Herbivores, listen up!

By Kendall Wenaas

Most people in the U.S. get enough vitamin B12—a good thing because the vitamin is involved in a lot of different body processes, says Jeffrey Gladd, MD, integrative physician and member of Care/of’s scientific advisory board. “It plays a role in mood, cognitive function, immune health, among other things.” Specifically, vitamin B12 helps make DNA and keeps nerve and blood cells health, according to the National Institute of Health. But some people are more at risk for becoming deficient. If you fall into any of the following categories, talk to your doctor about whether or not you’re at risk for B12 deficiency:

You’re vegetarian or vegan. If you don’t eat meat (or fish or dairy), there’s a chance, you’re already taking B12 supplements. If you’re not, you may want to talk to your doc about testing your levels. “Vitamin B12 is found in a lot of animal foods so if you’re not eating them, you may not be getting enough B12,” Gladd says.

You have a condition that prevents you from absorbing nutrients. “Certain conditions can prevent your body from being able to absorb vitamin B12,” Gladd says. “For example, people who have pernicious anemia don’t have the intrinsic factor that’s necessary to absorb B1” Disorders like celiac disease or Crohn’s disease may decrease the amount of B12 you can absorb, as can digestive issues, Gladd says.

You’re taking certain medications. “Many people don’t realize that certain medications can affect how well your body is able to absorb vitamins,” Gladd says. A few meds that might affect your body’s B12 absorption: birth control, antacids and Metformin, which is used to treat diabetes.

Vitamin B12 deficiency is often hard to spot, but there are a few symptoms. If you’re experiencing either of these, talk to your doctor about whether you’re getting enough B12:

Your mood changes for no reason. A change in mood, feeling down or depressed or experiencing brain fog can all be caused by vitamin B12 deficiency, Gladd says.

Numbness or tingling. “This can be caused by a few different things,” Gladd says. “So while it’s hard to figure out that a B12 deficiency is causing the numbness, once you do, it’s pretty easy to fix.”