By Dr. Dave Hnida

(CBS4) – It’s not unusual to have someone come in and ask for a little pick-me-up with a shot of B12.

This idea of a quick fix for fatigue has been around for a long time, and it’s one of those myths that still has some steam, despite the fact that science has never shown that it gives otherwise healthy people really much steam (except psychological).

But some new information from the Cleveland Clinic suggests more people than thought may actually benefit from a B-12 boost. And the reason is a simple one: more people taking acid reducing medicines for GERD.

How does this all link together?

It all has to do with a rise in reflux. You need stomach acid to absorb B-12, and if you take a medicine on a regular basis for reflux, you won’t absorb it, and you wind up being a little low in the tank for this special vitamin.

Symptoms of B-12 deficiency include being tired, foggy-headed, forgetful, and even some numbness and tingling in the arms and legs.

Now here’s the deal: the only way you know if you need B-12 is to do a blood test to check the level, and that’s a test we normal don’t do.

The groups that we really do need to think about checking to see where they stand with their B-12 levels include:

  • People over age 65 (since they make less stomach acid)
  • Strict vegetarians
  • People who have had bariatric surgery
  • People with a condition called “pernicious anemia”
  • People with gastric, stomach, or intestinal disorders, including acid reflux

Once again, the test for B-12 levels is a simple one—just an easy blood test.

If low, many people can boost their levels through daily supplements in pill form, although occasionally regular injections are needed to get the levels up. Sometimes medication adjustments are needed as well if a drug is interfering with B-12 absorption

In terms of some good dietary source:

  • Milk
  • Cereal
  • Eggs
  • Fish
  • Yogurt
  • Regular multi-vitamins

In sum, more people than we realize are a little low in B-12, and being tested, and treated for it is usually pretty easy.

But frankly, don’t be surprised if you’re dragging because of stress, inadequate sleep, and poor dietary habits, then come into the office thinking a quick booster dose of B-12 will give you a burst of energy, and we say… no. That really, maybe it’s not the vitamin you need to think about, but the way you are running yourself into the ground.

Dr. Dave Hnida is CBS4’s Medical Editor. He blogs about the latest studies and trends in the health world. Read his latest blog entries, check out his bio or follow him on Twitter @drdavehnida


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