Along with iron, vitamin B12 deficiency is also considered to be one of the leading nutrient deficiencies in Canada.
Vitamin B12, a water-soluble vitamin, has many different benefits. It can improve your mood, improve your heart health, increase your energy levels, promote healthy skin and hair, help with digestion, and can even boost your mood. It also helps the CNS (central nervous system) by maintaining the health of nerve cells, as well as forms the cell’s myelin sheath, which is the protective covering of the nerves. If your levels of vitamin B12 are low, you can experience a decline in some (or many) of the things mentioned above.
Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency
With a Vitamin B12 deficiency, you may experience some of the following symptoms: Loss of appetite, diarrhea, gas, pale or yellow skin (also known as jaundice), heart palpitations, shortness of breath, numbness or tingling of the hands, legs and/or feet, joint pain, poor memory, lack of concentration, changes in mood, vision loss, light-headedness, dizziness, and weakness. However, the most common complaint in those deficient in vitamin B12 is fatigue. As a result, vitamin B12 can sometimes be hard to diagnose simply by looking at a patient, as fatigue can be the result of many other underlying medical conditions – such as chronic fatigue. It’s also not uncommon to feel increased levels of tiredness if you’re coming down with a cold or the flu.
Who’s Most At Risk?
Anyone can develop a deficiency in vitamin B12, but it’s much more common in elderly patients as they have impaired digestion and produce much less stomach acid, which is required to convert B12 correctly.
How is Vitamin B12 Deficiency Diagnosed?
If Dr. Ali Ghahary suspects a patient may be deficient in vitamin B12 based on their symptoms, he will usually send that patient for a blood test to check their B12 levels. The specific blood test that is done is known as a methylmalonic acid test. If your methylmalonic acid levels are high, it may be indicative of a vitamin B12 deficiency. Alternatively, some patients may experience symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency but their blood tests could still come back normal.
Treating Vitamin B12 Deficiency
There are three different ways in which you can increase your vitamin B12 levels:
By consuming a B12-specific diet (poultry, fish, meats, eggs and milk contain the most vitamin B12 out of any other foods.)
Taking a multivitamin/supplement.
Seeing your physician for weekly vitamin B12 injections.
To determine the best course of action, you and your physician will come up with a plan together.