What is Vitamin B12 Deficiency?
B12 deficiency is a common and often under-diagnosed issue. It may take 2 to 5 years for signs of deficiency to appear as the human body is able to store large amounts of B12 in the liver and other tissues. However, B12 is only contained in animal products (meat, dairy, etc) and the absorption of B12 is a complex process, so there are many stages at which the process can go wrong. This results in a lack of absorption and subsequent deficiency. Blood results may even indicate levels within a normal “range”, when in fact they are too low for that individual. Therefore, B12 deficiency is often not diagnosed until levels of B12 in the body are dangerously low.
Some symptoms of deficiency include shakiness, fatigue, lethargy, weakness, memory loss, inability to control bodily actions, and neurological changes including psychosis or mood changes.
There are several groups of people who may be at higher risk for low B12 levels:
- People over age 60
- People using PPI’s or acid-suppressing drugs
- People on diabetes drugs like Metformin
- People with Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, celiac or IBS
- Women with a history of miscarriage or infertility
Vitamin B12 works with folate in the creation of DNA and red blood cells, as well as in the production of the myelin sheath around nerve cells. This part of the cell is crucial in the conduction of nerve impulses (receiving messages from the brain). A 1000 mcg dose of B12 is typically administered when deficiency is diagnosed, or when an individual falls into one of the above categories and is at a high risk for developing B12 deficiency.What is a B12 Shot & Why Would We Need it?
B12 shots come in a variety of grades. It is important to note that the body cannot easily absorb the B12 vitamin on its own, no matter the grade. Our Naturopath, Dr. Walji uses the highest grade of B12 available to aid in absorption and maximum efficacy.
By supplementing your natural intake of B12, the body will be better able to produce new DNA and red blood cells (avoiding of the development of anemia) and will have a healthier and higher functioning nervous system.
How Often Can You Inject B12?
Individuals with diagnosed B12 deficiency may require more doses at first, but due to the high storage rate of the vitamin, once the deficiency is resolved, can continue injections much less frequently. With deficient patients, usually several administrations are necessary in the first 2-3 months, followed by monthly doses. Monthly doses are usually sufficient for those individuals who are at a higher risk and want to supplement their natural intake.
What about other kinds of B12 supplements to take, like pills?
Pills are useful to help keep B12 levels maintained. They are not often absorbed well and sublingual (under the tongue) may be more effective if you do not need the other B vitamins found in a B complex. The shot is however the most effective way to deliver B12 to the body and is needed for people who are chronically deficient in B12.
There are also different forms of B12 that vary with respect to how easily the body can absorb and utilize it (methylcobalamin, cyanocobalamin, hydroxycobalamin). Some people have health issues that interfere with B12 absorption and these should be considered before starting a supplementation plan.
What about safety?
B12 is generally safe if used in recommended doses. Caution should be used in people who have high blood pressure, gout, low potassium and certain other conditions. Consult with your Naturopath before deciding what form of B12 to use and how much to take.
Diagnosing B12 Deficiency
If you suspect you may have low B12 levels, consult with your health care provider as a blood test may be in order to confirm your B12 levels. Please ask us for more information about the testing available at the office.