the keys every once in awhile is one thing; chronic forgetfulness is quite another. It very well could be a vitamin B12 deficiency! Symptoms of a B12 deficiency often mimic those of dementia, such as memory loss, disorientation, and difficulty thinking and reasoning. It can be hard distinguishing deficiency from dementia, especially since older folks are at risk for both. And the two conditions often overlap; 75% to 90% of B12 deficient people also have neurological complications such as dementia. If you or a loved one is having issues with this one, you DEFINITELY want to get tested!
Feeling concerned about your vitamin B12 levels? We’ve got you covered! Integrative Wellness Advisors, working with nutraMetrix, offers a fabulous B-complex in isotonic form for maximum impact. You can find all the deets HERE and you can call or email us with any questions about B12 or any other health questions you may have! Let’s have a healthy & happy new year!