We’ve all heard about how vitamin B12 is essential for optimal health, but what exactly does it do for the body––and why are so many of us deficient in it?
Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that supports healthy nerve and blood cells and assists in DNA production. Since our bodies don’t make B12 nor store it for a long time, we constantly have to obtain it from animal-based foods or supplements. Thus, vegans or vegetarians who abstain from consuming dairy are more prone to lack B12 as well as those with certain medical conditions such as atrophic gastritis (chronic inflammation of the stomach lining), pernicious anemia (when your body can’t absorb enough B12) or Crohn’s disease (inflammatory bowel disease).
The average recommended amount varies by age, diet and other lifestyle factors; check with a health professional to make sure you are getting enough on a regular basis. But before doing so, take heed of the following symptoms.
Your muscles feel like mush
Red blood cells are needed to transport oxygen throughout the body. If you don’t have enough B12, your body can’t make the necessary blood cells. The lack of proper oxygen will cause your body to feel depleted and fatigued as a result.
You feel your heart beating at 500 beats per minute
Though heart palpitations may be caused by a variety of issues (anxiety, hypothyroidism, etc.), they are one symptom of anemia (a condition in which your blood has a lower-than-normal amount of red blood cells). Be sure to check with your doctor if you are experiencing them or other heart concerns.
According to Medline Plus, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine, a person should have a minimum of three bowel movements per week. Any less may indicate you are constipated. If left untreated, a B12 deficiency can lead to constipation or, on the other end of the scale, diarrhea.
Since B12 plays a role in proper nerve function, blurred or disturbed vision may occur due to nervous system damage to the optic nerve (disrupting the nervous signal that travels from your eye to your brain).