What is Vitamin B12?
It’s one of the group of 8 vitamins that make up the B Group. It is a generic term and also goes under the name of Cobalamin. It’s chemically complex as well as water-soluble. A vitamin is a member of a 13 family group which in tiny quantities is vital for life. Vita means life.
B12 has a principal metal ion of the metal/mineral cobalt. Yes, minerals are metals. It forms as attractive dark red crystals, similar in colour to blood. When diluted with water it becomes rose pink. This is no coincidence as there is a direct relationship between Cobalamin and “heme”. That’s the oxygen-carrying stuff that makes blood-red.
There are four forms of Cobalamin hence the inference of it being a generic term. These are:
In this post we will be looking at only two of these. 1)Cyanocobalamin and 2) Methylcobalamin.
Cyanocobalamin does not occur naturally in the body and is difficult to assimilate as the molecule is on the large side. It is much cheaper than the more assimilable Methylcobalamin and is found in many B Vitamin formulations. My advice would be to spend a little more money and get the Methyl variety. Notice Cyanocobalamin has a ring to it which resembles the word cyanide. Cyanide is a quick acting poison that stops the body from using oxygen. There is a relationship between cyanide and cyanocobalamin and it’s a good one. Cyanocobalamin is often given as an antidote to cyanide poisoning. However, I am not suggesting it is the best alternative to assist overcoming a vitamin B12 deficiency. For that purpose, I would choose Methycobalamin unless certain factors made this version difficult to assimilate and then the option would be injections but that’s another story!
Vitamin B12 Deficiency Symptoms.
Vitamin B12 comes in the diet from animal sources. Vegans do not eat any foods that come from an animal source. That means they can be deficient in Vitamin B12. There are blood tests that will show this problem up, but first, be alert to some deficiency symptoms.
- Digestive Disorders
- A feeling of chronic fatigue
- Dizziness. You stand up and you feel dizzy or you often lose your balance. This can be common in the elderly.
- Enlargement of the liver
- In some cases, deficiency can affect the optic nerve which results in blurred vision
- Headaches that occur too frequently or frequent Migraine headaches.
- Inflammation of the tongue. It swells up and you can sometimes bite it by mistake
- Irritability. You are short tempered and find little things anger you.
- You have heavy or laboured breathing especially when completing comparatively non-strenuous tasks.
- Memory loss
- Heart Palpitations
- Pernicious or Megaloblastic anemia
- Ringing in the ears
- Spinal Cord degeneration.
If you have two or more symptoms from this list I suggest you take some steps to rectify the situation. If you are a Vegan you will need to start supplementing with a Vitamin B12. You probably require all the Bs as well as B12.
In the latter case, Methylcobalamin is the preferred option. It might also be a good idea to go and see a “Health Care Professional” for a check-up.
Is Sub-Lingual B12 Effective?
If the digestive system is unable to fully absorb Vitamin B12 in the liquid form taken under the tongue what is a better alternative? Recent studies show there is no real difference between tablets/capsules and sub-lingual liquids. The problem with the sub-lingual form is the sugars that it comes with in order for it to taste nice. These include sorbitol, mannitol and sucralose which can cause stomach upsets in some people. If you are having difficulty in taking in the Vitamin B12 it might help to start taking a “Digestive Enzyme” that contains HCL-Betaine. This is a preferred option to the sugary sub-lingual variants. However, if you lack “Intrinsic Factor” it’s unlikely that little trick will work either.
If you are not a Vegan or a very strong vegetarian there will be a reason for your symptoms
. Some people find it difficult to absorb Vitamin B12. Bowel Problems like Chron’s Disease or Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) are two examples of blocking illnesses. If you are having digestive disturbances you could talk to your Health Care Provider about the Schilling Test which is set up to see how well you are assimilating Vitamin B12. Bear in mind that certain pharmaceutical drugs, as well as antacids, can interfere with the process of assimilation. There is also the “isotope-dilution assay for urinary methylmalonic acid” test. This requires a spinal tap which might be very much over the top for most people’s taste. Andrew Saul recommends an “intra-nasal” dosage for maximum effectiveness. You can buy B12 gels, drops and sprays that you can place up the nose.
