Eight Signs You Might Have a B12 Deficiency

This article was previously published on March 25, 2019 and has been updated with new information.

When you experience symptoms like fatigue, numbness, faint nausea, blurred vision, or a tendency to forget, you can entertain yourself with a variety of situations. Some of them can be scary, but one possibility you might not consider is vitamin B12 (aka cobalamin) deficiency.

Nearly half of the U.S. population has lower blood levels of vitamin B12, but the symptoms are so varied that it’s difficult to determine how many people suffer from it, according to Harvard Health, which describes the “sneaky” symptom behind the symptoms. seemingly unrelated symptoms of a 62-year-old man, developed over two months. According to his case report, published in the New England Journal of Medicine,first he had:

“Night and ‘pins and needles’ sensation in the hands, difficulty walking, severe joint pain, which starts to turn yellow and gradually becomes difficult to breathe… It could be worse – severe vitamin B12 deficiency severe depression, paranoia and delusions, memory loss, loss of control, loss of taste and smell, etc.”2

The problem is that symptoms like these can lead people to focus on treating them instead of investigating the source of the problem. However, sooner or later, unless it is responded to directly, a deficiency of vitamin B12 in your system can be so devastating that serious disorders, such as Alzheimer’s disease, Crohn’s disease, and liver damage can result. Unrecoverable brain can have consequences.

Low vitamin B12 symptoms are not unrelated to all

The list of symptoms that may be on the doorstep of a B12 deficiency is a long one, but many of the symptoms are related to your central nervous system. Too little B12 in your system can also resonate if you have poor vision, weakness, tingling in your hands or feet, and “clumsy.” Eight common signs of low B12 levels are:




Digestive problems


Skin infections


Nervous problems

But it’s also important to understand that certain areas of the body can be adversely affected by vitamin B12 deficiency, and while many symptoms may seem unrelated, as the saying goes, one often leads to something else.

Low B12 can cause anemia, which has its own set of symptoms

For every human being, vitamin B12 is needed to keep your nervous system healthy, as well as to make DNA, the genetic material in all cells.3 B12 is also needed to produce red blood cells, which transport oxygen throughout your body.

But with a B12 deficiency, many of your red blood cells are abnormally formed and/or too large, so they can’t carry oxygen; This process is interrupted. Too few red blood cells or an abnormally low amount of hemoglobin in individual red blood cells causes anemia, one of the most common and noticeable signs that a deficiency is becoming a problem.4

Anemia can cause some of the symptoms listed previously, such as weakness, fatigue, dizziness, cold hands and feet, pale skin, and chest pain, which occur because your heart has to work harder. to move oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) reports.5 In turn, this can lead to an irregular heartbeat or arrhythmia, an enlarged heart, and even heart failure.6

Recognizing a B12 deficiency sooner rather than later is important, as if left unchecked, it can lead to permanent damage in your body.7 According to the Linus Pauling Institute,8 A B12 deficiency can also lead to a number of other serious diseases and conditions, including:

Breast cancer9

Chronic gastritisten


Neural tube defectstwelfth


Stomach cancer14

Thyroid dysfunction15

DNA damage16

How does low B12 cause jaundice and dementia?

Because B12 – and a deficiency in this vitamin – is closely related to your nervous system, the so-called “pins and needles” sign is a sign that a neurological problem needs to be addressed as soon as possible. as possible and show how your body’s functions are interconnected.

Since vitamin B12 is important for the maintenance of your central nervous system, including the conduction of nerve impulses and the production of myelin sheath, it protects and “insulates” your nerves. . Without this protective insulation, your nerves can be damaged, leading to symptoms like “pins and needles” in your hands and feet, as well as damage to your central and peripheral nervous system.17

If you notice your skin is pale or yellow, it is a warning sign that your body cannot produce enough red blood cells. You may not have thought about it, but it is the red blood cells that circulate under the skin that give it its healthy color.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause megaloblastic anemia, which can weaken your blood cells, after which other symptoms begin to appear. When your liver breaks down red blood cells, it releases bilirubin, a brown substance that causes your skin to turn yellow, commonly seen in babies.18

As if these problems weren’t enough, people with low B12 levels can also have problems thinking clearly, which later turns into what doctors call cognitive decline or dementia. .19

Symptoms often become apparent when someone has difficulty with reasoning and memory loss, but often it is the way to be treated rather than uncovering the possibility of a B12 deficiency, which can alleviate the symptoms. symptoms if resolved.

