B12 is an exceptional vitamin. It plays a vital role in turning fat and protein into energy and carrying oxygen throughout the body, yet we’re not very good at getting enough of it.
Seniors, women, and vegans are at high risk of developing vitamin B12 deficiency. People may not realize vitamin B12 is missing from their diets because the liver can store a 5-year supply in reserve.
Signs of Vitamin B12 deficiency may seem like minor annoyances. But they can lead to serious health issues if left untreated. Here are 12 red flags of low B12 levels that you shouldn’t overlook:
1. Loss of Balance
You’d be surprised how much we take the sense of balance for granted. Loss of balance may occur for several reasons, including a vitamin B12 deficiency. This vitamin plays an essential role in your overall health, especially the maintenance of your central nervous system, the structure that helps you control your balance.
When your body is low on B12, your sense of balance can be completely thrown off and the ability to move well may be hampered.
Frequent bouts of dizziness and vertigo can indicate B12 deficiency. You may experience a feeling of wobbles when you get up too fast after sitting for long periods of time. You may also feel lightheaded when you climb up or downstairs, which could actually be dangerous since you more prone to falling. If you’re feeling dizzy too often, you might want to make a trip to the doctor and take a blood test to detect your B12 levels.
That “pins and needles” feeling occurs simply because you’re sitting there too long and probably in a not-so-ideal position that restricts blood flow. However, if you feel these even when you’re not compressing or exerting pressure on any body part, it could be a sign of vitamin B12 deficiency. Being low on B12 not only lowers your blood pressure but also disrupts the production of healthy red blood cells, reducing oxygen supply to the extremities of the body.
4. Yellowish Skin
One of the most common signs of a B12 deficiency is jaundice, a condition that turns the skin, the whites of the eyes, tongue, and fingernails noticeably yellow. When the B12 levels in your body dip, red blood cells become fragile and start breaking down into bilirubin. Bilirubin accumulates first in the bloodstream and then in the skin, giving it a yellowish hue.
5. Poor Vision
If you’re experiencing blurriness or double vision even though you don’t have any eye disorder, chances are you need more vitamin B12. The vitamin is necessary for the optic nerve to properly transfer information and signals from your eye to your brain. Being low on B12 could damage your optic nerve and even impair your vision. This might sound scary but it can be easily reversed by restoring sufficient B12 levels.
6. Muscle Weakness
When you are able to pull deadlifts with ease at the gym but are suddenly having trouble carrying groceries home, a vitamin B12 deficiency may be to blame. It occurs because your body doesn’t have enough vitamin B12 to make red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout your body. As a result, your body’s cells are not getting the oxygen they need, making you tired and weak.
7. Shortness Of Breath
It’s normal to feel tired after a long day at work or an intense workout. But if you feel exhausted all the time even when you haven’t performed any physically demanding activity, it might because you’re too low on vitamin B12. The lack of vitamin B12 affects your blood’s capacity to supply your organs with enough oxygen, leading to constant fatigue. In addition, vitamin B12 is one of the vitamins required for converting the sugar from your food to energy. A B12 deficiency slows down your body’s sugar metabolism so you drain energy faster.
8. Memory Loss
Most of us have a good long-term memory and decent enough short-term memory to navigate us through everyday life. It’s normal to occasionally forget where the car key is kept, but when such forgetfulness becomes a daily occurrence, low vitamin B12 levels might be to blame. A deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause moderate dementia that resembles the first stage of Alzheimer’s. Seniors and older adults may assume that they’re suffering from Alzheimer’s rather than B12 deficiency. A simple blood test can tell whether poor memory is due to B12 deficiency or not.
9. Inflamed Tongue
A red and swollen tongue can be a signal that your body is low on vitamin B12. The inflammation can make your tongue look smooth, as all its taste buds are stretched out and disappear, which may make eating difficult and further reduce your nutrient intake. Additionally, some people with a B12 deficiency may experience other oral symptoms that are more painful, such as feelings of pins and needles in the tongue or a burning and itching sensation in the mouth.
If you’ve been feeling generally low without an immediate cause, vitamin B12 deficiency could be responsible for generating all the depressing sensations. Since one of the vitamin’s jobs is to regulate the levels of dopamine—your body’s feel-good hormone—a deficiency can make you moodier than usual. Although it’s unclear how exactly vitamin B12 influences a complex illness like depression, studies show that depressed patients have reduced B12 levels in their blood. In fact, therapists often prescribe vitamin B12 supplements to those with depression.
11. Stomach Problems
If you’re having trouble with upset stomach even though you avoid eating anything irritating, chances are your body might not be getting enough vitamin B12. Due to this, the cells of your gastrointestinal tract don’t receive enough oxygen to preserve normal functions, leading to digestive problems like bloating, diarrhea, loss of appetite, and weight loss.
12. Hair Loss
Most of us lose an average of 80 strands of hair per day. A lack of B12 can make shedding much worse. Like all skin on our body, the scalp also needs to breathe. It needs oxygen, moisture, and nutrients. When the oxygen supply is reduced, it affects all cells, including the hair cells, and can cause premature thinning and hair loss.
Disclaimer: This article is for informational purposes only and is not a substitute for professional medical advice.