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Harvard Health Blog
Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful
- By: Harvard Health Publishing Staff, Harvard Health
As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
I have a question. Does B12 (or even B-Complex) deficiency cause blotting of hands, feet and face. I have come across many people in India, who are poor and vegetarian and complain of facial, hands and feet swelling combined with extreme exhaustion. I know exhaustion is a symptom of B-complex deficiency, but am not finding any literature on whether bloating is also a symptom.
My gastrintologist told me that I am deficient in B12 and ordered shots every month. What I am wondering is if a B12 dietary supplement having 500 mcg in them would be enough to replace the shots? Pleast let me know soon. I have a hiatial hernia and two polyps: one in my stomach and one in my small intestine. He took a biopsy and I have to wait at least 10 days to find out the results. I am very worried about the hernia though. Thanks for your help.
I still jog and mostly walk. Still am working. Been vegetarian leaning mostly to vegan for a long time. Basically very active! For years now I’ve been using XS Energy Drinks and Rhodiola. I discovered these online. From the Amway company.
I believe two XS cans are equivalent to a B12 shot. And they have 15 or more flavors, even decaf. They are great tasting. They don’t cause a rush during, nor a crash afterwards feeling.
Usually I have a Rhodiola and an XS drink in the morning instead of coffee. Sometimes have another XS drink at a lunch break, along with their Perfect Pack vitamins.
So yeah I found and pay for these from Amway online. I did register as a distributor, so now get a 25% discount. You need a referral to buy it now, so here’s mine Amway.com/JamesLifeStyle
Having energy to do what you need to and want to do, is the way to go. Getting old ain’t kid stuff.
Some of the information on this page seriously underplays the damage caused by b12 deficiency. Maybe it would help all concerned to remind themselves of the damage that can be caused by b12 deficiency by watching this new video on Youtube
I’ve just been diagnosed with B12 deficiency, I began having symptoms over 3 years ago that have been persistant but my doctor never tested me. He’s now doing further tests to see why I’m deficiant and probably won’t start treatment for over a month. I collapse regularly, have quite awful numb pains in my limbs, i’m always tired, my memory has become crap, I’ve been peeing so much I’d think I was heavily pregnant, have developed an insanly sore mouth and since September have had the feeling of a lump in the back of my throat (apparently that’s a symptom too).. I’m 17, eat meat and stuff regularly…It’s all getting a bit ridiculous
B12 deficiency is so very common. As a Michigan foot doctor, I see patients with burning/numb feet on a regular basis, and though sometimes it can be indicative of a much bigger problem, I’m surprised by how often the burning sensation is mitigated when a patient begins taking a vitamin B complex.
Should treatment for vitamin b 12 deficiency be started immediately. My Dad has just been diagnosed on the 5th of March but treatment will not start untilll the 13th of march. Is this normal?
I’m a 32 year old female and have just been diagnosed with B12 deficiency. I had my firsts injection about three weeks ago. Yesterday I fainted for the first time in my life. I’m always tired, dizzy, have a nasty headache and feel like crap. What can I do to get my health back? How do I know if any damage has been caused before diagnosis. I’m beyond frustrated right now and just want my health back.
Just wanted to add to the above questions, I am 67 years old and B12 Vitamin Deficiency is in my family.
I have just recently had a B12 deficiency test done by my doctor thru a blood test. I have a lots of the symptoms that are listed and as I told my doctor what symptoms I had she suggested I have a variety of blood tests done including B12 deficiency. I will get the results this week. One of my symptoms is burning of the feet and pins and needles etc. I decided that while waiting for the results I would buy a bottle of B12 Vitamins 1000 mcg. I know that some people would have to get B12 shots each month if one were very high in B12 deficiency. So, I took a Vit B tablet and found that the burning of my feet and pins and needles increased quite a bit. Can anyone tell me why this would be? Would it be because I was allergic to Vitamin B. I remember when I was younger that when I took Complex B Vitamins for a hangover I seem to be worse. If I have Vitamin B12 deficiency, which I feel that I have, does anyone know if I took the B12 Shot which goes directly to your bloodstream, I would have some negative reaction to it.
