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10 Amazing Benefits Of Vitamin B12 (And Where To Get It)

10 Amazing Benefits Of Vitamin B12 (And Where To Get It)

Vitamin B12 is necessary to ensure the proper functioning and health of nerve tissues, brain function, and red blood cells.

A wide variety of signs and symptoms[1] may occur when you are deficient including cognitive impairment and slowed mental processing and a host of behavioral and emotional issues such as depression, irritability, and psychosis. In young children, the symptoms include poor growth and development, and difficulties with movement.

This vitamin can be found most commonly in foods such as meat, fish, and dairy products. As you age, your body’s ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food slows down making it difficult to reap vitamin B12 benefits[2]. The following as some of the benefits of Vitamin B12:

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 1.  Helps maintain a healthy digestive system

Vitamin B12 also protects against heart disease by regulating cholesterol levels[3], which assists in the prevention of high blood pressure.

Improving absorption begins with consuming adequate amounts of B12-rich foods including meat, poultry, fish, eggs, dairy and other fortified foods which assist in producing healthy gut bacteria. Healthy gut bacteria keeps the digestive system functioning well and ensures that B12 is properly absorbed.

2. Helps keep hair, skin and nails healthy

Vitamin B12 helps in the reproduction of tissue cells and cellular regeneration is essential for healthy skin, hair, and nails.[4]  It is important for metabolism and its metabolic boosting properties assist in boosting the skin’s metabolism. Nutrients are able to more easily reach your skin, resulting in healthier tissue, vibrant skin tone and strong healthy hair and nails.

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3. Helps in healthy regulation of the nervous system

Healthy amounts of vitamin B12 can assist in reducing brain shrinkage which can cause depression and stress.[5] B vitamins play a role in producing brain chemicals that affect mood and other brain functions. Low levels of B-12 and other B vitamins such as vitamin B-6 and folate are linked to depression.

4. It is a natural energy enhancer

Low energy levels, lethargy and the feeling of not wanting to do anything may be a sign that you are not getting enough Vitamin B12. Working in concert with the other B vitamins, B12 is known for its ability to keep you alert and feeling energized. It is needed to convert carbohydrates into glucose in the body, leading to energy production and a decrease in fatigue and lethargy in the body

5. Helps to prevent anemia

B12 is necessary for the production of a healthy level of red blood cells. The constant production of red blood cells helps to ward off megaloblastic anemia[6]which causes chronic fatigue and physical weakness throughout the body.

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6. Protects and treats certain types of cancer

Vitamin B12 helps in the prevention and treatment of certain cancers, particularly prostate, lung, breast, and colon cancer.

7Protects Against Heart Disease

B12 has been shown to assist in sustaining and improving the cardiovascular system overall.[7] Adequate levels of vitamin B12 is a major part of a comprehensive approach to maintaining a healthy heart.

8. Helps to prevent stroke

B vitamins have been linked to a lower incidence of stroke which is a condition that occurs when a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain, or a blood vessel bursts in the brain. Vitamin B12 helps to protect against heart disease like a heart attack or stroke by lowering high homocysteine levels in the blood.

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Foods that enhance vitamin B12 benefits

Foods high in Vitamin B12[8] include shellfish, liver, fish, crab, fortified soy products (tofu, soymilk), fortified cereals, red meat, low-fat dairy, cheese, and eggs. Below are the top 10 foods ranked in order according to the percentage of B12 they contain based on the Food and Drug Administration’s (FDA) recommending daily value (DV) index.[9]

