B12 vitamin deficiency

Vitamin B12 affects many systems in the body. It is very necessary for the energy management of all cells in the body and for the proper functioning of the nervous system. A lack of vitamin B12 can therefore have serious consequences for your health. How does a vitamin B12 deficiency arise? And how do you recognize it? You can read it in this article.

Because the body stores vitamin B12 in the liver and therefore has a supply, a deficiency only becomes noticeable after a long time, often only after several months or even years. Your body first uses up the supply.

How does vitamin B12 deficiency occur?

There are several reasons why a deficiency of vitamin B12 can occur. It may have to do with a reduced intake of certain foods from which the body can extract vitamin B12, but a deficiency can also occur because you have a shortage of the substance intrinsic factor (which your body produces itself). The absorption of vitamin B12 by the intestine can also be reduced in the case of gastrointestinal infections and in conditions in which the production of stomach acid is reduced.

Vitamin B12 in food

A reduced intake mainly occurs in alcoholics and vegetarians or vegans. Simply put, vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is found in animal foods such as milk, meat, fish and eggs. In reality, it's about the bacteria that are in these foods. These bacteria turn on microbes in your stomach to convert nutrients into vitamin B12. These bacteria are also found in water and on plants, but because we live so hygienically these days, there is practically no vitamin B12 left in our drinking water and plant-based food. But animal products also do not guarantee enough B12, because cattle are now also fed with clean water and feed, animals are increasingly given vitamin B12 supplements.

For adult men and women from the age of 14, the recommended daily amount of the Health Council is 2.8 micrograms. Pregnant women (3.2) and breastfeeding women (3.8) need slightly more. For comparison: an egg (50 grams) provides 0.8 micrograms and a 100 gram piece of cooked salmon contains 4.0 micrograms of vitamin B12. Even if you eat meat and dairy, it is worth considering taking a vitamin B12 supplement as a supplement because that also has to do with the absorption. Moreover, there are no known adverse effects of too much vitamin B12. If you take a vitamin B12 supplement, make sure you take a bioactive form that is easily absorbed by the body.

Decreased recording

One of the causes of reduced absorption is bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine. As a result, vitamin B12 is less well absorbed by the body. There are very few people in the Western world who still have an optimally functioning intestinal system. This is due to all the chemicals that we ingest every day from agricultural pesticides, E numbers in our food, coffee, alcohol, sugar, gluten, dairy, etc. As a result, we have too little of the right bacteria in our intestinal system and that leads to too little formation of B12. It is therefore very important that we have enough of the right bacteria in the intestine and a well-functioning intestinal system.

For the absorption of B12 from food, we also need a substance in the stomach called the 'intrinsic factor'. This substance is secreted by cells in the stomach wall. Unfortunately, this substance is no longer sufficiently secreted in most people due to past or recent use of antibiotics, alcohol, sugar, medicines, coffee, and old age also plays a role. This leads to a too low intake of B12. Other reasons why the intrinsic factor is produced less or hardly at all are: operations in which part of the small intestine or stomach has been removed; reduced stomach acid production due to age; a thin mucosal layer due to stomach inflammation or an autoimmune disease of the gastric mucosa. If you have a shortage of intrinsic factor, there is not much point in taking vitamin B12: you will not absorb it. A short-term solution is B12 injections, but eventually the production of the intrinsic factor must be restored.

Symptoms of a B12 deficiency

Because vitamin B12 affects so many systems, a deficiency manifests itself differently in everyone. There are a number of complaints that occur more often, such as fatigue, dizziness, palpitations or ringing in the ears. The deficiency of vitamin B12 can also have neurological consequences, such as tingling in the fingers, memory loss, coordination problems or muscle weakness in the legs. Below you will find a summary of the neurological, psychological and physical symptoms.


  • Tingling, numbness, burning sensation in arms, legs, hands and/or feet, nerve pain, walking on "cotton wool", loss of function
  • Concentration disorders, memory problems
  • Aphasia: not being able to come up with the right words, using the wrong words, misunderstanding
  • Ataxia: Unexplained falling, or bumping into something, loss of sense of position, knocking things over, tripping, difficulty walking
  • Reduced pain perception, fine motor skills, smell and taste


  • Depression, nervousness, irritability, irritability, mood changes, behavior changes, apathy
  • Dementia, confusion
  • Psychosis, paranoia, hallucinations


  • Muscle pain, loss of strength, muscle twitching and muscle cramps
  • Glossitis (inflamed tongue), burning, sore or stinging tongue, sore mouth
  • Fatigue, drowsiness, weakness
  • Nausea, loss of appetite, weight loss
  • Menstrual complaints, such as no menstruation, heavy menstruation, too long menstruation, aggravated menstrual pain
  • Joint complaints
  • Shortness of breath, chest tightness, palpitations
  • Pale skin
  • Being cold
  • Impotence, infertility
  • Hair loss
  • Changes in visual field, blurred vision
  • Intestinal complaints
  • Incontinence and/or frequent urination
  • Headache, ringing in the ears, dizziness

Combat vitamin B12 deficiency

The treatment of vitamin B12 deficiency depends on the cause and severity of the symptoms. A deficiency of vitamin B12 can hardly be supplemented through the diet. You often need injections or high-dose supplements. Always consult your doctor, who will determine whether there is a deficiency and how it will be addressed.

Source: foundationb12shortage.nl

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