When it comes to dietary needs, humans are notoriously needy compared to other animals. Thanks to biology, our body is able to produce many of the vitamins and nutrients it needs on its own. However, there is one essential vitamin which every single cell needs to function that our bodies can’t produce - vitamin B12.
What is Vitamin B12?
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, plays a key role in several bodily functions. This essential vitamin helps generate energy by optimizing the metabolism of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. B12 also aids in the production of mood-boosting neurotransmitters, such as dopamine and serotonin. Vital to cell health, B12 is responsible for the formation, quality, and repair of DNA supporting healthy aging and energy at the cellular level.
Signs of a Vitamin B12 Deficiency
Despite vitamin B12 being the MVP of key vital functions, it is a common deficiency, especially in those with gut issues, causing issues such as skin sensitivity, inflammation, and breakouts, as well as hormone imbalances, and fatigue.
The only way to get vitamin B12 is through food or supplementation. The best sources are found in animal meat, fish, eggs, and dairy, which is why vegetarians and vegans are often B12 deficient. B vitamins are water-soluble, which means they cannot be stored in your fat cells, – there is no long-term storage system in place for this vitamin.
Gut health plays a major role in the ability to absorb B12. The gut is responsible for both releasing B12 from the food you eat and packaging it with another substance so it can be absorbed into the body. For this reason, those who suffer with gut issues (low stomach acid, Crohn’s disease, etc.) are less likely to effectively absorb B12, causing an overall deficiency in the vitamin.
Signs of a vitamin B12 deficiency include fatigue, weakness, paleness, breakouts, hyperpigmentation, low appetite, weight loss, numb or tingly hands and feet, depression, memory issues, problems with balance.
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While you should always consult your healthcare provider, it is recommended that adults need 2.4 micrograms of B12 per day and 2.6-2.8 micrograms if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. You can meet this daily requirement with a 3 ounce piece of salmon (2.6 micrograms), 2 cups of 2% milk (2.6 micrograms), 3 ounces of ground beef (2.4 micrograms) or through supplementation.
Vitamin B12 + Skin
B12 also plays a part in making your skin supple and healthy – but research on how it can hurt or hinder your skin health isn’t decisive.
B12 is needed to produce and support the integrity of DNA, the molecules containing genetic codes that tell their cells what to do. Skin cells in particular produce several key components to healthy skin, such as collagen, elastin, and keratin. So it’s no surprise the quality of your DNA is vital to skin health. Studies show B12 deficiencies can cause your DNA to be weaker, wreaking havoc on your skin health, causing accelerated aging, washed out and dull complexion, redness and breakouts, dryness, and hyperpigmentation.
Alternatively, a 2015 study showed that too much B12 might increase acne by influencing your skin’s microbiome, leading to inflammation that then causes acne. But don’t toss your supplements yet - because the research is still early, scientists don’t recommend stopping B12 supplementation even if you do suffer with breakouts.
B12 + Hormones
Vitamin B12 plays a part in balancing your hormones. This vitamin supports the production of serotonin and melatonin, meaning it’s highly involved in brain function, mood, and your ability to handle stress.
It is unique among the B vitamins in that a quantity can be stored in the liver. Like a good tenant, it supports liver function, detoxing old or excess hormones. Studies show vitamin B12 supports the breakdown of excess estrogen. When deficient in B12, it can result in estrogen dominance which can lead to ovulation and irregular menstrual cycles.
B12 is vital to health – so help yourself to that steak or get your daily dose from a supplement.