10 signs your nerves are talking to you:


The body’s nervous system is made up of two parts, the central nervous system (CNS) and the peripheral nervous system (PNS). You have billions of nerve cells in total and the brain acts as the nerve centre to all of them. A Vitamin B deficiency affects both the CNS and PNS. 1,2


In the elderly:
  • 50 % are deficient in Vitamin B1 (due to diuretic treatment) 3
  • Nearly 50 % are deficient in Vitamin B6; 4 and
  • 40 % are deficient in Vitamin B12 5
It is recommended that all adults over the age of 50 should supplement with Vitamin B12 on a daily basis. 6


When your body has a deficiency in Vitamins B1, B6 & B12, the messages sent from your brain to your hands and feet are disrupted. 7,8 This could lead to pins-and-needles or numbness or weakness in your hands and feet. 7,9


People with diabetes, have an increased need for Vitamin B1 when compared to people who don’t have diabetes, and a deficiency of this vitamin develops quickly. In addition to this, they also have decreased levels of Vitamins B6 and B12. 8


The central nervous system (CNS) includes the nerves in the brain and spinal cord. 1 If you suffer from a Vitamin B12 deficiency, you will show CNS symptoms such as: depression, poor memory, irritability and confusion, amongst others. 2, 5 Having these symptoms does not necessarily mean you have a Vitamin B deficiency – but it would be a good idea to have your Vitamin B levels checked.


The peripheral nervous system (PNS) is made up of the nerves that branch off from the spinal cord and extend to all parts of the body.1 If you have a Vitamin B deficiency, there are PNS symptoms you may experience, such as: pins-and-needles; numbness or weakness in hands and feet. 2,9


Think of your nerves as the electrical wiring of your body. Most nerves in the body have a sheath surrounding it to protect it from damage – like electrical wiring that are covered by a thin plastic coating to prevent damage. When you have a Vitamin B12 deficiency, these protective sheaths become damaged and the nerves lose their ability to send messages through the body. This could lead to various symptoms. 8,10


Up to 20 % of the general population may be deficient in Vitamin B12! 6


Some symptoms of a Vitamin B deficiency, such as fatigue, lack of coordination or extreme sensitivity to touch, are so vague and unspecific that they may go unnoticed or could be mistaken for something else. 5,7,9,11


1. NCBI Bookshelf. Informed Health Online. How does the nervous system work? [online] 2016 Aug [cited 2019 Mar 18]. Available from: URL :

2. Frye RE, Griffing GT. Pyridoxine Deficiency Clinical Presentation. Medscape [online] 2014 Jan 15 [cited 2014 Aug 6]. Available from: URL:

3. Suter PM, Vetter M. Diuretics and Vitamin B1: Are Diuretics a Risk Factor for Thiamin Malnutrition? Nutr Rev 2000;58(10):319-323.

4. Kjeldby IK, Fosnes GS, Ligaarden SC, Farup PG. Vitamin B6 deficiency and diseases in elderly people – a study in nursing homes. BMC Geriatrics 2013;13:13.

5. Lachner C, Steinle NI, Regenold WT. The Neuropsychiatry of Vitamin B12 Deficiency in Elderly Patients. J Neuropsychiatry Clin Neurosci 2012;24(1):5-15.

6. da Silva L, McCray S. Vitamin B12: No One Should Be Without It. Pract Gastroenterol 2009:34-46.

7. Mayo Clinic. Symptoms and causes. Peripheral Neuropathy. [online] [cited 2019 Mar 18]. Available from: URL:

8. Tong HI. Influence of Neurotropic Vitamins on Nerve Conduction Velocity in Diabetic Neuropathy. Ann Acad Med Singapore 1980;9(1):65-70.

9. Disorders of Nutrition and Metabolism. Section 11. In: The Merck Manual of Medical Information. Second Edition. (eds) Beers SL, Bowman MA. Pocket Books, New York, London, Toronto, Sydney. Pp 918-926.

10. NICUS. The Nutrition Information Centre of the University of Stellenbosch. Vitamins: Vitamin B12. [online] [cited 2019 Mar 18]. Available from: URL:

11. Harvard Health. Vitamin B12 deficiency can be sneaky, harmful. [online] [cited 2019 Mar 18]. Available from: URL:


For more information, please speak to your doctor or pharmacist.

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