Vitamin B12 is crucially important to our overall health. This vitamin produces healthy blood cells and works to maintain proper nerve functioning. It’s important that everyone gets enough vitamin B12 in their diets, but it’s especially important for women, particularly expecting women.
How can you get enough vitamin B12? There are a number of foods that contain vitamin B12, from cottage cheese to almonds to feta cheese. Here’s what you need to know about a vitamin B12 deficiency…
1. You’ll Feel Tired Without Enough
Vitamin B12 is crucially important in the production of DNA, nerves, and blood cells. It’s also really important when it comes to keeping your brain healthy and the immune system up and running smoothly.
However, it’s also vital when it comes to your metabolism, as it plays a key role in converting nutrients to energy. If you’re feeling exhausted or your mind feels foggy, then it’s time to get more vitamin B12, which can be found in many animal products, like eggs and shellfish.
2. Vegetarians and Vegans are Vulnerable
Most of our vitamin B12 comes to us through animal products, from eggs and shellfish to meat and dairy. If you cut those items out of your diet, there’s a good chance you won’t get enough vitamin B12, which means you could start feeling very tired or even light-headed.
If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, be sure to take a vitamin B12 supplement. You can also try eating foods that that have been fortified with vitamin B12, such as breakfast cereal.
3. Older Adults are at Risk
Anyone can suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency, but your odds of having this serious health problem go up significantly if you’re over the age of 50. That’s because your stomach produces less acid as you age, which means you’re less able to absorb vitamin B12.
That makes it crucial for older adults to seek out foods with lots of vitamin B12, such as dairy and eggs. If the problem is severe, consult a doctor who may recommend supplements or even vitamin B12 injections.
4. Heartburn Drugs Can Increase your Risk
As the name suggests, heartburn can be a very painful and uncomfortable condition, which is why so many people take prescription drugs to treat the condition. But that can be a problem since these drugs suppress the production of stomach acid, potentially making it harder for the body to absorb vitamin B12.
If you’re taking prescription medication for heartburn and find yourself feeling weak, tired, or light-headed, talk to your doctor about a possible vitamin B12 deficiency. Regular supplements can help overcome this condition.
5. B12 Deficiency Closely Resembles Dementia
Because our bodies produce less stomach acid as we age, our bodies become less adept at absorbing vitamin B12. That means many people over the age of 50 suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency, which can leave one feeling overly tired and light-headed.
Furthermore, many people who suffer from vitamin B12 deficiency suffer from neurological problems, like dementia. The result is that many people confuse the deficiency with dementia. If you’re an older adult and find yourself in this position, talk to your doctor to clarify the situation.
6. Expecting and Nursing Women Need it the Most
Everyone needs vitamin B12, but certain people, like seniors, need it more. According to experts, no one needs more vitamin B12 more than expecting and nursing women, who require 2.8-micrograms every single day. By comparison, men require 2.4-micrograms.
So, how can pregnant and nursing women get enough vitamin B12? There’s 0.6-micrograms in a single egg and 1.2-micrograms in a single cup of low-fat milk. Better sources are meat–like trout, turkey, and beef–which means vegetarians and vegans may require a supplement.
7. Drinking Leaves You Vulnerable
It’s never a good idea to drink alcohol to excess, but here’s another reason to take it easy: heavy drinking can increase your chances of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency, according to Medicine.net. That’s because drinking more than a few alcoholic beverages each day can cause gastritis, or irritation of the stomach.
People with this condition have less stomach acid than others, and that means their bodies struggle to absorb vitamin B12. And that’s not all. Alcohol also disrupts liver functionality, which, because vitamin B12 is stored in the liver, can reduce the body’s B12 supply.
8. Increased Risk of Pernicious Anemia
Anemia, or the deficiency of red blood cells in the blood’s hemoglobin, is fairly common. But there’s a special and particularly dangerous type of anemia that’s kicked off by a vitamin B12 deficiency. With this type of anemia (known as pernicious anemia) the stomach struggles to produce a protein that helps absorb vitamin B12 and create red blood cells.
Pernicious anemia is often passed down through families, so ask your parents or grandparents if they know of anyone dealing with the condition. The good news is that it’s treatable, usually through vitamin B12 shots or supplements.