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Vitamin B12 Deficiency Takes a Toll on Skin, Too

Posted by Clara on

Has your skin been acting up lately? Have you been unusually tired? 

If so, there's a possibility that it could be a Vitamin B12 deficiency. Some studies* show that up to 40% of the US population is deficient in this single vitamin. 

I say this from experience because I recently realized that I had a Vitamin B12 deficiency. Vitamin B12 is most commonly found in animal products, so vegans and vegetarians are at risk of being deficient, but so are people over 50, people on some medications, people who have anemia or digestive problems.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can take years to develop so it can be difficult for a person to monitor the symptoms because they emerge so slowly. In the study cited above by the NIH, it also states that the common blood tests may not be accurate for testing Vitamin B12 and many people begin to show symptoms of deficiency even when they are in the "low normal" range.

I've been vegan for close to 4 years. Normally, my diet was well-balanced and for quite a while, I was in the habit of taking a multi-vitamin** that was specifically made for vegans. But, I messed up. The past year had been filled with many changes in my life: I had closed my brick-and-mortar store in Brooklyn, I had re-organized by company, I had rebranded the company from skinnyskinny to Cultivar, I had moved everything to Philadelphia. Feeling stressed and feeling fatigued just felt "normal" after awhile. Somewhere along the line, I had stopped taking my vitamin. 

What were my symptoms? 

I was tired all the time. My fingers would often tingle. I had sudden heart-palpitations. I was unable to deal with stress with my normal perseverance. It was difficult to concentrate. My skin looked dry and tired even though I was following my tried-and-true skin care regimen. 

I had an excuse for all of those symptoms. I was tired because I was always busy. My fingers tingled because I was either cold or really hungry (I know this makes no sense!). My heart palpitations had to do with my anxiety. I couldn't concentrate because I had a lot of tasks on my plate. And my skin looked dry and tired because I was tired. It's easy to rationalize most anything.

When I took a look at the combination of symptoms, there was no doubt that I was very, very deficient in Vitamin B12. Fortunately, I still had my multi-vitamins** in my fridge so I immediately took some. Within about 3 hours, they symptoms were already abating. For the first few days, I took a double-dose and then went back down to the normal daily dose. In a few days, most of the symptoms were gone and by the end of the first week, I felt like a completely new person. This is not an exaggeration. Unlike iron or some other vitamins or minerals, the effects of Vitamin B12 can be felt almost immediately.

What specifically does Vitamin B12 do?

This very important vitamin is involved in cardiovascular health, reducing dementia and depression and improving cognitive function, improving energy and endurance levels, and it helps to keep skin healthy.

Vitamin B12 deficiency can cause a range of skin issues such as acne, sensitivity to sunlight, cracked lips, dryness, wrinkles, and uneven complexion. B12 is really important for the production of new cells and healthy, radiant skin is absolutely dependent upon new cells (those are the ones that keep the skin looking plump). It helps skin maintain moisture better, too. Vitamin B12 is important for the body's lubrication, which means that it's good for joints and all the connective cells that keep the skin from drying out.

The Take-Away?

If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, even if they aren't as pronounced as mine were, take a good look at whether your B12 intake is sufficient. It's an easy problem to fix and chances are that you will feel (and your skin will look) much much better. 

So, if you eat meat or eggs or fish, eat some. If you don't, then look for fortified cereals, Califia Almond milk, or get some multi-vitamins that are made specifically for vegans or vegetarians. Some people think that there are some plant sources, like fermented foods or seaweed, but those sources are very unreliable and this is far too serious to leave to an uncertain source. 

So take a few minutes for yourself and decide whether you feel like you want to feel. If not, then the solution may be a vitamin deficiency.

Be Well-


*National Institutes of Health

**I completely recommend DEVA Vegan Multivitamin. I like them because I don't have to take a handful of pills. It's just 1 per day. I also like this vitamin because it has never made me nauseous, even when I don't take it with food. The most important thing that I like about this brand is that I feel so much better and I know that it isn't a placebo.

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