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Is a B12 Deficiency Making You Sick?

By |2023-09-20T16:30:56-04:00September 20th, 2023|Categories: B12 Deficiency|Tags: , , |0 Comments

B12 deficiency can sneak up on you. You’re feeling strong and energetic, thinking clearly, feeling upbeat, and then gradually, maybe over the course of several months or even years, you begin to notice that you’ve lost the pep in your step.

Your mind and memory aren’t as sharp as they once were. Even mildly strenuous physical activity leaves you breathing hard, and instead of feeling pumped up after exercise, you feel exhausted.

What happened?

B12 Deficiency Graphic

Without a thorough workup, complete with analysis of targeted lab tests, you’ll never know what’s causing you to feel rundown. It could be stress, a lack of (or too much) exercise, a buildup of environmental toxins, or an undiagnosed infection. Or it might be any number of nutritional deficiencies, a combination of those deficiencies, or countless other possible contributing factors.

That’s why I always recommend consulting with a healthcare professional who is attached to a functional medicine practice and obtaining a complete workup and personalized plan of care before starting any treatment, or even taking an over-the-counter supplement. Until you test, you don’t know the root cause of what’s ailing you or what your body may be lacking.

A complete workup often reveals numerous contributing factors and root causes, and one common factor is a vitamin B12 deficiency. Unfortunately, diagnosing and treating B12 deficiency and its underlying cause(s) is more complicated than just ordering a blood test and taking a B12 supplement. In this post, I explain why. But first, it’s important to recognize the symptoms and possible causes of B12 deficiency.

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in physiological processes that affect different systems in the body. As a result, symptoms of B12 deficiency can vary considerably, both in symptom type and severity. Here are some common symptoms associated with B12 deficiency:

  • Fatigue and weakness: Feeling unusually tired and weak is one of the most common symptoms of B12 deficiency. This is because B12 is essential for the production of red blood cells, which carry oxygen throughout the body.
  • Anemia: B12 deficiency can lead to a type of anemia called megaloblastic anemia. In this condition, red blood cells are larger and fewer in number, which can result in reduced oxygen-carrying capacity and lead to fatigue, pale skin, and shortness of breath.
  • Nervous system dysfunction: B12 plays a crucial role in maintaining the health of the nervous system. Deficiency can lead to symptoms such as numbness, tingling, or a “pins and needles” sensation in the hands and feet. It can also cause difficulty walking, balance problems, and even affect cognitive functions including memory and concentration.
  • Neuropsychiatric symptoms: B12 deficiency has been associated with mood changes, including depression, anxiety, and irritability. Some individuals may experience more severe neurological symptoms like confusion, memory loss, and even hallucinations in severe cases.
  • Digestive problems: B12 deficiency can lead to digestive issues, such as loss of appetite, weight loss, and constipation.
  • Glossitis and mouth ulcers: Deficiency of B12 can cause inflammation of the tongue (glossitis) and mouth ulcers.
  • Yellowing of the skin: In severe cases, B12 deficiency can affect the liver’s ability to process bilirubin, leading to jaundice and yellowing of the skin and eyes.
  • Heart palpitations and shortness of breath: B12 deficiency can impact the cardiovascular system, leading to palpitations and a rapid heartbeat. Shortness of breath can also occur due to the reduced oxygen-carrying capacity of the blood.
  • Vision changes: Some individuals with B12 deficiency may experience blurred vision or changes in vision.

Recognizing the Causes of B12 Deficiency

Treating vitamin B12 deficiency requires more than just supplementing with B12. I always recommend that you first need to identify and address the root cause of the deficiency. In addition, knowing what’s causing it can help you make better informed decisions about the B12 supplement that’s likely to be most effective. Vitamin B12 deficiency can manifest in several different types, each with distinct causes and characteristics: Continue reading…

What is Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome – or POTS?

While there’s probably only a handful of Philadelphia Eagles fans living here in Tampa, Fla., the team’s 2018 Super Bowl-winning quarterback Nick Foles has certainly been highlighted in the news lately.

That’s because Foles and his wife, Tori, have brought public attention to a private issue within their family. Tori Foles was recently diagnosed with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome — better known as POTS — which is an often undetected and underdiagnosed chronic syndrome that causes an increased heartbeat, fatigue, dizziness, and fainting.

POTS patients like Tori Foles frequently find themselves at battle with gravity, which is why this disorder is often referred to as “the fainting disease.” The human heart normally beats 70 to 80 times per minute when we are at rest. That rate climbs another 10 to 15 beats per minute when standing up, then settles back down. But for people with postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, the heart rate often increases 30 to 50 beats per minute — or more — leading to the lightheadedness, dizziness and fainting that Tori Foles experienced.

(Image © Maria Hagsten Michelsen)

While the plight of those suffering POTS became more visible last month when Tori Foles took her case to news outlets and a CNN audience, many of us in healthcare — especially those of us who practice functional and integrative healthcare — are committed to raising awareness about the disorder, and the misconceptions and frequent poor diagnoses surrounding POTS.

Women and the Misdiagnosis of POTS

Between one and three million Americans suffer from postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome, and 80 percent of them are young women — particularly those in their early teens — with the condition getting worse through the growing years. Because these women are younger and otherwise appear healthy when the disorder strikes, doctors often dismiss the physical prognosis, choosing instead to explore the Continue reading…

Hormone Replacement Therapy – Part I: The Icing on the Cake

Hormone replacement therapy has gotten a lot of press over the years — both good and bad. It all started in the 1960s, when women in their 40s and 50s were prescribed estrogen to alleviate the symptoms of menopause — hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, and mood swings. Then, studies appeared, showing estrogen promotes growth of the uterine lining, which increases the risk of cancer, so doctors began recommending the addition of progesterone to protect the uterus.

However, instead of providing patients with bioidentical estrogen and progesterone, pharmaceutical companies created a synthetic form of progesterone called progestin (which they could patent) and started combining it with various forms of estrogen — synthetic or derived from animals.

Hormone Replacement Therapy Doctor Matt Lewis

At about this same time (the late 1990s), theories emerged suggesting hormone replacement therapy (HRT) would be helpful for preventing certain age-related diseases in older women, and doctors began prescribing it for women in their 60s and 70s. However, in 2002, a large federal study by the U.S. National Institutes of Health called the Women’s Health Initiative linked the leading HRT medication, Wyeth’s Prempro, with an increased risk of cancer, stroke, and blood clotting. As a result of that study and others, many doctors and women abandoned hormone replacement therapy or now use it only to help alleviate symptoms during menopause.

The truth is that hormone replacement therapy is safe and effective for both men and women, as long as it is done right. Doing it right involves addressing other underlying health issues first and then using bioidentical hormones instead of Continue reading…