Being tired and forgetful are not necessarily a normal part of aging, or of living in general. Some of us have come to expect feeling tired and forgetful as just being a normal part of life, but it may be a very correctable condition – Vitamin B12 deficiency.
Vegans are particularly susceptible to B12 deficiency, because the vitamin is found primarily in animal products (organ meats, eggs, etc.). Others who may be prone to this deficiency include those with chronic intestinal inflammation (such as Crohn’s disease), alcoholics, and those who consume antacid medication over a long period of time. In fact, recent studies have shown that B12 deficiency is more widespread than previously thought.
What Are the Symptoms of B12 Deficiency?
As noted above, feeling fatigued and tired is a symptom, particularly if it’s chronic. Other signs and symptoms include:
* An inability to concentrate
* Bruising easily
* Odd pain sensations in hands and/or feet. This could take the form of tingling or nagging pains.
* Feeling light-headed
* Feeling weak
If you have any of these symptoms chronically (we all feel “off” once in a while; but if it’s a continual thing that’s different), then you can check with your doctor, who will perform various tests to see if you’re deficient. Your doctor also may recommend upping your B12 intake to see if your symptoms disappear.
What Causes B12 Deficiency?
Sometimes, B12 deficiency is as simple as not eating a balanced diet, or not eating enough B12-containing foods. It could also be due to a greater need for B12 in some people than others. B12 is also manufactured in the gut by intestinal flora, so it stands to reason that a lack of these helpful bacteria could contribute to a B12 deficiency.
Chronic intestinal inflammation such as occurs with Crohn’s disease and colitis can also affect B12 absorption and manufacture in the body. And finally, there may be a genetic component. Some families find that the tendency to need B12 supplementation seems to get passed on to their children.
How Can I Get More B12?
You can eat foods high in B12 or go for a supplement. If you tend to take a lot of antacids, this affects B12 absorption; studies show that sublingual (under the tongue) supplements work best. This form of the vitamin bypasses your digestive tract and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the mucus membranes. These are often marketed as “B12 lozenges.” Other ways to get B12 include the following:
* An injection from your doctor, which also bypasses the digestive tract
* Eating foods high in B12, such as eggs, beef liver, lean beef, poultry, nutritional yeast (sometimes called “Brewer’s yeast”), fish, and shellfish
* Taking supplements such as capsules or tablets.