The Vit B12 blood test measures the amount of the B12 vitamin that happens to be in the blood. B12 is one of the most important vitamins a person needs as it helps with many basic body functions. It is also necessary for the health of the central nervous system, blood cell development, and helps to maintain a healthy brain.
Most people will typically have enough of this vitamin through their normal dietary habits. Some people may take medications, such as protein pump inhibitors, which may reduce how this vitamin is absorbed. Specific diets, such as being gluten-free or avoiding animal proteins, may also contribute to lower levels of this vitamin depending on personal eating habits.
When To Ask About the Vit B12 Blood Test
People who have deficient levels of B12 in their blood will experience some very specific symptoms. One of the most common is a tingling, prickling, or burning feeling in the hands and feet. Sometimes referred to as paresthesia, the feeling is very similar to that of a body part “falling asleep.” People will receive this feeling even if no pressure is placed on a body part.
There may also be problems with balance. This can happen acutely through feelings of lightheadedness or dizziness. It may also cause stumbling. Confusion, a racing heart, feelings of weakness, and a loss of appetite are also common symptoms of a B12 deficiency. Some people may even experience symptoms that are similar to dementia if the deficiency is severe enough.
Pernicious anemia can also occur because of a B12 deficiency. This may cause pale skin, inflamed gums that tend to bleed, exhaustion, and frequent bouts of constipation and diarrhea. These symptoms, however, are not usually seen until around the age of 30 in most patients.
What Do My Vit B12 Blood Test Results Mean?
Most blood test results will come back in one of three categories: low [deficient], normal, or high. If the Vit B12 blood test comes back with normal results, then a medical provider may look elsewhere to see what may be causing a patient’s bothersome symptoms.
If the blood test results show low levels of this vitamin, then the most common reason is because a person simply isn’t getting enough of it in their diet. Certain intestinal conditions, such as Crohn’s disease or Celiac disease can also cause low levels of B12 because it is difficult for the body to absorb this nutrient. Certain infections can also cause low levels of this vitamin.
High levels of B12 are generally able to be self-corrected by the body. This result is often seen if someone has recently taken a B12 supplement, received a B12 injection, or has eaten several foods in the past 24 hours that are rich in this vitamin. If high levels of B12 are chronic for a patient, then a medical provider may recommend avoiding supplements, multivitamins, and foods that contain B12 to see if the vitamin levels will stabilize.
How To Treat a Vit B12 Blood Test Deficiency
Most people can treat a deficiency in this vitamin by changing some of their basic eating habits. Dairy foods are rich in B12, especially milk. Eggs, poultry, animal proteins, and seafood also tend to be rich in this vitamin.
For people who follow a vegetarian or vegan lifestyle, it is important to select food products which have been fortified with B12. Many cereals that fit with this lifestyle have B12 added to them in sufficient amounts. Look for soy or almond milk that may also have B12 added to it.
If someone must avoid food products which contain gluten, then eating fresh foods that contain high levels of B12 can offset a deficiency. Yogurt, Swiss cheese, and cottage cheese are three solid dietary options to consider adding to a diet. Coconut milk or coconut water may also have added levels of B12 that can offset a deficiency.
Should dietary changes not be enough to resolve a deficiency, then supplements or even vitamin shots of B12 may be recommended by a medical provider.
It is important to resolve a Vit 12 blood test deficiency as soon as possible. Once damage occurs to the body because of a deficiency, especially in the brain or central nervous system, then reversing that damage can be difficult. If you suspect that a deficiency in this vitamin may have occurred, then look at your eating habits immediately. Schedule an appointment with your medical provider and ask about this blood test. In doing so, you may be able to take charge of your future health.