Nutrition

Vitamin B12 For Women – Get The Facts

Let’s be real, you probably don’t know a lot about Vitamin B12 or how it relates to your health. What’s obvious is that it’s a vitamin and that there are supplements out there that you can purchase or be prescribed to take should you feel like you need to do that.

Take a minute to consider the vitamin and supplement aisle in your local pharmacy or grocery store, you’ll observe that there is an overwhelming variety of options when it comes to supplements in the first place. Vitamin B12 is no doubt in there, and necessary for a lot of people with Vitamin B12 deficiencies too, but how do you determine if you have a deficiency, is there no other way to get Vitamin B12 into your body other than through a supplement, and what’s B12 got to do with you anyway?

Let’s break down a few basics.

VITAMINS AND MINERALS 101

Vitamins and minerals are classified as essential nutrients because they perform hundreds of different roles within your body. They’re also considered micronutrients because your body only requires small amounts, most of which can be found and met through the foods we eat on a daily basis.

Vitamin B12 is definitely considered a micronutrient.

  • The average healthy adult needs only about 2.4 micrograms of B12 per day
  • Your body does not produce Vitamin B12 on its own. This need can only be met through the food we eat or via supplementation.

Different foods are rich in different vitamins and minerals. Minerals are inorganic substances, which means their chemical structure remains intact and makes these substances easy to transport in and out of your body. Vitamins are organic substances and can be broken down by exposure to air, heat, or acids, which means they can lose effectiveness from being cooked, stored, or even exposed to air, B12 is no exception.   

Each vitamin or mineral has specific benefits:

  • You know that oranges are full of Vitamin C which helps with immunity and iron absorption and can also ward off scurvy – so be glad you’re not a sailor in the 1600 -1800’s for that reason.
  • People don’t really get rickets anymore thanks in part to Vitamin D fortified milk and dairy products. Rickets is a condition that causes weak, soft bones and skeletal deformities like bowed legs. More on fortified foods later…

  • Folic acid helps prevent birth defects
  • Fluoride protects against dental cavities and strengthens bones too.
  • All B Vitamins help the body convert food (carbohydrates) into fuel (glucose), which is then used to produce energy. B Vitamins are also water soluble, which means that the body does not typically store them. Vitamin B12 is something of an exception in that the body will use what it needs and excrete the rest through your urine, but can also store additional surplus in your liver for later use which is what makes having an actual Vitamin B12 deficiency somewhat uncommon.

Vitamin B12 BASICS

Vitamin B12 has the largest and most complex chemical structure of all the vitamins, partly because it contains cobalt, a metal ion. Vitamin B12 is also known as Cobalamin and has a lot to do with keeping nerve tissue, brain function and cardiovascular systems all happy and healthy. Vitamin B12 can also help regulate adrenal fatigue issues, promote healthy metabolic function, assist in enzyme production, DNA synthesis and maintain hormonal balance. So even though your daily Vitamin B12 requirement may seem relatively small and insignificant, it’s definitely important. In fact, B12 is considered an “essential vitamin”, which means that your body needs an adequate amount (refresher: 2.4 micrograms) to be able to function properly.  

Vitamin B12 is found only in animal proteins and isn’t found in plant based foods unless they are fortified, which is part of the reason why those who eat primarily vegetarian can struggle with B12 deficiencies. The body also absorbs Vitamin B12 much better from animal sources over plant based sources. Since Vitamin B12 is mostly derived from protein sources, it makes sense that it would also assist in protein metabolism. And since you know how important protein is for women when it comes to nearly every aspect of our long-term health and wellness, you would understand why we should be so concerned about making sure our daily Vitamin B12 requirements are taken care of.

How our bodies process this nutrient is actually pretty interesting:

“First, hydrochloric acid in the stomach separates vitamin B12 from the protein to which vitamin B12 is attached in food. After this, vitamin B12 combines with a protein made by the stomach called intrinsic factor and is absorbed by the body.” –The National Institute Of Health

Different foods have different absorption rates and some process better than others. Consider the list below when it comes to your diet.

Primary Sources Of Vitamin B12 include:

large farmers market

  • Meat
  • Poultry
  • Fish
  • Organ Meats – liver, etc., are especially high in Vitamin B12
  • Shellfish
  • Eggs
  • Some fortified foods

*Fun fact: most cereals and commercially produced breads and flours are fortified with B vitamins. This practice began in the early 1940’s in response to certain health issues and nutritional deficiencies throughout the country, and continues today in support of nutritional education campaigns and other efforts to improve nutritional health and intake.