  1. Shell fish[10]Clams, oysters and mussels contain massive amounts of B12. One 3 oz. serving of cooked clams contains 1401% of the recommended DV.
  2. Liver[11]: A three-ounce serving of beef liver will provide you with 1178% of the recommended DV.
  3. Fish[12]: Fish highest in B12 are  Mackerel (269% DV), Smoked Salmon (257% DV), Herring (186% DV), Tuna (154% DV) , Canned Sardines (126% DV) and Trout (106% DV)
  4. Crustaceans[13]: Crustaceans include crayfish, shrimp, lobster and crab. A three oz. serving of crab contains 163% DV.
  5. Red Meat[14]: Beef and lamb are particularly high in this vitamin. A three ounce serving of cooked beef contains 85% DV
  6. Fortified Soy Products[15]: This category is inclusive of food items such as tofu and plain soymilk which contains 34% DV.
  7. Fortified Cereals[16]: The amount of B12 in cereals will vary by brand and in order to find the correct cereal to fit your nutritional needs, make sure to check the label. A cup of Kellogg’s All-Bran Buds cereal contains 300% of the recommended DV. Most cereals do not have B12 levels this high.
  8.  Dairy products[17]: These products include: Nonfat Yogurt (25% DV), Reduced Fat Milk (22% DV), Skim Milk (21% DV) Whole Milk (18% DV), and Full Fat Yogurt (15% DV)
  9. Cheese[18]: Adding three ounce serving of the following cheeses to your favorite dishes is a great way to get some additional B12 incorporated into your diet: Swiss (14% DV), Reduced Fat Mozzarella, Parmesan and Gietost (11% DV), Tilsit (10% DV) and Feta (8% DV).
  10. Eggs[19]: Surprisingly, there are a variety of eggs that provide a good dose of B12, including: Chicken eggs (6% DV per yolk), Goose (122% DV), Duck (63% DV), Turkey (22% DV), and Quail (2% DV).

As you can see, most foods delivering vitamin B12 benefits are primarily meat products, which can prove to be problematic for those who do not eat meat or meat products.

Here are some ways vegans can maintain their meat-free diet and still avoid becoming B12 deficient:[20]

  1. Eat fortified foods two or three times a day to get at least three micrograms (mcg or µg) of B12 a day
  2. OR  Take one B12 supplement daily providing at least 10 micrograms
  3. OR  Take a weekly B12 supplement providing at least 2000 micrograms.

It is important to note that the less frequently your body receives B12 the more you will need to take. Vitamin B12 is best absorbed in small amounts although there is no harm in exceeding the recommended amounts or using more than one option above to receive the recommended daily dose. Fortified foods such as grains, nut or grain ‘milks’ and nutritional or brewers yeast can be added to foods to provide B12 organically. Yeast can easily be added to foods with little or no effect on the taste or texture.

Precautions

Vitamin B12 is considered safe for most people when taken orally, applied to the skin, taken through the nose, administered as a shot, or injected into the vein (by IV). It is even considered safe in large doses. However, here are a few specific precautions and warnings you should be aware of:[21]

  • Pregnancy and breast-feeding: Doctors recommend that pregnant and breast-feeding women are careful not to exceed the recommended DV as the effects of taking higher doses during these times are unknown.
  • Post-surgical stent placement: Vitamins B6, B12 and folate should be avoided after this type of coronary procedure as it could cause the blood vessels to narrow and lead to complications.
  • Allergy or sensitivity to cobalt or cobalamin; Leber’s disease or a hereditary eye disease: People with these conditions should avoid taking B12
  • Abnormal red blood cells (megaloblastic anemia): This condition is often treated by vitamin B12 therapy, however, it could also exacerbate this condition. Follow the advice of your health care provider
  • High numbers of red blood cells (polycythemia vera): Vitamin B12 deficiency therapy could unmask the symptoms of this condition.

Reference

[1]http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/guide/vitamin-b12-deficiency-symptoms-causes#1
[2]http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/219822.php
[3]http://universityhealthnews.com/daily/heart-health/lowering-cholesterol-naturally-with-b-vitamins/
[4]https://eunatural.com/vitamin-b12-hair/
[5]http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/depression/expert-answers/vitamin-b12-and-depression/faq-20058077
[6]https://rarediseases.org/rare-diseases/anemia-megaloblastic/
[7]http://www.newsmax.com/FastFeatures/health-benefits-of-vitamin/2015/04/07/id/387945/
[8]https://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/foods-high-in-vitamin-B12.php#vitamin-b12-density-by-gram
[9]http://www.fda.gov/Food/IngredientsPackagingLabeling/LabelingNutrition/ucm274593.htm
[10]https://www.healthaliciousness.com/nutritionfacts/nutrition-comparison.php?o=15159&t=15159&h=15159&s=100&e=85.0&r=190.0
[11]https://www.healthaliciousness.com/nutritionfacts/nutrition-comparison.php?o=13327&t=13327&h=07041&s=100&e=81.0&r=28.4
[12]http://www.lifehack.org/496827/10-foods-highest-in-vitamin-d-that-you-should-include-in-your-diet
[13]https://www.healthaliciousness.com/nutritionfacts/nutrition-comparison.php?o=15137&t=15137&h=15137&s=100&e=134.0&r=85.0
[14]https://www.healthaliciousness.com/nutritionfacts/nutrition-comparison.php?o=23065&t=23065&h=23065&s=100&e=34.0&r=85.0
[15]https://www.healthaliciousness.com/nutritionfacts/nutrition-comparison.php?o=16272&t=16272&h=16238&s=100&e=91.0&r=243.0
[16]https://www.healthaliciousness.com/nutritionfacts/nutrition-comparison.php?o=08005&t=08005&h=&s=100&e=30.0&r=31.0
[17]https://www.healthaliciousness.com/nutritionfacts/nutrition-comparison.php?o=01151&t=01151&h=01118&s=100&e=245.0&r=245.0
[18]https://www.healthaliciousness.com/articles/cheese-high-in-vitamin-b12.php
[19]https://www.healthaliciousness.com/nutritionfacts/nutrition-comparison.php?o=01125&t=01125&h=01131&s=100&e=17.0&r=50.0
[20]http://veganhealth.org/articles/vitaminb12
[21]http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-supplements/ingredientmono-926-vitamin%20b12.aspx?activeingredientid=926

