Do you suffer from any of the following symptoms?
Fatigue, tiredness, or light-headedness
Rapid heartbeat or difficulty breathing
Poor memory or difficulty concentrating
Numbness and tingling of hands or feet
Difficulty with balance, poor coordination
Easy bruising or bleeding gums
Unexplainable weight loss
Depression, irritability, paranoia, mania, hallucinations
If you answered “yes” to any of the above, it may be time to get tested for B12 deficiency.
What foods provide vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 is found naturally in a wide variety of animal foods and is added to some fortified foods. Plant foods have no vitamin B12 unless they are fortified. You can get recommended amounts of vitamin B12 by eating a variety of foods including the following:
Beef liver and clams, which are the best sources of vitamin B12.
Fish, meat, poultry, eggs, milk, and other dairy products, which also contain vitamin B12.
Some breakfast cereals, nutritional yeasts and other food products that are fortified with vitamin B12. To find out if vitamin B12 has been added to a food product, check the product labels.
Who should be tested for B12 deficiency?
Anemia with elevated MCV (mean corpuscular volume)
Neurological symptoms, such as numbness, tingling, difficulty with walking or balance issues
Changes in mental status, confusion, or disorientation
Dementia or Alzheimer’s disease
Bipolar, mania, or schizophrenia
Gastrointestinal disorders with malabsorption, like pancreatic insufficiency
Patients who have had gastrointestinal surgeries or gastric bypass
Anyone over age 60 years old
Restricted diets: vegans, vegetarians, macrobiotic diets
Children with autism spectrum disorders or developmental delay
Breast fed infants of mothers at risk
Family history of pernicious anemia
Chronic use of PPI medications (Nexium, Prilosec, prevacid, etc.) or Metformin
Occlusive vascular disorders (heart attack, stroke, blood clots)
So what if I do have a B12 deficiency?
B12 is nontoxic and water soluble so if you are deficient the good news is it is easy to replace! Traditionally B12 has been given in the form of intramuscular injections to ensure absorption but studies have shown that sublingual forms may be equally effective. B12 may come in the form of cyanocobalamin, methylcobalamin, hydroxycobalamin, and adenoxylcobalamin. You can discuss with your doctor which form is best for you.
Vitamin B12 can be found in large quantities in animal products, including meat, poultry, fish, seafood, eggs, and dairy products; and the consumption of these products is the most longstanding method by which human beings have taken vitamin B12 into their systems.
People should get most of their nutrients from the food they eat. If you do not eat animal proteins there are other food sources that are fortified with vitamin B12. Read food labels, and if you feel you need additional vitamin B12 it can be easily added by using a good multivitamin.