There are many reasons people become deficient in vitamin B12 – underlying digestive disorders, taking certain medications, being vegetarian or vegan, alcohol consumption – but do all of these warrant getting B12 through injection?
With the recent vitamin B12 injection shortage, more patients may be considering oral supplements to get their B12. Is taking a pill adequate for replacing this vital nutrient? For many people, the short answer is “yes.”
Vitamin B12 can be readily obtained from your diet; most commonly through meat, as well as eggs, fortified cereal and yogurt. The recommended daily amount of vitamin B12 is 1 to 2.5 micrograms per day for adults, with the average U.S. adult consuming approximately 3.4 micrograms daily. So the majority of us do not require B12 supplementation. However, for those with a confirmed B12 deficiency (an easy test you can get from your doctor), oral supplements are the first place to start.
Common symptoms related to deficiency are fatigue, weakness, constipation and loss of appetite. Individuals most likely to experience a deficiency are those with pernicious anemia, who have had a portion of their bowel removed (which inhibits absorption of nutrients), vegetarians (due to lack of B12-rich meat in their diet) and individuals who do not consume a balanced diet.
The vast majority of people with a B12 deficiency are able to get enough vitamin B12 through a daily multivitamin or vitamin B oral supplement that can be purchased at the drugstore. Even for the small percentage of patients with more serious absorption issues, there is still a good probability that oral supplements will be effective in treating their deficiency.
So, if you, a family member or friends experience the classic B12 deficiency symptoms, try an oral supplement to see if symptoms improve. If you currently receive B12 injections, talk to your health care provider about trying oral supplementation. You just may be able to avoid getting those regular shots.
Guest blogger Amanda Bishop, PharmD, graduated from Purdue University. She is currently in her second year of pharmacy residency training with Virginia Mason focusing in health system administration.