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Vitamin B12 and Depression

How are low levels of B12 and depression linked?

While most of us are guilty of making an offhand remark about depression from time to time, like “Yeah, I’m a little depressed today”, true depression is a significant, potentially life-changing condition that affects millions of people. It’s also very complicated; much more so than simply calling it a chemical imbalance.

While having too much or too little of certain chemicals in the brain can be a factor in depression, there are actually many possible causes, such as genetic predisposition, stressful or traumatic experiences, medical problems and reactions to drugs and medications. Inadequate levels of vitamin B, vitamin B12 in particular, may also be linked to depression. Researchers have yet to determine exactly why a lack of B12 leads to mood disorders, increased anxiety levels and depression, but it is believed that there may be a connection to the role it plays in the synthesis of mood-regulating brain chemicals, like serotonin and dopamine.

Vitamin B12 plays an important role in the body. Its presence is necessary for the production of red blood cells and functions associated with nerves, DNA and other bodily processes. Despite how necessary B12 is, like most other vitamins, the body cannot make its own and must rely on food or some other form of supplementation. This can often result in a B12 deficiency, especially in older people. Many individuals simply do not consume the necessary amounts and others have gastrointestinal absorption issues and cannot absorb enough, no matter how much they take in. Vegans and those who are strict vegetarians are prime candidates for vitamin B12 deficiency, because it is not found in vegetables or other plants; only in meat, poultry, eggs, dairy products and other foods that come from animals. Anyone having weight-loss surgery is also at risk, because the operation hinders the body’s ability to extract the vitamin from food.

Signs and Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Vitamin B12 deficiency can manifest with a wide array of symptoms; sometimes all of a sudden and other times gradually, with intensity levels growing over time. One of the reasons that this condition is often misdiagnosed is that there is such a range of symptoms, making it easy to attribute to something else. Some of the symptoms include:

  • numbness, tingling, burning or other strange sensations in hands, legs or feet
  • staggering, coordination or balance problems when walking
  • constipation
  • appetite and weight loss
  • anemia
  • a swollen, inflamed or smooth tongue
  • jaundice
  • cognitive difficulties or memory loss
  • paranoia
  • hallucinations
  • physical weakness
  • fatigue

Vitamin B12 is crucial for brain function and, besides the other possible physical symptoms, deficiency can result in depression, psychosis, mania and dementia. For those who are unable to maintain an adequate level of vitamin B12, it is important that they consult with a healthcare professional and initiate a corrective plan. Suggestions for accomplishing this may include a change in diet, supplement recommendations or vitamin injections.

At the Southern California Center for Anti-Aging, we know how important nutrition is to health and well-being. Today’s diets are depleted of vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and other nutrients due to the decreasing quality of our food supply, poor soil and busy lifestyles.   Vitamins are a crucial factor to feeling energetic, maintaining a strong immune system, and decreasing risk factors for many diseases. Once we have diagnosed your particular case through carefully administered testing, we will make our recommendations for dietary changes or supplementation, such as highly absorbable vitamin injections, based on your individual needs.

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Posted in: Nutrition And Fitness

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