Santa Monica Naturopathic Doctor | Amanda Frick, ND


Why You May Need More Vitamin B12

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By Elizabeth Walling

Natural News, December 4, 2009

A Common Deficiency

A deficiency in vitamin B12 often goes unrecognized until it has progressed to the point of anemia. A mild or moderate B12 deficiency may not cause outright anemia, but it's still linked to symptoms such as:

  • fatigue
  • lightheadedness
  • insomnia
  • memory loss
  • difficulty concentrating
  • pins-and-needles feeling in fingers and toes
  • depression
  • obsessive-compulsive behavior
  • irrational anger
  • alcoholism
  • dementia
  • constipation
  • impotence

A B12 deficiency can occur gradually over a period of years. The number and severity of side effects builds as time passes and the deficiency worsens. Preventing and treating a vitamin B12 deficiency naturally as soon as possible is crucial for well-being and general health.

A deficiency in B12 is increasingly common because many people are either not getting enough bioavailable B12 in their diet, or their bodies have trouble absorbing and utilizing B12. Let's explore the former issue first:

Not all vitamin B12 in food is bioavailable. For instance, the B12 in plant foods (like green vegetables and soy) is an analog form of the vitamin which cannot be used in the human body. This analog B12 can actually interfere with the absorption of other types of vitamin B12, making the reliance on plant foods for B12 very ineffective for many individuals. Soy foods, in particular, appear to cause problems in B12 absorption.

The best natural sources of bioavailable vitamin B12 are from wild-caught fish, shellfish, humanely-raised meats, pastured eggs, and milk that is raw and unpasteurized, since pasteurization produces proteins that block B12 absorption. Of course, high quality foods raised with natural practices will provide the widest spectrum of bioavailable nutrients, including B12.

If you can't include these natural sources of vitamin B12 in your diet, then supplementation can be highly beneficial and even necessary.

Of course, there are many people who do consume plenty of natural vitamin B12, but have trouble absorbing it properly. This can be caused by several factors:

  • Candida overgrowth, celiac disease, Crohn's disease and internal parasites can disrupt the bacteria in the gut which promote B12 absorption.
  • If you've had part of your stomach or small intestine removed during surgery, this can interfere with B12 absorption.
  • Antacids and other heartburn medications reduce stomach acid (which is required for the body to utilize B12).

Vitamin B12 Supplementation

There are two common methods of vitamin B12 supplementation: with shots (administered weekly or monthly at a doctor's office or at home), or with pills. Both methods appear to be effective for treating a B12 deficiency.

Methylcobalamin is the form of choice when it comes to B12. Though cyanocobalamin is the most common form (it's the most common type seem in multivitamins and B-complex formulas), it is far less effective. Sublingual tablets are preferred because they enhance absorption.

The dosage of B12 supplementation varies depending on how deficient you are, but a typical daily sublingual dose is 100 - 250 mcg. Those who have trouble absorbing B12 will need much higher doses, such as 1,000 - 2,000 mcg daily.