Are you getting enough vitamin B12? You will be convinced that you must do this to stay healthy.
Vitamin B12 does a lot for your body. It helps build your DNA and red blood cells.
Your body doesn’t make vitamin B12, so you need to get it from animal-based foods or supplements. And you need to do it regularly. B12 is stored in the liver for up to five years, but if your diet doesn’t help maintain levels, you can eventually become deficient.
How much to get?
The answer depends on your age, eating habits, health, and what medications you are taking.
Average recommended amounts, measured in micrograms (mcg), vary by age:
Infants up to 6 months: 0.4 mcg
Children aged 7-12 months: 0.5 mcg
Children aged 1-3 years: 0.9 mcg
Children aged 4-8 years: 1.2 mcg
Children aged 9-13 years: 1.8 mcg
Adolescents 14-18 years: 2.4 mcg (2.6 mcg per day if pregnant, 2.8 mcg per day while breastfeeding)
Adults: 2.4 mcg (2.6 mcg per day if pregnant, 2.8 mcg per day while breastfeeding)
Food sources of vitamin B12
You can get vitamin B12 from natural animal foods or from fortified foods.
Animal products include dairy products, eggs, fish, meat, and poultry. If you’re looking for B12-fortified foods, check your product’s Nutrition Facts label.
Vitamin B12 deficiency
Most people in the United States get enough of this nutrient. If you’re not sure, you can ask your doctor about a blood test to check your vitamin B12 levels.
With age, it becomes difficult to absorb this vitamin. This can happen if you’ve had weight loss surgery or other surgery that removes part of your stomach, or if you drink a lot of alcohol.
You may also be more likely to be deficient in vitamin B12 if you:
Atrophic gastritis with thinning of the gastric mucosa
Pernicious anemia makes it difficult for your body to absorb vitamin B12
Conditions that affect your small intestine, such as Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, bacterial overgrowth, or parasites
Drinking too much alcohol can make it difficult for your body to absorb nutrients or prevent you from eating enough calories. One of the signs that you don’t have enough B12 is inflammation of the gums or a swollen, inflamed tongue.
Immune system disorders such as Graves’ disease and lupus
Took certain medications that interfere with B12 absorption. These include certain heartburn medications, such as proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), such as esomeprazole (Nexium), lansoprazole (Prevacid), omeprazole (Prilosec OTC), pantoprazole (Protonix), rabeprazole (Acipex), and H2 blockers such as cimetidine (Tagamet). famotidine (Pepcid AC); certain diabetes medications, such as metformin (Glucophage).
If you follow a vegan diet (meaning no animal products such as meat, milk, cheese, or eggs) or a vegetarian who does not consume enough eggs or dairy products, you may be deficient in vitamin B12. Meet your B12 vitamin needs. In both of these cases, you can add fortified foods to your diet or take supplements to meet this need. Learn more about B vitamin supplements.
Pregnant or a new mom?
Are you a vegan or vegetarian pregnant woman planning to exclusively breastfeed? You should talk to your doctor before you give birth so you can plan how to get vitamin B12 to keep your baby healthy.
Without enough vitamin B12, your child may have developmental delays and may not grow and develop properly.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency
If you are deficient in vitamin B12, you may develop anemia. Mild deficiency may be asymptomatic. However, if not treated, the following symptoms may appear.
Weakness, fatigue or dizziness
Heart palpitations and shortness of breath
Constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite, gas
Nervous problems such as numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and walking
Psychiatric problems such as depression, memory loss, and behavioral changes
If you have pernicious anemia or are unable to absorb vitamin B12, you should inject this vitamin first. You may need to continue taking these shots, take extra doses by mouth, or take them later by nasal spray.
If you don’t eat animal products, you have options. You can change your diet and take vitamin B12-fortified cereals, supplements, or B12 injections, or if you’re deficient, take high-dose oral vitamin B12.
Older adults with vitamin B12 deficiency may need to take a daily B12 supplement or a multivitamin containing B12.
For most people, treatment solves the problem. However, the neurological damage caused by the deficiency is permanentµ
dy absorbs nutrients, you can take vitamin B12 in a multivitamin or other supplement and foods fortified with vitamin B12.
If you choose to take vitamin B12 supplements, let your doctor know, so they can tell you how much you need, or make sure they won’t affect any medicines you’re taking.