Even if you’re not vegan, you can still have a Vitamin B12 deficiency. It’s sad but true. If you have low energy levels, you might be suffering from a vitamin B12 deficiency. If you just feel “blah” and icky you could be suffering from a B12 deficiency. Did you know you can even get a B12 injection at the doctor to give you energy? Okay, enough rambling.
Let’s start with the basic facts first.
Vitamin B12 does a ton of stuff for your body – including making red blood cells and also synthesizing your dna (1).
Red blood cells and dna – I think we can agree those are important.
Here’s another fact – Vitamin B12 isn’t synthesized anywhere in your body. Nowhere. 100% of the Vitamin B12 your body gets comes through your diet.
If you’re not eating enough Vitamin B12, you’re going to have a vitamin deficiency. Your body can’t produce it on its own.
What Are Some Things That Increase My Chances Of A Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
I’m glad you asked! There are a few conditions that increase your chances drastically:
Immune system disorders like lupus or Graves’ disease (2)
Prior surgery that removed any portion of your stomach or small intestine – this includes weight loss surgery
Using stomach-acid reducing drugs for a long period of time
Pernicious anemia will harm your body’s ability to absorb Vitamin B12
Excessive or heavy drinking
Atrophic gastritis – otherwise known as the thinning of the stomach lining
There are some other things that greatly increase your chances of having a Vitamin B12 deficiency. For instance, if you live a vegan or vegetarian lifestyle, there’s a good chance you’re not eating enough of the foods that give you the Vitamin B12 you need. (Animal products – including baked chicken – are a great way of getting Vitamin B12).
Plus, vegetarian mothers often give birth to babies who are Vitamin B12 deficient – which can be solved by eating Vitamin B12 fortified grains or taking supplements… or eating more animal products like healthy cheeses and dairy.
As you get older, your risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency grows.
What Does A Vitamin B12 Deficiency Do To My Body?
Lots of stuff. None of it’s good.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to anemia (3), which is bad enough. However, if unchecked, it can also lead to:
Depression, behavior changes, or memory loss
Weakness, lightheadedness, and tiredness
Shortness of breath and heart palpitations
If you suspect that you have a Vitamin B12 deficiency, talk to your doctor about getting a blood test so that you can know for sure.
I Have A Vitamin B12 Deficiency. Now What?
Vitamin B12 deficiency can be treated, but it depends on your body and your conditions.
If you have pernicious anemia, for example, you’ll have to get your Vitamin B12 from injections to begin with, and then either continue with injections, get it nasally, or take high doses orally.
However, if you’re vegetarian, vegan, or just don’t eat a lot of animal products, you can add Vitamin B12 fortified grains to your diet, take Vitamin B12 supplements or injections, or take a high oral dose.
As your risk of Vitamin B12 deficiency increases as you age, the elderly should definitely consider taking a daily vitamin with B12 in it.
How Do I Stop Myself From Getting A Vitamin B12 Deficiency In The First Place?
For most people, all it takes to prevent a Vitamin B12 deficiency is to eat more animal products – like eggs, dairy products, seafood, poultry, and meat.
If you don’t have any of those as part of your diet, or your body cannot absorb nutrients properly, try taking a multivitamin that has Vitamin B12 in it, as well as eating Vitamin B12 fortified grains.