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Published on November 14, 2018

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

Why You Suffer from Constant Fatigue and How to Deal with It

With our busy, always on lives, it seems that more and more of us are facing constant tiredness and fatigue on a regular basis.

For many people, they just take this in their stride as part of modern life, but for others the impact can be crippling and can have a serious effect on their sense of wellbeing, health and productivity.

In this article, I’ll share some of the most common causes of constant tiredness and fatigue and give you some guidance and action steps you can take to overcome some of the symptoms of fatigue.

Why Am I Feeling Fatigued?

Fatigue is extreme tiredness resulting from mental or physical exertion or illness.  It is a reduction in the efficiency of a muscle or organ after prolonged activity.[1]

It can affect anyone, and most adults will experience fatigue at some point in their life. 

For many people, fatigue is caused by a combination of lifestyle, social, psychological and general wellbeing issues rather than an underlying medical condition.

Although fatigue is sometimes described as tiredness, it is different to just feeling tired or sleepy. Everyone feels tired at some point, but this is usually resolved with a nap or a few nights of good sleep. Someone who is sleepy may also feel temporarily refreshed after exercising. If you are getting enough sleep, good nutrition and exercising regularly but still find it hard to perform, concentrate or be motivated at your normal levels, you may be experiencing a level of fatigue that needs further investigation. 

Symptoms of Fatigue

Fatigue can cause a vast range of physical, mental and emotional symptoms including:

  • chronic tiredness, exhaustion or sleepiness
  • mental blocks
  • lack of motivation
  • headache
  • dizziness
  • muscle weakness
  • slowed reflexes and responses
  • impaired decision-making and judgement
  • moodiness, such as irritability
  • impaired hand-to-eye coordination
  • reduced immune system function
  • blurry vision
  • short-term memory problems
  • poor concentration
  • reduced ability to pay attention to the situation at hand

Causes of Fatigue

The wide range of causes that can trigger fatigue include:

  • Medical causes: Constant exhaustion, tiredness and fatigue may be a sign of an underlying illness, such as a thyroid disorder, heart disease, anemia or diabetes.
  • Lifestyle-related causes: Being overweight and a lack of regular exercise can lead to feelings of fatigue.  Lack of sleep and overcommitting can also create feelings of excessive tiredness and fatigue.
  • Workplace-related causes: Workplace and financial stress in a variety of forms can lead to feelings of fatigue.
  • Emotional concerns and stress: Fatigue is a common symptom of mental health problems, such as depression and grief, and may be accompanied by other signs and symptoms, including irritability and lack of motivation.

Fatigue can also be caused by a number of factors working in combination.

Medical Causes of Fatigue

If you have made lifestyle changes to increase your energy and still feel exhausted and fatigued, it may be time to seek guidance from your doctor.

Here are a few examples of illnesses that can cause ongoing fatigue. Seek medical advice if you suspect you have a health problem:

Anemia

Anemia is a condition in which you don’t have enough healthy red blood cells to carry adequate oxygen to the body’s tissues. It is a common cause of fatigue in women.

Having anemia may make you feel tired and weak.

There are many forms of anemia, each with its own cause. Anemia can be temporary or long term, and it can range from mild to severe.[2]

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS)

Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is a condition that can cause persistent, unexplained fatigue that interferes with daily activities for more than six months.

