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Fatigued and Forgetful? – Check Your B12

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fatigue and B12Being tired and forgetful are not necessarily a normal part of aging, or of living in general. Some of us have come to expect feeling tired and forgetful as just being a normal part of life, but it may be a very correctable condition – Vitamin B12 deficiency.

Vegans are particularly susceptible to B12 deficiency, because the vitamin is found primarily in animal products (organ meats, eggs, etc.).

Others who may be prone to this deficiency include those with chronic intestinal inflammation (such as Crohn’s disease), alcoholics, and those who consume antacid medication over a long period of time. In fact, recent studies have shown that B12 deficiency is more widespread than previously thought.

What Are the Symptoms of B12 Deficiency?

As noted above, feeling fatigued and tired is a symptom, particularly if it’s chronic. Other signs and symptoms include:

* An inability to concentrate
* Forgetfulness
* Bruising easily
* Odd pain sensations in hands and/or feet. This could take the form of tingling or nagging pains.
* Headaches
* Feeling light-headed
* Feeling weak

If you have any of these symptoms chronically (we all feel “off” once in a while; but if it’s a continual thing that’s different), then you can check with your doctor, who will perform various tests to see if you’re deficient. Your doctor also may recommend upping your B12 intake to see if your symptoms disappear.

What Causes B12 Deficiency?

Sometimes, B12 deficiency is as simple as not eating a balanced diet, or not eating enough B12-containing foods. It could also be due to a greater need for B12 in some people than others. B12 is also manufactured in the gut by intestinal flora, so it stands to reason that a lack of these helpful bacteria could contribute to a B12 deficiency.

Chronic intestinal inflammation such as occurs with Crohn’s disease and colitis can also affect B12 absorption and manufacture in the body. And finally, there may be a genetic component. Some families find that the tendency to need B12 supplementation seems to get passed on to their children.

How Can I Get More B12?

You can eat foods high in B12 or go for a supplement. If you tend to take a lot of antacids, this affects B12 absorption; studies show that sublingual (under the tongue) supplements work best. This form of the vitamin bypasses your digestive tract and is absorbed directly into the bloodstream through the mucus membranes. These are often marketed as “B12 lozenges.” Other ways to get B12 include the following:

* An injection from your doctor, which also bypasses the digestive tract
* Eating foods high in B12, such as eggs, beef liver, lean beef, poultry, nutritional yeast (sometimes called “Brewer’s yeast”), fish, and shellfish
* Taking supplements such as capsules or tablets.

If you are concerned about your B12 levels, you might want to simply eat more B12-rich foods. Here is a list of foods containing B12.

* Clams – These little bivalves provide significant B12 – one cup of canned clams provides 12mcg, or 200%, of the daily value of B12. Steamed whole clams have even more – 3 ounces has 84mcg, or 1400% of your daily value. Oysters and mussels have significant amounts of B12, too.

* Lamb – Lamb is the meat from a young sheep – not to be confused with mutton, which is the meat of a full-grown sheep. Lamb shoulder is particularly high in B12, with 100 grams providing 62% of the US RDA of B12. Lamb liver is said to be chock-full of B12, packing 102mcg, or 1696% daily value, into one 4-ounce serving.

* Liver – All sorts of liver is high in B12, including calf, lamb, chicken, beef, goose, and pork liver. You can eat liver braised, fried, or as a pate.

* Octopus – Okay, so this may not be high on your grocery list. But octopus, common in Asian cuisine, is rich in B12. Three ounces provides almost 31mcg, or 510% of the US RDA.

* Fish – Many kinds of fish are rich in B12. Salmon, tuna, cod, sardines, and trout are among the top providers of B12. Mackerel is said to have the most, with 19mcg (317% RDA) per 3.5 ounces.

* Crustaceans – Crab and lobster are good sources of B12. A 3.5-ounce serving of crab has 11.5mcg, which is 192% of the RDA.

* Beef – Lean chuck comes in highest as the best provider of B12 among beef products, containing a bit over 100% of the RDA, followed by sirloin, which contains 62% of the RDA.

You’ll notice that these foods are all animal based. If you do not eat any animal products, you might want to look for fortified foods like cereals and nut milks.

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