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Parenting My Way Through a Vitamin B12 Deficiency

BrothersAs a mom, there are certain characteristics you don’t want to encounter—fatigue, mental fog, and loss of energy are just a few.  Unfortunately, all those things descended upon my life at one time.

I didn’t think too much of it. I figured it was all just a snowball effect; running a family made my head spin at night instead of allowing for restful sleep, fatigue and chasing after a toddler drained my energy quickly, and doing things like asking my husband the same question five times in as many minutes is just what happens when you’re a mom.  Right?  Surely, that is all that was happening.

Then, I discovered the truth.

I Had a Vitamin Deficiency

At my annual checkup, my doctor made the mistake of asking me how life was going.  I chuckled and told her I was sure I was losing my mind—that’s how great it was going.  When I explained what I thought were mere side effects of parenting, she showed much more interest than I thought she would.

After drilling me about my eating habits, she ordered a round of blood work.  The lab reveled what my doctor suspected: I had a vitamin deficiency.

As a vegetarian, I (obviously) don’t eat meat.  Unfortunately, animal products are the only natural source of vitamin B12.  If I wasn’t going to eat the nutrient, I needed to supplement my diet.

A Total Transformation

My doctor sent me home with a prescription for vitamin B12 injections.  She informed me I had two supplement options—pills or injections.

Even without my deficiency induced fog, I’m a forgetful person.  Popping a pill a day was out of the question.  Weekly vitamin injections were more my style.  About a month after getting my B12 injections, life started to change.

Basically, things returned to “normal.”  Actually, I felt like a young, carefree 20-something again.  I didn’t realize how bad things were until they started getting better.  My whole family noticed the transformation too.

A Startling Discovery

After the initial elation wore off regarding my vitamin deficiency “cure,” shock set in.  A simple vitamin deficiency caused that much trouble?!

Because I didn’t want to be ignorant of such issues in the future, I embarked on a massive information-gathering session.  I researched vitamin B12 deficiencies and discussed the topic with health professionals until I was blue in the face.

Now, I feel pretty well versed on the subject.  And what I learned about vitamin B12 deficiencies was pretty surprising.  So I want to share my findings with you.

Vitamin B12 Deficiencies and Autoimmune Diseases

I don’t personally suffer from an autoimmune disease, but some of my nearest and dearest friends do.  Because I love them so much—and don’t want harm to come to any of you either!—I want to share a little insight.

While anyone can suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency, autoimmune patients are especially susceptible.  A B12 deficiency is almost a given for people with pernicious anemia, Crohn’s disease, Graves’ disease and lupus.

It is important to work closely with your doctor to monitor nutrient levels.  Symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency can easily hide behind the side effects most common to autoimmune diseases.  However, if you don’t unearth the vitamin deficiency and take action against it right away, you could suffer from serious, irreversible damage.

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the body.  It helps with things like DNA production and maintenance, red blood cell development, and the overall health of the nervous system.  Therefore, long-term damage caused by a vitamin B12 deficiency includes:

  • Severe depression
  • Numbness and tingling of the fingers and toes
  • Drastic weight loss
  • Paranoia
  • Delusions
  • Memory loss
  • Dementia (and even Alzheimer’s disease)

Establishing the Norm

A blood test is needed to unearth a vitamin B12 deficiency.  While the “normal” range will vary by lab, most professionals agree vitamin B12 should be between 200 and 900 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL).  Anything below 200 pg/mL is considered a deficiency.  However, it should be noted that the older population (who is much more susceptible to a deficiency) might be considered deficient at 500 pg/mL.

The method of supplementation will affect how much vitamin B12 your body has at its disposal.  Patients with an autoimmune disease like Crohn’s disease will probably need injections.  The autoimmune issues make it impossible for the body to absorb the B12 from oral pills.

Vitamin B12 injections are usually administered directly into the muscle so the body can use 100% of the dose.  Even those without absorption issues caused by an autoimmune disease won’t be able to utilize the full dose from an oral pill (quite a bit is lost through the digestive process).

There are other things that can interfere with the body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 too—like medications and other nutrients taken at the time of consumption.

That being said, your vitamin level can fluctuate on a daily basis.  It is impossible to get too much B12 because it is water soluble and any excess will be excreted from the body.  However, it is possible to dip lower one day and sore back up the next.

Therefore, patients should expect to experience a fluctuation in their side effects.  You might still feel slightly fatigued and worn down despite overall “normal” levels.

Parenting, Kids and Vitamin B12

As a mom, it is crucial for me to stay on top of my game.  I can’t adequately care for my kids if I’m plagued by things like constant exhaustion.  I owe it to my kids to stay healthy.

Now, more than ever before, I feel passionately about attending to my kids’ nutrition and overall health.  I don’t want them to suffer the same way I did.  While I was fortunate enough to catch my deficiency before it escalated to an uncontrollable level, I don’t want my kids to even come close to a dangerous threshold.

The Takeaways

Since I feel it is my responsibility to help other people avoid the same fate, I’d like to offer these suggestions:

  • Eat a healthy diet.  To get enough vitamin B12, you need to consume plenty of animal products like beef, chicken, lamb, pork, seafood, eggs, dairy, etc.
  • If you are a vegetarian, look for vitamin fortified products like breakfast cereal and nutritional yeast.
  • If you are unable to eat enough vitamin B12 or your body has trouble absorbing what you do consume, talk to your doctor about supplements.
  • Be in tune with your body.  Oftentimes, a vitamin deficiency is a sign of other, more serious issues.  If you suspect a deficiency (or it has been confirmed), look for the underlying cause.
  • Monitor your kids closely.  Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin.  That means you need to consume a little bit each day.  However, your body is capable of storing small amounts of the nutrient for a while in the liver (usually two to five years).  Children have not had time to store up enough vitamin B12 to last them if their daily consumption starts to decline.  While a steady stream of the nutrient is needed for everyone, it is especially important for youngsters.

For many of us, it seems like there is never a time of calm—there is always the possibility of a health crisis on the horizon.  But with proper attention to our diets, moods, emotions, and more, we can detect and treat abnormalities before they spiral out of control.

Do you suffer from a vitamin deficiency? Tell us about your experience.

 

About the Author
Lindsey is a mom of two rambunctious boys.  Healthy eating, plenty of sleep, patience and a bit of crazy are all necessary for survival.

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Comments

  1. Not sure if this helps or if you are interested but I recently heard about a new oral prescription alternative to the injections called Eligen B12. I recently read that it works even if you don’t have intrinsic factor (so even if you don’t have normal gut absorption). Apparently it came out a month or two ago.

  2. Sally Pacholok for vitamin B12 deficiency https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WEiJTubaH1A

  3. My mom recently went through the scary effects of the lack of vitamin B12. She had the paranoia and delusions. I thought I had lost my mom forever and come to find it out was a simple deficiency. It sounds ridiculous that one little thing can cause such a dirastic change.

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