You can also make your own by grinding up a B12 pill, adding water and placing it into your nose. I do strongly suggest you seek the help of your Health Care Professional if you plan on doing this.
What is it? It’s a glycoprotein secreted by the parietal cells of the stomach. The parietal cells secrete two substances. One of those is Hydrochloric Acid which plays an important part in breaking down food as it enters the stomach. Too little stomach acid stops B12 dead in its tracks! There is a lot of talk about too much stomach acid and its effects. This has given rise to protein pump inhibitors and a huge industry given over to the manufacture of over the counter antacid medications Our Professor Dr. Harry Howell
always insisted this was a fallacy. By far the most common problem was not too much stomach acid but too little. Ironically antacids are successful because they work to promote stomach acid and not suppress it. This back to front theory dissipates symptoms but not in the way it was meant to as advertised. Parietal cells also secrete Intrinsic Factor and like the case of HCL-Betaine the failure to use or produce Intrinsic Factor stops the absorption of Vitamin B12. The result is pernicious anemia. It’s important to understand that Vitamin B12 is a product of bacteria. It reduces the oxygen carrying capacity of the blood and can lead to breathlessness and fatigue.
If you are diabetic and taking Metformin or any of its generic forms to treat the condition you will more than likely be low in Vitamin B12 because the drug blocks it’s absorption. In this case, it is always a good idea to check out the condition with a Health Care Professional and supplementation is generally required. Type 2 Diabetes is a factor of diet. Type 2 Diabetics start out by consuming too many sugars and starchy carbohydrates this eating pattern creates blood sugar issues.
Generally, hyperinsulinism is how it begins in the early stages. The resultant hypoglycemia burns out the pancreas cells that results in late-onset or type 2 Diabetes. The B12 recommended foods are protein rich. I always thought that blood sugar issues are caused by an absence or lack of protein. It would be a good idea to include some B12 foods in the diet as well as supplement with a good quality vitamin B pill.
If you are low in B12 or suspect that you are, there are many foods that you can eat that will go to make up the shortfall. It would be a good idea to introduce some of these into your eating Programme.
- Red meat
- Brewer’s Yeast. This is an excellent source of B12
- Seafood of all sorts
- Seaweeds like Kelp and Wakame
- Apple Cider Vinegar. This helps increase the supply of HCL-Betaine. Many people are short of this and cannot digest efficiently. It also helps with the probiotic factor.
I wrote an article on Probiotics a few weeks ago. You can read more about the benefits here. Gut Flora (bacteria) is essential to insure an effective digestion system as well as a fully functioning immune response.
Martin’s Apple Cide Vinegar Cocktail.
Take first thing every morning
100 ml of pure spring water (mineral will do)
Add up to 2 Tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar (Braggs is best)
The Juice of 1 lime or half a lemon
Sprinkle in a pinch of Cayenne Pepper
Stir well and drink
?Gut Flora? serves as a policeman. Its job is to prevent the growth of harmful species. This is the job of the immune system.
Providing the liver is in good condition it’s possible to store up to 5 years supply of Vitamin B12 there. Dosages are small. A recommended dose would be in the region of 2.4cg daily. It is a water-soluble vitamin so taking as much as 1000mcg daily can be tolerated. When the limit is exceeded it is simply excreted, usually in the urine. However, such high doses are not recommended as they can have a negative impact on the kidneys. There have also been reported cases of acne resulting from high supplementary doses of the vitamin. Moreover, the problem with B12 storage and sufficiency frequently lies with the liver.
A diseased liver is not going to be able to store or utilise the required amount of Vitamin B12
?Alcohol plays a part here.
