There are several vitamins that our bodies cannot produce naturally. It’s only through diet (or supplement) that we can receive certain nutrients that we need. If you’re feeling super tired, day in and day out, it’s possible you are Vitamin B12 deficient.
The B vitamin family is essential to our well-being, especially our moods and energy levels. Many of the B’s we have to get from food or supplement sources; they’re not manufactured naturally within our body. Even if you’re eating marginally well, it’s not uncommon to be deficient in particular B vitamins.
In the U.S. it’s estimated that over 30% of adults do not meet their vitamin B12 needs. Some common symptoms of B12 deficiency are:
- lack of motivation
- brain fog
More severe symptoms are:
- muscle weakness
- numbness in hands or feet
- anemia (low red blood cell count)
- memory changes
- poor balance
The Vegan Dilemma – to B or not to B?
There are a plethora of B vitamins available in fruits and vegetables. As for vitamin B12, there are only trace amounts found in Nori and a couple of other plant-based foods. B12’s primary source is from animal products.
For the most part, if a vegan wants to fulfill his B12 daily requirement, he will need to take a small supplement. Some vegans, however, don’t feel the need to supplement, and that is personal choice. Regardless, the body doesn’t store B12 very long, so whether you’re eating animal products or taking supplements, it is recommended to refuel daily.
Vegetarians, on the other hand, can gain their vitamin B12 from milk, cheese, or eggs. Poultry eaters and pescatarians can derive their nutrient source from turkey, chicken, and many types of fish. And of course, true carnivores can get their B12 fill from red meats.
Avoiding B12 Deficiency
A healthy diet (or utilization of supplements) should insure a proper intake of vitamin B12. However, there are other conditions that can cause a greater deficiency or decrease absorption of the nutrient. Some of these include:
- Various autoimmune conditions. Certain cells (Parietal cells) in our stomach produce hydrochloric acid. If the Parietal cells are compromised from the autoimmune disease, they cannot separate B12 molecules from other dietary molecules.
- Leaky gut syndrome. Any condition that weakens the stomach lining, such as: H. pylori, gluten intolerance or sensitivity, parasites, or bacterial infections—these all compromise the absorption of vitamin B12 (and other nutrients.)
- Acid blockers and other heartburn medications. Over-the-counter and prescription pills that “help” with heartburn and GERD, interfere with the absorption of vitamin B12 (and other vitamins as well.)
If you’re concerned that you may be vitamin B12 deficient, speak to your health practitioner about availability of blood tests or an intracellular B12 test. In the meanwhile, you can be proactive by eating a healthy diet, getting rest, and, of course, daily exercise. All of these combined can help you regain your strength, energy, and peace of mind.
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