Many of us are familiar with the importance of vitamin B12 to protect our nerves, cardiovascular and digestive systems, mental function and blood health. The best dietary sources are from animal products such as meat (especially liver), fish, eggs and dairy. Keep in mind that plant foods cannot be relied on as a sole source of vitamin B12 (vegans beware!). There are B12-producing bacteria in the colon, but their location makes it difficult for absorption (hence why many vegetarian animals, like rabbits, eat their own feces). Fermented soy, spirulina, seaweed, algae and nori products do not actually contain B12, but rather an inactive analogue which does not serve the needs of an omnivore’s physiology. Of course, artificially-fortified foods remain an option for those opting for this path.
The body has the capacity to store a few years worth of vitamin B12 (mostly in the liver, which is why Pâté is such a good source of B12). However, it is generally not the lack of B12 in our diet that leads to a functional decrease in B12 levels, it is the assimilation. Vitamin B12 has a very complex absorption pathway, which is what typically impairs absorption.
How Vitamin B12 gets Broken Down and Absorbed:
1. It starts in the stomach where adequate levels of stomach acid are required.
2. Next, a protein complex called intrinsic factor (IF) is secreted from the stomach lining and binds to B12.
3. This B12-IF complex is finally absorbed at the end of the small intestine (ileum).
* The casual use of over-the-counter antacids and increasing prescription of acid inhibiting drugs.
* Poor eating habits lead to a functional decrease in stomach acid output from the stomach (that feeling of being full or bloated after a protein heavy meal).
Signs & symptoms which can be associated with B12 deficiency:
* Low energy, chronic fatigue
* Mental fog, forgetfulness, memory loss
* Pernicious anemia, megaloblastic anemia
* Numbness, tingling in hands or feet
* Neurological damage
* Gastritis, diarrhea
B12 functional deficiency is quite common especially because high stress depletes this vitamin. B12 shots CAN make an enormous impact for someone who has had a long term deficiency; someone who has problems with absorption; those with high-stress lifestyles who do not take the time to nourish their bodies properly. The shot is more of a short-term solution when compared to healing the G.I. tract and ensuring that all the mechanisms for absorption are intact. In the meantime, a shot of B12 can provide a drastic improvement in energy and mental function. The idea with the shot is to bypass all those steps needed for absorption from the diet and simply inject directly into the tissue. The wisest approach would be to use these shots in the interim and get down to business and fix the actual problem…