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“There is no doubt that you have heard about the ever-trending concept of supplements, with endless influencers bombarding you with vitamin and supplement advertisements and sponsorships,” said Dr Ioannis Liakas, Medical Director at Vie Aesthetics. “But how do you know if you need them?” The expert shared the tell-tale signs of vitamin B12 deficiency, which could signal your levels of the nutrient are low.
The Harvard Medical School referred to this deficiency as “sneaky” because it can start quietly until it stirs up serious problems.
The health portal describes a case study of a 62-year-old man who developed pins and needles, trouble walking, severe joint pain, shortness of breath and turned yellow.
All of this was triggered by the lack of B12 in the course of two months.
Like in the man’s case, one warning sign of vitamin B12 deficiency is “numbness and tingling in the hands and feet”, Dr Liakas said.
The Harvard Medical School explains this sign can present as a “strange” sensation in your hands and feet.
It might feel like numbness or tingling. The NHS explains the official term for this symptom is paraesthesia, also known as pins and needles.
The health service shares: “Pins and needles feel like pricking, tingling or numbness on the skin.
“It happens when the blood supply to the nerves is cut off. This is usually when you sit or sleep on part of your body. It only lasts a few minutes.”
Apart from your hands and feet, it can also strike in your arms and legs, they add.
Generally, vitamin B12 deficiency can be slow to develop, only showing symptoms that appear gradually.
However, in some cases the onset can be quick.
“Given the array of symptoms a vitamin B12 deficiency can cause, the condition can be overlooked or confused with something else,” the Harvard Medical School notes.
As pins and needles aren’t the only symptoms of this condition, Dr Liakas added other signs of a B12 deficiency that could help spot it:
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Loss of appetite
- Weight loss
- Balance problems
- Poor memory
- Soreness of the mouth or tongue
- Mouth ulcers.
He said: “A vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to disruption in the nervous system and the circulatory system.
“Vitamin B12 deficiencies can lead to megaloblastic anaemia, a condition where the bone marrow produces large abnormally shaped red blood cells that do not function properly.”
To avoid any further or irreversible damage, the NHS stresses the importance of seeing your GP if you experience the symptoms of B12 deficiency “as soon as possible”.
“The longer the condition goes untreated, the higher the chance of permanent damage,” they warn.
Fortunately, there are plenty of options that can tackle the deficiency and replenish your levels.
Dr Liakas said: “One of the simplest ways of increasing your vitamin B levels is by making certain changes in your everyday diet.
“By having a diet that incorporates meats, grains, fruits and vegetables, we can ensure a good, healthy balance in our lifestyle.
“If you do not eat meat, eggs, or dairy, you can still get vitamin B12 from fortified foods or nutritional yeast to help fight the deficiency.
“For many, taking an oral supplement may be the best way to ensure adequate intake, it is easy and does not require a lot of effort and time in our busy lifestyles.”
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