What is Vitamin B12 and What Does It Do?

What is Vitamin B12?

Vitamin B12 is one of the B vitamins essential to health.   It helps to make DNA and keep the body’s blood cells  & nervous system healthy.   Vitamin B12 also helps prevent pernicious anaemia, a severe type of anaemia causing extreme fatigue and weakness.

Vitamin B12 is found only in animal foods such as red meat, liver, fish, chicken, eggs and dairy products.  B12 is not available from plant foods, unless it has been artificially added.  Vegans and vegetarians can be at risk of B12 deficiency.

Those of us who eat animal products usually believe we are getting enough B12 from our food.  However, there is another step towards getting B12 – and that is … absorption from the digestive tract.   You may be consuming enough B12 in food and supplements, but are you absorbing it?

Am I Getting Enough Vitamin B12?

The following groups may not get enough vitamin B12 or have trouble absorbing it:

  • Adults over 50.  An estimated 10-30% of adults over 50 have difficulty absorbing B12 from food.  As we get older,  we often produce less hydrochloric acid in the stomach, which is crucial to absorb B12.   We may not even be able to absorb the B12 from supplements for the same reason.
  • People with pernicious anaemia, whose bodies do not make the intrinsic factor needed to absorb B12.
  • People who have had gastrointestinal surgery, weight loss surgery, or who have digestive disorders such as coeliac disease, Crohn’s disease, IBS or regular diarrhoea. These conditions can reduce the amount of B12 absorbed.
  • People with Eating Disorders.
  • Vegetarians or Vegans, who eat little or no animal foods.
  • Those under a lot of stress, as this often affects the digestive system and limits its absorption capabilities.
  • Alcohol. Drinking too much alcohol can lead to inflammation of the stomach, causing stomach acid to decrease and reducing the body’s ability to absorb nutrients.
  • Those taking certain medications such as: Omeprazole, Lansoprazole or Ranitidine for acid reflux and peptic ulcer disease; Metaformin for treating diabetes; and Chloramphenicol, an antibiotic.   These all affect vitamin B12 absorption.

What Happens if I Don’t Get Enough VB12?

Vitamin B12 deficiency causes many symptoms such as:

      • Lack of energy, weakness, breathlessness, poor sleep
      • Constipation, loss of appetite, weight loss, anaemia
      • Nerve problems, damage to nervous system, numbness and tingling in the hands and feet
      • Mental confusion, brain fog, balance problems, depression,  poor memory, dementia
      • Soreness of the mouth or tongue

Benefits of B12 Injections

B12 can be taken orally as supplements, but there may still be absorption problems.  B12 is injected intramuscularly and so bypasses the digestive process, thus getting into the bloodstream for use by the body quickly.  The main benefits include:

      • Higher Energy
      • Better Sleep
      • Improved Mood
      • Faster Metabolism
      • Better Cognitive Focus
      • Sharper Mental Clarity
      • Less Fatigue
      • Prevents Anaemia
      • Helps heal Depression & Anxiety
      • Healthy Skin, Hair & Nails
      • Some medical research papers have also suggested that B12 can help to improve heart health,  act as a protection to some cancers and reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s

Is Vitamin B12 Safe?

Vitamin B12 is a water-soluble vitamin, so it is passed through the urine.  Excess amounts have not been shown to cause any harm.

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