Although we live in a world where food is easily accessible, vitamin deficiency is still a very common issue. Most experts blame the changes in the soil for the prevalence of nutrient deficiencies, but the truth is that there are many reasons why in a country where people eat a lot but still lack certain nutrients.
7 Most Common Nutrient Deficiencies
Nutrient deficiencies occur when the body fails to absorb required amount of a certain nutrient. This is usually due to poor intake, pregnancy, aging, and conditions like bariatric surgery, Crohn`s disease, and cancer. The amount of each nutrient your body needs depend on the activity level, age, and sex. Some of the most prevalent nutrient deficiencies in North America include:
- Vitamin B12
- Vitamin A
- Vitamin D
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is a vitamin responsible for nerve function, brain function, and blood formation. Given that our bodies don’t produce B12, the only way to get it is from our daily diets. It requires intrinsic factors to be fully absorbed and it is found only in animal-based foods.
Increased Risk Factors from B12 Deficiency
- Cognitive Disorders
It has been scientifically shown that there is a strong link between low B12 levels in the body and both depression and the onset of dementia. Even worse, studies also show that dementia sufferers don’t benefit from supplementing in terms of reversing the damage.
- Elevated Homocysteine Levels
Homocysteine is created from the breakdown of protein. When found in excessive amounts in the body, it increases the risk for diseases like stroke, heart attack, and Alzheimer`s disease.
- Megaloblastic Anemia
Megaloblastic anemia is a condition in which the bone marrow produces immature, abnormal, and large red blood cells, known as megalblasts. Consequently, the red blood cell count drops and less oxygen is carried to the tissues and organs. Diarrhea, fatigue, wasting, nausea, and muscle weakness are the most common symptoms of this type of anemia.
- Impaired Infant Development
B12 deficiency in mothers can be extremely harmful for both physical and cognitive development of the baby, increasing the risk of impaired brain function and severe abnormalities.
High-Risk Individuals of B12 Deficiency
The following groups of people are at particular risk for vitamin B12 deficiency:
- Gastrointestinal issues such as stomatitis, anorexia, or chronic diarrhea
- Gastrointestinal disorders such as Chron’s disease, stomach infections, and stomach restrictions
- Bariatric surgery patients
- Vegans and/or vegetarians
- Pregnant or breast feeding women
Signs and Symptoms of B12 Deficiency
- Iron Deficiency
Very often deficiency in B12 is masked by an iron deficiency. Given that B12 increase the bioavailability of iron, both deficiencies are interrelated.
- Constant Fatigue
B12 deficiency means that the cells fail to get sufficient amount of oxygen, leaving you lethargic and tired. So, if you often feel tired, even if you get enough sleep, consult a doctor and get your B12 levels measured.
- Pins and Needles
Sudden pins and needles and numbness are caused by lack of oxygen to the cells, so they are often a sign of nerve damage and vitamin B12 deficiency.
Although occasional forgetfulness such as forgetting a friend`s birthday is not a big deal, severe forgetfulness may indicate a B12 deficiency.
Frequent episodes of vertigo and dizziness indicate serious issue, such as deficiency in vitamin B12.
- Pale Complexion
The formation of red blood cells is one of the major functions of vitamin B12. Pale complexion may often signal a deficiency or anemia.
- Vision Trouble
Blurred vision, spotting, and light sensitivity are often experienced by people with vitamin B12 deficiency. If neglected, it may damage the optic nerve.
5 Ways to Increase B12 (Without Supplementation)
Some of the best dietary sources of vitamin B12 include organ meats, red meat, milk products, eggs, nori and tempeh, and shellfish (particularly clams and oysters).
- Limit Alcohol
Excessive alcohol intake interferes with body`s ability to produce intrinsic factor, which in turn reduces the absorption of B12. Moderate alcohol intake is defined as having up to 1 drink daily for women and up to 2 drinks daily for men.
- Proper Calcium Intake
Calcium increases the absorption of B12, so make sure you include more calcium-rich food in your daily diet, such as dairy and green leafy veggies.
- Drink Cranberry Juice
It has been scientifically shown that cranberry juice, cranberry capsules, and cranberries increase the bioavailability of B12. Stick to healthy cranberry recipes and avoid sugar-loaded cranberry cocktails.
- Add Pepper to Your Food
Piperine, a compound in black pepper, also notably increases the bioavailability of B12 from your food.