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Recovery From Vitamin B12 Deficiency: What To Know

Published by Dr. Venn-Watson
Dr. Eric Venn-Watson’s Highlights
  • Vitamin deficiency is not common in the United States, but some people have dietary restrictions or health conditions that result in a deficiency.

    Taking a supplement or making dietary changes may be necessary for replenishing circulating levels of B12.

    A more common nutrient deficiency in the United States is related to a specific fatty acid, and taking fatty15 can support efforts to recover. 

Vitamin B12 gets a lot of press. One of the better-known B vitamins, we know it can contribute to mood regulation and energy levels. In fact, if a person is continually fatigued, they may have a blood panel test to determine if their vitamin B levels are within normal range. 

Together, we’ll talk about vitamin deficiency with a focus on vitamin B12. We’ll discuss what causes it, what you can do, and what recovery from vitamin B12 deficiency looks like. 

We’ll also discuss a little-known nutrient deficiency that is incredibly common in developed nations (the U.S. included) and talk about the importance of restoring that nutrient to our bodies.

How Common Is Vitamin Deficiency?

Short answer: not very common. In the United States vitamin deficiency does exist, but it is not a common occurrence. The average American gets plenty of vitamins and minerals through their food, if not from supplements. 

Who Is at Risk of Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

Just because vitamin deficiency isn’t common doesn’t mean it does not exist. You could be at risk of vitamin B12 deficiency if you follow a restrictive diet that does not allow you to eat certain foods that contain B12, or if you have an underlying illness that prevents your body from readily absorbing B12 from your foods. 

You could be at risk of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency if: 

  • You follow a vegan or vegetarian diet. Vitamin B12 is found primarily in fish, meat, and eggs. If you aren’t regularly consuming these foods, your B12 levels may be too low. You can find vitamin B12 in plant-based foods, like fortified plant-based milks, tempeh, certain types of mushrooms, and nori, but if you aren’t consuming enough of these foods, your levels could be low.
  • You have a family history of vitamin B12 deficiency. If you have family members who have experienced vitamin B12 deficiency, you may be more likely to have problems getting enough B12 in your diet.
  • Having had certain types of surgery. Some surgeries that remove portions of your stomach or intestines can make it difficult for your body to absorb vitamin B12. These surgeries may be part of a weight loss plan or due to medical intervention for certain diseases.
  • Having an underlying illness. Type 1 diabetics are more likely to have vitamin B12 deficiency, as well as patients who have Crohn's Disease.

Your likelihood of developing a vitamin B12 deficiency also increases with age. Older adults have more difficulty getting enough B12 due to a higher occurrence of gastritis, a condition that causes thinning of the lining of the stomach. 

Symptoms of B12 Deficiency

Not everyone will have symptoms of a B12 deficiency. You may experience some or none of these symptoms

  • Weak muscles or muscle fatigue
  • Trouble with ambulation and balance
  • Tingling in the feet and hands
  • Decreased appetite
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Irritability 
  • Fatigue and tiredness
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid heart rate

Having a few of these symptoms does not automatically mean you have a vitamin B12 deficiency. The only way to know for certain is to have your healthcare provider order a blood panel to test your vitamin levels.

Recovering From B12 Deficiency

Thankfully, the prognosis for recovery from a vitamin B12 deficiency is good, provided the underlying cause of your deficiency can be addressed and treated. If you have a deficiency due to an underlying medical condition, having resources to properly treat that condition is essential. 

If you are on a restrictive diet, choosing foods higher in B12 can help, but you may need to consider supplementation. Working with a doctor or dietician can help you determine the best course of action. 

Injections

In some cases, injections may be necessary. These may be given at a medical office or injected at home. These injections may only be needed for a certain period until your vitamin B12 levels stabilize. 

Supplements

Sometimes people who are deficient in B12 are also deficient in folic acid, another B vitamin. It can be difficult to tell if you are deficient in one and not the other, so healthcare providers may suggest you take both a vitamin B12 supplement along with a folic acid supplement. 