An Australian review in 2012 revealed an association between low vitamin B12 levels and neurodegenerative disease. A total of 43 studies revealed that “subclinically low normal ranges are associated with Alzheimer’s disease, vascular dementia, and Parkinson’s disease.”20 Another study noted:

“Vitamin B12 deficiency should always be sought when patients present with dementia, as it is often reversible with treatment. Many neuropsychiatric symptoms have been observed and many are present in these diseases. patients without giant cell anemia.

These include memory loss, mental disorders including hallucinations and delusions, fatigue, irritability, depression, and personality changes. “21

B12 deficiency usually shows up in your mouth

A common symptom of anemia is mouth ulcers, sometimes called canker sores or aphthous ulcers, small yellow or white sores that may appear on the gums or just inside the lips. Although they usually go away after a week or two, they are usually quite painful.

But a B12 deficiency can also cause other symptoms in your mouth, including on your tongue. One study involved the experience of a middle-aged female patient – a common demographic for her symptoms – with a persistent burning sensation on the tongue for several months.

Diagnosed with glossitis, which causes marked swelling, and a red and smooth tongue, she was given an injection of vitamin B12, “resulting in complete resolution of her symptoms and normal clinical presentation.” of the tongue after three days.”22

Foods low in B12 increase the risk of serious infections

People who are deficient in vitamin B12 are at increased risk of infection from two potentially deadly pathogens. The results of a study published in the journal PLOS Genetics23 related to a millimeter-long nematode (the size of a pencil head) or a worm called Caenorhabditis elegans (C. elegans), one of the world’s most basic organisms.

Important for the study, roundworms share one interesting trait with humans: They also cannot produce vitamin B12 on their own. As reported by MedIndia, the study involving two populations of worms: one with and one without an adequate B12 diet, showed that a diet deficient in B12 harms the worm’s health at the cellular level by reduces its ability to metabolize branched chain amino acids (BCAAs):

“Research shows that a reduced ability to break down BCAAs leads to a toxic accumulation of partially metabolized BCAA by-products that compromise mitochondrial health…” We used C. elegans to study the effects of diet on the host and found that a food was able to significantly increase resistance to many stressors – such as heat and free radicals – as well like pathogens,’ [researcher Natasha Kirienko]. “24

Many laboratories around the world use C. elegans to study disease effects. By feeding the worms E. coli, a common and sometimes harmful gut bacteria, and switching between the E. coli OP50 strain and the HT115 strain, the worm’s ability to withstand stress “changed,” said Kirienko. changed significantly,” said Kirienko. “We found that switching between E. coli OP50 and HT115 significantly changed the worm’s tolerance to stress.” Co-author Alexey Revtovich notes:

“The main difference between the two diets is the ability of HT115 and OP50 to take up B12 from the environment… We have shown that HT115 is much more efficient at this, producing the protein needed to obtain B12. plan B12 is about eight times higher than up to OP50.”25

Notably, the team also found that dietary C. elegans in the HT115 diet was resistant to infection by another deadly pathogen, Enterococcus faecalis, a leading cause of infectious diseases. Hospital-acquired infections and are recognized by the World Health Organization and the US Centers for Disease Control. and Prevention (CDC) as a super product.26

Kirienko noted that the B12 discovery surprised the team. They found it helpful to study “the pathogenesis of Pseudomonas aeruginosa (P. aeruginosa), a potentially fatal disease in both worms and humans that infects approximately 51,000 US hospital patients each year, “27 According to the CDC.28

How to optimize your vitamin B12 levels

Some people have a higher risk of vitamin or mineral deficiencies than others, but in this case, vegans and vegetarians are at particular risk because B12 is derived from animal products. In addition, older adults and people with gastrointestinal problems and malabsorption are also at risk.

Studies have also shown that people who use metformin (for diabetes) and long-term use of proton pump inhibitors (for stomach acid) also have a higher risk of vitamin B12 deficiency, the researchers said. The study suggested that “routine vitamin B12 levels should be carefully monitored in patients taking metformin.”29

Because it is not produced by your body, vitamin B12 must come from another source – namely foods and supplements. That said, good sources for cobalamin or vitamin B12 include:

Organic beef and grass-fed beef liver




Organic chicken and eggs

Raw organic milk, grass fed

Nutritional yeast

As for the supplement, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH),30 the average person 14 years of age and older should get 2.4 micrograms (mcg – one millionth of a gram .)thirty first) of vitamin B12 per day; pregnant women should get 2.6 mcg; and breastfeeding women should get 2.8 mcg. Infants and children up to 13 years of age need between 0.4 and 1.8 mcg.

The type of vitamin B12 supplement you should take is also a consideration. Between cyanocobalamin, the synthetic form,32 and methylcobalamin, which is the form naturally found in foods, methylcobalamin is the better choice, one reason is that your body retains it in greater amounts.33

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