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This is a chronic condition with no one-size-fits-all treatment, but lifestyle changes can often help ease some symptoms of fatigue.[3]

Diabetes

Diabetes can cause fatigue with either high or low blood sugars. When your sugars are high, they remain in the bloodstream instead of being used for energy, which makes you feel fatigued. Low blood sugar (glucose) means you may not have enough fuel for energy, also causing fatigue.[4]

Sleep Apnea

Sleep apnea is a serious sleep disorder where sufferers briefly stop breathing for short periods during sleep. Most people are not aware this is happening, but it can cause loud snoring, and daytime fatigue.

Being overweight, smoking, and drinking alcohol can all worsen the symptoms of sleep apnea.[5]

Thyroid disease

An underactive thyroid gland means you have too little thyroid hormone (thyroxine) in your body. This makes you feel tired and you could also put on weight and have aching muscles and dry skin.[6]

Common lifestyle factors that can cause fatigue include:

  • Lack of sleep
  • Too much sleep 
  • Alcohol and drugs 
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Lack of regular exercise and sedentary behaviour 
  • Poor diet 

Common workplace issues that can cause fatigue include:

  • Shift work: Our body is designed to sleep during the night. A shift worker may confuse their circadian clock by working when their body is programmed to be asleep.
  • Poor workplace practices: This may include long work hours, hard physical labour, irregular working hours (such as rotating shifts), a stressful work environment, boredom or working alone. 
  • Workplace stress – This can be caused by a wide range of factors including job dissatisfaction, heavy workload, conflicts with bosses or colleagues, bullying, or threats to job security.
  • Burnout: This could be striving too hard on one area of your life while neglecting others, which leads to a life that feels out of balance.

Psychological Causes of Fatigue

Psychological factors are present in many cases of extreme tiredness and fatigue.  These may include:

  • Depression: Depression is characterised by severe and prolonged feelings of sadness, dejection and hopelessness. People who are depressed commonly experience chronic fatigue.
  • Anxiety and stress: Someone who is constantly anxious or stressed keeps their body in overdrive. The constant flooding of adrenaline exhausts the body, and fatigue sets in.
  • Grief: Losing a loved one causes a wide range of emotions including shock, guilt, depression, despair and loneliness.

How to Tackle Constant Fatigue

Here are 12 ways you can start tackling the causes of fatigue and start feeling more energetic.

1. Tell The Truth

Some people can numb themselves to the fact that they are overtired or fatigued all the time. In the long run, this won’t help you.

To give you the best chance to overcome or eliminate fatigue, you must diagnose and tell the truth about the things that are draining your energy, making you tired or causing constant fatigue.

Once you’re honest with yourself about the activities you’re doing in your life that you find irritating, energy-draining, and make you tired on a regular basis you can make a commitment to stop doing them.

The help that you need to overcome fatigue is available to you, but not until you tell the truth about it. The first person you have to sell on getting rid of the causes of fatigue is yourself.

One starting point is to diagnose the symptoms. When you start feeling stressed, overtired or just not operating at your normal energy levels make a note of:

  • How you feel
  • What time of day it is
  • What may have contributed to your fatigue
  • How your mind and body reacts

This analysis may help you identify, understand and then eliminate very specific causes.

2. Reduce Your Commitments

When we have too many things on our plate personally and professionally, we can feel overstretched, causing physical and mental fatigue.

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If you have committed to things you really don’t want to do, this causes irritability and low emotional engagement. Stack these up throughout your day and week, then your stress levels will rise.

When these commitments have deadlines associated with them, you may be trying to cram in far too much in a short period of time.  This creates more stress and can affect your decision making ability.

Start being realistic about how much you can get done. Either reduce the commitments you have or give yourself more time to complete them in.

3. Get Clear On Your Priorities

If working on your list of to-do’s or goals becomes too overwhelming, start reducing and prioritizing the things that matter most.

Start with prioritizing just 3 things every day. When you complete those 3 things, you’ll get a rush of energy and your confidence will grow.

If you’re trying to juggle too many things and are multi-tasking, your energy levels will drop and you’ll struggle to maintain focus.

Unfinished projects can make you self-critical and feel guilty which drops energy levels further, creating inaction.

Make a list of your 3 MIT (Most Important Tasks) for the next day before you go to bed. This will stop you overcommitting and get you excited about what the next day can bring.

4. Express More Gratitude

Gratitude and confidence are heavily linked. Just being thankful for what you have and what you’ve achieved increases confidence and makes you feel more optimistic.

It can help you improve your sense of wellbeing, which can bring on feelings of joy and enthusiasm.

