By Ann Bloomquist
Most of us remember being told to take our vitamins. Whether it be our mother or another loved one, the request came out of love. After all, the body needs essential vitamins and minerals to build bones, heal wounds and strengthen our immune system. Among the vitamins and minerals most important for our bodies are A, B, C, D, E, K, folic acid, calcium, iron, zinc and chromium.
Within the B group, vitamin B-12 plays a critical role, especially as we get older. Many who have taken it for some time will tout its benefit in improved energy, concentration, memory and mood. B-12, which is one of eight B vitamins, is also vital for some aspects of your DNA, the creation of red blood cells, the regeneration of red bone marrow, the overall health of your nervous system and prevention of anemia.
Risk factors and symptoms of B-12 deficiency
You’re considered high risk for developing vitamin B-12 deficiency if you have Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or HIV. Also, those who consume alcohol regularly, take prescription medications such as antacids, anti-seizure medications, colchicine or those on chemotherapy are at higher risk. Vegans and those who prefer not to consume dairy products may also produce low levels of B-12.
Common symptoms of B-12 deficiency include muscle weakness, stiffness and/or spasticity, shakiness, fatigue or lethargy, incontinence, low blood pressure or mood swings. The presence of any one of these symptoms, especially in combination with others, means a physician’s visit is in order. Though a vitamin B-12 deficiency could be the culprit, these symptoms could be the sign of something more serious, and a medical doctor can help investigate the cause and help you to find a solution. A deficiency can be identified through a simple blood test.
B-12 is naturally occurring in a variety of foods
Thankfully, B-12 is in popular meat choices such as beef, liver and chicken. Various fish and seafood supply high amounts of B-12, including trout, salmon, tuna and clams. You can also find B-12 in fortified breakfast cereals (look for the callout on the cereal box), low-fat milk, yogurts, cheeses and eggs.
If you need to increase your B-12 levels quickly and want to do so without the aid of a vitamin supplement, add a few of these popular and easily obtainable food items to your daily menu: beef, chicken, turkey, pork chops, tuna, salmon, trout, shrimp, herring, sardines, mussels, clams, oysters, crab, Swiss cheese, mozzarella cheese, cottage cheese, ricotta cheese, milk and eggs.
If the consumption of the foods mentioned above isn’t enough to correct a deficiency, supplements are available. The best time of day to take a B-12 supplement is in the morning on an empty stomach. Taken in combination with vitamin B-1 and a copper supplement can result in a boost in energy that can help you get through the day.