Feeling Numb in Your Feet? You May Be Low in B12

CDC/ Debora Cartagena

Vitamin B12 deficiency may seem like a oddly specific problem to be concerned about. But as it turns out, being low in vitamin B12 is a much more serious health issue than you might think. Experts estimate that 3.2 percent of adults over age 50 are severely low in B12, while up to 20 percent might have a borderline deficiency, according to Harvard Medical School.

So why is vitamin B12 important? Well, everyone needs it in order to make red blood cells, which provide oxygen to the body’s tissues. Like many vitamins, B12 is not made naturally in the body, which means you have to get it through food or supplements. According to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, healthy adults should aim to get 2.4 micrograms of B12 per day. Most people are able to easily reach this amount by regularly eating meat, fish, and dairy products. 

However, some folks following a plant-based eating plan struggle with this; as healthy as fruits and vegetables are, they don’t contain vitamin B12. If you’re not getting enough B12 in your diet — or if you have a condition like celiac or Crohn’s disease that prevents you from absorbing enough B12 — you could potentially be at risk for serious health issues later on, such as nerve damage and blood diseases. That's why it's important to keep an eye out for tell-tale signs of vitamin B12 deficiency, according to the National Institutes of Health.

Common Signs of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

  1. Constipation
  2. Loss of appetite
  3. Problems with balance
  4. Tiredness and weakness
  5. Poor memory and confusion
  6. Soreness of the mouth or tongue
  7. Numbness or tingling in the hands, legs, or feet

If you suspect you might be low in vitamin B12, talk to your doctor. You’ll need a blood test to confirm the condition. If it turns out that you’re seriously low in the vitamin, you may need to take B12 pills or take shots of the vitamin as a treatment, according to Medline Plus. But the good news is that for most healthy adults, there are a few simple ways to prevent being low in vitamin B12 in the first place.

How to Prevent Vitamin B12 Deficiency

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