When it comes to vitamins needed for both a sound body and mind, the B vitamins aren’t something you want to ignore. Take, for example, vitamin B12: don’t get enough of this vitamin, and your energy levels throughout the day might sag – with your mind constantly turning, perhaps, to thoughts of sleep in your warm cozy bed.
Or consider vitamin B9 (a.k.a. folate or folic acid): a deficiency in this vitamin and you might get sores on your mouth or a swollen tongue – among other possible symptoms.
Then there’s vitamin B6. If your levels of this key B vitamin are too low, then you could be looking at flaky, oily rashes on your upper body or face.
So, to distill the point here into a single suggestion: make sure you’re getting enough B vitamins as it’s so important to many aspects of your health and well-being! (You can now check your vitamin B levels at home with EverlyWell’s B Vitamins Test.)
By now, you might be wondering what causes vitamin B deficiency in the first place. If so, you’re certainly not alone in that thought – given that vitamin B deficiency is quite common.
So here’s a roundup of 4 of the top causes of vitamin B deficiency.
(1) A non-balanced diet
Your body can’t directly make B vitamins (unlike proteins, for example – which the body manufactures out of many smaller building blocks).
But that’s usually not a problem because your body gets B vitamins from the food you eat. However, for a variety of reasons, sometimes we don’t eat the right balance of food necessary to get enough of the vitamins we need. (For example, if you follow a vegan diet, then you might not get enough vitamin B12 – because vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal-based foods.)
That’s when vitamin deficiencies – like vitamin B deficiency – can crop up. As such, dietary inadequacies are one of the key causes of vitamin B deficiency.
So, obvious follow-up question here: what foods contain a lot of B vitamins? Well, that depends on which B vitamin is under consideration – vitamin B6, B9, or B12. Here’s a quick rundown of foods you can eat to boost your levels of each of these B vitamins (source):
Vitamin B6 – Meat, fish, legumes, nuts, bananas, potatoes
Vitamin B9 – Leafy vegetables, legumes, citrus fruits
Vitamin B12 – Meat, fish, and other animal products
(2) Excessive alcohol consumption
Whether your drink of choice is shaken and not stirred, includes a barrel-aged spirit, or is a humble mug of beer, there’s nothing especially harmful about (safely) having a drink every now and then.
Needless to say, though, excessive alcohol consumption can have its downsides – one of which is vitamin B deficiency. Alcohol, in short, makes your kidneys flush B vitamins out of your system much more quickly than usual. That means your body doesn’t have all the time it needs to make use of these B vitamins – so they, quite literally, go to waste.
(3) Various medications
Several types of prescription medicines can bump up the likelihood of a vitamin B deficiency:
- Increased likelihood of vitamin B6 deficiency – anticonvulsants, isoniazid, hydralazine, corticosteroids, and penicillamine (common brand name: Cuprimine)
- Increased likelihood of vitamin B9 deficiency – phenytoin (common brand name: Dilantin), trimethoprim-sulfamethoxazole, methotrexate (common brand names: Rheumatrex, Trexall), and sulfasalazine (common brand name: Azulfidine)
- Increased likelihood of vitamin B12 deficiency – metformin, proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), antacids, long-term antibiotics, and antidepressants
(4) Gut malabsorption conditions
Under healthy conditions, B vitamins are absorbed by the gut and into your bloodstream. The bloodstream then transports these much-needed vitamins throughout your body. So what happens if B vitamins don’t make it into the bloodstream? It’s simple: they can’t be put to good use by the body!
And that’s exactly what can go wrong if you have a gut malabsorption condition – like Crohn’s, for example, or ulcerative colitis or Celiac disease. These conditions prevent B vitamins from entering the bloodstream, significantly dropping your blood’s vitamin B levels – and potentially harming your well-being.
Since vitamin B deficiency is relatively common – some have even declared it a “worldwide problem” – it’s helpful to know some of its main causes (like the 4 described above).
There’s more you can, too, to avoid the unpleasant – and sometimes dangerous – health consequences of vitamin B deficiency. For starters, consider checking your vitamin B levels with EverlyWell’s easy-to-take B Vitamins Test. Then, if you are indeed deficient, you can consult with your healthcare provider on the next steps you can take.