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What is vitamin B12 deficiency? All you need to know.

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Discover how this vitamin B12 deficiency can affect your overall health and why it’s important to address it promptly.

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Introduction

If you’re a vegetarian or vegan, you’ve probably heard the same questions over and over again. People often ask if it’s boring to eat only plants and where you get your protein from. But there’s another important question that people rarely ask, and it’s about vitamin B12. This vitamin is crucial for our health, and it’s especially important for those who don’t eat animal products. But even if you’re not vegan, you can still be at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. In this article, we’ll explore everything you need to know about vitamin B12 deficiency.

What is vitamin B12 deficiency?

Vitamin B12 deficiency happens when your body doesn’t get enough of this important vitamin. It can lead to serious health problems like anemia, vision loss, and difficulty walking or talking. It can also cause symptoms like depression, fatigue, irritability, and brain fog. So, it’s really important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B12.

Who is at risk?

People who don’t eat animal products, like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, are at a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency. This includes vegetarians and vegans. However, even if you do eat animal products, you can still be at risk if you have certain health conditions or take certain medications that affect your body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12.

How to manage vitamin B12 deficiency

If you’re at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, there are a few things you can do to manage it. The most important thing is to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet. You can do this by eating foods that are rich in vitamin B12, like fortified cereals, plant-based milk, nutritional yeast, and supplements. It’s also a good idea to talk to your doctor or a registered dietitian who can help you come up with a plan to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B12.

What is Vitamin B12 and Why is it Important?

First, what is vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a special vitamin that helps our bodies stay healthy. It is a micronutrient that dissolves in water and is important for our nervous system. It helps transport oxygen to our cells, which is super important for our body to function properly.

Why is vitamin B12 important?

Vitamin B12 is really important because it helps keep our body’s cells and nerve cells healthy. It plays a big role in many important things like forming red blood cells, helping our cells work properly, making sure our nerves function well, and even helping in the production of DNA, which is like the instruction manual for our cells.

In simple words, vitamin B12 is essential for keeping our entire body working at its best.

Where Does Vitamin B12 Come From?

Animal Protein: The Main Source

Vitamin B12 is super important for our health, but did you know that our bodies can’t make it on their own? That’s where our diet comes in! According to Eva Pena, a nutritionist and founder of Wellness+ Studio, the main source of vitamin B12 is animal protein. This includes foods like meat, fish, eggs, and dairy.

Options for Non-Animal Protein Eaters

But what if you don’t eat animal protein? Don’t worry, there are still ways to get vitamin B12 through your diet!

Fortified Foods

Some foods, like breakfast cereals, soy milk, and almond milk, are fortified with vitamin B12. This means that extra vitamin B12 is added to these foods to make sure you’re getting enough.

Whole-Plant Foods

Believe it or not, there are some whole-plant foods that contain small amounts of vitamin B12. Mushrooms and nori, a type of seaweed, are examples of these foods. While the amounts may be small, every little bit helps!

Nutritional Yeast

If you’re a vegetarian, nutritional yeast is your best friend! It’s a deactivated yeast that has a savory flavor. You can easily sprinkle it on salads, popcorn, and more. Studies have shown that consuming two tablespoons of nutritional yeast per day can give you enough vitamin B12.

Oral Supplements

If all else fails, you can always take an oral supplement. B-complex pills or high-quality multivitamins are great options to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B12.

So, whether you’re a meat-eater or a vegetarian, there are plenty of ways to get your daily dose of vitamin B12. Take care of your health and make sure you’re getting all the nutrients you need!

How Much Vitamin B12 Do You Need?

The amount of vitamin B12 you need depends on a few things like your age, diet, lifestyle, and any medical conditions you might have. For most healthy adults, the average amount is 2.4 mcg. That’s like having two cups of 2% milk, a can of tuna, a three-ounce piece of salmon, or four and a half eggs. But if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you’ll need a little more, between 2.6 and 2.8 mcg.

Supplements

If you take supplements, like multivitamins or B-complex pills, they usually have more B12 than what you need. They can contain anywhere from 5 to 1000 mcg. But don’t worry, your body can only absorb about 10 mcg from a high dose of B12 in supplement form. So even if you take more than you need, your body will get rid of the extra through your urine.

Absorption Issues

The ability to absorb vitamin B12 is important to make sure you get enough. As we get older, it becomes harder for our bodies to absorb nutrients, so people over 60 are at a higher risk of not getting enough B12. If you’ve had stomach surgery, have a condition that affects your small intestine, or take certain medications, you might also have trouble absorbing B12. Conditions like Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, parasites, and overgrowth of gut bacteria can all make it harder for your body to absorb B12. Immune disorders like Grave’s disease and lupus can also affect absorption. Even heartburn medications and diabetes medications can have an impact on how your body takes in B12.

Pernicious Anaemia

There’s a rare autoimmune disease called pernicious anemia that can prevent your body from absorbing B12. This happens because your body lacks a certain protein called intrinsic factor, which is needed to process B12.

Alcohol and B12

Even moderate amounts of alcohol can affect how your body absorbs B12. Alcohol can cause inflammation in your stomach, which makes it harder for intrinsic factors to do their job. So it’s a good idea to cut back on alcohol if you want to make sure your body gets enough B12.

What Happens When You Don’t Get Enough Vitamin B12?

Hematological and Neurological Disorders

According to experts like Pena, if you don’t have enough vitamin B12, you might experience some problems with your blood and nerves. This can lead to disorders like anemia, which means you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells. You might also have cramps and feel numb or tingly because your body can’t regenerate cells properly.

Low Oxygen and Other Symptoms

When you don’t have enough vitamin B12, your body might not get enough oxygen. This can make you feel tired all the time, and you might even feel sad or have trouble concentrating. Some other symptoms to watch out for are headaches and feeling down or anxious.

More Serious Consequences

Physical Problems

If a vitamin B12 deficiency goes untreated, it can lead to even more serious issues. You might develop a sore and red tongue, mouth ulcers, or have trouble with your vision. Your muscles might become weak, and you could have problems with your intestines. It’s not a good situation!

Nerve Damage and Mood Disturbances

One of the scariest things about a vitamin B12 deficiency is that it can damage your nerves. This means you might have trouble feeling things or moving your body properly. It can also mess with your mood and make you feel confused or anxious. Unfortunately, some of this damage might not be reversible, which means it can’t be fixed.

So, it’s really important to make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet. If you’re worried about not getting enough, talk to a doctor or a trusted adult. They can help you figure out the best way to keep your body healthy and avoid all these scary symptoms. Take care of yourself!

Conclusion

Vitamin B12 deficiency is a serious condition that can cause a range of health problems. It’s especially important for vegetarians and vegans to make sure they’re getting enough vitamin B12, but anyone can be at risk. By eating a balanced diet and talking to a healthcare professional, you can manage and prevent vitamin B12 deficiency.

Bottom line? Make sure you’re getting enough vitamin B12- either through your diet or with supplements. If you’re concerned that you are not, or if you are experiencing the symptoms above, schedule an appointment with your doctor. A quick blood test will tell you where your B12 levels stand, and if they’re low, early detection makes treatment much easier. It may be as simple as being prescribed an oral supplement or receiving a series of subcutaneous or intramuscular injections; there are even nasal sprays and gels.

And if you’re feeling fine? Consider this information your permission to order the three-egg omelet at brunch and sprinkle on the nutritional yeast. Your blood cells will thank you.

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