Unfortunately, many of us are familiar with the hallmark signs of aging: declining strength and energy, brain fog and “senior moments,” irritability, difficulty sleeping, hearing and vision loss…the list goes on and on. Most people either accept these things as “just part of getting older,” or take whatever drugs their doctors prescribe in the hopes of feeling better. But guess what? I have some shocking news to share with you. These are NOT normal signs of aging.
More often than not, there is a singular, easily remedied vitamin deficiency underlying many of these symptoms, making you feel older than you are! Yet tragically, it frequently goes undetected by doctors until it manifests as a severe neurological disorder, dementia, mental illness, chronic fatigue, cardiovascular disease, cancer…or worse. What I’m talking about here is vitamin B12 deficiency, which, sadly, affects nearly 50% of older adults.If you’ve experienced any of the symptoms I described above, it’s imperative that you take action NOW before irreversible damage occurs. The good news is that B12 deficiency can be remedied easily, quickly and inexpensively. But don’t run out and grab the first bottle of B12 you see – it’s crucial that you take the right kind of B12.
What is Vitamin B12 and Why Is It So Essential?
Like all vitamins, B12 is an organic compound, made from carbons (as opposed to minerals, which are inorganic), and essential for our normal metabolic function and health. Also, like most vitamins, B12 plays a wide variety of roles in our metabolism. The short list of important effects B12 has on your health includes these:
- Vitamin B12 is essential for the manufacture of red blood cells; a deficiency leads to a characteristic kind of anemia
- Vitamin B12 is needed to support the normal function of nerve cells and to manufacture myelin, the insulating material that surrounds some of our nerve cells and speeds neural transmission
- Vitamin B12 is required for the replication of DNA
Each of these effects is obviously quite important, but remember the third one in particular. When B12 is deficient, our DNA cannot replicate normally – meaning we can’t generate new, healthy cells. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency can mimic all of the effects of aging.
Signs You Have a B12 Deficiency
- Low energy and weakness
- Memory problems
- Confusion or “fuzziness”
- Irritability and mood swings
- Persistent sleep problems
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Digestive problems
- Weak immunity
- Hearing and vision loss
- Tingling in the extremities
Difficulties With Vitamin B12 Absorption
Vitamin B12 is found in animal foods (and fortified cereals), so vegans are vulnerable to deficiency. But the most important cause of deficiency has to do with the unique way B12 is absorbed. To get into the bloodstream, B12 must be escorted by a protein called intrinsic factor, produced by cells of the stomach. Many disorders of the stomach, such as gastritis, particularly common after age 50, can interfere with the production of intrinsic factor. This condition is called pernicious anemia.
Medications that affect the stomach – such as aspirin, antacids and proton-pump inhibitors – can also interfere with intrinsic factor production and result in a B12 deficiency. The commonly used diabetes medication, metformin (Glucophage), can do so as well.
For garden-variety B12 deficiency, due to inadequate intake from food or supplements, oral supplementation suffices to fix the problem. But pernicious anemia cannot be treated with oral B12 because the lack of intrinsic factor will prevent absorption. The appropriate treatment is vitamin B12 injections your doctor must provide.
What You Need to Know About B12
Vitamin B12 is essential to the very foundation of life itself – it’s one of the building blocks your body uses to produce DNA. It also keeps your immune system functioning optimally, regulates mood and sleep cycles, and is crucial to energy production, which is why it’s known as the “energy vitamin.” It also protects your brain and nervous system by keeping nerves healthy and communicating in an optimal manner. And emerging research is showing that B12 helps to lower levels of the stress marker homocysteine, making it a vital player in maintaining heart and brain health.
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