I became more aware of the importance of B12 a few years ago when I needed to have regular injections due to anemia during pregnancy. After doing some research, I’ve learned more about the role B12 plays in relation to the health of our nervous system, brain function and circulation. In this article I will give you a list of foods containing B12, briefly explain B12 functioning within the human body, the common reason for poor absorption, and the simple way to remedy B12 deficiency.
B12 is an essential vitamin, the body cannot make it on its own. So, we must eat certain foods abundant in Vitamin B12. The following is a list of foods high in B12, taken from Healing with Whole Foods by Paul Pitchford:
• animal meat such as chicken, beef and fish
• beans, especially aduki beans, dry peas, lentils and soybeans
• nuts and seeds, especially sunflower and sesame seeds, almonds and filberts
• some fermented foods such as yogurt, miso and tempeh
• “green foods” such as chlorella, wild blue-green algae and spirulina
• seaweeds such as nori, dulse, kelp, wakame and kombu
• nutritional yeast
B12 builds immunity and promotes growth of the nervous system and body in general, and so it is absolutely vital for pregnant and nursing women. It plays a critical role in the formation of myelin, the protective material that encases every neuron in the body and it also plays a key role in the synthesis of red blood cells and DNA. Knowing the vital role of Vitamin B12, it is easier to understand how a deficiency has been strongly linked to the following:
• cognitive impairment
• age-related dementia
• memory loss
• numbness and tingling in the extremities caused by nerve damage
• vision problems
• circulatory disorders including anemia, heart disease and stroke
While getting B12 through diet would seem like a clear solution, it is also a problematic one. One of the problems is that B12 possesses the largest and most complex molecular structure of all the vitamins, making it difficult to absorb and maintain. The other problem is due to poor digestion in general. Most of the symptoms of B12 deficiency are age-related due to mal-absorption. As we age, the functioning of the lining in the gastrointestinal (GI) tract decreases. The GI tract governs the release of a digestive compound known as intrinsic factor. In the absence of intrinsic factor, the body’s ability to absorb B12 from food is compromised. Instead of actively transporting B12 into the blood, the body must rely on passive diffusion through the intestinal wall, resulting in sub-optimal B12 absorption and lower B12 levels. Furthermore, the use of popular prescription and over the counter drugs that reduce stomach acid further decreases B12 absorption since stomach acid is necessary to separate B12 from the food proteins to which it is bound. In adults over the age of 50, a thinning of the stomach lining can still further reduce acid secretion and limit B12 levels. Aside from malabsorption due to the natural process of aging, there are also those with digestive dysfunction who are at risk for B12 deficiency, especially those with Crohn’s disease and Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).
Because of GI tract and stomach mal- absorption it is also difficult for the digestive system to process B12 in vitamin, or quick-dissolving tablet form. The most efficient and cost-effective manner to make B12 bio available is through injection. Since a large percentage of my clients are over the age of 50, I chose to keep preservative free B12 on hand. The clients who have come in for B12 injections did not find it painful or costly, but instead were happy to find a place to get their needs met quickly.
I hope you have found this article to be helpful. Please feel free to give me a call with any further questions.
Daisy Lear, MSOM, Dipl.Ac., L.Ac.
practices Chinese Medicine and Acupuncture in Longmont