Thought to be one of the leading nutrient deficiencies in the world, Vitamin B12 deficiency currently a rampant worldwide epidemic. From the youth to the aged, vegans to omnivores, this is one deficiency that can affect literally anyone from the entire demographic spectrum.
The benefits of Vitamin B12 are many, ranging from boosting energy levels and moods to addressing adrenal fatigue and metabolic dysfunction to facilitating DNA synthesis and enzyme production. It is because vitamin B12 has such wide-reaching goals in our body that a deficiency can show up in an equally wide range of negative symptoms, many of which are very common. For this reason, B12 deficiency can easily be misdiagnosed and the consequences can be catastrophic, thus earning itself the title – “the silent epidemic.”
Here are some sneaky, vitamin B12 deficiency symptoms you need to be on the lookout for. However, as mentioned earlier, a lot of these symptoms are common for many health conditions, so please be sure to consult your doctor to know for sure what the problem is.
1. Numbness Or Tingling Sensations
Your body needs vitamin B12 to make myelin – a covering that protects your nerves. Without myelin, your nerves could not only be susceptible to damage but can also start shrinking and refuse to form properly. This can transform the tiniest of normal sensations to pins and needles every time you move and is often, a common symptom of having a vitamin B12 deficiency.
2. You’re Always Exhausted
A deficiency in vitamin B12 may often result in megaloblastic anemia, where your body starts producing large, immature red blood cells that aren’t able to carry oxygen efficiently to various parts of your body. This results in lower oxygen levels in your blood and also low blood circulation – leading to fatigue or complete exhaustion.
Although it’s completely normal to have a one-off day when you feel tired and run down and usually a good day of rest can restore your energy levels to normal. However, if you’re feeling exhausted all the time, it may be a sign of something serious so the sooner you get it checked out, the better.
3. Your Skin Is Pale Or Yellowish
One of the most common symptoms of having a vitamin deficiency is when your skin starts to lose its healthy glow. This could be caused by numerous health conditions. For instance, if you have anemia, where your body is unable to produce healthy red blood cells that can transport oxygen-rich blood throughout your body, it can result in a complexion of extreme pallor. Another common cause of your skin becoming pale or yellowish is jaundice. Both these conditions have one thing in common – a severe deficiency in vitamin B12.1 2
4. You Have Diabetes
Though not every diabetic patient is deficient in vitamin B12, it has become increasingly evident that people who have type 1 or type 2 diabetes are at a risk of having a deficiency. A study involving a total of 81 patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus within the age range of 45 to 80 years observed a vitamin B12 deficiency and borderline deficiency in 8.6% and 26.0% of the patients respectively.3
In another cross-sectional study involving 90 patients with type 1 diabetes mellitus, researchers found low vitamin B12 levels in 45.5% of the patients.4
5. You Have Depression
Serotonin is one of the most important neurotransmitters that are manufactured by your body. It plays a vital role in keeping your brain and mood functioning properly, and some researchers believe a deficit in this important chemical could lead to depression.5
Since vitamin B12 boosts neurotransmitter production and neural communication, a shortage in B12 is very likely to lead to a shortage of serotonin. So while depression may be caused by a low level of serotonin, a deficiency in vitamin B could be the main culprit since it’s one of the main building blocks of serotonin.6 7
6. You Take Heartburn Medication
Prescription medicines are certainly useful when it comes to alleviating symptoms of heartburn, but this relief comes at a cost. Heartburn medicines work by reducing levels of acid in your stomach. This same stomach acid, however, is needed by vitamin B12 so it can detach itself from its original protein and get absorbed by your body. Otherwise, it will just continue on its way down your digestive tract without giving your body any of the benefits that it’s supposed to. In general, acid-blocking medication gets a bad rap for bringing down your body’s ability to absorb nutrients efficiently, which includes the absorption of vitamin B12.8 This can lead to multiple secondary problems.
Note: Once again, all the signs mentioned above are common symptoms of multiple health conditions. For instance, feeling exhausted constantly could also be a sign that you’re diabetic or have an under-active thyroid, while a tingling, prickly sensation is a common symptom of multiple sclerosis. So before jumping to conclusions, do consult with your doctor so he may confirm the cause of your symptoms and also what treatment to go forward with.
|↑1||Oh, R., and David L. Brown. “Vitamin B12 deficiency.” American family physician 67, no. 5 (2003): 979-986.|
|↑2||Dasari, Sowjanya, Kushal Naha, and Mukhyaprana Prabhu. “An unusual cause for recurrent jaundice in an otherwise healthy male.” The Australasian medical journal 5, no. 10 (2012): 541.|
|↑3||Akinlade, K. S., S. O. Agbebaku, S. K. Rahamon, and W. O. Balogun. “Vitamin B 12 levels in patients with type 2 diabetes mellitus on metformin.” Annals of Ibadan postgraduate medicine 13, no. 2 (2015): 79-83.|
|↑4||Kibirige, Davis, and Raymond Mwebaze. “Vitamin B12 deficiency among patients with diabetes mellitus: is routine screening and supplementation justified?.” Journal of Diabetes & Metabolic Disorders 12, no. 1 (2013): 17.|
|↑5||Low serotonin-receptor levels linked to depression. Washington University.|
|↑6||Hanna, Susan, Leonard Lachover, and R. P. Rajarethinam. “Vitamin B12 deficiency and depression in the elderly: review and case report.” Primary care companion to the Journal of clinical psychiatry 11, no. 5 (2009): 269.|
|↑7||Coppen, Alec, and Christina Bolander-Gouaille. “Treatment of depression: time to consider folic acid and vitamin B12.” Journal of Psychopharmacology 19, no. 1 (2005): 59-65.|
|↑8||Lam, Jameson R., Jennifer L. Schneider, Wei Zhao, and Douglas A. Corley. “Proton pump inhibitor and histamine 2 receptor antagonist use and vitamin B12 deficiency.” Jama 310, no. 22 (2013): 2435-2442.|