Vitamin B12 is known as the energy vitamin and plays a key role in how your body creates energy. It keeps your cells fed, happy, and healthy. If you do not have enough, your cells get hungry and you feel weak and tired. It also helps makes DNA, nerve and blood cells, and is crucial for a healthy brain, heart, and immune system. The human body does not produce B12 and it must be obtained though animal proteins or supplements. B12 can be found in large quantities in meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy.
Common signs of a deficiency include weakness, fatigue, low energy, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, loss of appetite, digestive issues, frequent bruising or bleeding, anemia, and numbness and tingling in the hands or feet. If ignored, a deficiency can affect the entire body and may lead to permanent brain or nerve damage. Lack of B12 is one of the most common reasons that people suffer from fatigue.
The main causes of a deficiency include inadequate dietary intake and malabsorption issues. Vegetarians and vegans are at a high risk for deficiency since their diet largely consists of plant-based foods rather than animals products that tend to be full of B12. Though most people will get a good amount of B12 in their diet, as people age, they tend to absorb less and the less amount of B12 they ingest. As a result, B12 deficiency is extremely common in people over the age of 40. Certain conditions, such as celiac disease, alcohol use, autoimmune conditions, and long term use of medications, including heartburn pills and oral contraceptives, may also affect levels.
B12 deficiency is very common and it is estimated that nearly 40% of people suffer from B12 levels that are too low. In fact, it may even be more common than what is reported. Because conventional medicine tends to use a cut-off range that is far too low, the number of people with a deficiency may actually be underestimated. Most people are told their levels are normal when it fact, they are not even close, much less optimal.
A functional medicine doctor will test your blood for B12, homocysteine, and complete blood counts to determine whether you have a deficiency. B12 helps protect the heart by removing a dangerous protein from your blood called homocysteine. If homocysteine levels are too high, it can damage your arteries leading to inflammation and heart disease. Because a functional medicine doctor performs more in-depth and complete tests than a conventional medicine doctor, they are more likely to provide an accurate diagnosis. This is important considering that sometimes B12 deficiencies can actually be overlooked and misdiagnosed as Alzheimer’s, multiple sclerosis, bipolar disorder, autism, and some cancers. If you do have a deficiency, luckily, B12 is very easy to replace. Most often, a B12 liquid will be recommended, though in some cases an intramuscular or subcutaneous injection may be necessary. Changes in dietary intake to include foods rich in B12 may also be recommended.
As a functional medicine doctor in Denver, Dr. Gruber with J. Gruber Health Solutions has extensive experience in testing for, identifying, and treating patients with a vitamin B12 deficiency. Do not underestimate the importance of B12 in your overall health. If you are suffering from any of the symptoms associated with a b12 deficiency, call or text us today at 303-746-1964 to see how we can help!