Are you at risk of B12 Deficiency? Find out the most common reasons why
Are you at risk of B12 Deficiency?
B12 deficiency seems to be on the increase amongst younger populations, although the risk of this to the under 60 age group is only 6% according to the UK NICE medical guidelines.
One reason for this difference could be a testing anomaly. NHS test total serum B12, whereas a more accurate marker is “Active” B12. On average, 70% of the total B12 in the blood is not available for the body to use, but this can vary from person to person. Measuring Active B12 gives a more reliable picture of B12 deficiency.
If you’re feeling tired, low energy, have low concentration, low mood, forgetfulness, poor sleep, dizziness, pins and needles (to name a few symptoms) you may have less optimal B12 levels.
But – don’t wait for symptoms or a blood test to tell you about your B12 status, look at this list of common factors that can interfere with B12 availability in the body. The more factors you tick on this list, the greater the reason to take steps to alter your lifestyle or eating habits.
What factors can contribute to B12 deficiency?
Do you experience digestive symptoms like bloating, heartburn, burping, acid reflux, indigestion?
All these symptoms can actually indicate a lack of stomach acid required to break down food. Yes – even acid reflux and heartburn that you may associate with excess acid can actually be due to low stomach acid levels.
Stomach acid helps to separate B12, which is bound to protein animal foods like meat and fish. If it remains bound, it inhibits absorption into the bloodstream.
Are you over 50?
As you age, your natural levels of stomach acid start to decline. It is one of the reasons that the NICE guidelines state that 20% of over 60s are efficient in B12.
Are you following a vegan or vegetarian diet?
Since the majority of B12 is found in animal foods, vegans and vegetarians are at much greater risk of B12 deficiency. 11% of vegans are deficient according to NICE. Yes, there is a small amount of B12 in algae, seaweed and mushrooms, but levels are very low and will lead to a shortage over time.
Do you choose only naturally grazed (and organic) meat?
Pasture grazed poultry and cattle will obtain B12 from the soil and dirt. Factory farmed animals have limited if any access to soil and are fed grains that will have been sprayed with pesticides. These pesticides will alter the gut microbiome, where animals manufacture and absorb B12.
Is your lifestyle quite stressful?
Humans are designed to eat, digest and absorb nutrients from food in a calm environment, when the nervous system is in a parasympathetic state. When stressed, the body will inhibit the digestive system from working optimally. This causes a reduction in digestive secretions – like stomach acid – required to absorb B12 found in animal food.
Do you consume alcohol nightly or binge on alcohol too often?
Alcohol depletes stores of B12 (50% is stored in the liver). It also reduces the amount of B12 that can be absorbed from the gut into the bloodstream.
Do you take medications like Omeprazole or Metformin?
Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs) like Omeprazole lower stomach acid, therefore reducing the B12 availability from your food. Metformin reduces levels of B12 in the body, so log-term use can lead to a deficiency.
Testing Active B12 is an ideal way to determine levels and identify any required supplement dosage.
The best supplement is one that absorbs B12 directly into the blood stream from the mouth, bi-passing the digestive system. Therefore, a spray or one in drops are good choices. Also choose one formulated as methylcobalamin which is the active form used by the body. For those who are deficient, a common dosage is 1000mcg.
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