Vitamin B12 is found in animal products but can also be replaced in one's diet with fortified foods, oral supplements, or through injection. It is a water soluble vitamin however, in comparison to other water soluble vitamins that must be replaced daily, vitamin B12 is stored in the liver.
Major benefits of vitamin B12
B12 is a building block for red blood cells which carry oxygen. Having adequate levels in one's body helps prevent anemia and therefore improves energy levels.
B12 is essential for the production and metabolism of serotonin. Because serotonin is critical in stabalizing mood, B12 is important for improving mood and depression.
B12 has been shown to improve memory and prevent brain atrophy.
B12 lowers levels of homocysteine which is an amino acid that has been linked to increased risk of heart disease. Patients with high homocysteine levels often take vitamin B12 to help lower their levels.
B12 helps with DNA synthesis and cell formation so adequate levels promote healthy hair, skin, and nails.
B12 is crucial in pregnancy and breast feeding because it helps with the neurological development of the fetus.
Who is at risk for low vitamin B12?
- Diets lacking in animal products such as with strict vegans
- Poor absorption in the gut due to gastrointestinal disorders such as Crohn's disease or celiac disease or due to gastrointestinal surgeries such as in patients who have had weight loss surgeries or bowel resection surgeries
- Excessive acid reflux requiring medications such as proton pump inhibitors which inhibit absorption
- Aging causes a decrease in acid production in the stomach which also decreases absorption of vitamin B12
Possible symptoms of B12 deficiency.
- Pale appearance
- Fatigue or weakness
- Neuropathy i.e. sensation of pins and needles in one's extremities
- Loss of balance or changes in vision
- Inflammation of the tongue that can make a patient feel that their tongue is enlarged or smooth
- Cracks or ulcers on the sides of the mouth
- Shortness of breath
- Mood changes or depression
- High temperature
Methods used to replace vitamin B12
B12 can be easily replaced with oral supplements in pill or liquid forms. However, if absorption is the issue, intramuscular injections can be given. Very often when patients are deficient, symptoms quickly improve as soon as they start supplementing vitamin B12.
Make an appointment with your doctor today if you think you might be deficient in vitamin B12 and need to have your level checked.