Drinking wines, spirits and beer effect absorption of this important Vitamin. Heavy drinking blocks it even more and when the liver is damaged like in cirrhosis then there is substantial B12 leakage. If you are a drinker it is a good idea to supplement with Methylcobalamin and to take a probiotic to encourage the healthy growth of bowel bacteria. Another suggestion would be to include one of the recommended foods on a daily basis. Eggs have received a very bad press over the years, However, recently this improved. A March 2019 study in “The Journal of The American Medical Association” (JAMA) raised the thorny question of cholesterol in eggs once again. https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jama/article-abstract/2728487
. Cholesterol is an entirely different issue but one where the liver is involved, I think that is a cue for a post on the subject sometime in the future. However, whatever way you want to look at it, an occasional egg is harmless and it provides a good source of Vitamin B12, but then so is seaweed. However, of the two I prefer eggs for breakfast!
Poor Digestion Blocks B12 Absorption.
Let’s face it, far too many people today are unable to digest adequately. The modern lifestyle puts most urban dwellers under time pressure. People rush here and rush there for a multitude of reasons and this is very stressful. Our grandparents or certainly our great-grandparents would eat their main meal in the middle of the day and then eat lightly in the evening. This means the heavy meal had plenty of time to digest before sleeping. Even in warm Mediterranean cities, this practice continued until recently. The inhabitants of Madrid or Athens no longer have a long afternoon break from 12 to 4 pm.
Everybody everywhere it seems has a rushed lunch break often taken in the workplace and at the desk. Time constraints mean people eat quickly. Digestion begins in the mouth. Enzymes like Amylase and Ptyalin start the process. Chewing is needed, eating is always a case where slow is good and fast is bad. Nowadays everyone is eating too quickly. The time pressure leads, also to increased stress. The Flight, Fight or Freeze response is turned on 24./7. When we are operating out of sympathetic dominance.we are running away from perceived threats (fear) or fighting them (anger). To successfully allay these threats we immediately require a power boost. Energy is diverted from what at the time of the threat are considered unessential functions and is diverted to the system that is dealing with the threat. Digestion is a luxury in this situation. It is then turned off. As most people spend most of their time in flight or fight the digestive process is all too frequently in the shut-down mode. How can we digest food when the function is turned off? The answer is we can’t. Under those circumstances, B12 cannot be absorbed. It is not surprising it is considered an anti-stress Vitamin. The body requires Vitamin B12 but stress and modern living conditions conspire to make the assimilation of this vital nutrient difficult. Isn’t this a vicious circle?
Reported on how a study in Kyoto University had shown that high does o Methylcobalamin had stimulated nerve growth in rats. This was truly unique as nerve growth like this had never been seen before.
B12 is essential in converting homocysteine to methionine.
Homocysteine is poisonous at high levels. High blood levels of this amino-acid come about in people who eat a lot of meat. These high levels are an indicator of early heart disease. It is associated with low levels of Vitamin B12 and Folate which is another B vitamin. If you like to eat a lot of meat you could offset the dangers by supplementing with miraculous B12, B6 and Folic Acid. This means taking a good quality Vitamin B Multi if you have been diagnosed with a heart condition or suspect because of your diet you might be heading in that direction. Because homocysteine leads to viscous blood and increases blood clotting factor, all can lead to heart attacks and strokes.
I think you can now grasp how important Vitamin B12 is to overall good health. If you find that any of the symptoms in this article apply to you get yourself checked out. If you suspect that you are deficient you can always start supplementing with a good quality product and you can also start introducing B12 rich nutrients into your diet. Over 30 % of people over 60 are deficient because the digestive function has deteriorated with the passage of time. It is an early warning sign that you need to improve your diet particularly if you find yourself becoming less mentally alert and more forgetful. Another consideration would be a tendency to lose your balance or have unexplained falls which can be very dangerous as we age.
Please feel free to contact us here at “The Health Ambit Consultancy” if you would like to discuss this further or would like more information. I suggest you set up a cost-free 15-minute consultation by sending an e-mail to
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