When you are feeling sluggish and slow what do you do? Many people turn to caffeine in the form of teas, coffees, and energy drinks. These methods may provide temporary relief, but if you feel tired because of a B-12 deficiency, caffeine won’t solve the underlying problem. Lack of energy due to a B-12 deficiency is more common than you think. Nearly 40% of Americans are deficient in vitamin B-12. Since this B vitamin takes part in the production of red blood cells, nerve sheaths, and DNA, you’ll benefit from more than just improved energy levels. Many people have returned their B-12 levels to normal after being deficient for years. They report feeling more energized and mentally sharp. If you’ve ever considered taking a B-12 supplement to improve your thinking or wellness, then read on.
What Is Vitamin B-12?
B-12 is an essential water-soluble vitamin and is one of the eight B vitamins. While each of these B vitamins influences your health in unique ways, B-12 remains one of the most well-known vitamins. Your body can’t produce B-12 on its own, so you have to get it from food or supplements. Most adults need around 2.4 mcg of B-12 every day to maintain healthy levels.
Are You at Risk for a Vitamin B-12 Deficiency?
Consuming enough B-12 is easy. Plenty of supplements and foods will provide you with the right daily requirements, but finding out whether or not your body is absorbing the B-12 is a bit more complicated. Carefully calculating your B-12 intake on a daily basis is a great start, but it’s impossible to account for the absorption rate. The most abundant source of B-12 in food is meat and other animal products, which is why vegans have a higher risk for developing a B-12 deficiency. However, many grains, like breakfast cereals, are now fortified with B-12, and vegan B-12 supplements also provide active forms of the vitamin that can be readily used by your cells once absorbed from the digestive tract.
Ultimately, the only sure way to know if you are deficient in B-12 is by having a trusted healthcare provider check your B-12 levels. However, there are some common warning signs of B-12 deficiency. People who are deficient in B-12 may have difficulty walking, can develop yellow skin, experience muddled thinking, and have a sluggish metabolism.
How B-12 Supports Energy
The most common side effect of a B-12 deficiency is a persistent lack of energy. Not having the energy to do the things you want can seriously affect your mental and physical well-being, and, compounded over time, may lead to more serious health problems. B-12 works at a cellular level to address the cause of energy loss and will aid your body in regulating long-lasting, healthy energy levels.
There are several ways B-12 supports how energetic you feel. B-12 aids in the formation of the hemoglobin inside red blood cells. These hemoglobin molecules transport oxygen from your lungs to all of the cells in your body, including your muscles, brain, and lungs. Without enough B-12, hemoglobin production ramps down and everything in your body struggles to run with less available oxygen, which accounts for many of those feelings of fatigue and tiredness. In some cases, a lack of B-12 can even contribute to pernicious and macrocytic anemia, where the body is not able to make enough red blood cells or your red blood cells have a low hemoglobin concentration. Even before anemia, lack of B-12 impairs muscle capacity and exercise performance.
B-12 also regulates energy by helping metabolize food. When you eat food, your body must break it down into usable energy forms. B-12 plays a vital role in metabolizing the fats, proteins, and carbohydrates you consume into energy that your body can then use. Without the right amount of B-12, some of these fats and proteins may go unused and will only pass through your system.
How B-12 Supports Metabolism
B-12 is not unique in the role it plays in a healthy metabolism. In fact, all vitamins and minerals are involved, at some point, in metabolic reactions. Some are required as cofactors for enzymes. B-12 is a coenzyme, or a key, for an enzyme that leads to the production of succinyl-CoA, one of the steps of the Krebs cycle. Without adequate B-12, you are unable to harvest usable energy from the series of reactions that break sugar down. A consequence of not being able to break down glucose is high blood sugar, which comes with its own health concerns. B-12 is also involved in the metabolism of fats (fatty acids) and proteins. While B-12 won’t boost metabolism for people with normal B-12 levels, supplementation can be immensely beneficial for those that are deficient.[7, 8, 9]
How to Get Your Energy & Metabolism Back to Normal
If you contend with low energy or a slow metabolism because of a B-12 deficiency, there is hope. You simply need to take in more vitamin B-12. Speak with your healthcare provider to rule out harmful organism overgrowth, poor digestion, or other issues that may hinder B-12 absorption. Harmful overgrowth in the gut microbiota can impede B-12 absorption by separating B-12 from the carrier molecule that protects it from the harsh environment of your digestive system.
To restore balance to your gut and encourage better B-12 absorption, consider a colon cleanse and gut reset. A probiotic supplement is another great option for restoring your gut to a healthier environment and supporting the friendly organisms that live inside your digestive system and help you absorb nutrients like B-12. Probiotics are especially important for older adults who often lack essential acids that are required to absorb B-12.[9, 10]
Do you take a B-12 supplement? How does it help you? Leave a comment below and share your thoughts with us.
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- “Office of Dietary Supplements – Dietary Supplement Fact Sheet: Vitamin B-12.” National Institutes of Health. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, n.d. Web. 02 May 2017.
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- Skerrett, Patrick J. “Vitamin B-12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful.” Harvard Health Blog. N.p., 18 Oct. 2016. Web. 02 May 2017.
- Lukaski, Henry C. “Vitamin and mineral status: effects on physical performance.” Nutrition, Volume 20, Issue 7. (2004): 632-644.
- Gropper, Sareen Annora Stepnick, Jack L. Smith, and Timothy P. Carr. “Advanced nutrition and human metabolism.” Boston, MA: Cengage Learning, 2016. Print.
- Froese, D. Sean, and Roy A. Gravel. “Genetic Disorders of Vitamin B-12 Metabolism: Eight Complementation Groups – Eight Genes.” Expert Reviews in Molecular Medicine 12 (2010).
- Chow, Bacon F., and Howard H. Stone. “The Relationship Of Vitamin B12 To Carbohydrate Metabolism And Diabetes Mellitus.” The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition 5.4 n. pag. Web. 5 May 2017.
- Pelley, John W., Edward F. Goljan, and John W. Pelley. “Biochemistry.” 1st ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby/Elsevier, 2011.
- Albert M.J., Mathan V.I., Baker S.J. “Vitamin B-12 synthesis by human small intestinal bacteria.” Nature. (1980): 781-782.
- Bender, A. Douglas. “Effect Of Age On Intestinal Absorption: Implications For Drug Absorption In The Elderly.” Journal of the American Geriatrics Society 16.12 (1968): 1331-339. Web.