Medically Reviewed

Suffering from a Vitamin B12 Deficiency? Here’s a Recovery Timeline

Vitamin B12 deficiencies can affect your health in myriad ways. Here’s how to treat such a deficiency – and when you can expect to feel better.

What is a vitamin B12 deficiency?

A vitamin B12 deficiency occurs when, because you have too little B12 in your system, your body doesn’t have enough healthy red blood cells.

Vitamin B12 is essential for the body’s production of red blood cells. When your body doesn’t have enough red blood cells, your tissues and organs won’t get enough oxygen, thus preventing your body from functioning at an optimal level. That’s why it’s so important to get enough vitamin B12: the functioning of the rest of your body, including your tissues and organs, relies on it. Vitamin B12 is also essential for your body’s production of new cells generally.

One cause of vitamin B12 deficiency is a lack of intrinsic factor in the stomach; intrinsic factor is a protein made in the stomach that’s needed for B12 absorption. It can also sometimes be caused by surgery that removes part of the small intestine where vitamin B12 is absorbed.

Some other factors that can contribute to B12 deficiency or challenges with absorption include pregnancy, age, taking certain medications, and consuming a plant-based diet. To know whether you’re experiencing a deficiency, your doctor can measure lab levels.

The recommended daily allowance of vitamin B12 is between 2.4 mcg and 2.6 mcg; this goes up to 2.8 mcg for lactating mothers.

Are symptoms from B12 deficiency reversible?

Yes! Fortunately, vitamin B12 deficiency and the various symptoms that may come with it are reversible. You can treat a vitamin B12 deficiency through supplementation or through injections. You’ll want to consult a medical professional about the treatment course best suited to your needs.

If left unaddressed for too long, symptoms from vitamin B12 deficiencies can become harder to reverse. It’s in your interest to address health concerns as soon as you become aware of them. You can always talk to your doctor about assessing your B12 levels.

How to know if you’re vitamin B12 deficient

To confirm whether you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, you need your doctor to administer a simple blood test.

Some physical manifestations of a vitamin B12 deficiency can include issues walking; strange sensations in the legs, feet, and hands; general fatigue and weakness; decreased appetite; diarrhea; irritability; an increased heart rate; and a swollen tongue. Also be on the lookout for pins and needles feelings in your extremities. That being said the symptoms listed are not only specific to a B12 deficiency so always talk to your doctor about any new symptoms and health concerns to address any potential underlying health issues.

Symptoms won’t always be very obvious right away and can take time to become obvious. If you start to notice any of them, talk to your doctor about the needed bloodwork.

For more on how to detect a vitamin B12 deficiency, check out this in-depth Care/of explainer.

How long does it take to recover from a B12 deficiency?

The length of time it takes to recover from a vitamin B12 deficiency depends on the extent of the deficiency, the dose being used, and whether or not you have problems with absorption. Some people can notice changes within the first week after starting supplementation and lab values may change within 4-8 weeks. Some sources suggest that full recovery may take between 6 weeks and 3 months.

What is the fastest way to recover from a B12 deficiency?

You should talk to your doctor about the fastest and most effective way to recover from a vitamin B12 deficiency.

Some strategies will include getting injections and/or taking your supplements as recommended. You will also benefit from eating a diet rich in vitamin B12. Some foods rich in vitamin B12 include: eggs, meat, poultry, shellfish, milk, and fortified cereals.

Key takeaways

Vitamin B12 is vitally important for the health of your body, helping your body produce red blood cells, create DNA, energy metabolism, and support proper nervous and cognitive system health.

A vitamin B12 deficiency can have ramifications for your overall health. When you don’t have enough vitamin B12 in your system, your body will likely not produce enough red blood cells. Red blood cells are necessary for carrying oxygen throughout the rest of your body. When your tissues and organs aren’t getting oxygen, your body can’t function at an optimal level.

To determine whether you have a vitamin B12 deficiency, you should be on the lookout for certain symptoms and ask your doctor about taking a simple blood test.

You can reverse a vitamin B12 deficiency through supplementation, injections, and consuming B12-rich diets. When addressing a deficiency, you’ll benefit from acting swiftly. Even so, some researchers suggest that a deficiency can only be fully reversed over the course of 6 weeks to 3 months.

Care/of offers top-notch vitamin B12 supplements, formulated with three types of active B12 and available in 30-day packs. You might also be interested in our B-complex vitamins, which have been shown to support energy metabolism.

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