Try starting a gratitude journal or just note down 3 things you’re grateful for every day.

5. Focus On Yourself

Exhaustion and fatigue can arrive by focusing solely on other people’s needs all the time, rather than worrying about and focusing on what you need (and want).

There are work commitments, family commitments, social commitments. You may start with the best intentions, to put in your best performance at work, to be an amazing parent and friend, to simply help others.

But sometimes, we extend ourselves too much and go beyond our personal limits to help others. That’s when constant exhaustion can creep up on us.  Which can make us more fatigued.

We all want to help and do our best for others, but there needs to be some balance. We also need to take some time out just for ourselves to recharge and rejuvenate.

6. Set Aside Rest and Recovery Time

Whether it’s a couple of hours, a day off, a mini-break or a proper holiday, time off is essential to help us recover, recharge and refocus.

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Recovery time helps fend off mental fatigue and allows us to simply kick back and relax.

The key here, though, is to remove ourselves from the daily challenges that bring on tiredness and fatigue. Here’s how.

Can you free yourself up completely from work and personal obligations to just rest and recover?

7. Take a Power Nap

When you’re feeling tired or fatigued and you have the ability to take a quick 20-minute nap, it could make a big difference to your performance for the rest of the day.

Napping can improve learning, memory and boost your energy levels quickly.

This article on the benefit of napping is a useful place to start if you want to learn more: How a 20-Minute Nap at Work Makes You Awake and Productive the Whole Day

8. Take More Exercise

The simple act of introducing some form of physical activity into your day can make a huge difference. It can boost energy levels, make you feel much better about yourself and can help you avoid fatigue.

Find something that fits into your life, be that walking, going to the gym, running or swimming. 

The key is to ensure the exercise is regular and that you are emotionally engaged and committed to stick with it.

You could also walk more which will help clear your head and shift your focus away from stressful thoughts.

9. Get More Quality Sleep

To avoid tiredness, exhaustion and fatigue, getting enough quality sleep matters. 

Your body needs sleep to recharge.  Getting the right amount of sleep every night can improve your health, reduce stress levels and help us improve our memory and learning skills.

My previous article on The Benefits of Sleep You Need to Know will give you some action steps to start improving your sleep. 

10. Improve Your Diet

Heavy or fatty meals can make you feel sluggish and tired, whilst some foods or eating strategies do just the opposite.

Our always on lives have us reaching for sweets or other sugary snacks to give us a burst of energy to keep going. Unfortunately, that boost fades quickly which can leave you feeling depleted and wanting more.

On the other hand, whole grains and healthy unsaturated fats supply the reserves you can draw on throughout the day.

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To keep energy up and steady, it’s a good idea to limit refined sugar and starches.

Eating small meals and healthy snacks every few hours throughout the day provides a steady supply of nutrients to body and brain. It’s also important not to skip breakfast.

Eating a balanced diet helps keep your blood sugar in a normal range and prevents that sluggish feeling when your blood sugar drops.

11. Manage Your Stress Levels

Stress is one of the leading causes of exhaustion and fatigue, and can seriously affect your health.

When you have increased levels of stress at work and at home, it’s easy to feel exhausted all the time. 

Identifying the causes of stress and then tackling the problems should be a priority. 

My article on How to Help Anxiety When Life is Stressing You Out shares 16 strategies you can use to overcome stress.

12. Get Hydrated

Sometimes we can be so busy that we forget to keep ourselves fully hydrated.

Water makes up about 60 percent of your body weight and is essential in maintaining our body’s basic functions.

If we don’t have enough water, it can adversely affect our mental and physical performance, which leads to tiredness and fatigue.

The recommended daily amount is around two litres a day, so to stay well hydrated keep a water bottle with you as much as possible.

The Bottom Line

These 12 tips can help you reduce your tiredness and feeling of fatigue.  Some will work better than others as we are all different, whilst others can be incorporated together in your daily life.

If you’ve tried to make positive changes to reduce fatigue and you still feel tired and exhausted, it may be time to consider making an appointment with your doctor to discuss your condition.

Featured photo credit: Annie Spratt via unsplash.com

Reference

[1]Oxford English Dictionary: Definition of fatigue
[2]NHS Choices: 10 Reasons for feeling tired
[3]Verywellhealth: What is chronic fatigue syndrome
[4]Everyday Health: Why does type 2 diabetes make you feel tired
[5]Mayo Clinic: Sleep apnea
[6]Harvard Health: The lowdown on thyroid slowdown

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