TO “B” OR NOT TO “B” – What is Vitamin B12 and Why Do You Need It?
You may be wondering, what’s the big deal with Vitamin B12 “shots” (injections). Lots of people are talking about them these days –What are they good for? Do they really give you more energy? Do they hurt? Can anyone get them?
WHAT DOES B12 DO?
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is required to make red blood cells. It also plays an essential role in the production of your DNA, plays a role in the production of ATP the enrgy unit for the cell and supports the proper functioning of your nervous system. Additoinally it helps the body detoxify by making toxins and hormones more water soluble so they can leave the body. In short, we need B12 for brain health, nerve health, hormone health, detoxification, immune support and energy.
HOW MUCH B12 DO YOU NEED?
The average adult should get 2.4 micrograms a day to maintain healthy stores but if you are deficient you need a lot more. Like most vitamins, B12 can’t be made by the body, and must be obtained via food or supplements.
WHICH FOODS CONTAIN B12?
Natural sources of Vitamin B12 include animal products such as beef, eggs, fish, poultry, and dairy. However, it can also be found in foods fortified with B12 like bread, cereal, and non-dairy milk (soy, almond, or rice).
ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH B12?
You’re at risk of deficiency if you don’t get enough from your diet or aren’t able to absorb enough from the food you eat. For example, B12 is an important nutrient for vegans and vegetarians because they do not eat meat and/or dairy products.
B12 is incredibly complicated to absorb. It requires lots of stomach acid and a molecule call intrinsic factor that is produced in the stomach. All of those elements must come together in the stomach and the intrinsic factor must bind to a receptor in the ileum (the end of your small intestines)
As we age, there also is less absorption of B12 due to reduced stomach acids. Unfortunately, B12 deficiency is common, especially in the older population.
Some people don’t consume enough vitamin B12 to meet their needs, while others can’t absorb enough, no matter how much they take in. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency is relatively common, especially among older people.
Even if you ARE getting enough B12 from food, your levels can be depleted by both internal and external factors.
WHAT CAN CAUSE B12 DEFICIENCY?
B12 deficiency defined - B12 levels of under about 200 umols/L of blood is termed a B12 deficiency, where neurological symptoms begin to appear. However, most functional medicine doctors prefer B12 levels to be at least above 600 umols/L because it plays such a crucial role
Causes of B12 deficiency can include stress, alcohol, smoking, digestive issues, cardiovascular disease and illness, or poor nutrition. Metformin (a glucose-lowering medication for type II diabetes) is also known to deplete the vitamin.
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF B12 DEFICIENCY?
Symptoms of B12 deficiency - Deficiency can cause anemia. B12 also keeps homocysteine low. High homocysteine is an independent risk factor for heart disease and can cause inflammation in the body. B12 deficiency can result in neurological symptoms such as neuropathy: numbness and tingling, depression, dizziness, anemia and fatigue. Suboptimal levels can result in fatigue.
· Pale or Jaundiced Skin
· Weakness and Fatigue
· Sensations of Pins and Needles
· Changes to Mobility
· Cracked lips and Mouth Ulcers
· Breathlessness and Dizziness
· Disturbed Vision
· Mood Changes
· High Temperature
· Irregular periods
WHAT ARE THE AVAILABLE B12 SUPPLEMENTS?
A serious vitamin B12 deficiency can be corrected two ways: weekly shots of vitamin B12 or daily high-dose B12 pills.
Supplements of B12 come in three main forms: cyanocobalamin, hydroxycobalamin and methylcobalamin.
WHICH ONE DO WE USE? Methylcobalamin is the active form of B12, which is easily absorbed and passes the blood brain barrier, making it an effective treatment for depression and mental fatigue. Cyanocobalamin must be converted to hydroxycobalamin, which is then converted to methylcobalamin. Many people have inadequate enzymes to convert cyano and hydroxycobalamin to the active form. Therefore, supplementing with methylcobalamin is the best option.
HOW CAN B12 SUPPLEMENTS HELP YOU?
B12 can be used to treat:
· Some types of anemia
· Nervous system disorders
· Estrogen dominance
· Support detoxification
· Mental clarity
· Irritability and Depression
Benefit of injections you bypass the digestive system, better absorption. This especially important for people taking acid blocking medications, low acid production or other digestive issues. People with these issues simply will not get adequate absorption orally.
Injections of B12 can be used to treat depression, obesity, weight gain, fatigue, fibromyalgia, autoimmune disease, multiple sclerosis and dementia among other conditions. In most people, B12 injections provide a welcome energy boost. A series of shots of 5000 mcg of methylcobalamin is a powerful treatment for depression; B12 helps the body make serotonin, the happy neurotransmitter.
By Dr. Hillary Roland, ND