Category Archives: low iron

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

How do our bodies use B12?  Mayo Clinic writes that “Vitamin B12 is frequently used in combination with other B vitamins in a vitamin B complex formulation. Vitamin B12 is important in DNA synthesis. Vitamin B12 is bound to the protein in food. Acid in the stomach releases B12 from protein during digestion.”

As a Chronic Lyme Disease patient, I’ve learned firsthand about the importance of Vitamin B12 for gut health (which Lyme wreaks havoc on) and nerve health.  When I had carpal tunnel surgery ten years ago, not one of my three doctors thought to test my B12 levels.  It wasn’t until three years ago in my search for answers to my health issues that I asked my health care provider to test my B12, and it was high, despite not being on any supplements.  I found out through the thyroid patient support groups that it can be a symptom of having methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase (MTHFR) gene mutation.  So I tested through 23andme and, sure enough, I have it.  (Read more here to learn about the conditions MTHFR can cause.)

For me, B12 supplementation (with methyl-B12) has made a tremendous difference.  It stops my restless leg syndrome and light-headedness (my head feels like a balloon that is about to pop when my B12 is low), improves my weakness, tiredness, sore calves, rapid heart rate, breathlessness, and more, including many symptoms I thought were due to my chronically low iron (thank you, Lyme Disease and heavy metals).

We can also find B12 in fish, shellfish, meat, eggs, and dairy products, but I personally choose meat and eggs from pastured animals, wild-caught fish, and unadulterated dairy from pastured cows or goats because I know those products are healthier and nutrient-dense.

By the way, I’m not a medical professional.  Please read my disclaimer.

That being said, in my research for my own health which I share with you here, I’ve found that B12 deficiency can cause:

Symptoms of B12 deficiency:

  • Restless Leg Syndrome
  • Numbness or tingling in hands or feet
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Difficulty breathing, feeling out of breath
  • Weakness, tiredness
  • Light-headedness
  • Pale skin
  • Sore tongue
  • Depression, anxiety, mania, hallucinations
  • Poor memory, concentration
  • Irritability
  • Poor balance or coordination
  • Diarrhea, constipation
  • Upset stomach
  • Lack of appetite
  • Weight loss
  • Headache
  • Menstrual irregularity
  • Ringing in ears (tinnitus)
  • Sore calves

At-Risk for B12 deficiency

  • History of acid blockers
  • Low stomach acid (common in hypothyroid patients, the elderly, those with gut health issues)
  • A diet low in meat and animal protein, esp. vegetarian or vegan
  • Celiac Disease
  • Use of Birth Control
  • Use of Nitrous Oxide anesthesia (which inactivates B12)
  • Stomach Surgery
  • Pregnant and post-partum women (increases B12 needs), especially those women taking supplements high in folic acid – particularly women with post-partum depression
  • Age over 50
  • Parasites
  • Pernicious Anemia
  • Intestinal Bacterial Overgrowth
  • Peptic Ulcer
  • Transcobalamin Deficiency

Those with hypothyroidism, vegetarians or vegans, and the elderly are at risk for low stomach acid.

This documentary about B12 deficiency is really informative.

Labs for B12 issues

Again, I’m not a medical professional.  But as a patient, I understand that serum B12 labs are not always enough to rule out a deficiency because the lab is checking serum levels, not tissue levels of B12.  Here is a list of labs that might be helpful, according to the video linked above:

  • Serum B12
  • HoloTranscobalamin
  • Homocysteine
  • Methylmalonic Acid
  • Unsaturated B12 Binding Capacity

Also see Pernicious Amenia Society.

MTHFR Testing:

Links on methylation/MTHFR gene mutation:

Links on Methylation and Digestion: