Although B12 deficiency has gained a greater spotlight because of the dangers it causes to vegetarians and vegans, meat-eaters can suffer from it as well.
It isn’t hard to maintain a steady level of B12, but you have to be pro-active about it, especially if you don’t eat meat or dairy.
1. What’s the Fuss About B12?
As an essential water-soluble vitamin, B12 appears naturally in many common foods, including fish, eggs, meat, and dairy products. Since more and more people are choosing a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle without conducting proper research, B12 deficiency has been on the rise in recent years.
B12 is important because it provides essential methyl groups that participate in protein and DNA synthesis. Your body can store enough B12 in your liver to last for several years, so B12 deficiency should be rare. However, some bodies are incapable of using B12 correctly, which results in a B12 deficiency.
2. Symptoms of B12 Deficiency
Despite the rarity of the condition, the effects can be serious and cause permanent damage to the brain and nervous system. In order to avoid these serious effects, watch out for a combination of the following symptoms:
- Frequent bruising
- Heart palpitations
- Numbness and tingling in your hands or feet
- Weakness and lack of energy
- Loss of appetite
- Memory loss or mental confusion
- Shortness of breath
3. Causes of B12 Deficiency
Although B12 deficiency is fairly rare, there are many problems that can cause it to arise. Diet is not necessarily the main factor in B12 deficiency, but certain dietary choices can create an issue. As mentioned above, vegetarians and vegans are prone to a B12 deficiency because they aren’t receiving the B12 found in meat and dairy products. Alcohol consumption on an extreme level can also create a B12 deficiency.
Pernicious anemia is often the culprit of B12 deficiency. This type of anemia causes your body to kill the healthy cells that are able to absorb B12. Diseases related to digestion can also create a tendency towards a B12 deficiency, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or a parasite.
4. Afraid You Have It?
In order to determine whether you have a B12 deficiency, you can have several different tests performed . For example, your doctor might recommend a Complete Blood Count, a homocysteine test, or a methylmalonic acid test. The most important step, however, is to visit a doctor who has experience in diagnosing and treating B12 deficiencies.
5. Adding B12 to Your Diet
The best way to avoid a vitamin B12 deficiency is to simply make sure you’re getting plenty of it in the first place. For meat and dairy-eaters, focus on incorporating lean meat and dairy into your diet, such as lean turkey, eggs, and wild-caught fish. Vegans and vegetarians can add nutritional yeast, seaweed, and algae to their diet .
However, most people can greatly benefit from an extra supplement. Taking a B12 vitamin every day can help to maintain healthy levels. For a little extra help, some people choose to get B12 shots.
How do you make sure to get plenty of vitamin B12? Share your tips in the comments section!