Vitamin B12 is an essential water soluble vitamin which is required for a range of functions in the human body. It is one of the B-Complex group energy giving vitamins which are important for promoting a healthy nervous system and detoxifying the body. These vitamins act as coenzymes, helping the body to obtain energy from food. They also regulate important functions of the cardiovascular, endocrine and digestive systems. The body can not produce B Vitamins and so they must be obtained from our diet.
Vitamin B12 is one of the most common deficiencies in the western world and can occur for a number of reasons. Pernicious anaemia (an autoimmune condition) is one common cause of Vitamin B12 deficiency. Due to a lack of intrinsic factor in this condition, the body is unable to absorb Vitamin B12 and so becomes deficient. This condition can result in a range of symptoms including nerve damage, muscle weakness, extreme fatigue, numbness in hands and feet, osteoporosis, depression, dementia, digestive issues, and a smooth, thick red tongue among others. If you have any or all of these symptoms, you should make an appointment with your GP to rule this out. Pernicious anaemia is normally diagnosed by a GP and treatment includes routine B12 injections.
However, it is also possible to develop B12 deficiency as a result of not getting enough Vitamin B12 from the diet or absorption problems as a result of digestive issues such as leaky gut, coeliac disease, Crohn's or SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth).
Vitamin B12 is primarily found in animal products, such as meat, fish, milk, cheese and eggs meaning that deficiencies of this nutrient are common among vegetarians and vegans. One of the difficulties being that although there are some fortified foods such as nutritional yeast and fortified milks which can provide some B12, not all of those following these diets are conscientious about ensuring that their needs are covered via nutrition. Therefore, supplementation becomes a requirement.
Certain medications such as proton pump inhibitors and anticonvulsants can also affect the absorption of Vitamin B12. In addition, anti-depressants and the oral contraceptive pill can deplete B12 among other nutrients. Whether you have been on the pill or are currently taking it, a good B-Complex can help replenish the nutrients depleted by the pill while also supporting hormone balance.
B12 is a particularly important nutrient for promoting a healthy nervous system and many Psychiatrists such as Dr Drew Ramsay are now encouraging their patients to eat foods such as oysters which are rich in both Vitamin B12 and Omega 3 (two nutrient deficiencies which have been linked to higher risk of suicide and depression). A 2010 study led by researchers at Rush University looked at more than 3,500 adults and showed that a higher intake of B6, B9 and B12 whether through food or supplementation was associated with a decreased likelihood of depression for up to 12 years follow up.
The most common form of B12 supplementation is cyanocobalamin which is less expensive but it is not found in nature. It may release small amounts of cyanide into the system which may have relevance to an individual with impaired detoxification as a result of genetics, nutrient deficiencies or chronic illness. The recommended form is therefore methylcobalamin which interestingly is the form produced by our gut bacteria. Likewise if you are wanting to increase folate (B9) we would recommend methylfolate rather than folic acid for better absorption. Read more in our blog on folic acid vs folate.
We have a range of B Vitamin supplements available, some of which are practitioner only products and therefore unavailable online.
If you are interested in any of the B Vitamins for supplementation, come in for a chat or give us a call so that we can make the best suggestion for you. We can also provide relevant testing if appropriate.
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