Vitamin B12 is necessary for some very important tasks in our bodies. B12 is a water-soluble vitamin that can be found naturally in some foods, as additives in others, and in supplements or injections. Water-soluble means that our body will take what it needs and pass the rest. It will not be stored for later use. Our body cannot produce vitamin B12 on its own, so it must be consumed through food or supplementation.
We need B12 for:
- Healthy red blood cell production
- Brain & nerve cell development
- Cell metabolism
People who follow a vegetarian or vegan diet may be deficient in B12 because without being fortified, plant food does not contain B12. Adults (65+) and people with digestive tract issues (think Crohn's, IBS/IBD, Celiac) that affect the absorption of nutrients, may also find themselves with a B12 deficiency.
If left unaddressed, someone could find themselves dealing with:
- Physical symptoms: fatigue, muscle weakness, yellowish skin, weight loss, sore mouth or tongue, unexplained nausea/vomiting/diarrhea
- Neurological symptoms: numbness or tingling in hands/feet, vision problems, having a hard time remembering things or being easily confused, difficulty walking/speaking
- Psychological symptoms: feeling depressed, irritable, experiencing changes in the way you feel and behave
Because B12 contains a mineral called cobalt, the whole group of B12 is called “cobalamins”.
There are four (4) forms of B12:
A simple explanation of the absorption process could look like this: B12 is bound to protein in food and must be released before it can be absorbed. This begins in the mouth when it’s mixed with saliva. The freed B12 then binds to something called haptocorrin (a cobalamin-binding protein). More B12 is released when the hydrochloric acid and gastric protease bind to the haptocorrin. In the first part of the small intestines, digestive enzymes help release the B12 from the haptocorrin. The freed B12 combines with an intrinsic factor (a protein made by the cells in your stomach lining that helps your intestines absorb B12) culminating in absorption at the small and large intestine intersection. The use of a man-made (synthetic version) may not convert in this process – leaving you without the B12 you thought you consumed.
What causes someone to have a vitamin B12 deficiency? Great question! Either someone is not eating enough B12-containing foods, or their body isn’t absorbing the B12 properly.
Situations or conditions that can cause vitamin B12 deficiency:
- Lack of B12 containing foods
- Gastritis: inflammation of the stomach lining causing lack of the hydrochloric acid needed to absorb B12
- Pernicious anemia: this rare medical condition causes an inability to produce the intrinsic factor which is needed to absorb B12
- Digestive diseases: Crohn’s disease and celiac disease can prevent your body from absorbing B12
- Gastric bypass surgery: can damage the digestive system and cause B12 deficiency
- Excessive alcohol use: can damage the digestive system and cause B12 deficiency
A few pro tips:
- Taking aminosalicylic acid for digestive problems might reduce your ability to absorb vitamin B12
- Taking colchicine for anti-inflammatory purposes in gout attacks might reduce your ability to absorb vitamin B12
- Taking Metformin (a diabetes drug) might reduce your ability to absorb vitamin B12
- Taking omeprazole, lansoprazole, or other stomach acid-reducing agents might reduce your ability to absorb vitamin B12
- Taking B12 with vitamin C might reduce the available B12 in your body. To avoid this, you could take your Vitamin C two (2) or more hours apart from your vitamin B12 supplement
Have you purchased your Nutritional Genetic Test?
This test will show your specific needs for adding vitamin B12 (and other nutrients) to your wellness routine. Check out the Pure Essentials B12 options with Ultra B12 or Ultra Homocysteine Control (lozenge).
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