Vitamin B12 is one of the most important nutrients for the body- and the hardest to digest, for many people. A water-based B vitamin, cobalamin is essential for the nervous system, blood cells, and for DNA. Yet an increasing number of people don’t get enough vitamin B12 from food, and as a result feel fatigued and disoriented from pernicious anemia.
What does vitamin B12 do?
Vitamin B12 is essential for survival; it is involved in some of the most vital processes that take place in the body.
Vitamin B12 helps to maintain production of healthy red blood cells. Without enough vitamin B12 in your system, your body starts producing overlarge irregular-shaped blood cells that cannot function properly, resulting in a depletion of oxygen-carrying hemoglobin.
Vitamin B12 also aids in converting carbohydrates into necessary energy, ensuring that you have plenty of stamina and mental focus during the day.
Vitamin B12 enhances your nervous system functioning by helping to maintain myelin, a fatty coating that surrounds each individual nerve cell.
Vitamin B12 supports cell reproduction and renewal in preventing common signs of aging.
What foods provide vitamin B12?
Foods that are high in vitamin B12 include meats, seafood, poultry, dairy, and eggs. Among these, organ meat and shellfish provide the richest natural source of vitamin B12.
While it’s possible to find vegan products that are fortified with vitamins such as B12, these are not natural forms of the vitamin, and don’t provide the maximum amount needed to maintain healthy vitamin B12 levels.
To prevent deficiency, vegans and vegetarians are recommended to take vitamin B12 supplements on a regular basis.
Vitamin B12 is complicated
Vitamin B12 is one of the few nutrients that require a cofactor for proper absorption. It’s not a simple matter of eating plenty of foods the contain vitamin B12, such as beef, chicken, seafood, and dairy products. To complete the digestion process, your body uses a digestive enzyme called intrinsic factor, which bonds to the vitamin and escorts it through your digestive system.
Vitamin B12 deficiency is anemia
If your vitamin B12 levels have been low for a very long period of time, you may have pernicious anemia, a type of megaloblastic anemia that occurs when people are unable to produce intrinsic factor.
Pernicious anemia can result from an autoimmune disorder or it can occur as a result of damage to the stomach lining (gastritis).
If you have pernicious anemia, then you can’t get enough vitamin B12 from swallowing pills or other dietary supplements. Only supplementation with a highly-absorbable form of vitamin B12 that enters directly into the blood stream can reverse the symptoms of severe vitamin B12 deficiency.
Risk factors for pernicious anemia include:
- Gastric bypass surgery
- Removal of ilium for Crohn’s disease
- Metformin for diabetes
- Protein pump inhibitors (PPI’s) for GERD, acid reflux, chronic heartburn, or ulcer
- Family history for autoimmune disorders
- Chronic migraines
- Old age
Signs of vitamin B12 deficiency
By the time you start to notice the signs of vitamin B12 deficiency, you are already on a dangerous decline, as it takes years for the symptoms to manifest themselves. Also, blood tests for vitamin B12 deficiency don’t give you ample warning to up your vitamin B12 intake, as they only test for extremely low levels of vitamin B12, and aren’t always even accurate in such screenings.
Symptoms that indicate vitamin B12 deficiency include:
- Constant fatigue, even after sleeping well
- Slow talking and thinking
- Brain fog
- Painful numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
- Muscle spasms, eye twitches
- Difficulty walking in a straight line
- Sore, burning red tongue
How much B12 do I need?
The recommended daily allowance for vitamin B12 consumption for healthy people who don’t have a deficiency is a scant 2 or 3 micrograms per day. Why then do most vitamin B12 supplements contain a whopping 1,000mcg of vitamin B12 in one weekly dose?
If you are unable to produce intrinsic factor, then you can only digest about 1% of all the vitamin B12 you get from foods, pills, or other supplements.
So, to get the amount you need to keep your B12 levels at a normal rate, you need to take about 100 times the amount any other person would need to stay healthy.
Please tell us…
Have you ever been tested for vitamin B12 deficiency? Do you suffer from chronic fatigue that you can’t explain?
Do you have any questions or suggestions? Please leave your comments below.
Share with your friends!
If you found this article helpful, then please share with your friends, family, and coworkers by email, twitter, or Facebook.
Like this? Read more:
Image courtesy of stockimages/freedigitalphotos