Vitamin B12, or Cobalamin is the largest and most complex vitamin currently known to human beings. It’s deficiency is a silent epidemic with serious consequences to your health. Of all vitamin deficiencies, vitamin B12 deficiency is amongst the most dangerous. A slight deficiency of vitamin B12 can lead to anemia, fatigue, mania, and depression, while a long term deficiency can potentially cause permanent damage to the brain and central nervous system. In fact, reports from the USDA show B12 deficiency may be more widespread than thought, with at least 40% of the population being severely deficient in vitamin B12.
Your ability to absorb vitamin B12 gradually decreases with age. As troubling as this sounds, it can get worse... Combine advancing age with certain prescription medications (i.e. for heartburn) and a lack of meat in your diet (especially true for vegetarians or vegans) and you could find yourself sorely lacking vitamin B12.
Signs and Symptoms of Deficiency
The following symptoms are signals and should be brought to your health practitioner’s immediate attention...
Frequent bouts of dizziness or vertigo often signal that B12 stores are low. For instance, you may experience a feeling of wobbles when you get up too fast from a sitting position. You may also feel dangerously dizzy walking up or down stairs.
Everyone can get occasional brain fatigue and forgetfulness. However, chronic forgetfulness may indicate a deeper medical issue. Many patients suffering B12 deficiency often jump to the conclusion they have early onset dementia or Alzheimer’s, especially in their senior years.
Ever had a good night’s sleep followed by a day of yawning and dragging your feet? If this constant fatigue continues for days and weeks, it may be the result of B12 deficiency. Researchers from the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics found those who felt zapped of energy even though they get plenty of sleep may be struggling with low B12 levels. This is because of a lack of red blood cell production, which is one of B12’s responsibilities. This indicates that oxygen transport to your organs is lacking, causing extreme fatigue.
What if there isn’t something in your eye causing the spotting, blurred and double vision? Low B12 stores can lead to vision changes and actually damage vision, even causing retinal damage if blood vessels in the eye become blocked. This means you may experience light sensitivity, blurred or double vision, tracers or shadows, which all result from damage to the optic nerve. Luckily, B12 supplementation can help improve your vision.
Pins and Needles
You can expect to experience pins and needles if you sit cross-legged for far too long, and you are unaccustomed to the practice. However, pins and needles (or the feeling of numbness) throughout your body when you have not compressed any part of your body, can indicate a B12 issue.
Numbness or the feeling of electric shock waves can be the result of nerve damage in B12 deficient patients. All leading back to poor red blood cell production from a lack of B12.
When you notice persistent health issues such as these, you may want to consider a quality B12 supplement.
Consuming vitamin B12 directly through pills provides a great convenience to ensure proper levels of B12 with little fuss. A variety of supplement pills are readily available in the marketplace.
Unfortunately, many B12 supplements sold in the market suffer from one major flaw: they are unabsorbable. When the vitamins cannot be absorbed, your body is unable to assimilate them and you never get the anticipated nutrition. So you still end up with the symptoms.
Natural Food Sources of Vitamin B12
The food you eat can be a way to allow B12 to be absorbed into your bloodstream naturally. Why not consider some dietary choices to shuttle this essential nutrient directly into your bloodstream and optimise your health. This means that you may not need to rely on ineffective pills or expensive injections, and no prescriptions are necessary.
Vitamin B12 can only be manufactured by bacteria and can only be found naturally in animal products, however, synthetic forms are widely available and added to many foods such as cereals. This can mean that Vitamin B12 may be consumed in large doses, which is possible because excess is excreted by the body or stored in the liver for use when supplies are scarce. Stores of B12 can last for up to a year.
Foods high in Vitamin B12 include shellfish, liver, fish, crab, fortified soy products (tofu, soymilk), fortified cereals, red meat, low fat dairy, cheese, and eggs.
Vegetarians and Vitamin B12
If you are vegetarian, or considering going vegetarian, then getting enough vitamin B12 should be of concern to you. If you are not eating meat and want to maintain a natural diet then it is essential that you incorporate the natural vegetarian foods mentioned below into your diet.
Cheese. The amount of vitamin B12 in cheese depends on type and variety. Swiss cheese provides the most B12, followed by Gjetost, Mozzarella, Tilsit and Feta.
Eggs. When it comes to chicken eggs, the raw yellow yolk has most of the vitamin B12. However, the eggs of other animals, such as goose egg and duck egg are higher.
Milk, Yoghurt, Whey Powder. Consume alone, or add to bread or smoothies.
Yeast Extract Spreads are a good vegetarian soure of protein and also Vitamin B12.
Fortified Cereals. A wide variety of cereals are now available with the percent daily value of vitamin B12 added to them. Adding milk increases the daily intake of vit B12. The down side is the are other additives, such as large quantities of sugar or artificial sweeteners and preservatives. Vegans can eat cereal with soy, rice or almond milk.
Fortified Soy Products. Most vegans consume soy both as a dairy substitute as well as a source of protein. Many soy products now come fortified with vitamin B12. Check the nutrition facts of the product on the label to be sure.
Fortified Drinks. As more people are becoming vegan, manufacturers are seeing the benefit of fortifying drinks with vitamin B12. Drinks such as Vitamin Water provide health alternatives to soft drinks.