Hi to much taking b12 is harm full to your body ?
About 8 years ago, I started feeling tired, numbess and tingling in my fingers and toes. I went to a couple of neurologists they did MRI’s, bloodwork and a spinal tap and could not find anything. Two years went by and I was getting worse. I found an internal medicine dr. and he did a MRI, bloodwork this time including B12 level. My B12 level was a severely low 41. Being that 200 is the minimum.
He started me on b12 injections but permanent nerve damage was already done. I still take B12, but now in a form of a nasal spray called Nascobal and my level has been in the 800’s. But I have severe stiffness, spacticity,and my balance is very bad. I walk with a cane or walker,but I wish the drs. would have found this earlier. They’ve said they’ve never seen anyone with such a severe b12 level and was still doind things and most of all still alive.
I would love to hear from others that have had a B12 problem just to talk to.
hi jane i am in the same position as you. my drs knew i had B12 deficiency for 3 years and that it was severe but did absolutly nothing about it. i started treatment in september last year. i dont know anyone else with this and would like to chat to others
I’m not a real fan of taking any sort of supplement, especially with the dismal track record of toxic elements being found in medicines these days.
I am 50+ yrs old female with thiroid for last 12 yrs ,take eltroxin for that , have been having sensitive mouth for last one yr , I feel very chilly in mouth with lips chipping and drying a lot ,the cheek inside mouth burn with hot or cold food, developing side lip cold sores all the time-all this was not there a yr ago,recently was prescribed vit b12 , now the dental hygenist told me I might have oral cancer which I am shocked about , because i DONT DRINK,SMOKE ….do you think its just because of deficiency vit b12, or something else, do you think it might be because of led present in lipsticks….,velscope said there was something abnormal in the walls of cheek but what – have told me to go for biopsy…
I did a B12 test and my B12 levels are to high
not low???? any means i could somehow counter
act it with something? thanks
Reading all these comments on B12 reminded me about my condition. I complained about numbness and severe tingling in my feet. My Dr. suggested I see a nerve doctor. He gave me a galvanic skin test and abruptly told me I had diabetes. Not the case. Never had it. Took all those meds that were prescribed for other ailments. Didn’t work.
Then, I came down with thyroid storm. Eureka. At last, a diagnosis of something. My thyroid stopped working months before. Lost about 25 lbs. in less than a month. Also, had been taking PPI’s for a long time. Mother had thyroid desease and had a goiter.
Lost a lot of hair on my head, hairless legs up to the Y.
Started taking Thyroid meds and blood tests were now normal. After a year or two, thyroid went downhill. Took the poison pill to kill thyroid. Didn’t work. Thyroid started working again.
Haven’t taken thyroid meds for a long time now and feel almost normal. Still have tingly feet with numbness. Now that I’ve read B12, I’ll ask my learned MD about a B12 blood test. Why not, I’ve given so much of it for tests, what another vial or two.
I’m 63 now, male, lost 2 inches in height(5’4″ now). Thyroid killed my bones also. Had surgery to repair lower spine. Vertebrae died on the last two rungs and disks went kaput.
I have always wondered just how prevalent Vitamin B deficiency is and how hard it is to get the vitamin back up in your system.
I know that with some vitamins there is the whole storage in fat worry but with Vitamin B apparnetly this is not the case. But also wondering with each of the sub vitamins B-1, B-3 and B-12 if there are any reasons why we should take B50s or B100s as supplements
Hello to all out there, always rather
go see your doc first before you start taking
any supplements even and including the 1’s you
can just buy off your local drug store shelf.
Negatives of taking vitamin B12 supplements if not
needed is it could lead to liver and kidney
failure and also heart disease.
SEE YOUR DOCTOR TO DO A OVERALL BLOOD COUNT
FIRST, ITS NOT EXPENSIVE AND WELL WORTH IT!!!
