WHAT DOES VITAMIN B12 DO?
Vitamin B12 is good for your mood, energy levels, memory, heart, skin, hair, and digestion. It is essential to address adrenal fatigue and many metabolic functions, as well as maintaining a healthy nervous and cardiovascular system.
I always like to emphasize the role of B12 in the nervous system, because without it, our nervous system will suffer. Vitamin B12 not only helps maintain nerve cell health and neurotransmitter signaling, but also plays an important role in the synthesis and maintenance of myelin, the protective covering of our nerves. Because of this, many people with vitamin B12 deficiency experience cognitive impairment.
Problems with the nervous system can affect all areas of our health, so it’s important to maintain high levels of vitamin B12.
Vitamin B12 works closely with vitamin B9 (folate or folic acid) to help build red blood cells and improve iron utilization in the body. These two vitamins work together to create the compound S-adenosylmethionine (SAMe), which helps regulate hormones, immune function, and mood (3✓).
WHAT IS VITAMIN B12 DEFICIENCY?
Most researchers test and treat vitamin B12 deficiency in developing countries, which has led to little research or attention to current deficiencies in North America. Aside from a 2000 study by Tufts University, there has not yet been a large population study in the United States. What they found is that up to 39 percent of the population suffers from vitamin B12 deficiency.
Because vitamin B12 cannot be produced in the body and must be ingested, people either do not get enough in their diet or something prevents the body from absorbing B12.
Microorganisms, especially bacteria, are the only organisms that produce B12. They live in water, soil, and the digestive tract of animals. In animals, B12 is usually bound to proteins for transport and storage.
While most meat eaters get plenty of B12 from the animal products they eat, vegetarians and vegans can get this vitamin by eating algae, nutritional yeast, and seaweed. Because these sources are often insufficient, vegetarians and vegans are advised to take a high-quality B12 supplement.
Washing produce thoroughly and eating highly processed foods is another way we completely deprive our diet of vitamin B12. Triple-washed lettuce is likely to have no remaining beneficial bacteria that can meet the body’s B12 needs.
Because the vitamin itself is poorly digested, we can become deficient in vitamin B12 (yes, meat eaters, vegetarians, and vegans alike). If you’ve been a heavy drinker, have been on antibiotics at some point in your life, or have had digestive issues most of your life, B12 can be very difficult for your body to absorb. Alcohol, antibiotics, and an indigestible diet destroy the intrinsic factor in the stomach that is needed for B12 absorption. It is also the case that so many people are deficient in B12.
In addition to stomach problems, B12 may not be absorbed properly if you have an autoimmune disease such as pernicious anemia, Chron’s or Celiac disease, or are over 50. It gets worse with age. The body absorbs vitamin B12 from food because you produce less stomach acid, which is important for nutrient absorption.
WHAT ARE THE SYMPTOMS OF LOW VITAMIN B12?
The symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency are not very specific, so the deficiency may go unnoticed for a very long time, that is, until symptoms begin to appear. Vitamin B12 deficiency is often misdiagnosed because it can easily be confused with other diseases.
Studies have shown that methylmalonic acid (MMA) and holotranscobalamin (holoTC) tests indicate active B12 and therefore are more accurate in reading low B12 levels. A basic B12 test isn’t the only thing a doctor’s office will do – ask for these two specific readings, as they will tell you more about your B12 levels.
Vitamin B12 deficiency can be manifested as follows.
Loss of balance and confusion
Anemia (megaloblastic anemia and pernicious anemia)
Numbness and trembling in hands and feet
Nervous problems such as numbness, tingling, muscle weakness, and walking
Constipation, diarrhea, loss of appetite or gas
In more severe cases, mental health problems (psychosis, depression, anxiety, etc.)
It is not a vitamin that should be ignored. If you have any of these symptoms or a combination of them, you should get tested immediately.
WHAT DOES VITAMIN B12 DO?