What do sardines, lamb, and yogurt all have in common? They are all excellent sources of the essential vitamin B12. This vitamin is necessary for all human and animal life. In humans, our bodies require vitamin B12 for:

  • The production of DNA
  • The maintenance of brain and nervous system health
  • And the formulation of red blood cells.[1]

Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin and the only vitamin that contains a metal (cobalt). There is no known toxic level of vitamin B12. The body merely eliminates what you don’t need and the liver stores up to several years’ worth of this vitamin.[2]

symptoms of vitamin b12 deficiencySources of Vitamin B12

The only natural sources of vitamin B12 come from animal products. Neither plants nor animals produce vitamin B12. Instead, it is only produced in bacteria. Plants do not concentrate or use vitamin B12 like animals do, so plants provide little to none of this important vitamin. Some of the richest sources of B12 include:[3]

  • Seafood: sardines, salmon, tuna, cod, shellfish, etc.
  • Beef, lamb, turkey, chicken, eggs, and other meats
  • Milk products: yogurt, cheese, milk, etc.

Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Few Americans suffer vitamin B12 deficiency due to dietary reasons. The exception to this is vegans and vegetarians, who must supplement with vitamin B12, because it is not available in plant foods. However, for people age 50 and above, vitamin B12 deficiency is a more common problem due to the body’s inability to absorb the vitamin.[4]

While aging may be a factor in a person’s inability to absorb vitamin B12, other factors may be more prevalent. Those with Crohn’s disease, celiac, and those who have had gastro-intestinal surgery may not be able to absorb vitamin B12.[5] Also, a deficiency in calcium may inhibit absorption of vitamin B12.[6]

Additionally, prolonged use of certain medications hinders the absorption of vitamin B12. These drugs include:[7]

  • Proton-pump inhibitors designed to decrease the production of stomach acid (for GERD, acid reflux, etc.)
  • Drugs for the treatment of high cholesterol
  • Metformin used to treat type 2 diabetes (vitamin B12 deficiency is common among type 2 diabetics)
  • Alcohol when consumed in excess

Symptoms of Vitamin B12 Deficiency

Some of the symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency may include:[8], [9]

  • cranberry for vitamin b12 absorptionNeuropathy of the hands, feet, or legs manifested by numbness, or tingling
  • Balance issues
  • Anemia
  • A swollen, inflamed tongue
  • Jaundice
  • Cognitive difficulties or memory loss
  • Paranoia and hallucinations
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • Atrophic gastritis
  • Kidney disease
  • Tinnitus
  • Migraine
  • Macular degeneration
  • Asthma
  • Shingles
  • Multiple sclerosis

How to Increase Absorption of Vitamin B12

A simple blood test can reveal whether you suffer from a vitamin B12 deficiency. The following tips can help improve your absorption of this essential vitamin:[10]

  1. Eat more foods rich in vitamin B12.
  2. Limit alcohol intake to no more than one serving per day for women and two for men.
  3. Take a vitamin B12 supplement.
  4. Cranberries and cranberry juice may increase your absorption of vitamin B12.
  5. Use black pepper to season your food. The piperine in black pepper may help absorption.
  6. Ensure that you’re getting sufficient calcium in your diet.
  7. Increase the production of stomach acid by:
  • Not overeating
  • Eating whole foods rather than processed foods
  • Eating fermented foods like sauerkraut[11]
  1. If you take any of the drugs listed above that inhibit the absorption of vitamin B12, you may want to explore more natural ways to control high cholesterol, acid reflux or diabetes. Barton Publishing offers great natural alternatives to treating those issues. Check out our natural remedies for: Acid Reflux, Diabetes, and Cholesterol.

Protect Yourself

If you have any of the symptoms listed above or fall into one or more of the following categories, then you may want to arrange for a blood test to determine whether you are deficient in vitamin B12:

  • You are 50 years or older
  • You take a PPI or H2 blocker regularly
  • You are on metformin for type 2 diabetes
  • You are a vegan or vegetarian
  • You have had weight-loss surgery
  • You have Crohn’s or celiac disease

How much Vitamin B12 do You Need?

Unless you fall into one or more of the above categories, you probably get enough vitamin B12 in your diet as long as you regularly consume animal products. The recommended daily allowance for vitamin B12 for adults is 2.4 mcg/day.[12]

If you’re in doubt whether you have a deficiency in vitamin B12, put your mind at ease by ordering a simple blood test. Make sure that eating a healthy diet including animal products or you’re supplementing with vitamin B12.

Finally, instead of relying on harmful drugs that inhibit the absorption of vitamin B12, look into our products that show you how to take care of yourself naturally: Acid Reflux, Diabetes, and Cholesterol.


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Rob_FischerRob Fischer has been writing professionally for over 35 years. His experience includes writing curricula, study guides, articles, blogs, newsletters, manuals, workbooks, training courses, workshops, and books. Rob has written for numerous churches, for Burlington Northern Railroad, Kaiser Aluminum, and Barton Publishing. He has also trained managers in effective business writing. Rob holds two Master’s degrees, both focused heavily on writing. Rob has published eleven books and serves as an editor and ghostwriter for other authors.



[1] The World’s Healthiest foods, “Vitamin B12 – Cobalamin,” nd, http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=107.
[2] The World’s Healthiest foods.
[3] The World’s Healthiest foods.
[4] Medline Plus, “Vitamin B12,” 2/18/2013, http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/002403.htm.
[5] The World’s Healthiest foods.
[6] Colleen M. Story, “Are You Short on Vitamin B12? 5 Tips to Increase Absorption,” Renegade Health, July 1, 2013, http://renegadehealth.com/blog/2013/07/01/are-you-short-on-vitamin-b12-5-tips-to-increase-absorption.
[7] Linus Pauling Institute, Oregon State University, “Vitamin B12,” April 2014, http://lpi.oregonstate.edu/infocenter/vitamins/vitaminB12/#drug_interaction.
[8] Patrick J. Skerrett, “Vitamin B12 Deficiency Can Be Sneaky, Harmful,” Harvard Health Publications, January 10, 2013, http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/vitamin-b12-deficiency-can-be-sneaky-harmful-201301105780.
[9] The World’s Healthiest foods.
[10] Colleen M. Story.
[11] Marilee Nelson, “Ways to Increase Stomach Acid Production,” Branch Basics, nd, http://www.branchbasics.com/learn/ways-to-increase-stomach-acid-production/.
[12] Linus Pauling Institute.