How Important Is Vitamin B12?
You may have heard about vitamin shots and wonder what they’re all about. Learn what B12 does, how much you need, if you’re getting enough, symptoms of B12 deficiency, how supplements can help, and if B12 injections are right for you.
WHAT DOES B12 DO?
Vitamin B12, also known as cobalamin, is required to make red blood cells. It also plays an essential role in the production of your DNA, plays a role in the production of ATP the energy unit for the cell, and supports the proper functioning of your nervous system.
Additionally it helps the body detoxify by making toxins and hormones more water soluble so they can leave the body. In short, we need B12 for brain health, nerve health, hormone health, detoxification, immune support AND energy.
HOW MUCH B12 DO YOU NEED?
The average adult should get 2.4 micrograms a day to maintain healthy stores yet if you’re deficient you need a lot more. Like most vitamins, B12 can’t be made by the body and must be obtained via food or supplements.
WHICH FOODS CONTAIN B12?
Natural sources of Vitamin B12 include animal products such as beef, eggs, fish, poultry, and dairy. However, it also can be found in foods fortified with B12 like bread, cereal, and non-dairy milk (soy, almond, or rice). ARE YOU GETTING ENOUGH B12?
You’re at risk of deficiency if you don’t get enough from your diet or aren’t able to absorb enough from the food you eat. For example, B12 is an important nutrient for vegans and vegetarians because they do not eat meat and/or dairy products.
B12 is incredibly complicated to absorb. It requires lots of stomach acid and a molecule called intrinsic factor that is produced in the stomach. All of those elements must come together in the stomach and the intrinsic factor must bind to a receptor in the ileum (the end of your small intestines).
As we age, there also is less absorption of B12 due to reduced stomach acids. So some people don’t consume enough vitamin B12 to meet their needs, while others can’t absorb enough, no matter how much they consume. As a result, vitamin B12 deficiency is relatively common, especially among older people.
Even if you ARE getting enough B12 from food, your levels can be depleted by both internal and external factors.
WHAT CAN CAUSE B12 DEFICIENCY?
A B12 deficiency is defined as under 200 umols/L of blood, which is when neurological symptoms begin to appear. However, most functional medicine doctors prefer B12 levels to be 600 umols/L and above because it plays such a crucial role.
Causes of B12 deficiency can include poor nutrition, stress, alcohol, smoking, digestive issues, cardiovascular disease or illness. Metformin (a glucose-lowering medication for type II diabetes) also is known to deplete the vitamin.
WHAT ARE SYMPTOMS OF B12 DEFICIENCY?
Symptoms brought on by a B12 deficiency can include neuropathy, depression, breathlessness and dizziness as well as:
Pale or Jaundiced Skin
Weakness and Fatigue
Sensations of Pins and Needles
Changes to Mobility
Cracked lips and Mouth Ulcers
And because B12 keeps homocysteine low, which is an independent risk factor for heart disease, a deficiency can contribute to heart disease and inflammation in the body.
WHAT ARE THE AVAILABLE B12 SUPPLEMENTS?
A serious vitamin B12 deficiency can be corrected in two ways:
1. Taking a daily high-dose B12 pill
2. Receiving a weekly shot of vitamin B12
Supplements of B12 come in three main forms: cyanocobalamin, hydroxycobalamin and methylcobalamin. Methylcobalamin is the active form of B12, which is easily absorbed and passes the blood brain barrier.*
However, a B12 injection provides the added benefit of bypassing the digestive system for better absorption. This is especially important for people who take acid blocking medications, as well as individuals who have low acid production or other digestive issues. People with these issues simply will not get adequate absorption orally no matter how much they take.
HOW CAN B12 SHOTS HELP YOU?
A series of Vitamin B12 shots can be an effective treatment for a wide variety of issues including:
Some types of anemia
Nervous system disorders
Plus, because B12 also helps the body make serotonin — also known as the “happy neurotransmitter” — most people who receive B12 injections experience a welcome energy boost.
Work With Dr. Hillary Roland, ND
If you’re seeking a qualified Vitamin B12 or Vitamin B6 shot provider, I administer vitamin shots by appointment. I also host a Vitamin Shot Happy Hour on Wednesdays in Evergreen from 12 pm – 1 pm to help you save time and money. Walk-ins are welcome; no appointments necessary!