If you’ve ever overexerted yourself after a workout, then you’re familiar with muscle fatigue; sore, burning limbs, exhaustion, loss of breath, and muscle spasms are all side effects of expending energy past the point of oxygen capacity. Vitamin B12 deficiency also causes muscle fatigue, but for different reasons. While healthy individuals get muscle fatigue after running a sprint race or swimming a few rigorous laps around the pool, people with vitamin B12 deficiency may suffer from long-lasting tiredness, achiness, and breathlessness without doing any sort of aerobic exercise, any time of day.
Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) is necessary for many important biochemical reactions, and one of them involves DNA synthesis, which is instrumental in producing plenty of healthy oxygen-toting red blood cells. Without sufficient vitamin B12, you start producing deformed red blood cells that are overlarge and misshapen, a sign of pernicious anemia. As a result, oxygen levels plummet, and you begin to suffer the effects of hypoxemia (oxygen depletion) – muscle fatigue, dizziness, disorientation, and overall ill health.
Several factors contribute to your chances of developing vitamin B12 deficiency. Even if you eat a healthy diet of lean beef, poultry, fish, and dairy foods, you may still be at high risk of muscle fatigue from malnutrition if you fall into one of these categories:
- History of autoimmune disorders. Sometimes, muscle fatigue is a symptom of autoimmune disorders such as pernicious anemia, chronic fatigue syndrome (CFS), or fibromyalgia.
- Gastrointestinal disorders. Damage to the esophagus, stomach, or intestines caused by diarrhea, vomiting, or acid reflux often results in vitamin B12 malabsorption. For that reason, people with Crohn’s disease, celiac disease, or migraines, for example, may experience frequent muscle fatigue, due to insufficient oxygen.
- The elderly. Muscle fatigue may be a sign of arthritis, but it can also signify lack of oxygen due to low vitamin B12 levels. As you age, your ability to produce digestive enzymes diminishes, interfering with your ability to absorb vitamin B12 from food. The resulting drop in oxygen supplies to your cells causes muscle fatigue.
- Patients of GI surgery. Certain gastrointestinal surgeries, such as gastric bypass, involve the removal of the ileum, the bottommost part of the small intestine, which is essential for digesting vitamin B12. Gradually, as B12 levels plummet, many patients notice symptoms of muscle fatigue, emotional disorders, and chronic pain.
For muscle fatigue treatment, doctors recommend taking routine vitamin B12 supplements, until symptoms desist, or as desired for maintaining high energy levels, enhancing mental clarity, and producing red blood cells for oxygen.