Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms: Exhaustion, Low Mood And Being Short Of Breath

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms

London: Motivated by the health benefits of a plant-based diet, Carly Minsky, then in her mid-20s, saw cutting out meat and fish as a natural and desirable step. At first, she ‘felt great’, she says, as she committed enthusiastically to her new regimen. After a year, though, it was a different story entirely.

‘I began feeling very fatigued,’ recalls Carly. ‘It wasn’t just tiredness, it was extreme fatigue.’ She also put on weight. ‘I went on like this for six years, not sure what was wrong, and by 2020 I could barely walk because I was so exhausted,’ says the journalist, 33, from London. Finally, concerned it might be a problem with her thyroid gland (which produces hormones to regulate metabolism), in 2021 she saw her GP, who sent her for blood tests.

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Within days, Carly was summoned back to the surgery and told her vitamin B12 levels had dropped so dramatically that she would need emergency vitamin injections every other day for the next six weeks, and then high-potency vitamin B12 tablets every day for life. The cause? Her diet.

Vitamin B12 is mainly found in animal and dairy products meat, fish, eggs, milk, and cheese, for instance, and is vital for numerous key body functions, including brain health and the production of red blood cells. A deficiency can lead to health problems including anemia (low levels of iron in the blood), tiredness, heart palpitations, shortness of breath, nerve problems, and mental health issues.

Those aged over 60, who are more likely to have dietary deficiencies, and people with pernicious anemia, an autoimmune condition that means the body is unable to absorb B12 properly, are at risk. So, too, are vegans. Earlier this year, the National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (NICE) reported that 6 percent of the population under the age of 60 is deficient in B12, rising to 11 percent among vegans.

Although Carly still ate cheese and eggs and drank milk, her intake over those years of vegetarianism wasn’t enough and her vitamin B12 levels had dropped. ‘My GP said I was at the dangerously low end of the scale and needed immediate B12 injections,’ she says. ‘It was a huge shock. I had no idea I’d become so unwell.

‘It took two months of injections before I began to feel better, and obviously, I am still taking vitamin B12 tablets daily.’ Most people get enough B12 from their diets — the recommended intake is 1.5 micrograms a day (an average diet containing chicken, fish, beef, and eggs will give you enough). read more

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