Vitamin B-12, although only needed in small quantities, is essential for:
- forming red blood cells
- a healthy nervous system
- maintaining fertility
- preventing anemia
- promoting normal growth and development
How Much Vitamin B-12 Should I Consume Daily?Here is a handy reference chart to be used as a guideline only:
|Children 12 months and younger||500 mcg|
|Children 1 – 12 years||1000 mcg|
|Teens 13 -18 years||1,500 – 1,800 mcg|
|Adults||2,000 – 2,400 mcg|
|Pregnant/Lactating Women||2,800 – 3,000 mcg|
Signs of Vitamin B-12 DeficiencyYou could be deficient in Vitamin B-12 and not even recognize it as such. Here are some signs that could point to Vitamin B-12 deficiency:
- vision problems
- sleep disorders
- feeling “the blues”
- panic attacks
- loss of balance
- tingling and numbness in hands and feet
- slow brain, such as difficulty getting your words to come out right
- loss of appetite
- hair loss
- sore tongue
Vitamin B-12 Deficiency Can Lead to…
- heart disease
- bacterial overgrowth
- parasites, such as tapeworms
- obsessive-compulsive disorder
- schizophrenia, hallucinations
- red or white blood cell abnormalities (some irreversible)
The Intrinsic Factor – Essential to Vitamin B-12 Absorption95% of Vitamin B-12 deficiencies are due to the inability to absorb B-12. No matter how much Vitamin B-12 you’re consuming, none of it will be assimilated in your body without the intrinsic factor (IF) – an enzyme-like substance secreted by the stomach’s parietal cells.
When Vitamin B-12 enters the stomach, it binds to haptocorrin, a glycoprotein, then enters the duodenum. Pancreatic enzymes digest haptocorrin, and in the less-acidic small intestine, Vitamin B-12 can bind to IF. This new complex travels to the ileum where the epithelial cells engulf them. Inside the cell, B-12 becomes independent again before binding to transcobalamin II, allowing it to exit the epithelial cells, finally entering into the liver.
So you see, without IF, Vitamin B-12 cannot be absorbed into your cells and used in your body.
Unfortunately, there are factors that can cause IF not to take place, thus decreasing your body’s intake of B-12.
What Interferes with the Intrinsic Factor (IF)Heartburn Medications: The optimal stomach ph for the intrinsic factor (IF) to take place is 7. If you are on HCI-lowering drugs such as Prilosec or Nexium, etc., they will interfere with this process. Although IF doesn’t necessarily run parallel with hydrochloric acid secretion or pepsin in the gastric juice, it is wise to avoid heartburn medication which lower the hydrochloric acid in the stomach, lessening your chances of absorbing Vitamin B-12.
As an aside, heartburn medications can also allow for an increased risk of food poisoning because the acid isn’t as strong and can’t kill off as many food-related germs.
Hot Liquids: IF is inactivated in temps above 113oF, so watch those hot liquids!
What Else Can Cause Vitamin B-12 Deficiency?Vitamin B-6 Deficiency: Vitamin B-12 requires Vitamin B-6, so if you are deficient in B-6, you will have trouble up-taking B-12; B-12 also requires the presence of Vitamin E.
Consumption of Soy: Do you make soy or spirulina a regular part of your diet? These foods contain compounds that resemble Vitamin B-12, and scientists refer to this as a B-12 analog. B-12 analog is not acknowledged by the intrinsic factor at all, and can actually cause B-12 deficiencies.
Some medications that can lower B-12 uptake (other than the aforementioned heartburn medications): metformin, antibiotics, birth control pills, cholesterol-lowering drugs, and antidepressants.
Other factors: Intestinal disorders, those deficient in hydrochloric acid (hypochlorhydria), and those deficient in pancreatic enzymes can be attributed to inadequate intrinsic factor, thus causing deficiencies.
What Do I Do if I Have Low/Poor Intrinsic Factor?So what do you do if you are stuck on heartburn medication, or have a low intrinsic factor (IF) for other reasons?
If your body won’t properly absorb B-12 via the digestive system you have two options: Vitamin B-12 shots, or the more convenient option of sublingual Vitamin B-12.
Sublingual Vitamin B-12 works because it is absorbed directly into the body, bypassing the digestive system. This is an excellent option for those with intrinsic factor issues.
Who is at Risk for Vitamin B-12 Deficiency?There is conflicting research as to whether Vitamin B-12 can be stored in the body for a period of time, or whether it is eliminated from the body rather quickly. But there is agreement that the body stores between 2,000 and 5,000 mgs. Since the average person uses up 100 mgs per day, it’s plausible you could have enough stored to last several weeks or more.
Vegetarians have the hardest time consuming usable Vitamin B-12 since all usable B-12 is found in animal products (list below). So although initially a vegetarian diet may be cleansing to the body, and good for your health, over time vegetarians tend to be deficient in Vitamin B-12 as their B-12 stores are eliminated. A blood test would be a clear indicator whether or not one has this concern.
The elderly also are at risk for B-12 deficiencies, largely due to less pancreatic enzymes and less hydrochloric acid present in their bodies.
If you are on heartburn medication, you are at risk, for reasons described above under “What Interferes with the Intrinsic Factor.”
What Foods is Vitamin B-12 Found in?
We’ve learned the importance of Vitamin B-12, and how 95% of deficiencies are because of absorption issues. Although only 5% of deficiencies are due to diet, it’s useful to know what foods contain the most B-12 to make sure you aren’t one of the 5%.
All usable Vitamin B-12 is found only in animal products. Since pasteurization destroys about half of the B-12 (sources disagree on just how much), it’s important to find good sources for raw milk and cheese (either local or online), or make your own from your backyard cow Here are some food sources for B-12:
|cheddar cheese||1 cup||940|
|cottage cheese||1/2 cup||510|
|chicken breast||4 ounces||320|
|sour cream||1/2 cup||280|
|cream cheese||1/2 cup||210|
What About Supplements?Whew, this could take several dozen pages, so I am going to just briefly say that most B-12 is in the form of cyanocobalamin. It’s the least expensive kind, made in a lab, and the kind your doctor is most likely to prescribe you. Cyanocobalamin is made using activated crystal which contains traces of cyanide. Scientists claim the cyanide molecule is to stabilize the vitamin, and once inside your body the cyanide portion is broken off.
Hmm. I don’t know about you, but that makes me uneasy. I guess it made Great Britain uneasy, too – they banned it.
Either way, cyanocobalamin is highly ineffective when compared to another kind of Vitamin B-12: methylcobalamin.
Methylcobalamin is the kind found in food, and is very effective in combating Vitamin B-12 deficiencies.