Hi – my father in law was diagnosed with a sever vitamin B12 deficiency. His symptoms now mainly consist of balancing/staggering problems (difficulty walking) and mild weakness. Two Drs. have said the damage has already been done and he will never fully recover. He will need to take an injectable vitamin B12 for the rest of his life and he will always need assistance walking. Is there any treatment other than vitamin B12 shots which can help to reverse the symptoms so he will be able to walk on his own again?
There are B12 patches available. Are they better than supplements taken by mouth? Seems today that most doctors are only interested in lipid panel results if you’re over the age of 30. I think they’re trying to show insurance companies that they’re frugal….at our expense.
hi there im a 30yr old male.
i wonder if any 1 can help!!!
about 6months ago i started feeling funny symp… incl.
tingling in body
I have had a full blood count done and also checked my thyriod,cholestrol,sugar and urine samples.
I have seen 3 different Docs now and they all say i seem to be fine. i still feel sick 5days out of 7 tho… can any1 help? thank you
Hey Gavin, being a certified nutritionist i can suggest that you might not be at risk of a major health issue but as the article suggest our body is in need of certain vitamins..i had few people come to me with the situation as yours, i suggested them some specific vitamins and they felt alot better
It could be a food allergy. Try an elimination diet and I suggest you begin with wheat. Eliminate all sources from your diet for 7 days and see if sympyoms go away.
Good article. I was diagnosed with a severe case of vit B12 deficiency in 2003 following gastric bypass surgery in 2000. I was extremely fatigued just wanting to sleep all the time. Also experienced this weird metallic taste in my mouth. Finally went to DR. I was checked for anemia and found out my hemoglobin was down to 5.9 grams (normal is12-14 gms for a female) Dr also checked my B12 level. It was less than 12 (extremely low). My Dr said that he had never seen a patient with a level that low. Anyway, he transfused me with 2 units of blood and put me on B12 injections wkly for a month, then reduced to monthly. No more problems as long as I take my injections monthly and keep my level monitored yearly.
Hello my name is Corina and I am currently on my last semester of college and I am pursuing a degree in dietetics. The reason I am writing to you or to anyone out there that reads this post. I am conducting a research project having to do with vitamin B12 and Gastric Bypass patients. My questions to you and anyone who has already had gastric bypass are pertaining to your moods.
1. Before you had gastric bypass did you have any mood disorders like depression, bipolar, or just severe mood swings with mild aggression?
If you did not have any of those symptoms from question 1 please go ahead and answer question 2
2. After surgery are you recommended to take B12 Supplements? What kind, shot, drops, or a pill.
3. After Surgery have you experienced any of the symptoms from question 1? If so can you please describe your moods.
I would really appreciate it!
My email is email@example.com
‘Thank you for this blog. That’s all I can say. You most definitely have made this blog into something thats eye opening and important. You clearly know so much about the subject, youve covered so many bases. Great stuff from this part of the internet. Again, thank you for this blozSg.”
Vitamin B12 is important, I know as my husband who is diabetic takes shots every month. I can see that deficiency affects his moods and over all mental state.
I have been experiencing severe hair thinning/loss over the past few months –more rapidly since Christmas holidays. I take a Vit12 1000 mcg daily. Does Vit B12 have any role in my hair troubles?
It can but iron and thyroid disease can affect hair loss as well. Best to get Ferritin & TSH checked by your doctor. Also, Folate needs to be high-normal for B12 to be fully utilized by the body. B12 tablets do not work for everyone and if your symptoms are not being controlled you may require injections. Have a look at this B12 self-assessment created by an NHS physician:
Great new documentary on B12 Deficiency has just been released: http://b12awareness.org/2013/01/21/2013-b12-documentary-by-elissa-leonard-completed/
Contains great info by Dr Solomon (B12 researcher), Sally Pacholok (Could It Be B12? author) and a doctor who was misdiagnosed and near death.
I had no idea that vitamin B12 was so necessary. Thanks for the information.
Great article. I’m constantly reminding my patients to supplement, especially for patients who aren’t big meat eaters. Excellent energy benefits as well!
