Our body needs vitamins and minerals to function well. By neglecting our diet, we are not providing these essential elements. However, a lack of vitamins, especially vitamin B12, can be very harmful to us.
Are you deficient in vitamin B12?
There are different types of vitamins, each with its own function. The deficiency of these vitamins can cause organ dysfunction in the body. Vitamin B12, also called cobalamin, is one of them. It occupies an important place in the harmonious functioning of the nervous system and the immune system.
While people who eat only foods of pure plant origin are usually more prone to lack of vitamin B12, there are other factors that can trigger it, such as health status or taking medication. the main symptomsMeanwhile, they are not always immediately visible. They appear gradually. However, this vitamin B12 deficiency poses many risks, but they are not irremediable.
What is the role of vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the cell renewal of red blood cells (hematopoiesis). It helps the protection and proper functioning of nerve cells, it is responsible for the synthesis of DNA, hormones and neurotransmitters. In this way the maintenance of the nervous system is ensured. Furthermore, it is very important for the expansion of blood volume and the development of the fetal nervous system in pregnant women.
In addition, vitamin B12 plays an antianemic and antiallergic role. It is also detoxifying, which has made it effective in chemotherapy. Vitamin B12 also helps in the assimilation of vitamin B9, thereby reducing the level of homocysteine, a compound that, in excess, is involved in cardiovascular diseases.
What are the causes of vitamin B12 deficiency?
the vitamin B12 deficiency, or pernicious anemia can be caused by different factors.
- An unbalanced diet or a diet that does not meet the body’s needs for vitamin B12, as in people who follow a strictly vegetarian diet.
- Higher vitamin B12 needs: During periods of stress or fatigue, the body consumes a much higher amount and food intake does not meet these needs. Then you need an ingestion of food supplements that, fortunately, are designed for everyone, even vegans.
- Disorders to assimilate B12: we are talking mainly about the elderly and people with digestive problems.
- It can also be due to excessive consumption of alcohol, cigarettes, or certain medications.
In what foods is vitamin B12 found?
Mainly, vitamin B12 is found in animal products. Meat, organ meats, dairy products, shellfish, fish or canned fish, eggs are all foods rich in cobalamin. It is also found in algae like nori sheets, as well as spirulina and cereals.
However, if you are undergoing treatment to overcome your lack of vitamin B12, be careful with spirulina. Despite its benefits, it blocks the absorption of vitamin B12 if taken at the same time. As for algae, according to most scientists, they do not produce enough B12 vitamins necessary for the formation of red blood cells.
Some microorganisms in the gut, called microbiota, also produce vitamin B12.
The main symptoms of a lack of B12.
Lack of vitamin B12 affects many metabolic processes and leads to anemia. The first to appear are the psychological symptoms that are irritation, mood and sleep disturbances, memory impairment, depression and dementia.
the symptoms physical of a vitamin B12 deficiency appear gradually. Sometimes after several years of malnutrition. Therefore, it is difficult to establish an accurate diagnosis and the signs are very varied. These symptoms include:
- The fatigue.
- Feelings of weakness.
- Difficulty breathing.
- The vertigos.
- Tingling and muscle pain.
- Diarrhea or constipation
In case of greater deficiency, neurological symptoms arise. Then we begin to feel numbness and tingling in the limbs, we notice poor coordination of movements, a pale or yellowish complexion …
There are circumstances in which you begin to lose sensitivity to pain, which can lead to partial or total paralysis. Vision and hearing problems, a weakening of the immune system follow …
Testing and treatment for vitamin B12 deficiency
If you are in doubt, your first step should be to consult your doctor. You will need to do a blood test or, for a more reliable result, a urinalysis. You can take supplements. These are available in liquid, tablet, or even capsule form.
Apart from this, it is strongly recommended to proceed with planning a healthy diet rich in B12 vitamins. There is nothing better than natural foods.
Through treatment, symptoms it will disappear quickly. There is no risk of overdose other than an acne breakout. If the need for vitamins B12 of a healthy person is normally 2 µg per day, consuming more is not harmful to your body: excess substances are evacuated from your body through urine.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is widespread
The problems of vitamin B12 deficiency They affect more people than you think, including pregnant women. But since symptoms can vary from person to person, they are not easy to recognize and are mistaken for signs of a quite different disorder.
It should be remembered that these symptoms are only visible after years of poor diet. Therefore, it is never too early or too late to start watching your diet and eating a diet rich in vitamins B12, either with foods of animal origin or with food supplements that your doctor advises.
As much as possible, avoid excessive physical activity and try not to expose yourself to stress to strengthen your immune system.
Vitamin B12 deficiency affects mental performance
If you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, it is very likely that you are affected by different mental disorders. You may experience mood swings, an inability to concentrate, and trouble sleeping. This can affect your daily life, your relationships with those around you, and your productivity at work.
Following these first symptoms, your cognitive abilities and reactions are likely to be reduced. the lack of vitamin B12 It has been shown to be harmful to the human brain. The only solution to remedy it is to resort to a suitable diet that allows you to cover the needs of your body in vitamin B12.
Why are vegetarians and vegans the most affected by vitamin B12 deficiency?
Since foods of animal origin have the highest content of cobalamin, it is natural that people who consume only plant products do not eat the same amount as others. Therefore, it is normal that cases of vitamin B12 deficiency They are quite high on the vegan side.
However, their chances of compensating for this deficiency are not null, since they have the possibility of obtaining food supplements or some plants such as barley, spinach and certain algae. In the latter case, it will be necessary to consume a large amount to assimilate enough vitamins B12. Therefore, vitamin B12 supplements are always the best solution.
The risk of deficiency increases with age.
As we age, our immune system weakens and it becomes more difficult for our bodies to absorb our recommended 2 µg per day. Older people, men and women over 65, are more vulnerable than others to vitamin B12 deficiency. Between 10 and 30% are affected.
In addition, the majority of those who have reached a certain age have undergone surgeries or are undergoing medical treatments that can cause this difficulty in assimilating vitamin B12. This is particularly the case with type 2 diabetes medications.
In case of severe deficiency, it is advisable to perform intramuscular injections (often 1000 µg), this method eliminates the drugs by mouth and allows the absorption of the b12 vitamin easier for older people with digestive problems.
When to take B12?
If one expects the first symptoms of a lack of vitamin B12 appear, we will have only a small amount in our body, if there is any. Therefore, we should not wait until our body is already too weak to make a decision. However, that does not mean that when the symptoms are there, it is too late.
In fact, there is no better time to take B12. It should be ingested every day through foods of animal origin (milk, meat, fish, etc.) or supplements prescribed by doctors. Regardless of your age, gender, or health, you can never have too many vitamins B12, and this also applies to other nutrients necessary for the functioning of the body.