Many Americans are largely unaware of the fact that vitamin B12 deficiency is a pervasive and growing health crisis in the United States today, and the same applies to other countries around the globe. The primary cause of the deficiency might even shock you!
Here are the basic things you need to know about vitamin B12 deficiency: its surprising causes, the odds that you are already B12 deficient, the signs and symptoms, and what you can do to raise your B12 to healthy levels.
What Could Be Causing You to Become Vitamin B12 Deficient?
It is true that if you are over age 50 or are a vegan or vegetarian, your chances of being deficient in vitamin B12 are higher than average. But never assume that you are not at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency just because you are under a certain age or are eating foods containing vitamin B12. No matter your age or diet, you could be lacking in this nutrient if your body is not absorbing the B12 you are giving it.
Here are some of the reasons why you become vitamin B12 deficient:
- Food-cobalamin malabsorption syndrome – The leading cause of B12 deficiency, this condition results when your stomach lining loses its ability to produce intrinsic factor, a vitamin B12-binding protein that allows your body to absorb the nutrient into your bloodstream by the end of your small intestine.
- Vegetarian/vegan diet – B12 is present in natural form only in animal food sources.
- Inadequate stomach acid production – The older you are, the less able your stomach is to create the hydrochloric acid needed to release B12 from the food you consume.
- Long-term medication of antacids or anti-ulcer drugs – if you are taking an antacid, your stomach would not be able to digest B12 from your food. This is because hydrochloric acid is a requirement for B12 absorption.
- Use of Metformin for Type 2 diabetes – Known under brand names that include Glucophage, Glucophage XR, Fortamet, Glumetza, and Riomet, Metformin may inhibit your vitamin B12 absorption, especially if you take it at higher doses.
- H. pylori bacterial infection – You might be B12 deficiency if you are suffering from a chronic Helicobacter pylori infection.
- Gastric bypass surgery
- Coffee consumption – Did you know that four or more cups of coffee a day can decrease your B vitamin stores by as much as 15 percent?
- Exposure to “laughing gas” or nitrous oxide – This gas is usually used in dental clinics as an anesthesia.
Vitamin B12 Sources You Can Explore
As previously mentioned, B12 is available in its natural form only in animal food sources, including beef, chicken, seafood, pork, eggs, and milk. But if you do not consume enough of these animal products regularly to ensure adequate B12 supply (or are unable to properly absorb the nutrient), there is good news for you.
A recent technology is now able to reduce the effective size of the vitamin B12 molecule to help you absorb it into the fine capillaries under your tongue. A fine mist you spray into your mouth is the delivery system for these microscopic droplets of vitamin B12. This delivery system, too, bypasses the problem with intrinsic factor and is a much safer, easier, and less painful option to take than a vitamin B12 shot!
So, if you suspect that you have vitamin B12 deficiency, you may get your B12 and MMA serum level lab tested, especially if you have compelling reason to get hold of “official” test results. You must know that blood tests for B12 deficiency are not as helpful or clear-cut as they are for other nutrient deficiencies. Standard tests for assessing B12 concentrations are also limited due to the unrelated nature of clinical severity of B12 to B12 concentrations.
If you want to be more practical, you may simply supplement your diet with vitamin B12 and monitor your progress. Vitamin B12 supplementation is perfectly non-toxic and somehow inexpensive, compared to choosing laboratory testing. You may choose either an under-the-tongue fine mist spray or vitamin B12 injections.