VITAMIN B12 DEFICIENCY

Considering the extensive list of food-based Vitamin B12 sources above, it’s maybe surprising that Vitamin B12 deficiencies are more common than you might think, especially among certain populations. People can often confuse these symptoms with everyday aches and pains or write them off entirely when they can be indicators of serious health issues instead.

  • People over the age of 50 can actually lose the ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food. “The National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey estimated that 3.2% of adults over age 50 have a seriously low B12 level, and up to 20% may have a borderline deficiency.” – Harvard Health
  • Vegetarian and/or vegan diets can actually cause Vitamin B12 deficiencies
  • People who have undergone weight loss or gastrointestinal surgery can also lose the ability to absorb Vitamin B12
  • Other digestive disorders and conditions like Celiac and Crohn’s Disease can also result in Vitamin B12 deficiencies
  • Smokers (smoking can block absorption) and alcoholics are also at risk for a B12 deficiency

RECOGNIZE THE SYMPTOMS

Symptoms of a Vitamin B12 Deficiency might include:

  1. Numbness, tingling, and other strange sensations in the hands, feet, and other extremities
  2. Balance issues and difficulty walking
  3. Anemia (low iron is most common type) and Pernicious Anemia ( a decrease in red blood cells when the intestines can’t properly absorb Vitamin B12)
  4. Jaundice (yellow skin and whites of eyes)
  5. Impaired cognitive function, difficulty using logic and reasoning skills, a “foggy” mind
  6. Memory Loss
  7. Fatigue
  8. Weakness
  9. Even paranoia and hallucinations

HOW TO FIX THE PROBLEM

The symptoms can help you recognize the signs of a Vitamin B12 deficiency, but only a blood test performed by your doctor can confirm. If you’re over the age of 50, it’s may be wise to start taking a Vitamin B12 supplement, or focus on eating a diet rich in B12 including B12 fortified foods, so be sure to check the ingredients label.

***Remember, since Vitamin B12 is a water soluble substance, your body will simply eliminate what it doesn’t use or store.

B12 OPTIONS

It’s always best to try and meet your daily nutritional requirements organically and Vitamin B12 is no different. Organically meaning through the foods you eat. In some cases that’s just not possible and some people appreciate the convenience and assurance that can come from meeting those requirements through supplements.

Over the counter Vitamin B12 supplements can come packaged a lot of different ways, the most commonly found include tablets or drops. In prescription form it usually looks like either shots or a nasal spray. Vitamin B12 and any B supplements are generally considered non-toxic and “safe”. Aim for at least 25-100 milligrams a day. Note, IdealLean BCAA’s contain 200mcg of B12 (Cyanocobalamin) = 3,333% of your recommended daily value, and IdealLean Pre Workout contains 1200mcg = 20,000% of your recommended daily value.

Micronutrient With A Macro Effect

Vitamin B12 is definitely a micronutrient, but one that has a macro effect on the body. Sometimes it isn’t always obvious when something is off, until you sit back and really take stock of your health and the way your body feels. It pays to pay attention to the types and variety of foods you eat so that you can best determine if your body is getting an adequate amount.

Sometimes the tiniest things make the biggest difference in the way we feel. This seemingly negligible nutrient just so happens to be a major player as far as your health is concerned, so make it a priority to pick only the best foods and supplements to feed your body with. Vitamin B12 isn’t a problem until it becomes a deficiency, which can be entirely preventable in a lot of cases, and highly treatable in others. Modern medicine and health sciences are both amazing, but it usually boils down to the principle that you only feel as good as the food you choose to eat.

Eat smart, pick good supplements, and make your health a priority.

IdealLean products are made with only the best ingredients and formulated specifically for women to meet their unique nutritional needs. Maximize your workouts AND meet your daily B12 requirements with IdealLean Pre-Workout. Order your supply today!



Lindsey Mathews

Lindsey Mathews

Head Trainer & Nutritionist

Lindsey Mathews is the Head Trainer and Nutritionist at IdealFit. She is a NSCA-CSCS certified personal trainer, C-ISSN certified sports nutritionist, Pn. 1 certified nutrition coach, and a nationally qualified NPC bikini competitor. Before joining IdealFit, she ran the largest boot camp program in Utah County.


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