From bowel problems to fatigue, there are a multitude of symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency. We’ll show you why the vitamin is so important and how to get it.

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After a good night’s sleep, you should feel rested and start the day fresh. Still can’t concentrate and would like to have a little nap at lunchtime? Anyone who constantly feels weak and unable to concentrate may suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is also called the feel-good vitamin, so a deficiency should be remedied quickly.

Why do we need vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is involved in the metabolism of carbon, fat and protein. It is important for cell division and blood formation. The vitamin is needed to make red blood cells and to bind iron into the blood cells. It is also involved in building the nerve cells in the spinal cord and building DNA. The vitamin is necessary to keep folic acid active.

How do we take it?

We can only take the water-soluble vitamin through food. It is absorbed via the mucous membrane cells in the intestine and from there carried to the liver. It is stored here for several years.

Vitamin B12 is produced by bacteria and blue-green algae and is mainly found in fish, meat and milk. In plant-based products, it occurs only in small amounts after bacterial fermentation has occurred, such as in sauerkraut.

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What causes a deficiency?

Since the vitamin is stored in the liver for a long time, a deficiency only shows up after years. Older people in particular are therefore affected by a deficiency. The cause can be a diet low in vitamin B12 (e.g. a vegan or vegetarian diet) or gastritis / gastric mucosal inflammation. In addition, intestinal disorders or medication can prevent absorption.

What are the symptoms?

Common symptoms of a vitamin B12 deficiency are:

  • fatigue
  • frequent migraines
  • Hair loss
  • cramps
  • Anemia
  • Eye problems
  • Loss of memory and concentration
  • Sensitivity disorders

If you often feel weak or have other symptoms, it makes sense to have your blood values ​​checked by a family doctor. The methylmalonic acid test (MMA test) can be used to determine whether there is a vitamin B12 deficiency; if there is a deficiency, the MMA level in the blood and urine rises. If a deficiency is found, the diet will be changed after consultation with the doctor: Foods containing vitamin B12 are more often on the menu or even on dietary supplements.

How Much Vitamin B12 Should I Consume?

The German Nutrition Society (DGE) has compiled reference values ​​for different groups that you can use as a guide:

  • Children up to 15: The reference values ​​vary depending on age from 0.5 to 4 µg per day.
  • From the age of 15: 4 µg should be consumed per day.
  • Pregnant women: You need 4.5 µg per day.
  • Breastfeeding: Women who breastfeed have an increased requirement of 5.5 µg per day.
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Which foods provide us with the vitamin?

We can only get vitamin B12 from food and almost exclusively from meat and animal products. We have listed some good suppliers:

  • Fish and marine animals: Oysters, herring, mussels and herring are good sources of vitamin B12 and should be on your shopping list.
  • Dairy products: Whether camembert, cream cheese or Edam – the daily cheese stulle can provide us with vitamin B12.
  • Meat: Pork, beef and veal also contain the vitamin. Chicken contains a little less.
  • Vegan / vegetarian foods: Sauerkraut, Shiitake mushrooms and seaweed contain fluctuating vitamin B12 values. However, the proportion is so low that at least dairy products should also be consumed.

Is it possible to overdose?

The intake of too much vitamin B12 is practically impossible through natural foods. The intestines only absorb as much vitamin B12 as is actually needed. Any excess is simply excreted.

However, this only applies to natural products. An overdose can occur if too much vitamin B12 is absorbed through supplements. Therefore, they should only be taken on the recommendation of a doctor.

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