Vitamin B12…what does it do?

I started researching Vitamin B12 about 2 years ago when I was studying nutrition. I was so shocked to see that most of us were vitamin B12 deficient and decided to try it out on my oldest daughter who had moaned that she had lethargy, shortness of breath and inability to concentrate amongst other B12 deficiency symptoms. Within days her mood had changed and within months, she was had lost many of the symptoms she had previously moaned about.

Then early this year my daughter once again started to moan about the symptoms that she had had. I asked her if she had stopped taking the vitamins I had suggested. She said that because she was feeling better, she had stopped taking them.

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So I suggested that she started taking her vitamins again and guess what…she’s starting to feel better again. So why is vitamin B12 so important and where can we get it?

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What is vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12, also known as Cobalamin is a water-soluble vitamin used to help carry oxygen around the body. It helps keep the body’s nerve and blood cells healthy and helps make DNA,

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Deficiency symptoms

Deficiency signs include:

  • Constantly feeling tired
  • Muscle aches and weakness
  • Joint pain
  • Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
  • Feeling dizzy
  • Poor memory
  • Inability to concentrate well
  • Mood changes, which can include increased depression and anxiety.
  • Having abnormal heart problems such as palpitations
  • Poor dental health including bleeding gums and mouth sores.
  • Digestive problems like nausea, diarrhoea and cramping.
  • More serious deficiency can cause a form of anaemia called pernicious anaemia a serious condition that can cause memory loss, confusion and even long-term dementia.

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Those most at risk?

Everyone can be B12 deficient, but those who are most at risk are

  • Elderly people who tend to have impaired digestion
  • Smokers
  • Those who drink
  • Those who are anaemic
  • Those who have digestive disorders i.e. Celiac sufferers
  • Vegans

There have also been studies on the effects of vitamin B12 on mental health. One study was delivered in a mental institute. The patients were given vitamin B12 every day for 3 months. At the end of the trial, 2 thirds of the patients were sent home. They had none of the symptoms they went in with. There are further studies that show the link between B12 and mental health and how it can help relieve many mental health issues.

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Where can you get vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is usually found in animal products including, meat, eggs and dairy products. However, if you are vegan, you will have to rely on fortified foods and B12 supplements to get the B12 that you need.

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What next?

If you think you are vitamin B12 deficient, it is best that you visit your health practitioner/GP, Nutritionist, Naturopath or Dietitian for a diagnosis and to get your vitamin B12 shots. There are over the counter vitamins you can buy, however, just make sure that there are not any other underlying issues that you have.