I Have a Vitamin B12 Deficiency…Can’t I Just Take Vitamins?
You’re busy. We get it. And if you’ve been diagnosed with a Vitamin B12 deficiency, it seems like the easiest way to treat it would be to take a supplement that you can quickly pick up at the drugstore. Problem solved, right?
Not so fast.
A Vitamin B12 deficiency can be a serious condition. If left untreated or treated incorrectly, it can result in permanent damage, including:
- Irreversible neurological damage, including memory loss, disorientation, and inability to concentrate
- Nerve damage
- Erectile dysfunction
- Difficulty with bowel and bladder control
So maybe the best treatment isn’t what’s most convenient after all.
Vitamin B12—Critical for Good Health
For one little vitamin, Vitamin B12 has a pretty big job. In general, it:
- Produces energy and decreasing fatigue by converting carbs into glucose in the body.
- Regulates the nervous system which in turn reduces depression, stress, and brain shrinkage.
- Maintains a healthy digestive system as the “signal carrier” between the brain and digestive tract.
- Improves unhealthy cholesterol levels which in turn, protects against heart disease, stroke, and high blood pressure.
- Aids in cell reproduction which is critical for healthy skin, hair, and nails.
- Protects against cancer including breast, colon, lung, and prostate cancer.
Are You at Risk for Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
Lifestyle choices, age, certain medications and more, can put you at risk for Vitamin B12 deficiency. Here are the many health- and lifestyle-related situations that can lead to a deficiency:
- Vegetarian and vegan diets: Because Vitamin B12 is naturally occurring in animal products, vegetarians and vegans can often suffer from a deficiency.
- Age greater than 50: As we age, the stomach produces less acid. The presence of adequate amounts of stomach acid is essential for absorption of Vitamin B12.
- Heartburn medications: Because these are designed to reduce stomach acid needed to absorb Vitamin B12, those who routinely use prescription heartburn medication could be vulnerable to a deficiency.
- Birth control pills: Higher estrogen levels have been associated with B12 deficiencies.
- Heavy alcohol consumption: Because alcohol irritates the stomach lining, it reduces stomach acid and B12 absorption. Additionally, because B12 is stored in the liver, heavy drinking could impact liver function and deplete B12 supplies.
- Digestive issues: People who suffer with colitis, Crohn’s disease, inflammatory bowel disease, and leaky gut syndrome are at risk for a B12 deficiency.
- Weight loss surgery: These surgeries affect the GI tract and could make absorption of B12 an issue.
- Pregnancy and menopause: Changes to a woman’s cycle can lead to increased risk of B12 deficiency.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Sometimes it can be difficult to zero in on a diagnosis of Vitamin B12 deficiency because so many of the symptoms mimic other disorders. The most effective way to make a diagnosis is through blood tests and the presence of symptoms such as:
- Weakness, lethargy, or lightheadedness
- Constipation, diarrhea, appetite loss, or gas
- Heart palpitations
- Shortness of breath
- Numbness or tingling
- Muscle weakness or problems walking
- Memory loss
- Loss of senses (taste, smell, etc.)
- Vision loss
- Pale skin
- A smooth tongue
Treating a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Effectively treating a Vitamin B12 deficiency is critical to maintaining your health. There are three ways to do this:
The best source for Vitamin B12 can be found in certain foods, such as beef, turkey, oysters, chicken, trout, salmon, eggs, and dairy products. However, if you are a vegetarian or vegan, suffer from lactose intolerance, have issues with absorption, or just don’t like many of these foods, treating your deficiency with dietary choices is not an effective solution.
This brings us back to our original question—why not just take vitamins? While B12 tablets and pills can be helpful, they can also prove ineffective at treating your deficiency because:
- You don’t take enough. If your levels are not being monitored by a medical professional, you may not be taking enough supplements to treat your deficiency.
- The form is not effective. Pills and tablets are not the best choice for delivering supplemental Vitamin B12. They may not dissolve completely and may also contain binders, fillers, and other additives. They also take longer to effectively reverse your deficiency.
- Medication interaction. Other drugs you’re taking may prohibit absorption, making the supplement ineffective. It’s important for a medical professional to assess your needs and determine if your current medications could be blocking supplemental B12 benefits.
Vitamin B12 injections may be the best option to treat your deficiency, especially if you have a condition known as pernicious anemia or have trouble with absorption. Injections are preferable because:
- They must be administered by a medical professional allowing for on-going monitoring of your condition and the ability to tweak dosage.
- They are faster acting than tablets or foods. Some patients report feeling almost instant relief from symptoms because it’s delivered directly into the blood stream rather than having to pass through the digestive system as pills do.
- You retain almost all the B12 because none of it gets sidetracked through the digestive system, whereas swallowing a B12 tablet leaves you with as little as 1.2% of the vitamin.
Start to Feel Better Today
If you’re struggling with debilitating symptoms and believe you may be suffering from a Vitamin B12 deficiency, it’s critical to consult with a medical professional as soon as possible for evaluation, diagnosis, and treatment. Our experienced physicians at Balance Hormone Center can help.
Why continue battling fatigue, mental fogginess, depression, and more, when you could start feeling better today? Any why risk simply taking supplements or vitamins when a different approach could make a world of difference for you?