*Please note – the information contained in this post is not from someone of a medical background. It’s the explanation of a story to share and hopefully inform. Questions regarding this subject should be directed to a doctor or medical professional.
In 2018, after feeling utterly exhausted and ill for a long period of time, a doctor sent me for a blood test. This, being the first of many blood tests that I had done in 2018, revealed that I was/am severely deficient in Vitamin B12.
I’m sharing this story because it’s estimated that as many as 1 in 4 people are deficient in Vitamin B12 and attributing their tell-tale symptoms to something else. It seems like such a small thing, being deficient in one Vitamin, but it makes a world of difference in how your body and mind function.
The following information is from HealthLink BC (view more information here>)
What is the issue? Having vitamin B12 deficiency means that your body does not have enough of this vitamin. You need B12 to make red blood cells, which carry oxygen through your body. Not having enough B12 can lead to anemia, which means your body does not have enough red blood cells to do the job. This can make you feel weak and tired. Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause damage to your nerves and can affect memory and thinking.
What causes it? Most people get more than enough B12 from eating meat, eggs, milk, and cheese. Normally, the vitamin is absorbed by your digestive system—your stomach and intestines. Vitamin B12 deficiency anemia usually happens when the digestive system is not able to absorb the vitamin. This can happen if:
- You have pernicious anemia. In this anemia, your body destroys the cells in your stomach that help you absorb vitamin B12.
- You have had surgery to remove part of the stomach or the last part of your small intestine, called the ileum. This includes some types of surgery used to help very overweight people lose weight.
- You have problems with the way your body digests food, such as sprue (also called celiac disease), Crohn’s disease, bacteria growth in the small intestine, or a parasite.
This anemia can also happen if you don’t eat enough foods with B12. People who eat a vegan diet and older adults who don’t eat a variety of foods may need to take a daily vitamin pill to get enough B12. Other causes include drinking alcohol and taking some prescription and non-prescription medicines.
What are the symptoms? If your vitamin B12 deficiency is mild, you may not have symptoms or you may not notice them. Some people may think they are just the result of growing older. As the anemia gets worse, you may:
- Feel weak, tired, and light-headed.
- Have pale skin.
- Have a sore, red tongue or bleeding gums.
- Feel sick to your stomach and lose weight.
- Have diarrhea or constipation.
If the level of vitamin B12 stays low for a long time, it can damage your nerve cells. If this happens, you may have:
- Numbness or tingling in your fingers and toes.
- A poor sense of balance.
- Dementia, a loss of mental abilities.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can also weaken your body’s ability to fight off infection, due to the lack of production of red blood cells. For me, the biggest symptom I suffered was a persistent infection that my body could not fight off. No amount of natural or medicinal remedies could cure the infection. Following the results of the blood test, the doctor attributed my lack of ability to fighting off the infection to my lack of B12.
The Blood test results showed that my body has less than half the recommended levels of B12 in my body. The B12 in my body was so low, The Doctor actually gave me a shot of B12 that very day before I left his office.
Symptoms I was experiencing with B12 deficiency:
- Extreme exhaustion – I was having difficulties being awake for four hour periods at a time and sleeping, at times, up to 20 hours a day.
- Persistent Infection – One that I could not get over, naturally or with antibiotics
- Persistent Headaches – I had a headache every day.
- Unbearable brain fog – I felt almost as though there was a dark cloud clogging my brain that was causing me to have issues thinking, reading and talking.
- Joint Pain – I had frequent joint pain in weird parts of my body that I couldn’t explain. My mom said that I was arthritic like her, but when I started taking B12 supplements, the joint pain went away.
Vitamin B12 occurs naturally in the following foods:
- Beef, liver, fish and shellfish
- Dairy products: Milk, yogurt and cheese
Honestly, if you find yourself feeling frequently exhausted, look at your diet and see how much of these foods you eat or do not eat. Could your body be lacking in B12? Increasing B12 in your body is always a benefit and if you are low in the Vitamin, it’s a natural way to boost your body’s immunity.
Unfortunately, for me, these foods are not foods that I am able to eat, due to allergy, celiac disease and lactose-intolerance (which is likely why I was so deficient).
There is medical research comparing a lack of B12 in the body to increased rates of depression and anxiety.
Is lack of B12 cause your depression? From what I’ve read, very likely not. Could having more B12 improve your symptoms and make your depression seem less awful? From what I’ve read, probably.
As with all things you red on the internet that contain information about health, I would HIGHLY, HIGHLY, HIGHLY recommend speaking to your doctor about it if you do have questions. I’m not a dcotor, and I’m not stating that anything in this article is anything more than personal experience and information from the internet.
So please, please, please, whether you’re experiencing similar symptoms or have questions about something you’re dealing with, talk to your doctor.