So your body may be deficient in a vitamin… And you think “so what?”
You figure maybe it will cause some minor problems that aren’t even noticeable. Maybe your body won’t run at peak efficiency…it’s really no big deal.
But consider this report in the New England Journal of Medicine (NEJM)... A 62-year-old man developed numbness and a pins and needles sensation in his hands. He then went on to have joint pain and trouble walking…his skin turned yellow…and he grew shorter and shorter of breath.
All of these scary health issues came on suddenly, occurring over just two months.1
Doctors finally discovered he had a deficiency of a crucial vitamin. If they hadn’t diagnosed the problem in time, the patient would have gone on to suffer brain damage, incontinence, and other permanent disabilities, doctors say.2
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The man had a shortage of vitamin B12. It’s often called the energy vitamin. Your body requires it for a number of vital functions that keep you alive and healthy.3
B12 is used to make red blood cells, for energy production, DNA synthesis, and for nerve communication.
It also helps keep bones strong as you age. A Swedish study found that men with very low B12 levels were 120% more likely to suffer fractures of their lower back.
40% of Americans are B12 Deficient
Two in five Americans are vitamin B12 deficient, according to a study of 3,000 people by Tufts University in Boston.4 The problem is usually not that people don’t get enough of the vitamin in their food… It’s that their bodies can’t absorb it.
Many people become deficient as they grow older. As you age, your stomach produces less acid, so your body can’t process B12 as efficiently.
Acid-suppressing heartburn drugs are another common cause of deficiency. They stop your stomach from absorbing B12. Two common classes of acid reflux medications are linked to B12 deficiency. They are:5
- H-2-receptor blockers. They include Tagamet (cimetidine), Pepcid, (famotidine), and Zantac (ranitidine).
- Proton pump inhibitors. They include Prilosec (omeprazole), Nexium (esomeprazole), and Prevacid (lansoprazole).
And vegans are at greater risk for a deficiency. Plant foods provide no B12. The foods highest in B12 are shellfish, fish, beef (especially liver), and eggs.6,7
7 Early Symptoms of B12 Deficiency
It’s important to know the early symptoms of B12 deficiency. Unlike most other vitamins, there aren’t large daily fluctuations in B12 levels. It is stored in your liver, kidneys, and other body tissues. When your B12 stores are exhausted, the symptoms can strike suddenly, as they did in the case reported by the NEJM.
But there are early warning signs that can tip you off to a B12 deficiency:8
- Muscle weakness
- Pale complexion
- Unexplained mood swings
- Numbness or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet
- A smooth tongue (it should be slightly bumpy)
Curing a B12 Deficiency
If you have any of these symptoms, ask your doctor for B12 test. It’s a simple blood draw.
If you are deficient, your doctor may prescribe weekly shots. Since they go directly into your bloodstream, they are not affected by lack of stomach acid. A daily oral supplement may correct less severe deficiencies. A sensible dosage is 50 mcg a day.