Vitamin B12 deficiency - Science Nutrition Lab

Vitamin B12 Deficiency: Signs, Symptoms, and How It Works

Vitamin B12 deficiency is more common today than ever.

If you’re deficient in vitamin B12, you might experience low energy levels, numbness or tingling, weak muscles, or decreased appetite.

As vegan and vegetarian diets surge in popularity, millions of people are missing vitamin B12 – and many don’t know it.

However, people with Crohn’s disease, autoimmune disorders, or a history of gastric surgeries could all have vitamin B12 deficiency even if they get enough vitamin B12 daily.

Fortunately, vitamin B12 deficiency is easy to spot. Many people take a vitamin B12 supplement or multivitamin daily to manage the deficiency.

Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about vitamin B12 deficiency, its symptoms, and how to address it.

What is Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

Vitamin B12 deficiency, also known as vitamin B12 deficiency anemia, is a condition where your body cannot produce enough healthy, red blood cells because it lacks vitamin B12.

Your body uses vitamin B12 to make red blood cells. If you aren’t getting vitamin B12 through dietary sources or a supplement, then your body cannot produce enough red blood cells.

Red blood cells play a crucial role in health and energy: your body uses red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout the body. When you have low red blood cell counts, your tissues and organs don’t get enough oxygen. You may feel lethargic, mentally foggy, or weak.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency anemia, according to the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine, include all of the following:

  • Weak muscles
  • Numbness or tingling in the hands and feet
  • Difficulty walking
  • Decreased appetite
  • Nausea
  • Weight loss
  • Irritability
  • Physical and mental fatigue or low energy
  • Smooth and tender tongue
  • Fast heart rate
  • Diarrhea

Who’s at Risk for Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

Certain groups and people have a higher risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency than others.

Some of the risk factors for vitamin B12 deficiency include:

  • A family history of the disease
  • Removal of part or all of your stomach or intestine
  • Autoimmune diseases, including type 1 diabetes
  • Crohn’s disease
  • HIV
  • Certain medications
  • Strict vegetarian or vegan diets
  • Old age

Depending on your risk factors, doctors may develop a treatment plan for vitamin B12 deficiency based on your age, overall health, medical history, level of sickness, and ability to handle certain medications, among other factors.

Take a Blood Test to Spot Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Millions of people have lower-than-normal levels of vitamin B12.

If you believe you have vitamin B12 deficiency anemia, then a simple blood test can help.

A blood test checks your blood for vitamins and minerals, then compares levels to a normal range. If your vitamin B12 levels are significantly lower than normal, then you have vitamin B12 deficiency.

How to Address Vitamin B12 Deficiency

A doctor may help develop a custom treatment plan for vitamin B12 deficiency.

Some people can address the deficiency by taking a vitamin B12 supplement or a multivitamin.

Others simply adjust their diet, eating more foods rich in vitamin B12 than they previously did.

However, doctors may need to build a custom treatment plan based on your family history, medical status, and any medications you take. Sometimes, fixing vitamin B12 deficiency isn’t as easy as taking a vitamin B12 supplement.

Some of the ways to address vitamin B12 deficiency include:

Eat More Meat, Poultry, Seafood, Dairy Products, and Eggs: Vegetarians and vegans have a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency because there are few good plant-based sources. Consider adding more meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products, or eggs to your diet to increase vitamin B12 intake.

Take a Vitamin B12 Supplement: A vitamin B12 supplement contains 100% of your daily value (DV) of vitamin B12 or more, making it easy to get the vitamin B12 you need daily. You can buy dedicated vitamin B12 supplements or a multivitamin.

Take Plant-Based Foods Fortified with Vitamin B12: Some cereals and health foods are fortified with vitamin B12, making them a good source of vitamin B12.

Work with a Doctor to Create a Custom Treatment Plan: Adding more vitamin B12 to your diet is not guaranteed to fix vitamin B12 deficiency. Instead, you may need to work with a doctor to develop  accustom treatment plan for your deficiency.

Order a Science Nutrition Lab Blood Test Today

Science Nutrition Lab’s blood tests reveal crucial insight into your health beyond a normal blood test.

A normal blood test compares you to sick people, which could make it difficult to spot deficiencies.

A Science Nutrition Lab blood test compares you to an optimal range, giving you better health insight.

Order a Science Nutrition Lab blood test today to determine if you have vitamin B12 deficiency or other deficiencies to address.  

Get health insights for a better you
Take The Quiz