Are you feeling tired or fatigued? Have you noticed difficulty in concentrating lately? Are you currently pregnant or trying to get pregnant? If you feel like one or more of these questions are speaking to you, then it might be time to take a deeper look at your nutrient levels.
Vitamin B12 and folate –important B vitamins– are responsible for a variety of processes in your body. For your body to function properly, you need to have adequate vitamin levels. Here are 9 reasons to test your vitamin B12 and folate:
1. Fatigue or lack of energy
If you’re experiencing low energy levels or lack of motivation to get even the simplest of tasks completed, it might be a low folate or vitamin B12 level that’s the culprit. Folate, or vitamin B9, and vitamin B12 are water-soluble vitamins that help make red blood cells necessary for adequate energy levels. Brain and muscle tissue are highly dependent on oxygen, which is provided by your red blood cells. Impaired oxygen transport can affect mental and physical performance. Low levels of folate and vitamin B12 are associated with fatigue and vitamin deficiency anemia. It’s important to routinely monitor your folate level because your body cannot store large amounts of it.
2. Depressed mood, irritability, or recent mood swings
Have you noticed a change in your mood recently? Maybe you’re getting irritated or feeling a little down? Your mood and mental health regulation rely on sufficient folate and vitamin B12. Research shows that adequate vitamin levels can help with mental fatigue and depressed mood. These B vitamins are required in the production of neurotransmitters like serotonin, norepinephrine, and dopamine. These neurotransmitters send messages throughout your body to help regulate mood, cognition, anxiety, sleep, and appetite.
Folate is converted into an active form called L-methylfolate, which is required for neurotransmitter production. Inadequate folate levels have been linked to depression and increased irritability. Vitamin B12 deficiency may result in behavior changes, mood swings, irritability, and depressed mood.
3. Difficulty concentrating or forgetfulness
Everyone struggles with attention issues at some point in life, but if you’ve been experiencing more frequent challenges with concentration, learning, or memory retention, then you might want to check your vitamin levels.
Folate and vitamin B12 are involved in the production of important neurotransmitters that have profound roles in cognitive health – learning and memory. Inadequate folate levels have been linked to focus problems, while inadequate vitamin B12 levels have been associated with cognitive impairment. If you have difficulty concentrating or forgetfulness, check to see if your vitamin levels are adequate.
4. Taking vitamin supplements
How do you know if your vitamin B12 or folate supplement is adequate? The only answer is to check your levels. Finding out your vitamin blood levels can help you and your physician make decisions about supplement brands and dosages. Don’t continue to spend money on supplements unless you know they’re working.
5. Taking medications
Taking medications for the treatment of health conditions doesn’t mean your vitamin levels have to suffer. There are effective supplements available on the market to help, but first you need to know your levels.
Some medications can cause vitamin deficiencies. For example, Metformin, a commonly prescribed medication for managing blood sugar levels in people with Type 2 diabetes, may cause vitamin B12 and folate deficiency. Another example involves proton pump inhibitors (PPI). These medications are often used long term for acid reflux and are associated with increased risk for vitamin B12 deficiency.
These medications may also interfere with folate absorption:
- Antibiotics – Trimethoprim and tetracycline
- Bile acid sequestrants (cholesterol-lowering) – cholestyramine, colesevelam, colestipol
- Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs) – aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxen
- Others – birth control, anticonvulsants, Methotrexate
6. Dietary challenges or restrictions
If you follow a restricted diet, or need to limit particular food groups for a health condition, you could be at risk for low levels of B vitamins. Vegan and vegetarian diets are especially at risk for inadequate vitamin B12 because most of it is found in animal foods. Monitoring vitamin B12 regularly is vital for anyone limiting the consumption of these foods.
Alcohol intake can also affect vitamin levels. Chronic alcohol consumption can lead to folate deficiency due to lack of dietary folate intake, folate malabsorption, and increased folate excretion.
7. Autoimmune and gastrointestinal disorders
Autoimmune disorders, such as pernicious anemia or Lupus, can lead to vitamin B12 deficiency. Intrinsic factor is a protein that helps your body absorb vitamin B12. Sometimes, an autoimmune response attacks your intrinsic factor and reduces your body’s ability to absorb B12. If you’re living with an autoimmune disorder, regularly check your vitamin B12 status.
Celiac disease is an autoimmune disease in which the body’s immune system attacks the small intestine when gluten is consumed. The damaged small intestine loses its ability to properly absorb nutrients, including many important vitamins. Individuals may have mild or non-specific symptoms of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, which could be the only sign that celiac disease is present. Some of these vitamin levels can be easily checked at home. If celiac disease runs in your family, or you think you have symptoms, test your genetic risk for celiac disease with this easy mouth swab.
8. Pregnant or trying to get pregnant
Folate is critical during early pregnancy because it can help prevent major birth defects of the baby’s brain and spine (spina bifida). It can take a few months to build up an adequate folate level. If you’re currently pregnant or trying to get pregnant, check to see if your level is sufficient. The empowerDX Vitamin B12 + Folate Test is the preferred at-home test endorsed by the American Pregnancy Association (APA).
9. Genetics - MTHFR
Even genetics can influence your body’s ability to properly use vitamins. For example, the MTHFR gene is responsible for the production of a critical enzyme that converts folic acid to its active form L-methylfolate. A genetic variant can inhibit the folate methylation process, which can affect your body’s ability to properly use folate. Find out if you have adequate folate levels to start with. Read more to learn about MTHFR gene mutations.
Take care of yourself and test your vitamin levels from home today!
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