If you think you have a B12 Deficiency please see the Pernicous Anaemia Society website and b12d.org. Both contain much more information than contained in this article. The book Could It Be B12?: An Epidemic of Misdiagnoses by Sally M. Pacholok is also an excellent source of information. Please keep in mind that the serum B12 test misses 40-50% of deficiencies. It should only be used with MMA and tHcy tests to rule out a B12 deficiency. Neuropsyciatric symptoms are commonly seen anywhere below 500-550 pg/mL (Japan’s lower limit). Anyone with neurological symptoms such as memory problems, balance problems, peripheral neuropathy and tinnitus require frequent injections for a long period of time, such as every other day until there is no further improvement. Nerve damage may take up to a year to 18 months to heal. According to the manufacturer’s insert up to 90% of cyanocobalamin is found in the patient’s urine after 48 hours. Oral cyanocobalamin may not work for anyone other than vegans because only 1% is absorbed by passive diffusion. Higher doses are required for neurological healing, though lower doses may keep you alive you will be suffering so many symptoms you won’t want to be.
All good points! Here is a video on Diagnosing and Treating B12 Deficiency:
“A mild B12 deficiency can be corrected with a standard multivitamin.”
There has NEVER been any research that corroborates this statement.
Usually treatments are life long depending on the cause. Most people have relief from the symptoms soon after treatment has begun. However, in severe cases treatment will not correct any/all brain and/or nerve damage already done. Your doctor will again check your levels of Vitamin B12, through a blood test, a few months after beginning the treatment.
“A standard multivitamin should do the trick.” The evidence supporting this statement? Getting enough B12 from a multivitamin may to be fraught with problems for everyone.
Most multivitamins do not have enough B12 to prevent or correct a deficiency. And many standard multivitamins contain B12 “analogs” that cannot even be used by the body. There is even some evidence that vitamin C in a multivitamin may convert the B12 in the vitamin to a harmful analog. Most multivitamins contain high folic acid compared to the amount of B12 (even though these two B vitamins are co-factors.) Without enough B12 you cannot metabolize folic acid. If you have any of the common gene variants that impair folate/B12 metabolism (MTHFR is the most studied) you could actually end up with functional deficiencies of both of these important B vitamins, while thinking you were protected by a daily multivitamin.
Too much folic acid in the presence of not enough B12 seems to increase disease risk across the board– it can mask the anemia and worsen the nerve damage of a B12 deficiency.
It may be best to get B12 from a stand alone supplement, or one containing B6 folate and B12, since they work together to keep homocysteine down. Pills don’t work for everyone, and cannot take the place of parenteral B12 for everyone.
I agree with the previous poster that the book Could It Be B12? is the recommended read on all B12 related matters.
Thank you for the article about B12 I am 51 years old the age of many things to think about and care for as I continue to age. I am a graceful person and I would like to age gracefully your educational knowledge of aging is very beneficial to a young old lady like my self. Doctors are amazed at my age alot of time I have to show my license for I do not look or act 51 however, it doesnt mean at 51 you dont have to accept change as you age. thanks again and have a Good Day…sincerely, aleigh
I’m in my late sixties. I occasionally take a multivitamin tablet.Wonder if i should start taking vitamin B 12 supplement. I’m of lean built but am active.
Can any body inform me about the name of the test which dectects the deficiency? Thanks!
MY vitamin B 12 IS 2000.WHAT IS THE EFFECT OF OVER B12.PL.GUIDE ME
Can you overdose on B12? I
I am 84 years old and not a strict vegetarian but have never eaten a lot of meat and was told by doctors forty years ago I was borderline anemic. Only multi-vitamin tablets were suggested until my current MD recommended monthly B-12 shots because she thought my body was not absorbing it from food or multi-vitamins. Seems to have worked well for at least six years now. I’m active and hope to stay that way as long as possible.
Apparently not. A highly recommended read on this and all B12 related matters is ‘Could it be B12? by Sally Pacholok and Jefferey Stuart.
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