Today’s hot topic is Vitamin B12. Most of us are aware of our daily nutritional requirements: vitamins, minerals, protein, fats, carbs, etc. However, one vitamin that is often overlooked is—you guessed it—Vitamin B12! I learned about Vitamin B12 the hard way (but more on that later!). Let’s take a closer look at this extremely important vitamin…
Vitamin B12 – In a Nutshell
Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble nutrient that keeps the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy, as well as preventing anaemia. Its absorption is facilitated by stomach acid during the course of digestion. It can be stored in our body for years. B12 is mainly found in animal sources, fortified foods, and supplements.
Primary Sources of B12
B12 is found in meat, fish, eggs, milk and milk products. Some foods are fortified with B12, such as cereals and meal-replacement shakes.
Alternate sources of B12
There are claims that B12 can be found in fermented or other alternative foods such as inca berries and blue algae. If you want to use alternate sources, make sure you’ve researched that they do, indeed, contain B12, and make sure you are eating enough to get your daily requirement!
However, if you are diagnosed with a deficiency, these sources will likely not be enough to restore your levels to normal. Supplements will probably be required, especially if you are exhibiting deficiency symptoms. Make sure you discuss your options with your doctor.
Symptoms of B12 deficiency
Last year I noticed an unpleasant tingling in my hands and feet, that didn’t go away. Blood tests showed a B12 deficiency. I promptly went on supplements, because if a B12 deficiency isn’t properly and quickly treated, neurological symptoms (like the tingling) may be irreversible—and I didn’t want to risk that! Even “low normal” levels of B12 can cause symptoms.
Some symptoms you may notice:
- Neurological symptoms such as tingling in hands and feet
- Difficulty walking
- Mental impairment (memory loss, confusion)
- Rapid heartbeat
Types of supplements
There are all sorts of supplements available. B12 comes in pill, liquid, sublingual (dissolved beneath the tongue), nasal, and injection.
If you are not deficient, you can supplement with a ‘normal’ daily dosage of B12 which is actually quite low. The daily recommendation for B12 is minimum 2.4 mcg for adults (higher for pregnant/lactating women). Look for the methylcobalamin form of B12 in your supplement.
If you are low or deficient, or suffer from malabsorption issues, then nasal, sublingual, or injections might be indicated. Some factors that prevent absorption are anaemia, illness, bowel disease, or chronic use of antacids like Zantac & Pepcid.
Bottom line: make sure you’re getting your B12!
If you choose not to supplement, make sure you are getting the recommended amount of B12, whatever source you’re using. I recommend having your B12 levels tested to make absolutely sure you are not becoming deficient. If you are deficient, follow your doctor’s advice and take the required supplements.
My experience with B12 deficiency certainly opened my eyes—I certainly didn’t expect to be deficient in anything! Thankfully my symptoms did disappear, and I now take a daily supplement. What about you—are you getting enough B12 in your diet?