Tired all the time? You may be low on vitamin B12

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Susan Bowie is a natural-born problem-solver.

"I have a gift on the telephone," Bowie, 59, says.  "I seem to maneuver through the red tape quite easily."

WATCH: Doctor, why am I so tired all the time?

This is her 13th year as a FOX 5 Call For Action volunteer, helping consumers find answers.

"When you feel good, it comes across on the telephone," Bowie says.  "It's kind of like when you smile, they know it on the other end. So when my energy is up, I can dive into cases and help people, and I feel like I can do it."

But, recently, Susan had a problem she couldn't solve.

She was tired, really tired.

"I didn't want to come in," she says. "I didn't want to get up. I wanted to sleep.  And then I noticed I was getting angry a lot."

Her doctor gave her a blood test that revealed Bowie was very low on vitamin B12, she posted about it on Facebook.

And all of a sudden, 30 or 40 of my female friends were going, 'Hey, me, too!'" Bowie says. "And, I'd never heard of this."

B vitamin deficiencies are so common,  Dr. Taz Bhatia of CentreSpring MD says up to 75% of her patients test low on the micronutrient.

She says B vitamins are essential for almost every pathway in the body.

"So, whether we're talking mood, your serotonin needs B vitamins.  If we're talking hormones, the help estrogen break down, you need a good B vitamin. And then purely for energy and weight loss, you need B vitamins."

A simple blood test can help doctors diagnose a deficiency.

Dr. Bhatia says many people aren't aware they have a problem.

They have no idea, and they walk around feeling fatigued and tired and even depressed to a certain extent," she says.

We get B12 from high protein foods like lean meats, poultry, fish, eggs, fortified whole grains and dairy.

So, vegetarians and vegans, who don't eat animal products, may run low on B12.

Same thing with people with gastrointestinal tract disorders, who can't easily absorb nutrients.

And, Dr. Bhatia says, some people have a genetically-based need for higher than normal B12 levels.

Susan Bowie's doctor first recommended an over-the-counter  B12 supplement.

When  that didn't help raise her levels, she prescribed B12 injections Bowie now gives herself once a week.

A nurse at her doctor's office showed her how to inject herself into her leg muscle.

"To be honest with you, I was apprehensive at first," she says.  "And then I realized that this was the only thing that was going to make me feel better."

After 5 weeks of injected, Bowie feels like her old problem-solving self again.

No more struggling to get out of bed in the morning.

"It feels good to get up and look forward to the day," she says.

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