Over the years I’d come to assume that feeling tired and moody (and sometimes a little anxious) were just normal symptoms of my fast-paced schedule. By day’s end, I’d often feel completely exhausted and find myself snapping at my roommates for no reason. It wasn’t until my last annual checkup that a blood test proved otherwise. What I thought were side effects of a busy and active lifestyle were in fact symptoms of a vitamin deficiency—B12, to be exact.
If you’re unaware of the benefits, B12 vitamins help everything from your mood to your energy levels, not to mention your heart, skin, hair, and digestion—even encouraging a healthy pregnancy. In short, it’s an essential vitamin, but our bodies can’t create it on their own. This means our absorption of the vitamin is dependent on diet or supplements. So how can you introduce them into your diet? Vitamin B12 can be found in animal products but this is also one of the reasons wellness coach Dana Kofsky believes the deficiency has become common. “There are more and more people avoiding animal products or people with autoimmune diseases that affect their gut, like celiac disease of Crohn’s disease, which make it hard for the body to absorb B12,” she says.
The good news is you can find plenty of vegetarian and vegan options. My vitamin B12 levels are now back on track thanks to an introduction of daily supplements. Despite dietary restrictions, you can still get the proper amount of vitamin B12—and experience its benefits—by taking supplements or even opting for a B12 injection (although Kofsky warns the B12 shot is not necessary “unless you truly have a deficiency”). Reflect on your eating habits and talk to your doctor if you think you might be missing out on these B12 vitamin benefits, but here are a few reasons you might need it.
It Elevates Your Energy
According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, B vitamins help the body convert carbohydrates into glucose so they actually help your body to produce energy. If you’re not absorbing the proper amount of vitamin B12 (the National Institute of Health recommends 2.4 micrograms daily), you could feel serious fatigue.
It Boosts Your Mood
Mood disorders like depression and anxiety are affected by the nervous system, which vitamin B12 regulates. A 2005 study done by Alec Coppen and Christina Bolander-Gouaille on the treatment of depression found that there is an association between low vitamin B12 levels and depressive patients. This is because vitamin B12 works with folate (a nutrient that supports nerve and immune health) to help the body deal with stress and mood regulation.
It Keeps Your Heart Strong
Vitamin B12 plays a role in regulating an amino acid called homocysteine, elevated levels of which have been linked to coronary heart disease and stroke. Vitamin B12 helps keep this amino acid at a lower, less harmful level, which promotes heart health.
It Supports Healthy Skin and Hair
Vitamin B12 is essential for balanced cell reproduction, playing a role in the health of your skin, hair, and nails. One study even found significant evidence of the vitamin’s ability to treat people suffering from eczema, a chronic skin condition with no cure.
It Regulates Digestion
Dr. Axe explains that vitamin B12 has been associated with a healthy metabolism and digestion as it aids the production of healthy bacteria in your gut while eliminating harmful bacteria in the digestive tract. This helps to prevent common digestive disorders like irritable bowel syndrome and diverticulitis.
Unsure if a lack of vitamin B12 is the source of your symptoms? Learn more about nutrient deficiencies that can leave you drained.