Vitamin B12 is a water soluble vitamin which means it gets excreted through our urine. It has many functions in the body that are imperative to our health. It works along side other vitamins such as folic acid in the production of DNA, red blood cells, and the myelin sheath that surrounds nerves and helps with nerve conduction. It’s important for every cell that undergoes a high rate of replication such as our hair, skin and gut. It also plays a major role in our energy metabolism and immune function.
Foods highest in Vitamin B12 come from red meat and other animal products such as poultry, eggs, milk and some fortified cereals. However, if your digestive system isn’t working optimally, you might not even be absorbing B12 from your diet. Parietal cells are cells in your stomach that produce HCL and something called intrinsic factor. Intrinsic factor is required for the absorption of B12 in the small intestine. Medications used for heartburn will often interfere with the function of these cells or alkalinize the stomach thereby leading to deficiencies in Vitamin B12. If you notice that you get gassy after protein rich meals, or burp a lot this could also be an indication of low stomach acid which further interferes with your body’s ability to absorb this vital vitamin. That’s why I often recommend injections to my patients. Muscular injections ensure that the vitamin is going into your system to the blood stream where it can be utilized immediately, by-passing the entire digestion where compromised absorption can occur.
Vitamin B12 also functions as an important cofactor in many reactions in the body. For example, in order to make serotonin (that feel good hormone) and melatonin (sleep hormone), your body requires Vitamin B12 and B6 for that chemical reaction to take place. If there is a deficiency, or not enough – one can feel depressed, suffer from anxiety and insomnia.
So what is considered a “deficiency” ? Your Vitamin B12 levels can be checked through a blood test. Normal ranges run from 150-500, which is quite a large reference range. This is where individualized and functional medicine comes in- some people feel much better at higher levels, and others might not feel anything until they are well below normal reference ranges. Through clinical experience, I’ve found patients notice better mental alertness, energy, sleep and improved mood at higher levels.
Optimal B12 levels can also help with your metabolism. It can assist your thyroid to function optimally, and since it support energy production at the cellular level, it can help with improving your metabolism. Vitamin B12 can also help your body respond to stress better. Your adrenal glands are glands that sit on top of your kidneys and product some of the hormones that help your body respond to stress. These hormones all require Vitamin B12 for their production. If you are under chronic stress, these glands have a higher requirement for B12. Supporting them with optimal levels may allow you to bounce back from stressful situations better than before.
Book a consultation with a Naturopathic Doctor to find out if you may benefit from added Vitamin B12.