How Can I Know If I Need B12?

March 31, 2020

How Can I Know If I Need B12?

How Can I Know If I Need B12?

Do you think your vitamin B12 deficient? While being deficient isn't common, it can cause serious health concerns. Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble nutrient required for correct red blood cell synthesis, cognitive function, and DNA formation. As an essential vitamin, your body doesn't make B12 but instead receives the nutrient through food or supplements.


Without your daily dose, you can develop anemia, have difficulties walking, and experience memory loss. But these symptoms themselves may be connected to other health problems. So the question becomes— How can I know if I need B12? In this article, we'll go over all the possible signs and symptoms of a B12 deficiency to help you determine if you require a supplement.

Signs and Symptoms

The best way to determine if you have a vitamin B12 deficiency is to speak to your health care professional. Your doctor can schedule blood tests to measure levels. During your visit, your doctor may take a complete health history and ask if you’re experiencing any of the following symptoms.

Cognitive impairment  

Being deficient in vitamin B12 may cause cognitive impairment. Men and women with neurodegenerative diseases like dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and Parkinson's also may have low levels of vitamin B12 before becoming ill.   

Cognitive impairment problems include memory loss and difficulty in thinking. (3) In 17 different studies, patients with neurodegenerative diseases who received B12 as a treatment had improved cognitive abilities. It should be noted that the patients also had low B12 levels before the treatment began.


The Mayo Clinic says that anemia is when you don’t have sufficient healthy red blood cells to transport oxygen throughout your body. (1) Anemia results in making you feel sluggish and run down. Other signs and symptoms include the following:


  •     Fatigue
  •     Yellow  skin
  •     Tingling in hands or feet
  •     Depression
  •     Shortness of breath
  •     Problems thinking
  •     Shaky movements

One type of anemia is vitamin deficiency anemia. (2) If you lack a healthy diet full of nutrients, such as folate, vitamin C, and vitamin B12, you can develop vitamin deficiency anemia. Besides a poor diet, you can have a medical condition that impairs your ability to absorb vitamins.

In the beginning, anemic symptoms are subtle. Over time symptoms may become more pronounced, making a diagnosis easier and everyday life harder to enjoy. You can treat anemia with vitamin B12 cream.


Tingling sensation  

B12 deficiency may cause a tingling sensation in the hands and feet. The twitching may turn to numbness and eventually cause trouble walking. The reason for the feeling is that scientists think low B12 results in nerve damage.   

Vitamin B12 helps provide a protective coating around the nerves in the hands and feet called myelin. When there's not enough vitamin B12, the myelin breaks down, leading to nerve damage.   


Shortness of breath  

One sign of a vitamin B12 deficiency is shortness of breath. Experts believe the shortness of breath is the lack of healthy red blood cells. If you experience shortness of breath, it's essential to get help right away.


Mouth pain  

A common sign of a lack of vitamin B12 is having mouth pain. You may have cuts or mouth ulcers in and around the mouth, making eating food and drinking painful.


Some people develop glossitis. It’s when your tongue may also become inflamed and change texture from being slightly bumpy to smooth and red. Another mouth problem is a burning sensation that won’t go away or comes and goes.


The lack of red cell formation due to low B12 reduces the amount of oxygen circulating the tongue.



Feeling extremely tired is another sign of a B12 deficiency. Like with mouth pain, fatigue comes from inadequate red cell production and a lack of oxygen circulating throughout the body.


Nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea

Vitamin B12 may result in you feeling sick to your stomach, needing to vomit, and experiencing diarrhea. These symptoms have to do with insufficient oxygen navigating throughout the body from the lack of red blood cells negatively affecting digestion.


Weight loss  

B12 helps with digestion, and a deficiency results in feeling weak and sick. Feeling sick could result in decreased appetite, making unhealthy weight loss the outcome. Losing too much weight not only causes muscle loss but also makes it harder to overcome illness.



 Jaundice is pale skin that has a yellowish tint. One reason for the yellow color could be a vitamin B12 deficiency. Red blood cells flourishing in the body results in a healthy-looking skin tone.


If you're vitamin B12 deficient, the poor red cell formation causes the yellow or pale glow. Pale skin is also a symptom of megaloblastic anemia.


Fast heart rate

In reaction to low red blood cells, your heart may start to beat faster to compensate. When your heart beats faster, it's pumping blood quicker throughout the body. Over time this puts a strain on the heart and may lead to cardiovascular issues.


Mood changes

 A lack of B12 can cause mood changes, irritability, and even mental health concerns, such as anxiety and depression. Experts theorize that vitamin B12 helps break down homocysteine, a chemical compound found in the brain. If you have a deficiency, there’s more homocysteine, resulting in mental health issues.


Treatment and prevention

 As an essential vitamin, B12 comes from animal-based foods. If you eat meat or drink milk, you can usually get your daily dose. However, if you're vegan, vegetarian, pregnant, or breastfeeding, you may not receive enough. Or if you have a condition that impairs vitamin B12 absorption.


The most straightforward answer is to increase your intake of animal-based foods or take a vitamin B12 supplement. As a water-soluble vitamin, any excess B12 is removed through urine. Vitamin B12 is inexpensive, comes in a variety of forms, and has few side effects.


In the end, having one or more of the above symptoms may not be enough to figure out whether you have a vitamin B12 deficiency. The only way you can honestly know whether you need B12 is to make an appointment with your medical professional.