How Sufficient Is Your B-12 Level?
How Important Is B-12 Vitamins?
Many of us have always known that B-12 vitamins were good energy vitamins but do you really know just how important B-12 is to your bodily functions? Well, I didn't have a clue until I became totally disabled, having no clue as to what was happening to my body. For many months, I was poked, prodded and tested for everything from Multiple Sclerosis to Muscular Distrophy, only to find out that I was B-12 defficient. I would then begin to research the importance of B-12 to the bodily functions and I continue to be amazed at the effects this vitamin has on our system. Or more importantly, how the lack of this vitamin can effect us.
Vitamin B-12 functions as a methyl donor and works with folic acid in the synthesis of DNA and red blood cells. It is vitally important in maintaining the health of the insulation sheath, known as the myelin sheath, that surrounds the nerve cells.
B-12 deficiency results in nervous system impairment and damage with symptoms of numbness and tingling in the extremities, leg weakness and stiffness, difficulty walking, fatigue, confusion, depression, irritability, paranoia and yellow-blue color blindness. B-12 deficiency also causes megaloblastic anemia and may be accompanied by spleen and liver enlargement, anorexia, constipation, diarrhea and abdominal pain. Other symptoms of deficiency include a swollen red tongue and occasionally fever. New research suggests that B-12 deficiency may increase the risk for breast cancer.
B-12 deficiency often manifests itself first in the development of neurological dysfunction that is almost indistinguishable from senile dementia and Alzheimer's disease. There is little question that many patients exhibiting symptoms of Alzheimer's actually suffer from B-12 deficiency. These symptoms are totally reversable with proper supplementations.
B-12 deficiency has also been associated with asthma, depression, AIDS, multiple sclerosis, tinnitus, diabetic neuropathy and low sperm counts.
How Much Do I Need and What Are the Sources?
Normal blood level of vitamin B-12 ranges between 200 and 600 picogram/millileter. Unfortunately, B-12 is not absorbed very well, so large amounts are needed to supply the tiny amount of B-12 that is actually needed for our body.
The richest food sources for vitamin B-12 are liver, especially lamb's liver and kidneys. It is also found in red meat, poultry, shellfish and dairy products. However, just because you eat a lot of red meat does not mean that you are getting sufficient amounts of B-12 in your system.
Vegetables and fruits are very poor sources. Several surveys have shown that most strict, long-term vegetarians are B-12 deficient. Also, many elderly are B-12 deficient because their production of the intrinsic factor needed to absorb the vitamin from the small intestine decline rapidly with age.
Oral supplementation with B-12 is safe, efficient and inexpensive. Swallowing 500 micrograms of B-12 can result in the absorbtion of as little as 1.8 micrograms so most multi-vitamins do not provide an adequate daily intake.
The best approach is to dissolve a sublingual tablet (1,000 micrograms) under the tongue every day. If a deficiency is actually present, then 2,000 micrograms per day for one month is recommended, followed by 1,000 micrograms per day thereafter.
If your deficiency is due to malabsorbtion in the stomach, your doctor may prescribe a B-12 shot on a regular basis. Normally this will be every day to 2 days for about two weeks with one shot per month thereafter.
There is, however, no scientific evidence supporting the notion that injections are more effective than sublingual supplementation due to the fact that, when dissolved under the tongue, it is absorbed into the blood stream rather than through the digestive process, just as the injections are.
Interactions With Medications
- Metformin, histamine H-2 receptor antagonists (cimetidine, ranitidine, etc.), aminoglycosides, colchicine, aminosalicylic acid, anti-convulsants and alcohol decrease the absorption of B-12.
- Don't use with chloramphenicol
- Don't take vitamin C within an hour of taking B-12 because vitamin C inactivates B-12.
- Potassium supplements can reduce absorption of B-12 in some people. B-12 supplements should be taken at least one hour prior to taking potassium supplements. Potassium supplements may also contribute to B-12 deficiency.
- B-12 supplement, in theory, should be avoided by people sensitive or allergic to cobalamin, cobalt or any other product ingredients. However, direct allergy to a vitamin or nutrient is extremely rare and, if reported, other causes should be sought.
- The Institute of Medicine states that no adverse effects have been associated with excess B-12 intake from food or supplements. In fact, the IOM recommends that adults get most of their B-12 in supplements because of the high incidence of impaired absorption in adults.
My Personal Experience
I learned from personal experience not to take for granted that I am getting enough B-12 in my diet just because I eat lots of red meat, liver and dairy products. This would probably make up the largest percentage of my diet so I had no clue that my B-12 level was so low that I was almost to the point of permanent nervous system damage. In fact, I still have some permanent numbness and tingling in my arms and legs from this past experience. Fortunately, the damage is nothing that keeps me from functioning as could have been the case if it had not been diagnosed when it was.
I started with the B-12 injections and once the levels were normal, I have since continued with the sublingual B-12, which has been literally a life saver for me. I had absolutely no idea how important B-12 was to my body and especially my nervous system until this happened. My hope is that this hub will prevent someone else from having to go through the dabilitating symptoms that I dealt with before mine was diagnosed.
Because of this treatment, I can now enjoy even the smallest of my grandchildren because it no longer causes severe pain to be touched. This, in itself has been a blessing that no words could ever describe!
Take all precautions to prevent the deficiency of B-12 in your body by taking a daily subligual of 1,000 micrograms. If you are already exhibiting some of the symptoms, have your doctor do a blood test to determine if you already have a deficiency and work with him on the best treatment options for you. A simple blood test just to be sure could mean the difference in a healthy level of B-12 and the severe effects that can be caused by B-12 deficiency. If left untreated, the deficiency can cause permanent nerve damage, paralysis and possibly even death, so, please see your doctor if you even think this is possible.
© 2008 Bonnie N. Ramsey