Vitamin B12, or Cobalamin, is a water-soluble vitamin that is vital to our bodies. It involves everything from red blood cells to DNA and helps our nervous system function properly.
A source of B12 is available from several foods such as meat, fish, poultry, eggs and dairy. You’ll find B12 in some fortified dairy alternatives if you’re vegan or vegetarian.
B12 deficiency is commonplace today, especially among the elderly. You could be at risk if you don’t get enough B12 from your diet or if you can’t fully absorb it from the foods you eat.
Discover the signs of vitamin B12 deficiency
1. Pale Or Jaundiced Skin
A pale complexion can signal a B12 deficiency, especially if the person has jaundice, a yellow tint found in the skin and whites of the eyes. Insufficient B12 interferes with the production of red blood cells, and jaundice is one of the results.
The DNA needed to make red blood cells depends heavily on B12. Without it, The DNA misses out on crucial steps in this process, producing red blood cells incapable of dividing.
The result is Megaloblastic Anemia – in which the red blood cells created in your bone marrow are too big, making them much weaker.
Since these red blood cells are so giant, they never make it out of your bone marrow and are not circulated through your body.
Your skin takes on a pale tone as you have fewer red blood cells in circulation.
2. Skin, Hair And Nail Problems
Vitamin B12 is important for producing blood cells and is connected with your skin, hair and even your nails.
A lack of it, therefore, will have an unfavourable effect. As mentioned in the previous point, B12 deficiency can cause yellowing of the skin – but unfortunately, it can go even further.
It can even lead to vitiligo, a disorder that leads to areas of your skin having white patches.
A B12 deficiency can cause acne, dermatitis, hyperpigmentation, and skin lesions. Your hair’s health can also suffer, with your hair turning grey earlier and falling out and fingernails becoming brown-grey.
3. Changes To Mobility
If an ongoing lack of B12 is left unchecked, your nervous system could be so ill-affected that the same way you move is compromised. Your coordination and equilibrium may be hampered, boosting your risk of falling.
Those in the over-60 age group often display this symptom, as people in this age are heavily predisposed to B12 deficiencies. It may still be possible to correct this with treatment, strengthening mobility.
The elderly aren’t the only group affected, though; younger people can have an acute shortage of B12, which affects them similarly.
4. Glossitis And Mouth Ulcers
Glossitis is an inflamed tongue that can arise due to a lack of B12. When affected by Glossitis, the colour and shape of your language are altered.
Your tongue turns red, swells and becomes sore. The taste buds on your tongue also change as the coverings elongate and disappear. This impacts how your tongue looks, giving it a smooth appearance.
Glossitis also heavily affects your speech and eating habits due to the pain it causes. Another oral discomfort can be experienced as anything from mouth ulcers to an itchy feeling.
5. Breathlessness And Dizziness
Since B12 deficiency can make you Anemic, this may make you feel dizzy or experience shortness of breath, mainly when you expend a lot of energy.
This is due to your body’s lack of red blood cells, meaning your other cells are getting an inadequate oxygen supply.
That being said, there are many reasons why you might be feeling overtired, or out of breath, so it’s best to consult a doctor.
6. Muscle Weakness
Have you been having a lot of off days at the gym? The groceries may seem heavier than before. This is another potential sign of a vitamin B12 deficiency. B12 oxygenates your muscles and organs, helping them perform more effectively.
The less oxygen your muscles access, the more likely they are to underperform. This leads to overall weakness – and even going for a walk can feel like too much to face.
If you notice a sudden uptake in your instances of weakness without a definite cause, consider booking an appointment with your doctor to look at your B12 levels.
7. Disturbed Vision
If you’re experiencing unusual eye problems, such as blurry vision, it may be due to vitamin B12 levels. As I mentioned, B12 deficiency can cause damage to your nervous system – this can also affect the optic nerve that’s connected to your eyes.
The result is Optic Neuropathy, a condition in which the nervous signal that makes its way from the eye to the brain is disrupted, diminishing your eyesight. All this sounds very scary, but the treatment is simple: administer B12 – which usually undoes the damage.
here’s a table for Vitamin B12 sources:
|Food Source||Serving Size||Vitamin B12 Content|
|Clams||3 ounces (85 grams)||84.1 mcg|
|Beef liver||3 ounces (85 grams)||70.7 mcg|
|Trout||3 ounces (85 grams)||4.2 mcg|
|Salmon||3 ounces (85 grams)||3.6 mcg|
|Tuna||3 ounces (85 grams)||2.5 mcg|
|Fortified breakfast cereal||1 cup (30 grams)||6 mcg|
|Fortified soy milk||1 cup (240 ml)||1.2 mcg|
|Fortified nutritional yeast||1 tablespoon (5 grams)||2.4 mcg|
|Eggs||1 large egg (50 grams)||0.6 mcg|
|Cheese||1 ounce (28 grams)||0.2 mcg|
Note: The recommended daily intake for Vitamin B12 is 2.4 mcg for adults, and may vary for different age groups and health conditions.
Older adults with the deficiency will have a higher need to stay on the vitamin, either taking it by itself or as part of a multivitamin.
Treatment should be the solution for most, but unfortunately, if nerve damage has occurred because of the deficiency, it may be permanent.
The good news is that a B12 deficiency is easily preventable by eating enough meat, dairy, eggs, and poultry.
If you’re a vegan or vegetarian, the solution can be to take a multivitamin or B12 itself; or to consume fortified foods or supplements that use B12.
Have you ever had a vitamin B12 deficiency? If so, how did you solve the problem? Did you bring up your levels with supplements? Or did you have to get shots? Share your experiences below!