Even if you follow a healthy lifestyle, it can be hard to tell whether or not you're getting the right amount of nutrients. This is especially true with vitamin B12, since it's only found in certain foods. To make sure you are getting the right of amount of B12 throughout your day, look out for these subtle symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency, and discuss with your doctor new ways to get more of this vitamin. Since vitamin B12 is only produced in animals and not plants, watching out for these signs is especially important for vegans and vegetarians, who may be more prone to a deficiency.
"Vitamin B12 may be nicknamed the 'energy vitamin,' but it does so much more," Megan Casper, MS, RDN tells Bustle. "This important nutrient helps make the DNA in every cell of our bodies, maintains nerve cells, and is integral in the production of oxygen carrying red blood cells. B12 deficiency is relatively common, especially among older people. While some people don’t get the 2.4 micrograms of B12 recommended daily, others can’t absorb enough, no matter how hard they try."
Experts say certain people may be more prone to this deficiency than others, such as people who don't eat meat, people with low stomach acid, people with Crohn's disease, and people with Celiac's disease, according to Casper.
If you suspect you might have a vitamin B12 deficiency, experts say you may want to watch out for these 11 subtle symptoms.
1. You're Tired Even Though You're Getting Enough Sleep
Fatigue is one of the first signs of a B12 deficiency. "Since B12 helps make red blood cells, a dip in production will mean less oxygen to keep your cells going," says Casper. People with this deficiency generally feel tired, even if they're getting sleep. Of course fatigue is common to a lot of other health changes, but if a B12 supplement can help your tiredness, then be sure to integrate this vitamin more into your daily routine.
2. You're Experiencing Brain Fog
"If you’ve felt like you’ve been losing your mind lately, and can never find your keys, low B12 may be to blame," says Casper. Without enough of the nutrient, you can experience cognitive difficulties or even memory loss. If you're experiencing brain fog, try upping your intake of animal products, like meat or eggs. If you're a vegetarian or vegan, certain fortified grains or beans can also help you get more B12.
3. You're Having Mood Issues
Not getting enough vitamin B12 can lead to anxiety or even depression. "Low B12 levels can wreak havoc on our emotions, possibly because B12 is necessary for the production of neurotransmitters dopamine and serotonin," says Casper. If your mood has been in flux lately, talk to your doctor about this deficiency, as well as ways to integrate B12 more into your routine.
4. Your Have The Feeling Of Pins & Needles In Your Hands & Feet
That tingling feeling in your hands and feet might be the result of low amounts of the vitamin B12 in your body. "Over time, a lack of B12 can lead to nerve damage, causing numbness," says Casper. This is a more extreme symptom of B12 deficiency, and shouldn't be too much cause for worry. But if you are concerned, discussing strategies with your doctor can help prevent these symptoms from happening in the long-term.
5. You're Always Sick
"B12 is an important player in our immune system, helping to produce white blood cells," says Casper. If you're constantly sick or susceptible to illness, you might not be getting enough of this B vitamin. Although food may be the best place to get more B12, supplements are also available to potentially help with this deficiency.
6. You Have Less Of An Appetite
"About 50 percent of people with a B12 deficiency lose the little bumps on their tongues, papillae, some of which contain taste buds," says Casper. "This can lead to a decreased appetite ... and may appear as a smooth, swollen, red tongue."
7. Your Body Isn't Absorbing Nutrients As Well
Vitamin B12 affects the way you utilize your calories in the body. "B12 works with an enzyme essential for fat and protein metabolism," Tanya Zuckerbrot MS, RD tells Bustle. "Without adequate B12, you will not be able to break down fats and proteins from your diet as efficiently and it may lead to nutrient malabsorption."
8. You're Feeling Backed Up
Having some bathroom issues lately? A lack of this vitamin may be to blame. "Impaired metabolism of nutrients and excessive weight loss caused by a B12 deficiency may cause constipation," says Zuckerbrot. Although constipation can be indicative of other health issues, speaking with your doctor can help you get to the root of the problem.
9. You're Having Balance Issues
Some people with this particular vitamin deficiency experience difficulty walking, as well as staggering, or balance problems. "B12 is involved in Central Nervous System function," Maya Feller, MS, RD, CDN, CLC tells Bustle. "The CNS is responsible for sensory perception, motor function, and balance. If this system is awry, balance problems can arise."
10. Your Skin Is Pale Or Yellow
Jaundice, or the build up of bilirubin, a yellow-orange substance in your blood, can occur as a result of B12 deficiency. "To produce red blood cells the body needs B12," says Feller. "Bilirubin is the byproduct of red blood cell breakdown. Without B12, both the production and breakdown of red blood cells and subsequent excretion are disrupted, leading to a buildup of bilirubin in the blood. This buildup manifests as yellowing of eyes, skin, and the palms of hands and feet." Another sign of low blood cell count is pale skin. Once again, this is a more extreme scenario that doesn't always occur, but if you notice the yellowing of your skin or eyes, consult your doctor right away.
11. Your Body Is Weak
"If you have inadequate vitamin B12 status, you may reduce your red blood cell production, therefore reducing the amount of oxygen distributed around the body, causing you to feel weak," says Zuckerbrot. "Weakness may also arise from excessive weight loss."
If you experience any of these symptoms, be sure to see a doctor, who can test for the deficiency and create the best plan of action to get your vitamin B12 back up.