Often when health goes downhill there are warning signs of low vitamin B12 levels. That’s because low vitamin B12 affects the nervous and/or circulatory systems.
It’s not surprising that so many signs of ill health relate to these two huge systems.
Nor is it surprising these two, huge, very different systems have distinctly different signs of decline. But it can be confusing when you and your friend have different health worries scaring you, only to find out you have the same underlying cause: low Vitamin B12 levels.
Across the board, no matter which system is presenting low vitamin B12 signs, without healthy vitamin B12 levels the protective myelin sheath on your nerves becomes damaged resulting in pain and malfunctions.
Nerve damage is harder for doctors to see than red blood cells enlarged from vitamin B12 levels too low to support normal cell division. So most doctors look for enlarged red blood cells or a B12 level of 200 pg/mL or lower (the levels at which enlarged blood cells begin to appear) before diagnosing “vitamin B12 deficiency.”
The fly in the ointment is that B12 levels causing memory loss, depression and other nerve related problems, begin at 500-550 pg/mL or, in other words, well before the 200 pg/mL low related to red blood cells and the circulatory system.
Despite vitamin B12 research
Compelling vitamin B12 research shows low vitamin B12 levels impact nerves. Yet many healthcare providers are stuck in the familiar past, refusing to see B12 deficiency unless it matches the classical definition involving enlarged red blood cells.
For example, after I was diagnosed with “profound vitamin B12 deficiency” a different doctor, who happened to be from India, said I could not have B12 deficiency because I wasn’t vegetarian. For her, the first/sole thing she looked for was a vegetarian diet, most typical in India. Any person coming to her who wasn’t vegetarian, was unlikely to have their signs of low B12 levels taken seriously.
The point is, a doctor’s underlying beliefs impact their view of your health problems, and therefore the diagnosis the give.
While research has shown that low B12 levels experienced over a long period of time lead to pernicious anemia and the body’s loss of the ability to make intrinsic factor in the stomach, where it’s needed in order to get and use the B12 in food, not everyone with low vitamin B12 levels will have the large blood cells.
Low vitamin B12 signs differ greatly
Many people with severe nerve problems from low vitamin B12 levels go untreated only because their red blood cells don’t show “classic” signs of deficiency.
Not surprisingly, I prefer, “low vitamin B12 signs” to “symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency” because the latter is most commonly associated with large red blood cells.
Vitamin B12 and fingernails is a roadmap to health because the wide range and confusing variety of low vitamin B12 signs are simplified on your fingernails. For instance, if your fingernails have ridges or are losing their moons these simple signs show low vitamin B12 levels.
Neurological low vitamin B12 signs
- Numbness in hands and feet
- Ataxia, for example irregular muscular action
- Impaired reflexes
- Gait disturbances, for instance difficulty walking a straight line
- Impaired vibration perception
- Positive Romberg’s test: closing the eyes increases unsteadiness. For example, close your eyes and try turning in a circle – losing your balance indicates low B12 levels
- Babinski’s sign, for instance abnormal reflexes in the feet
- Lhermitte’s sign: Sudden electric-like shocks go down spine on flexing head
- Optic atrophy such as wasting away of the optic nerve or reduction of optic nerve fibers from degeneration
- Impaired vision, for example blurred vision under stress
- Chronic fatigue syndrome, in a word, fibromyalgia
Psychiatric low vitamin B12 signs
- Concentration difficulties
- Impaired memory and memory loss
- Personality changes
- Psychosis, usually gross impairment in reality testing evidenced by delusions
For a better understanding read about Areas of Cognition and Cognitive Disorders.
Signs of anemia from low vitamin B12
- Shortness of breath upon exertion, for example difficult after a walk
- Numbness in hands and/or feet
Other low vitamin B12 signs
- Aversion to meat
- Faecal/urinary incontinence
- Loss of muscle strength
- Spasticity, for example tight or rigid muscles that can interfere w/ walking, talking
- Low self confidence
- Vitiligo, to clarify, that’s nonpigmented white patches of skin
- Frequent need to pass water
- Hair loss
- Diarrhea ~ Cause and Effect
Low vitamin B12 signs are often seen
In any person with:
- inadequate nutrition
- a smoking habit
- high alcohol consumption
- and, not to be overlooked, coping with significant stress
In people complaining of:
- vertigo, for example a sensation of losing balance
- asthenia, for example lack of energy or weakness
- loss of appetite
- loss of weight
- impaired memory
In people who have had:
- resection of stomach or ileum
- stomach surgery
- anaesthesia with nitrous oxide
- Adverse reactions to anaesthesia /surgery
In people using medicine affecting B12:
- antacids, for example, Prevacid, Prilosec, Tums, etc.
