Could Holiday Blues Be a Vitamin B12 Deficiency?

Feeling blue this holiday season? You’re not alone.  For many the holidays, and the media and retail frenzy attached to it trigger happier times, family and friends, and warm memories. For those of us who struggle during this time, depression, or winter blues often sets in. If you suffer regularly from depression this is an especially challenging time, and a time when you need to be vigilant about your health, both mental and physical.

Often times, a Vitamin B12 deficiency can be the culprit. Adding vitamins to your diet can help and especially B12. B vitamins are major contributors to how the brain and nervous system function, so getting proper nutrients in the diet can improve mood immensely. There are physical symptoms that trigger a B12 deficiency.

Many vitamins can be sourced from foods, but some, like vitamin B12, are difficult to source from food alone. In this case, vitamin supplements are suggested, or for those suffering from a B12 deficiency, Vitamin B12 shots have been shown to help raise levels of serotonin, thereby helping to lift depression.

Early symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Early symptoms of a Vitamin B12 deficiency can include numbness or tingling in the hands, joint pain, loss of taste or smell, and balance problems. As noted above, a severe deficiency can create symptoms of depression and even delusional thinking. See a full list of B12 deficiency signs here

When is a Vitamin B12 Shot Necessary

Injections are warranted when a patient is not absorbing well or is truly deficient and prefers or needs to increase levels quickly. Vitamin B12 is needed to create nerves and red blood cells. Organic sources of vitamin B12 are only found in animal products, such as meat, poultry, eggs and dairy, and cannot be made in the body. As there are no vegetarian sources of vitamin B12, vegetarians and vegans need to supplement and often end up with a deficiency. Stomach acid is needed to absorb vitamin B12 from foods, and many people, often the elderly,  do not have enough stomach acid to break down foods in order to obtain this vital nutrient, especially as aging decreases the amount of stomach acid secretion. For this reason, the National Institute of Medicine and Harvard Health recommend that those over the age of 50 add supplemental B12 to their diet.

What about Biotin

Biotin is one of the water-soluble B vitamins. Known as B7 or vitamin H, biotin is used to turn sugar into energy in the body. Necessary for the walls of every cell in the body, biotin is also used in maintaining the nerve cells. Studies have shown that biotin can also reduce stress by maintaining the proper functioning of the nerves. Biotin added to the diet can help symptoms of depression, or the lassitude and somnolence associated with the winter blues.

 And Niacin?

Another B vitamin, niacin, known as vitamin B3, has been shown to help with depression and chronic brain syndrome, or dementia. Niacin is made in the body and can also be found in a variety of foods such as milk, eggs, yeast, beans, meat and fish. Niacin may also help improve memory, according to some sources.

Don’t forget about Thiamin

Thiamin, or vitamin B1, is used to make energy by breaking down sugar in the body. It is also utilized in creating red blood cells. Thiamin can be found in foods such as grains and yeast, as well as in dairy products. Thiamin has been found to help treat symptoms of depression and irritability.

Other remedies for winter blues

There are other vitamins and minerals that can also help alleviate lower brain function and symptoms of depression, including zinc, iodine, magnesium, vitamin C and the omega-3 fatty acids. Some people find the use of a light therapy device or full spectrum lighting, often from a light box, which can be helpful in dealing with seasonal affective disorder as well.

Keep in mind, however, that there is no magic pill or shot – a combination of healthy living, proper supplements and fitness will increase our overall energy levels and vitality.

Here at AFC Urgent Care West Hartford, we can test for Vitamin B12 deficiencies. If your feelings of sadness continue and are exaggerated in the cold weather, you might be suffering a B12 deficiency.

Questions about testing for B12? Call us and we’d be happy to give you more info.

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