Many of us eat a lot of processed food that is void of many of the vitamins that we need. One of these vitamins that can be in short supply in the diet is vitamin B12, a water soluble vitamin that is not stored in the body. Since this vitamin is easily flushed out through urine, the body needs a steady supply of it. Vitamin B12 is important for neurological function, red blood cells and DNA processes. It is found naturally in dairy foods, meat, fish and added to other foods such as cereal.
Many people are B12 deficient but they think that something else is wrong. B12 deficiency can mimic serious diseases. In some cases B12 deficiency has been misdiagnosed. For example, fatigue can be taken for depression and symptoms of confusion can be so serious in acute vitamin B12 deficiency that it can be mistaken for Alzheimer’s disease.
B12 deficiency can develop if you have a condition that doesn’t allow the vitamin to be absorbed efficiently. One of these conditions is called pernicious anemia. This condition is caused by the inability of the body to absorb B12 through the ileum which is the final section of the small intestine. Another reason for low vitamin B12 levels is adhering to a strict diet that does not contain enough B12 rich foods such as in a strict vegetarian diet. In addition, an underlying condition can be the cause of B12 deficiency. Those who are sufferers of frequent diarrhea as in the case with Crohns disease, have more of a chance of having a shortage of B12.
Generally speaking, many people can be B12 deficient but when the blood serum is tested there is no indication of the deficiency. If you have symptoms of vitamin B12 shortage such as fatigue, confusion numbness, tingling of hands and feet, pallor and brittle nails but blood tests indicate there is no deficiency, it still could be because the deficiency can go undetected and may not show up in the blood in amounts that would indicate a deficiency. If you have normal levels of the vitamin and you still have symptoms you should also be tested for high levels of methylmalonic acid which tends to mean a low level of B12. Homocysteine levels are usually tested in addition to the other tests. But by itself homosysteine levels in high doses may indicate a shortage of folic acid so the other tests are necessary to make a more accurate diagnosis.
Paying attention to diet and speaking to your health professional who may suggest adding a B12 supplement to the diet in the form of B12 shots or vitamins by mouth can help to alleviate symptoms of B12 deficiency.