How a vitamin deficiency might be affecting your energy levels

I can’t be the only one who rolls their eyes the second a celebrity posts something online lauding the magical benefits of some fad diet or potion ::cough:: flat tummy tea ::cough:: so when B12 started making the rounds for what seemed like the third or fourth time (please tell me I’m not the only one who remembers Nicole Richie and Paris Hilton getting B12 injections on The Simple Life), I figured based on its staying power alone it warranted a little investigation.

In the spirit of transparency, let’s start with the basics of Vitamin B12. 

What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that has a host of responsibilities including making red blood cells, nerves, DNA, as well as carrying out other functions. Like most vitamins, B12 is not produced within the body and therefore must be acquired via a healthy diet and/or supplements.

What is B12 deficiency?

There are two ways to be deficient in B12; either you aren’t getting enough in your diet or your body is unable to absorb it. The irony is that most deficiencies are a result of healthy lifestyle changes like weight-loss surgeries or vegetarian/veganism although there are a few different groups of people at risk.

Either way, studies show that low levels of B12 can lead a person to feel weak, tired, numb/tingling sensations in their feet/hands, and experience unstable moods. A consistent sense of fatigue and irritability can be a sign that you might be suffering from B12 deficiency.

Who is at risk of being deficient?

The Department of Health and Human Services states that the people at the most risk include older adults (50+), vegetarians/vegans, recipients of weight-loss surgeries, people with Celiac’s and Crohn’s diseases, and those of us who take heartburn medication regularly. Older people’s stomachs slow down the production of acid as do operations with the purpose of weight-loss and since acid is required for your body to absorb the vitamin, anything that reduces it can cause a shortage. In addition, people adhering to vegetarian or vegan diets are not consuming the B12 in animal foods and/or fortified foods like wheat that are necessary to maintain sufficient levels throughout the body.   

How do I know if I have a B12 deficiency?

You have a few options to determine your risk, the first being to ask your doctor to conduct a blood test to check your levels. You can also schedule an appointment for a nutrient test with a specialist (IVitamin offers them in-house if you’d like to skip your MD’s waiting room). In an article on the Harvard Health Blog, deficiencies can most commonly be prevented by taking a multivitamin with B12 in it or simply changing your diet to include items fortified with B12 like grains or proteins. If you are getting the correct amount of B12 as recommended (around 2.5 micrograms a day) but still showing symptoms of deficiency, a weekly shot of B12 is recommended since it can be absorbed by the body immediately. 

Can B12 shots help my energy level?

The simple answer is yes, if you have a deficiency, supplementing Vitamin B12 is going to improve your energy levels. The more complicated answer is if you don’t have a deficiency. The scientific community is still debating the effects on those with healthy levels of B12 and for every article I found saying it does nothing for energy and memory, I found another that showed how it improved them. Suffice to say that it varies from person to person and the risks of B12 are few and far between with the exception of some medications it does not interact with well (please check out the list here: Health & Human Services website). As with any healthcare regimen, if you have any concerns, please check with your healthcare provider.

Personal Anecdote: I don’t have a documented deficiency of B12 and my response to supplements (I take a multivitamin but I prefer the IV form) is like all of your favorite results from a large shot of espresso: alert, aware, and energetic without any weird side effects. It also seems to last for a few weeks which to me is worth its weight in gold. IVitamin here in Austin offers it so if you’re in the area, pop by to chat with an IV specialist and see if it is right for you! 

Still curious about Vitamin B12? Here are some links for you to check out:

https://ods.od.nih.gov/factsheets/VitaminB12-Consumer/

https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/vitamin-b12-deficiency-anemia

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-b12-deficiency-can-be-sneaky-harmful-201301105780

https://www.instyle.com/beauty/health-fitness/b12-injections

 

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