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The Vitamin B12 Debate: Do You Need a Prescription or Not?

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Also known as cobalamin, vitamin B12 performs hundreds of crucial functions for your body. It plays a key role in helping your brain function optimally, helps regulate your red blood cells, and creates DNA. It also regulates your mood, promotes bone health, and betters your cardiac health.

However, according to a study by the CREA-Research Center for Food and Nutrition, close to six percent of the world population is deficient in vitamin B12.

Let’s explore the reasons why people get this deficiency, the benefits of supplementing it, and what you should know about its overdose.

What Makes You Deficient in Vitamin B12?

Several reasons impact your body’s vitamin B12 levels. These factors are either related to its adequate consumption or interfere with your body’s ability to absorb it. Some of these include:

women hold a card vitamin B12
  • This vitamin is found in animal food sources such as eggs, poultry, and seafood. It is also found in yogurt, milk, and fortified cereal. Consuming a plant-based diet and not having enough vitamin B12 food sources.
  • Pernicious anemia, which is an immune system disorder that attacks the cells responsible for producing IF (intrinsic factor) that helps absorb vitamin B12.
  • Digestive diseases such as Celiac disease or Crohn’s disease also impact one’s ability to absorb vitamin B12.
  • Chronic stomach problems such as gastritis. This is especially common in people over fifty years.
  • Consuming excessive alcohol over a long time may lead to Vitamin B12 deficiency.
  • Undergoing gastrointestinal surgery such as that for weight loss interferes with vitamin B12 absorption.
  • Long-term dependence on medications for treating diabetes, seizures, or infections.

Why Should You Consider Vitamin B12 Supplementation?

A deficiency of vitamin B12 can cause several discomforting symptoms that may affect not just your physical health but also your neurological health. This is why supplementing vitamin B12 is important. While initially, this deficiency may not present any symptoms, you should be aware of some of the most common ones such as:

Neurological symptoms:

  • Trouble concentrating and remembering things.
  • Difficulty in waking up in the morning.
  • Slurring of speech.
  • Problems with the vision.

Physical symptoms:

  • Experiencing extreme tiredness.
  • Excessive fatigue without exertion.
  • Loss of appetite.
  • Unintended weight loss.
  • Pale yellow skin.
  • Getting sores on tongue or mouth.

Psychological symptoms:

  • Experiencing a change in how you react to things.
  • Feeling stressed, depressed, and irritable.

How Much Vitamin B12 is Too Much?

If vitamin B12 is not supplemented, it may lead to more severe symptoms. These may include degeneration of the spinal cord, memory loss, paralysis, and even paranoia and hallucinations.

While vitamin B12, as mentioned above, is essential for your mental and physical health, there are chances that you may overdose on it. Although this vitamin is water-soluble and gets expelled from the body through the urine, there are some risk factors associated with overdosing.

According to a National Institutes of Health Journal, male and female adults above the age of nineteen years need around 2.4 mcg of vitamin B12. Up to 1000 mcg, a day of an oral tablet may be taken every day to treat the deficiency of this vitamin.

However, it is essential not to start a supplement with a higher dosage than this without consulting your doctor. This is mainly because there is no prescribed tolerable upper intake level of this vitamin, which means that it is not known how much maximum daily usage of vitamin B12 may cause harm to you.

Why Should You Never Take Vitamin B12 Without a Prescription?

According to the Clinical Toxicology (Philadephia) Journal, an overdose of vitamin B12 may have adverse effects on people with kidney and liver diseases. The risk categories also include pregnant women. This mainly happens because although the excess amount of this vitamin B12 is naturally flushed from the body and a very small percentage is absorbed, some people may have trouble absorbing it.

This usually occurs due to issues of the gastrointestinal tract or when there is a lack of acids in the stomach.

Here are some complications that may occur when people in these categories take vitamin B12 without consulting their healthcare provider:

  • Extremely high vitamin B12 levels in pregnant women may result in complications in the health of their unborn child. Overdose of this vitamin B12 is associated with a higher risk of autism spectrum disorder in children.
young pregnant women take a capsules
  • In patients with diabetic nephropathy, overdosage of vitamin B12 is associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular problems by interfering with the normal functioning of the cardiovascular system. These may include hypertension or even a heart attack in more severe cases.
  • In some cases, people may experience numbness and tingling sensations. This is mostly reported on the right side of the body and is linked to vitamin B12 overdose.
  • Vitamin B12 overdose is not just connected with implications on your physical health, but it also has a negative impact on your mental health. Taking vitamin B12 without consulting your doctor may lead to restlessness, depression, mood swings, and even panic attacks. People who already experience mood swings may see a worsening of their symptoms.
Sleep problems for a young boy
  • Excessive vitamin B12 in the body may cause problems with the sleep patterns of some people. Vitamin B12 acts as an energy booster for the body. Therefore, an overdose of this vitamin may lead to insomnia.
  • Overdose of vitamin B12 may also result in gastrointestinal problems. These may include mild diarrhea, nausea, or indigestion. People who have chronic gastrointestinal problems may suffer from severe stomach cramps and severe diarrhea.
  • One of the most common side effects of vitamin B12 overdose is a skin rash. The skin may also appear to be red. Some people may experience itchiness or even welts on the body.
women allergic reaction to neck

The Bottom Line

People who are above fifty years, vegans, or those who have issues that interfere with their ability to absorb vitamin b12 may need to take vitamin b12 supplements. However, it is essential to not self-diagnose the levels of vitamin B12 in your body as this may lead to some serious side effects as mentioned above. We recommend not taking vitamin B12 supplements without consulting your healthcare provider.

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