Written by Dr. Bobby Parmar, ND
Although it's even more important for vegetarians and vegans to be B12 aware, meat-eaters can't afford to ignore this important vitamin all together, either. B12 deficiency is typically found in 62% of pregnant women, between 30 and 86% of children, 41% of adolescents and up to 90% of the elderly! So, what exactly is the cause of B12 depletion? Well, it could be a number of factors, but certain medications like antacids, diabetes medications and birth control can all have an impact. In addition, those with certain health conditions such as Colitis, Crohn’s, heartburn/reflux, IBS or peptic ulcers negatively affect B12 absorption.
Symptoms of vitamin B12 deficiency usually come on on gradually and can include:
- Fatigue and weakness
- Brain Fog
- Swollen glossy tongue
- Cracks in skin
- Muscle pain
- Increased blood pressure
- Nausea and constipation
Long-term and severe vitamin B12 deficiency can lead to nerve changes such as:
- Tingling in the hands and feet
- Balance and memory problems
If you speak to your healthcare professional and find that low B12 may be causing these symptoms, there are a number of things you can do to improve deficiency.
B12 is only found in animal products. End of story. There is a version of B12 in plant based foods, but it’s not the kind human bodies utilize for health. If you are deficient while eating animal based foods then something is wrong with your absorption. If you are deficient while eating plant based foods then you need to add B12 through fortified foods or supplementation.
Although not the easiest for those who are squeamish, injections provide a route of administration that avoids issues with poor digestion and often is clinically rated as the most effective at increasing energy and mood. A quick shot into the thigh, arm, or butt muscles can be a painless way of providing immediate benefits. At first weekly shots are necessary to ‘front-load’ then can be stretched out to monthly injections.
Oral supplements are a good way for people to get B12, but for those with digestive concerns it may not be ideal. Even if someone has trouble with their digestion, the vitamin still gets passively absorbed in the intestines. Some will find using injections at first then switching to oral B12 works well to keep their blood level happy and symptoms low.
Sublingual (under the tongue)
Taking B12 sublingually provides equal absorption and stable blood levels as injections and is a great way to avoid a shot as well as any risk associated with taking the B12 orally and not having it be absorbed well.
Regardless of the method you choose to improve your B12 levels, it's an important vitamin to be aware of in managing overall health and wellness.
Dr. Bobby Parmar, ND
Co Founder, Mint Integrative
This post was written by ND and Loba Wellness Advisor Dr. Bobby Parmar. He has been practicing in a highly collaborative care wellness clinic Mint Integrative based in Kitsilano, Vancouver, which he started as a co-founder.
Dr. Parmar obtained a Bachelor of Applied Science degree in Kinesiology, Psychology and the Humanities at Simon Fraser University. He proceeded to complete naturopathic medical training at the premiere institution the Canadian College of Naturopathic Medicine in Toronto. He is also licensed as a Registered Acupuncturist in good standing with the CTCMA.
He highly values the importance of education and has supervised naturopathic interns in their 3rd and 4th year of education for ten years. He lectures on various medical topics to diverse groups of health professionals including MDs and NDs. Dr. Parmar has also presented at the British Columbia Naturopathic Conference (2019) and the Collaborative Education Conference (2018).
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