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  • Battling a B12 Deficiency
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Health and Fitness News

Battling a B12 Deficiency

Signs you may not be getting enough vitamin B12.

Your body needs a lot of vitamins and minerals for good health. It can be hard to know if you’re getting enough of each one and easy to overlook one like B12. Found in animal-based foods, fortified foods, or supplements, this vitamin is used by your body to make red blood cells, DNA, and nerves. Since your body doesn’t make it or store it for long, it’s important to make it part of your regular diet.

On average, a healthy adult needs 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12 a day. Thankfully, B12 is found in many sources, and some of the best sources include eggs, dairy, meat, fish, and poultry. While 2.4 mcg (micrograms) doesn’t sound like much, some people struggle to get enough. Vegans, vegetarians, the elderly, those with health conditions, and those taking certain medications may not absorb enough of the vitamin.

Think you’re not getting enough B12 in your diet? A simple blood test will tell. But a blood test often isn’t the first cause for alarm. Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency are. Unfortunately, the symptoms aren’t always easy to recognize, as they may come on gradually or quickly and mimic other health conditions. What are the symptoms of a B12 deficiency? You’re about to find out.


Many people with a vitamin B12 deficiency experience weakness and fatigue. Since vitamin B12 is needed for your body to make red blood cells, a deficiency leads to a lack of red blood cells. Without enough red blood cells to carry oxygen through the body, your body lacks oxygen for energy, causing weakness and fatigue. This type of anemia is known as pernicious anemia.

Pale or Yellowed Skin

Without enough red blood cells circulating in your body, your skin may eventually look pale. That’s because the breakdown of red blood cells leads to increased production of bilirubin, a chemical produced by the liver. High amounts of bilirubin is known as jaundice and can lead to a yellowing of the skin or whites of the eyes.

Dizziness or Shortness of Breath

Anemia due to a vitamin B12 deficiency can also lead to dizziness, lightheadedness, or breathlessness, especially when you exercise. This is caused by the lack of oxygen due to a shortage of red blood cells.

Pins and Needles

Chronic vitamin B12 deficiency can cause nerve damage. One of vitamin B12’s jobs is to help make myelin, the layer of protection around nerves. Myelin allows nerve impulses to transfer efficiently. One symptom of the breakdown of myelin is the sensation of pins and needles. Untreated, nerve problems can lead to coordination problems, trouble walking, or difficulty moving.

Swollen Tongue or Mouth Ulcers

One early sign you’re not getting enough vitamin B12 is glossitis—a red, painful, and inflamed tongue that may have lines of lesions on it. This disturbing condition may make talking and eating difficult.

When your tongue is swollen, you may not see or feel all the tiny bumps that contain taste buds, so your tongue feels unusually smooth. Mouth ulcers, an itching sensation, or pins and needles on your tongue are also possible.


A lack of vitamin B12 leads to an overproduction of homocysteine. High levels of this amino acid can damage brain tissue and hinder healthy brian signals needed for mood regulation. The end result? Depression, all because you lacked vitamin B12.

Vision Problems

An untreated vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to blurred vision. Damage to the nervous system can affect the optic nerve, which carries information to and from the brain.