Feeling tired, dizzy, lethargic, irritable or forgetful?
Low levels of a common vitamin might be the answer.
Are you experiencing any of the following symptoms?
Some of these symptoms are fairly vague & could be caused by a variety of medical conditions or nutritional deficiencies. However if you are experiencing a combination of several of these symptoms, you may be suffering from B12 deficiency or simply lower than normal levels (known as sub-clinical levels). That means that your doctor may tell you that your levels are within ‘reference range’. In Australia the reference range is 150 to 750 pmol/L. In Japan the reference range was changed to 500 to 1300pmol/L in the 1980’s. Older people can experience symptom at levels within the reference range. One Australian study, published in the Journal of Investigational Biochemistry, found that just under 4% of those studied were deficient while 26% showed sub-clinical levels.
Who is at risk?
There are some groups of people who are more likely to have low levels of B12, including the elderly, vegetarians & vegans & diabetics. According to Henry Osiecki, author of The Nutrient Bible, other groups at risk could be those with hypothyroidism, osteoarthritis, a range of digestive conditions or excess intake of alcohol & tobacco. There are also a few common conditions that can reduce the absorption of B12, resulting in low levels. For good absorption there are two key requirements – good levels of stomach acid & the adequate levels of a protein called intrinsic factor. This substance helps B12 find it’s way from the stomach to the bloodstream. Some people are unable to produce intrinsic factor while others simply don’t produce enough. Low levels of stomach acid are very common, particularly with the increased use of antacids such as Nexium which are available over the counter & also commonly prescribed for heartburn. Stomach acid production also decreases with age which is why B12 levels tend to be lower in the elderly.
What does B12 actually do in the body?
B12 is involved in many critical functions in the body, including:
Formation of red blood cells
Maintenance of normal bone marrow
Conversion of food to energy
Support of a healthy nervous system, moods & stress response
Along with folate is involved in the formation of DNA without all cells
Maintenance of a healthy heart by reducing levels of homocysteine
Maintenance of healthy lining of the gastrointestinal system
Once you know what B12 does in the body, it’s fairly easy to see how the symptoms listed earlier occur. If you don’t have enough B12 to convert food into energy it’s not surprising that you might feel tired frequently. If the formation of red blood cells is impaired, you can expect shortness of breath as the red cells are responsible for carrying oxygen around the body. It’s also no surprise that people with a variety of digestive related conditions have low levels of B12 given that it’s responsible for maintenance of the gut lining. I am constantly amazed by the logical connection between nutrient deficiencies & the symptoms they produce – that’s my geeky, scientific left brain emerging.
What foods are good sources of B12?
Looking at the list of foods, can you see why vegetarians & vegans might be at increased risk of low levels of B12. That’s right, almost all sources are animal products. We can store B12 for long periods in our liver, so someone who changes to a vegetarian/vegan might not feel any symptoms of deficiency for many years.
What to do if you think you might have low levels
Too much B12 can be a problem so self-diagnosis & dashing off to buy a supplement is not recommended. Speak to your doctor, nutritionist or naturopath & ask for a simple blood test before taking any supplement.
Pam Bailey is a Feel Good Facilitator, Helping Women Feel Good Every Day
Nutritionist, Eating Psychology Coach, Life Coach & Heal Your Life Workshop Facilitator.
She is an International Keynote speaker & workshop leader & also provides private coaching via Skype & in person.
For more information contact Pam on 0452 464 818 or via email firstname.lastname@example.org
You can follow Pam on Facebook here
To receive Pam's monthly newsletter subscribe here