This Sneaky Vitamin Deficiency Ruined My Life. Here's How You Can Stay Safe

mbg Contributor By Meg Hartley
mbg Contributor
Meg Hartley is a freelance writer and author of How I Lost All My F-cks.
This Sneaky Vitamin Deficiency Ruined My Life. Here's How You Can Stay Safe

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Over the last couple of years I've learned a very important lesson: B12 deficiency is no friggin' joke. This wily mofo has been wreaking havoc on my dear body for years, maybe decades. It's hard to say sans time machine, made trickier by vitamin B12 deficiency manifesting in a variety of ways, depending on a variety of factors.

What are the symptoms of B12 deficiency?

These are a few common symptoms:

  • Numbness, tingling
  • Weakness
  • Unsteady or abnormal gait
  • Psychiatric problems
  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath

A longer list can be found here. In addition to these things, left long enough––B12 deficiency can paralyze or kill people and frequently used to. I now know that B12 deficiency runs in my family due to a genetic mutation called methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, or––aptly––MTHFR.


Do you have congenital B12 deficiency?

My deficiency may have been congenital, explaining how the damage progressed so far despite my oh-so-young age of 34 (33 at diagnosis). I can no longer walk reliably, probably due to a fun little process called funicular myelosis, yet moooore tests to come! That, combined with a host of other symptoms, have completely stolen my life. Like, I'm homebound, look forward to leaving once a week to the exciting doctor's appointment, grocery trip, or pharmacy errand. Read: NO. LIFE.

I still hope to make a full recovery, but at 13 months into recovery, the odds aren't so friendly. It's just so ridiculous. A vitamin deficiency! And it (though probably not to this extent) can happen to anyone. My deficiency was due to my MTHFR of a mutation, but there are many, many ways people––even those with healthy, well-rounded diets––can become deficient:

  • Autoimmune pernicious anemia
  • Gastric bypass surgery
  • Malabsorption syndromes
  • Crohn's disease
  • Celiac disease (gluten enteropathy)
  • Bacterial overgrowth (small bowel)
  • Malnutrition, eating disorders

A longer list can be found here.


Here are the tests to order if you think you might be deficient in B12.

If you're at risk, or if the listed symptoms were all too familiar, get your levels tested. Serum tests can be misleading as the bloodstream can contain B12 that isn't actually absorbed and so can't be used. Make sure that you get your MMA (methylmalonic acid) and homocysteine levels checked as well; they generally become elevated when B12 is too low.

Also, please be quick to suggest it to others, especially those searching for a diagnosis, or those with one that doesn't quite fit. Without treatment I'd be paralyzed by now, possibly permanently; then I would have died, probably within just a few years, potentially by now.

If there's any chance that you can help someone find a B12-deficiency diagnosis, it's absolutely worth mentioning. I'm very upset that the B12 damage in my bod was allowed to progress so stupid far in this day in age. This is basic friggin' stuff, isn’t it? Our vitamin levels? Yet lack of and misdiagnoses are of epidemic proportions. This information could help so many people, so please share away! I got four or five miserable misdiagnoses over the years. It sucks beyond words. I don't want others to keep going through it. It's just silly: Your health is in your hands. Remember that when you feel "annoying" at the doctor's office next time. You could be saving yourself lots of money and misery.

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