- Omeprazole, for example, interferes w/B12 absorption from food
- Metformin, for example, used to treat diabetes
- Solu-Medrol, for example, can lower vitamin B12 levels
- many antidepressants
In patients with Gastrointestinal disease:
- Atrophy of the mucosa, that is, the stomach lining
- Gluten-induced enteropathy
- Crohn’s disease
In patients with Autoimmune diseases to include:
- ALS – Lou Gehrig’s Disease
- Celiac Disease
- Guillain-Barre Syndrome
- Multiple Sclerosis
- Rheumatoid arthritis
- following pregnancy complications
- who produced an unusually large placenta
In people with eating disorders:
In people with marfanoid appearance
Methylcobalamin – Active form of B12
Vitamin B12, and particularly methylcobalamin, the active for of vitamin B12, has been shown to help:
- ADHD symptoms
- Chronic fatigue
- Depth Perception
- Viewing Color
- Speech, for example finding words
- Sleep Regulation
- Neurotransmitter function
- Autoimmune symptoms
- Chemical Sensitivity
- Viral Infections
- Inflammatory conditions, for example rheumatoid arthritis, sciatica, fibromyalgia
- Irritable bowel
- Eye or muscle “twittering”, also known at twitching
- Nail bitting
- Visual and auditory processing
- Modulation of light
- Night vision
- Hearing problems ~ For instance, improved ability to process sounds and modulate background noise
- Nerve regeneration
- Blocking the effects of ethanol
- Greatly reduces the desire for alcohol, marijuana, methamphetamines, and possibly other addictive drugs and behavior.
Summing up low vitamin B12 signs
Initial low vitamin B12 signs are easily overlooked. Plus, early signs of anemia may be masked by folic acid or by iron deficiency. Neuro-psychiatric low B12 signs may be the earliest, most visible.
Common neurological signs are numb hands and feet, diminished perception of vibration and position, absence of reflexes, and unsteady gait and balance.
Psychiatric signs fall into several different categories: Confusion and memory disturbances are the most common. Depression and cognitive decline are frequent. Swings in mood and personality changes from low B12, if ignored, may become a psychiatric disease.
Low vitamin B12 signs are most often overlooked by healthcare professionals if the serum vitamin B12 concentration is within the reference range. Sadly, in the United States the low normal is hundreds of points lower than healthy vitamin B12 levels at which there is no memory decline.
Disorders in the digestive tract cause low B12 signs. Additionally, an unhealthy stomach lining may cause a swollen tongue indicating low B12 levels.
Elderly are at great risk of showing low vitamin B12 signs. For instance, age-related stomach problems are common and may cause B12 levels to slide. Because the U.S. low normal for B12 is so low, this slide may go unnoticed for years, resulting in increased dementia cases.
Infants of vegetarian/vegan mothers are in danger of low B12 levels, even though their mothers may not have B12 malabsorption illness or show low B12 signs. This is because their rapid growth requires more B12.
Methylcobalamin can help
Finally, if your fingernails have ridges or you are beginning to lose your moons, give Methylcobalamin a try. After you start using it keep notes so you can review how long it took for a positive change.
In 1997 the lines/ridges on my fingernails were the worst. I was unable to think; things “looked” unclear; things seemed hopeless; I tried to kill myself, and I had such horrible bone pain that it didn’t seem like it would make any difference if I immolated myself because of abuse by IRS. B12 changed all that! Karen Kline
Low Vitamin B12 Levels and Brain Damage ~ I found stress coincides with lower vitamin B12 levels, an increased number of low vitamin B12 signs and eventually a failing brain. Another useful page is Stress can break you ~ Basically, under stress your telomerase, which is essential for longer telomeres, is decreased. To clarify, stress shortens your telomeres and short telomeres are related to illness and earlier death.
Emotions, Stress and Rate of Telomere Shortening: Are Our Cells Listening to Us? by Elissa Epel, who documented the role of stress in telomere shortening, relates to all of us. Because Dr. Epel’s lecture is both scientific and at the same time clear in ordinary language, it’s easy to grasp her examples from studies. Watch the video.
Blaming yourself over and over for events which would be long past, except you keep them uppermost in your mind, is one of the biggest stressors that you face. Bring yourself into the present to escape self-blame that leads to shortened telomeres.
How I transformed a room and my mind ~ Read more.
Psychiatric Symptoms ~ No copyright is claimed in relation to the Psychiatric Symptoms image and to the extent that material may appear to be infringed, I assert that such alleged infringement is permissible under fair use principles in U.S. copyright laws. If you believe material has been used in an unauthorized manner, please contact me, Karen Kline, using the contact form on this page.
It’s Not All in Your Head by Patricia Farrell, phd