Could you be deficient in vitamin B12? It’s an important vitamin that could be lacking if you eat a strictly plant based vegetarian diet. Plus, as you grow, it becomes harder for your body to absorb B12. It’s important to spot the symptoms of vitamin deficiency.

 

I am one of those people who don’t really like to take pills and supplements. I used to believe that if my diet is well rounded, than I should be getting all the vitamins and minerals that I need. In my experience, we can get most of what we need from an exceptional diet that is well thought out. However, there are no reliable B12 plant based sources. You have two good options to follow on a plant based diet to get proper amounts of B12: supplements or B12 fortified foods.

 

When I had to switch to a gluten free diet, most of my previous B12 sources had to be cut out like fortified cereals and pastas. It took a few weeks after I cut these foods out to feel the impact of low B12 levels. I started to feel lethargic, my memory was suffering, I was constantly feeling like I was in a fog, got dizzy, and just couldn’t concentrate. When I first went vegan, I had these symptoms before and I knew it had to be my B12 levels. I used to get a B12 shot at my doctor’s office, but it became inconvenient and I wanted an easier, more natural way of obtaining my B12. I found a combination of fortified foods and supplements did the trick.

What is B12?  Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is an essential nutrient, which means we do not produce it naturally, we must get it from our food sources. It is a water soluble vitamin and so the excess amounts are excreted through urine. This means that you cannot store B12 and must intake an adequate amount each day.

 

Why is it important?  Many functions in the body rely on B12. One of the most important functions that vitamin B12 performs is that it forms red blood cells. The health of the body will dramatically decrease when our red blood cell production is compromised. Red blood cells transport oxygen throughout the body. When we have lowered red blood cell numbers, less oxygen can get to the muscles and organs in our body.

Vitamin B12 also is important in iron absorption, metabolizing fat and carbohydrates, supports the nervous system, ensures good circulation, regulates and synthesizes DNA, and aids in digestion.

 

Who are the most at risk? Vegetarian/vegans, older adults, those who drink more than 4 cups of coffee a day, and those with autoimmune diseases.

So what are the signs of vitamin B12 deficiency?

1. Dizziness  If you have vitamin B12 deficiency, you may experience bouts of dizziness. Usually this dizziness comes about from going from sitting to standing or after exercise. The dizziness can be triggered by walking up stairs.

2. Numbness  A deficiency in vitamin B12 can lead to numbness. The numbness can occur with a pins and needles like sensation. This numbness occurs because of nerve damage from the vitamin deficiency.

3. Pale skin  Your skin will appear more pale if you are lacking in red blood cells. If you are short on red blood cells, your body will release excess bilirubin giving your skin a sickly yellow hue.

4. Memory lapses  Uncommon amounts of forgetfulness can be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency. If you have been forgetting words or have that train of thought that keeps getting away, you could be deficient.

5. Tiredness  If you are suffering from unexplained fatigue, you could have this deficiency. If you feel like you have no energy for several days in a row even though you are getting adequate amounts of sleep, then your B12 levels may be to blame. Low red blood cell numbers are responsible for your energy drain as when they get low, then the amount of oxygen your organs are getting will decrease and cause your body to work at a slower pace.

6. Vision issues  Retinal damage occurs when blood vessels in the eyes become blocked. This can cause sensitivity to light, blurred vision, and shadows. A low B12 supply can lead to vision issues.

7. Muscle weakness  B12 is relied on to oxygenate muscles. If you don’t have sufficient amounts of B12, then the oxygenation of your muscles will decrease dramatically which leads to sluggishness and unusual muscle weakness. You will feel sudden muscle weakness from time to time if your body is lacking in this vitamin.

8. Smooth tongue  If you aren’t getting enough B12, a physical sign is a smooth tongue that can be slightly swollen. The tongue will have less taste buds.

 

How much do I need?  You should be taking a daily supplement of at least 3 micrograms. Most supplements will supply you with around 1500 mcg. It isn’t dangerous to take more than necessary since the excess is excreted from the body and isn’t stored. Plus, taking in extra will help if your body has a harder time absorbing B12.

How to get vitamin B12 if you only eat a plant based diet?  There are foods that are fortified with vitamin B12 like almond milk and cereal. However, you most likely won’t be getting the full amount of B12 you need everyday from these sources. The best way to make sure you are getting enough is to take a B12 supplement. The supplement that I take is Nature Made VitaMelts. It has definitely made a difference in my energy levels and gets rid of that brain fog I get when I haven’t supplemented my B12 supplies.

 

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