Diet

Dietary changes can also help bolster your B12 levels. Consuming more B12 rich foods like meat, eggs, poultry, milk, shellfish, and fortified cereal can help you improve your B12 levels. 

How Long Does Recovery Take?

The recovery process takes time. You’ll likely need at least six months to recover and stabilize your vitamin B12 levels. In that time, you may still feel tired, irritable, and experience symptoms of deficiency, but these symptoms should gradually get better over time. 

You may need to consider taking vitamin B12 supplements long-term. If you have an illness that prevents your body from absorbing vitamin B12 properly, you will need supplementation to maintain healthy B12 levels. Although this might sound hard, it may be the best way for you to live a symptom-free life. 

What Other Vitamin Deficiencies Should I Know About?

Because vitamin deficiency is rare, you probably don’t think much about it, unless you experience specific symptoms. However, there is one recently identified nutrient deficiency associated with an essential nutrient called C15:0 that may be affecting one out of every three of us. 

What Is C15:0?

C15:0 is an odd-chain, saturated fatty acid that is essential for our bodies. This means our bodies require it for proper function but can’t readily make it on their own. We have to get C15:0 from our diet or through supplementation. 

Why Our Bodies Need It

The foundation of our health lies in our cells. The health of our cells determines the health of our entire bodies. 

Cells create tissues that form organs, and those organs are parts of complex systems that keep our bodies functioning smoothly. If our cellular health is good, we experience good health. If our cellular health is bad, we may experience poor health outcomes. 

Supporting cellular health may not be at the forefront of your thoughts, but what might be important to you are health matters like:

  • Glucose regulation and insulin sensitivity
  • Regulated cholesterol levels
  • Healthy blood pressure
  • Liver function
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Increasing longevity and healthspan, or the ability to age healthfully. 

Foundationally, all of these health concerns are directly related to the health of your cells. Cellular health is what makes C15:0 so important. Low circulating levels of C15:0 can lead to fragile cells that are weak and prone to lipid peroxidation and early breakdown. This explains why some people with C15:0 deficiency experience poorer cardiovascular, liver, and metabolic health. 

C15:0 is an essential fatty acid that is directly involved in keeping your cells healthy and strong. In studies, it’s even more effective (and safer) for your cells than the most potent form of omega-3 fatty acid. 

How Does C15:0 Work?

With age, our cells can start to break down. The protective membranes that give them their shape become flimsy. Mitochondria that power our cells slow down, decreasing cellular function. 

Some cells even lose their function completely, but don’t die. Like some type of science-fiction characters, these zombie cells linger in our bodies creating inflammation and causing an unnecessary inflammatory response by our immune system. 

C15:0 works by repairing damaged cells, restoring cellular strength, increasing cellular energy, and even reversing the aging process in our cells through several methods of cellular interaction. 

Strengthening Cellular Membranes

Cells need strong membranes to protect them from pathogen intrusion and help them keep their shapes to function properly. A sturdy fatty acid, C15:0, integrates into cell membranes, fortifying them and protecting them against age-related breakdown. In studies, C15:0 improved cellular strength by 80%.

Clearing Damaged Cells

Those “zombie” cells that are taking up space in your body and creating an inflammatory response? C15:0 activates a molecule that helps eliminate them. By activating AMPK, C15:0 helps your body clean house, removing these cells and significantly calming the immune response. As the immune response cools, levels of proinflammatory cytokines (a key driver in aging) also lower.

Supporting Mitochondria

Cells can’t carry out proper function without energy created by their mitochondria. With age and cellular decline, mitochondria simply slow down, producing less ATP (cellular energy) and more damaging reactive oxygen species (ROS). 

C15:0 decreases ROS output by 45% and increases mitochondrial ATP production. In one peer-reviewed study, C15:0 increased ATP levels within cells by 350%.

Regulating Homeostatic Functions

Through interaction with AMPK and PPAR receptors, C15:0 helps restore whole-body homeostasis. These receptors support glucose regulation, immunity, metabolic, heart, and liver health. They even have a role in deepening sleep and improving mood. 

