Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that we all have in our bodies and it is vital to our daily lives. Vitamin B12 helps our bodies make red blood cells and replicate DNA. We do not make Vitamin B12 naturally within our bodies, it comes from the food we eat and the medications we take.

Animal and plant based foods are where we get the majority of our Vitamin B12, and we can pick up extra B12 in plant-based supplements designed to generate B12. There are also B12 shots you can take if you have issues with taking pills or you have a certain diet that you must stick to.

Babies get their B12 from their mothers while in the womb and then continue to receive the B12 through breast milk or formula. This gives them the needed amount of B12 before they can eat regular foods and obtain it through those foods. Vegetarians and vegans may not have the needed amount of B12 in their system due to the lack of animal based foods in their diets.

They would need to take plant based supplements to increase the B12 in their bodies and make sure that it is at an accurate level. There are also B12 fortified grains that vegans and vegetarians can eat if they are not too keen on the idea of taking a supplement.

Causes

There are many factors involved when it comes to how much B12 your body needs and how much you should be consuming. Your medical doctor will be able to give you an exact amount that you should have based on your age, your overall health, the type of diet that you are on, and even the types of medications you are taking.

If you believe that you have a B12 deficiency, you should consult with your doctor to check your levels and get started on boosting those levels to where they need to be. There are many causes of Vitamin B12 deficiency and while age is a large factor, most are diseases or even surgeries that can lower your B12.

Atrophic Gastritis

This occurs when the lining of your stomach has thinned significantly.

Anemia

With most types of anemia, your body is unable to absorb the B12 that food is putting into your body. This is where supplements come into the picture and help the food you eat to boost your B12 levels.

Acid-Reducing Drugs

If you are taking acid reducing drugs for a long period of time, you can actually be doing more harm than good. The acid in your stomach is needed to help break down the protein in meat to release the B12 vitamins inside them. If your stomach does not have enough acid in it, it will be unable to break down the meat and you will not receive the benefits from the B12.

Heavy Drinking

Your body does not work properly when you introduce alcohol to your system. And if you are continuously drinking alcohol in large amounts on a regular basis, your body can not function well enough to break down the B12 and put it to good use.

Symptoms

In order to be sure if you are suffering from a Vitamin B12 deficiency, you will need to see your medical doctor for a blood test. However, there are some symptoms that are associated with B12 deficiency. If you are experiencing a mild case of B12 deficiency, then you may not have any symptoms at all. This is why it is important to see your doctor on a regular basis so they can check for any deficiencies in your body before they escalate. If you are experiencing a moderate to severe case of B12 deficiency, you may notice the following symptoms:

  • Weakness or overly tired
  • Pale skin
  • Vision Loss
  • Nerve problems
  • Mental changes

Vitamin B12 deficiency causes anemia in all patients, which is the reason for most of the symptoms. All of the above symptoms are also signs of anemia. These are things you would need to keep an eye out for, especially if you are not getting the types of food that will give you a large amount of B12. If you are already anemic due to another medical problem, adding B12 to your diet can actually help you with your anemia. You can have a B12 shot to get you started and then continue your treatment by taking a high dose B12 supplement.

Treatments

For people who are vegan or vegetarian and do not eat meat or dairy items, you can try changing your diet slightly to included B12 fortified grains. If this is not an option for you, you can also try a plant based B12 supplement, or choose to have the B12 injection. If you catch the symptoms of B12 deficiency early and get on a treatment plan quickly, you can reduce and relieve most all of your symptoms. However, if you allow your body to go without B12 for an extended period of time, any nerve damage done could be permanent.

Make sure to see your regular medical doctor at least once a year so they can check your B12 levels and make sure that you are where you need to be. If you are taking a B12 supplement, you will need to let them know as some B12 supplements can interact with other medications.

Taking a B12 supplement and changing your diet to include foods rich in B12 can help you to prevent any B12 deficiency from forming. If you are vegan or vegetarian, take the time to talk with a nutritionist about what foods you are currently eating that are high in B12, and what you can do to remain in your current diet but up the amount of B12 in your system. It could be as simple as taking a B12 supplement and eating a grain high in B12 for breakfast that keeps you where you need to be. No matter what your situation, everyone needs B12 in their system.

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