Vitamin B12 is an exceptional vitamin. In this article, Nutritional Therapist Natasha Boojihawon explains the importance of sufficient vitamin B12 intake and the dangers of B12 deficiency.
B-12 is synthesized by bacteria found in animals - plant foods do not contain B-12, as plants do not produce the vitamin, or incorporate it. So, for all you veggies and vegans out there – this is something you will want to consider.
What is Vitamin B12 needed for? Lots!
- Helps produce DNA and RNA to create new cells, like hair, nails and foetus growth!
- It’s used to create important amino acid – methionine from homocysteine. If this doesn't happen – high levels of homocysteine accumulate in the body which is harmful and can cause cell damage, vascular damage, cognitive impairment, neurological complications, congenital defects and pregnancy complications.
- Achieving that balance of homocysteine contributes to the liver detoxification process so if there’s too much in the body – this has an impact on the pathway’s ability to work properly. Methylation – is one of the liver detox pathways that breaks down and excretes toxins and hormones. So B12 is also needed to support the immune system, balance hormones and help prevent cancer.
- Energy metabolism
- It’s used to process fats and proteins, and helps the liver clean fat-soluble toxic chemicals out the system like cyanide.
- It works with vitamin folate/folic acid, to make red blood cellsand help iron work better. It is used to create haemoglobin, which carries oxygen in your red blood cells. So with more B12, we have better energy levels.
- B12 is also used to create myelin, the protective fat that coats and insulates your nerve fibres and maintains the integrity of your nervous system.
- Digestion & weight maintenance - as it helps feed healthy bacteria within the gut which in turn eliminates harmful bacteria and prevents digestive disorders
However vegetarian, vegans and even pescatarian diets likely lead to a B12 deficiency because they may not notice a deficiency for years after starting a plant based diet, as the body readily stores B12. There are a lot of myths surrounding plant based sources of B12 – so you may be having them thinking they are giving you adequate amounts, but they’re not. For example, Spirulina and blue-green algae contain a B12 analogue that we can’t absorb. Nutritional yeast may provide adequate amounts, though often it has been fortified with a synthetic form which may not be easily absorbed either. Chlorella may be a good source, but the B12 content varies widely. One recent study has found nori to be a great source, however, the study was conducted on rats. To summarise – plant based sources are simply not reliable and we need more research! (Note of the editor: cerascreen does not recommend algae as a source of vitamin B12.)
So - It is a good idea to be proactive and take a blood test to discern your B12 status. cerascreen does a cost effective and easy B12 blood test which measures holotranscobalamin - the B12 in cells.
B12 Deficiency Signs and Symptoms:
- Tiredness, chronic fatigue
- Muscle and joint aches and weakness
- Difficulty breathing or shortness of breath
- Feeling dizzy
- Poor memory and concentration
- Digestive issues such as nausea, diarrhea, cramping, IBS
- A poor appetite
- Mood changes, depression and anxiety
- Bleeding gums and mouth sores
- B12 – deficiency anemia or pernicious anemia pernicious anemia, a serious condition that can cause memory loss, confusion and even long-term dementia
- Thyroid issues
Top B12 Sources:
- Vegan options: nutritional yeast (fortified), some fortified foods
- Additional veggie options: cottage cheese, feta cheese, Swiss Cheese, milk
- Animal sources: Beef liver, Sardines, Atlantic mackerel, Lamb, Wild-caught salmon, Grass-fed beef, Eggs, prawns/shrimps, mussels, clams, chicken, oysters, crab, turkey, trout, herring
Supplementing With B12
Use the figures to determine how much supplementation/dietary intake you need & factor in absorption rates.
Absorption of B12 depends on a healthy gut and adequate levels of hydrochloric acid, also the presence of leaky gut affecting digestion. The best ways to supplement are through a liquid (easily absorbed) & methylated (ready to be used) form.
In terms of dosage – for anyone else – I’d recommend seeing a nutritional therapist or Doctor to determine your exact requirements as there’s so many variables (gut health, how deficient you are, how long you’ve been a veggie/vegan, the conditions of the body that affect how well your body can absorb and use it etc).
Use the Vitamin B12 Test to find out if you are getting enough of this essential vitamin. The test is easy to handle allowing you to do it at home. The test includes free evaluation in the diagnostic laboratory and a detailed results report.
About the author:
Natasha Boojihawon is a Nutritional Therapist, with a vision is to support people to live full and happy lives, free from dis-ease, pain, trauma and oppression. She is a social entrepreneur, creative director and producer and in 2014, she founded holistic practice Earth Clinic in Manchester. The clinic offers nutritional therapy, energy medicine, coaching, mentoring, lymphatic drainage massage and education.
Nutrients. 2016 Dec; 8(12): 767.
Published online 2016 Nov 29. doi: 10.3390/nu8120767
Vitamin B12 among Vegetarians: Status, Assessment and Supplementation
Gianluca Rizzo,1 Antonio Simone Laganà,2,* Agnese Maria Chiara Rapisarda,3 Gioacchina Maria Grazia La Ferrera,4Massimo Buscema,5 Paola Rossetti,5 Angela Nigro,5 Vincenzo Muscia,5 Gaetano Valenti,3 Fabrizio Sapia,3 Giuseppe Sarpietro,3 Micol Zigarelli,3 and Salvatore Giovanni Vitale2