Why You Are Deficient

If you’re wondering why you might be deficient in C15:0, let us be the first to tell you that it’s not your fault. People who eat a healthy, balanced diet and get plenty of exercise can still be deficient. 

C15:0 is found in trace amounts in whole dairy products, like whole milk and butter. Consuming an excess of these foods would increase your C15:0 levels, but it would also mean taking in excess calories along with bad, even-chain saturated fat. 

Most people aren’t consuming whole dairy products, due to dietary guidelines issues in the 1970s that told us all to avoid fat. Further, the push towards a more plant-based diet has meant the switch from cow’s milk to plant-based milk, which is completely void of C15:0. 

How To Tell If You Are Deficient

A simple at-home blood test is all you need to test your C15:0 levels. In addition to measuring C15:0 levels, ask your healthcare provider about a complete blood count, fasting lipid panel, and liver enzyme test. These tests can tell you how increasing your levels of C15:0 may benefit your health.

Studies of C15:0’s effects on the body suggest that C15:0 levels below 0.2% of your total fatty acids represent a deficiency syndrome and may be associated with poor heart, liver, and metabolic health. Maintaining a C15:0 level of 0.4% is generally considered normal. 

Interestingly, people living in blue zones (the communities in the world where living to be 100 is most common) have C15:0 levels that are 0.6% of their total fatty acids. If you find out you are deficient, you should know that restoring your levels isn’t a tall task. 

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Restoring Your C15:0 Levels

Thankfully, there is a solution. Fatty15 is the once-a-day, pure, vegan version of C15:0 that helps support your circulating levels of C15:0 and support your cells. Getting your C15:0 from a supplement instead of from food makes sense for two important reasons. 

Fatty15 Is Bioavailable

The vegan, sustainable version of C15:0 (FA15™) is made ready to absorb. In milk (and other foods), C15:0 is attached to branches of lipids called triacylglycerides, aka triglycerides. That means our gut has to use digestive enzymes to break down these triacylglycerides to release C15:0 as a free fatty acid. 

Once C15:0 is released, it is ready to be absorbed. These multiple steps can make our absorption of C15:0 from foods less efficient. In contrast, FA15 in fatty15 is our proprietary pure, powder C15:0 ingredient already in free fatty acid form. Less work for the gut, more good C15:0 for our bodies. 

No Cows or Calories

Unlike the heavy caloric load associated with whole-fat dairy and the bad even-chain saturated fats, the FA15 in fatty15 contains just the good fat with one calorie per dose. In addition, there’s zero cow involvement, making it vegan-friendly and a much more sustainable and environmentally friendly option than consuming C15:0 from cow’s milk. 

By taking fatty15 just once per day, you can skip the cows and the calories while supporting your C15:0 levels and giving your cells a fighting chance against cellular aging. 

R Is for Recovery

Recognizing nutritional deficiencies such as vitamin B12 and C15:0 deficiencies is important to maintaining our health. Increasing our dietary intake of these essential nutrients is an easy way to ensure adequate levels and maintain our overall health and wellness. Fatty15 can help improve your cellular health by restoring your C15:0 levels, one fatty15 capsule at a time.

Sources:

Vitamins and Minerals for Energy, Fatigue and Cognition: A Narrative Review of the Biochemical and Clinical Evidence - PMC

Vitamin B12 Deficiency Anemia | Johns Hopkins Medicine

Efficacy of dietary odd-chain saturated fatty acid pentadecanoic acid parallels broad associated health benefits in humans: could it be essential? | Scientific Reports

A review of odd-chain fatty acid metabolism and the role of pentadecanoic Acid (c15:0) and heptadecanoic Acid (c17:0) in health and disease

Profile photo for Eric Venn-Watson

Eric Venn-Watson M.D.

Eric is a physician, U.S. Navy veteran, and Co-founder and COO of Seraphina Therapeutics. Eric served over 25 years as a Navy and Marine Corps physician, working with the special forces community to improve their health and fitness. Seraphina Therapeutics is a health and wellness company dedicated to advancing global health through the discovery of essential fatty acids and micronutrient therapeutics.

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