Vitamin B12 has always been a nutrient which I hold in high esteem. It is involved in some of the most essential bodily functions, including making DNA, nerves and red blood cells as well as powering our #immune cells and ensuring our brains stay #healthy and #energised!

A vitamin B12 deficiency can present itself in a number of ways and cause various symptoms but here are a few to look out for:

  • fatigue, but not just general tiredness, the type that stops you from getting out of bed in a morning or when you need match sticks to keep yours eyes open in the afternoon!
  • brittle nails with ridges in them, and brittle and/or thinning hair.
  • heart palpitations and shortness of breath.
  • nerve problems like tingling or numbness and muscle weakness.
  • enlarged red blood cells (which show up on a blood test – MCV result), potentially with anaemia.

I know a lot of people who have been tested for vitamin B12 deficiencies and in some cases their blood serum level is normally very good so they don’t investigate it further. However, if your red blood cells are large, I would suggest getting further tests such as the methylmalonic acid test or the homocysteine test as these will show whether you have a vitamin B12 deficiency at a functional (cell) level which is where vitamin B12 is most required.

Possible reasons for having a vitamin B12 deficiency could be:

  • Diet: vegans and vegetarians are far more at risk of a deficiency as vitamin B12 is most commonly found in animal products.
  • Digestion: an issue digesting vitamin B12 in the stomach due to low stomach acid potentially caused by a zinc deficiency or due to taking antacids.
  • Pernicious anaemia: this is an autoimmune disease which causes a lack of the protein called intrinsic factor which is needed to absorb vitamin B12 from food (you can get tested for this at your Drs).

Dependent on why you have a vitamin B12 deficiency there are various ways to treat it, but the best way is to include more vitamin B12 rich foods in your diet like eggs, fish, meat  and poultry. I especially like to include some organ meat in my diet which is one of the most nutrient rich sources of food that there is.

Supplementing is also an option, but if your deficiency is linked to digestion issues then you might want to think about vitamin B12 lozenges (which you absorbs through your tongue) or vitamin B12 injections.

If you are just not getting enough vitamin B12 in your diet or are genetically susceptible to a B12 deficiency (you may need extra vitamin B12 if you have certain SNPs on genes related to methylation) then try a good vitamin B12 supplement.  Always look for the active forms which are methylcobalamin or adenosylcobalamin rather than cyanocobalamin. I like liquidmethylfolguard by biocare which includes methylfolate as it is important to have a good ratio of vitamin B12 and folate in the body.  Nutricology do a good supplementation for adenosylcobalamin which I would recommend if you have a high MMA blood test result.

I am still unscrambling vitamin B12 and I expect more information on this powerful nutrient will arise over time but I know for myself how essential this vitamin is to live a long, fulfilling, happy and active life!!

Have you been affected by a vitamin B12 deficiency?

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